Kobe Luminarie 2014
About two weeks ago, I ventured out on a weeknight to the annual Kobe Luminarie light festival.
In the early morning hours of January 17th, 1995, the Great Hanshin Earthquake struck the Kansai region, leaving over 6000 people dead. Kobe was the closest city to the epicenter, and over 4000 of the victims were the city’s residents. As a gesture of goodwill, the Italian government donated over 200,000 hand-painted lights both as a memorial for the dead, and as a symbol of hope for the survivors. In December of that year, the first Luminarie festival was held. Due to popular demand, it has continued every year since then.
Japanese light festivals are always beautiful, and this one was no exception. Because it still is considered a memorial, there was no entrance fee, and the crowds showed up in force. I got to experience Japanese efficiency firsthand from this one event — ridiculous though the crowds were, the lines were always moving, which made it much more bearable. There were regular stops controlled by the police to reduce congestion (like subway trains!), and we were asked to follow a winding route before arriving at the festival site.
Eventually, everyone turned around a corner, and then suddenly in front of us, a very beautiful light tunnel appeared…
Once we had passed through the tunnel, we came to a park with three large light installations already set up and glowing festively.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Japanese festival without some food stalls set up along the perimeter.
In addition to the regular offerings (fried chicken, corn on the cob, sausages on sticks, candied fruit, castella cakes), there was a very popular stall selling Kobe beef on a stick. Well, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised… At ¥500 for one fresh-off-the-grill stick, I couldn’t resist!
The Kobe Luminarie festival has finished for 2014, but if you are around the Kansai area next year, it’s worth checking out!
I’m currently updating this from the lovely (and warm) city of Singapore! I’ll be here until the new year, so keep an eye out for pictures from this trip in the next posts. Until then, happy holidays!