IRVINE — Hikari: A Festival of Lights continues at Tanaka Farms, 5380¾ University Dr. in Irvine, through Friday, Dec. 30.

“Join us for a celebration filled with joy and light!” said a Tanaka Farms spokesperson. “Loosely translated, hikari means ‘shine’ in Japanese, and this holiday season we have really made Tanaka Farms shine with over a million twinkling lights!

“Grab a hot cocoa and take a cozy wagon ride around the festively lit farm that will take you to the ‘Land of a Thousand Lanterns!’ Once off the wagon, you will wander through the light displays, with photo opportunities throughout.

“After the wagon ride, make your way down to the festival grounds, where you can visit with the barnyard animals, grab some food from the Tanaka Grill, take advantage of lots of photo ops, games, arts & crafts, meet Santa for a photo, and, of course, more holiday lights! (All activities are priced individually.)

“Enjoy live music on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights!”

Hikari hours: Entry Gates open at 4:30 p.m. and close at 8 p.m.

First wagon departs at 5:30 p.m. (or as soon as it gets dark enough to see the lights). Wagons run continously, about every 10 minutes, until the last one departs at 8:30 p.m.

The Tanaka Grill will be open from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Full menu on Friday, Saturday and Sunday; limited menu on weekdays.

Hikari closes at 10 p.m. or as soon as the last person exits.

Santa will be at Hikari every night from 4:30 p.m. to close (but he does need to take a break from time to time).

Activity ticket sales close at 9 p.m. Activity tickets are $2 each. Most activities require three tickets. Arts and crafts will vary based on the project.

Tanaka Farms will be closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day so that team members can spend quality time with loved ones.

Book now:

Active military personnel, as well as veterans and military retirees, are entitled to receive free admission. Must show valid military ID at check-in. Discount is available for the service member only.

4:30 and 5 p.m. entry: $25 per person (children 2 and under are free)

5:30, 6, 6:30 and 7 p.m. entry: $30 per person (children 2 and under are free)

7:30 and 8 p.m. entry: $20 per person (children 2 and under are free)

Parking passes are required daily; $10 per vehicle.

The Story of Hikari

How did Hikari come to be? Well, we used to simply close up shop from mid-December to February. Took a break, relaxed, and took a vacation … but then, COVID happened.

Because most of our business comes from field trips, farm tours, and other events (collectively known as agritourism), we needed to pivot and figure out a way to keep our employees working and create a revenue stream for the farm while we were unable to operate normally.

Farmer Tanaka quickly rebuilt our Produce Market Stand into a drive-thru. Which helped tremendously, as folks could still shop for farm-fresh produce without having to leave their cars. But produce sales alone just weren’t enough to keep us afloat. So, with the drive-thru concept in mind, we created a drive-thru Pumpkin Patch. With the success of that event, we decided to do something for Christmas, and Hikari was born.

Our first year of Hikari was 2020. It was a drive-thru event. Folks drove their cars through the farm and checked out the lights right from the safety of their vehicles. We even had live singers singing carols from a tractor out in the fields as they drove by. Santa was there, as well as all the barnyard animals.

The event was a success. Folks were so happy to have a place to come, feel safe, and enjoy some family-friendly, wholesome Christmas joy. So we decided to keep doing it.

Now that the worst of COVID is behind us, we have pivoted once again. Gone is the drive-thru, and in its place, a wonderful holiday festival. A gathering place for friends and family. The farm is transformed into a homey, farm-themed, winter wonderland with a nod to Japanese culture thrown into the mix.

Folks can wander through the light exhibits, mingle and grab a hot cocoa and an apple pie churro from the Tanaka Grill, play games, do arts and crafts, enjoy holiday music, visit with the barnyard animals, and take a cozy wagon ride around the farm to see even more lights.

We hope to see you and your friends and family making new memories and starting new traditions here at Tanaka Farm’s Hikari: A Festival of Lights! Open now, through Dec. 30.

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