Tokyo hotel is showing the northern lights -- without the Arctic cold

By Mark Puleo,
The northern lights (aurora borealis) are seen over the city Tromso in northern Norway. File Photo by Jan Morten/EPA
The northern lights (aurora borealis) are seen over the city Tromso in northern Norway. File Photo by Jan Morten/EPA

Dec. 13 -- The aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights, is a bucket list item for millions of stargazers. The effort required to catch a glimpse of the lights, for most people, includes a journey to one of the remote areas where the phenomenon is visible -- and usually a small amount of good luck.

But now, a hotel in Tokyo is trying to simplify that experience with a trick of elaborate engineering.


Mother Nature's elusive light show has been hunted for centuries by mathematicians, astronomers and physicians alike. They've poured countless years of research into the dazzling display, attempting to understand the workings of the phenomenon.

Researchers have learned more and more about the natural mechanisms behind the lights and, while a full understanding remains incomplete, experts have determined that the basic cause for the lights involves the interaction of solar wind with Earth's magnetosphere. The vibrant red, green, blue and ultraviolet lights can be predominantly seen in frigid, high-latitude regions around the Arctic.

On April 7, during a record cold snap in Alaska, National Weather Service meteorologist Luke Culver captured several breathtaking images of the aurora borealis above a snowy landscape in Fairbanks. Image by Luke Culver/NWS

In 2021, more than four centuries after Galileo named the phenomenon in 1619, computer engineers at Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo are recreating the atmospheric event with a sleight of technology in a far different climate.

The special showing, called "Forest Aurora," uses state-of-the-art technology to blanket the hotel's vast Chinzanso Garden with "advanced light projection technology," according to the hotel website.

"The dynamic color gradation that makes the aurora borealis look like a giant curtain swaying in the sky is created by projecting light with different densities from six directions," the hotel's website says.

The Forest Aurora in Chinzanso Garden at the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo will be an annual, artificial light display of the Northern Lights. Image courtesy Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo

The event lasts for five minutes, is illuminated every 30 minutes from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and will be an "ongoing winter event," according to a statement from Shinsuke Yamashita, the hotel's general manager.

"Combining with another signature attraction of ours, 'Tokyo Sea of Clouds,' guests are guaranteed to experience the magical phenomenon without leaving the big city Tokyo," said Yamashita. "Although it is still challenging to travel internationally, this will be our ongoing winter event. With 'Forest Aurora' put in place for winter, we now offer exceptional scenic wonders for every season all year round."


The luxury resort hotel was opened in 2013 and began displaying the Forest Aurora on Nov. 11, offering some guests the exclusive chance to enjoy the garden show with a cocktail or warm drink in hand.

Compared to the teeth-chattering temperatures of the Arctic Circle, the artificial show in Tokyo will be visible with temperatures that rarely get colder than freezing, even at night.

Holiday scenes around the world

U.S. President Joe Biden (L) and first lady Jill Biden pet their dog, Commander, while virtually meeting with United States military service members on Christmas Day, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, DC, on December 25, 2021. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

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