Kobe’s Night of Lights

The Kobe Luminarie may seem like just another of Japan’s many seasonal illumination festivals. Held for two weeks in early December, it competes with Christmas fairs in Umeda, and the popular Nabana in Mie.

There is a very deep, even heavy, significance to Kobe’s Luminarie however. On January 17th, 1995, a massive earthquake destroyed entire neighbourhoods of this prosperous harbour town. Electricity was cut off – indeed the city almost became an island within Japan – as both the city and the nation struggled to comprehend and react to the level of damage, and loss of 6000 lives.

The first Luminarie was very much a personal expression of remembrance and reaffirmation. Of the 2.5 million visitors, almost half came from Kobe, and the great majority was from Hyougo prefecture, of which Kobe is the capital. The Italian Art Director, and the Kobe-born Executive Producer, wanted the Luminarie to echo the medieval fire festivals, to lift the viewers out of the real world into a state of transcendence. 

People liked it so much that it has since become an annual event.

In our latest Adventures In Kansai video, we visited 2013’s Kobe Luminarie, recorded the symbolic fire burning, and witnessed the beautiful, strong city that Kobe has returned to being.

Kobe’s Luminarie – held for 2 weeks in early to mid December. Entry by donation. Exit Motomachi station and follow the signs (and all the other people).


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