Kobe Luminarie Festival
In Japan, the city of Kobe is famous for its beef, but did you know that this city also has a world renowned festival called the ‘Kobe Luminarie’ (light festival)? Every December, for 2 weeks, this city invites the world to view their famous light displays which are dazzling and spellbinding. These light installations are so impressive that in 2008, Kobe became a member of the UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) Creative Cities Network. This city has embraced this annual event but this festival is more than just a beautiful light exhibition, it’s about the power of the human spirit.
On January 17th 1995, an earthquake that measured 6.9 struck the southern part of Japan. The city closest to the epicenter was Kobe which had a population of 1.5 million people at the time. After the tremors that lasted for 20 seconds, 6434 people lost their lives. Out of those casualties, 4,600 people who perished were from Kobe. This tragic event is known as ‘The Great Hanshin Earthquake’.
With any disaster, the economy of Kobe was devastated. The city had to start from scratch by building basic utility services and infrastructure. In the midst of the rebuilding process, the Italian Government presented the city of Kobe a gift of over 200,000 hand painted lights and installation displays. Italian artist Valerio Festi and Japanese artist Hirokazu Imaoka collaborated in this effort.
This symbolic donation from the Italian Government helps the city of Kobe attract locals and visitors, which has been an economic windfall for this city.
The festival of Kobe Luminarie is about hope and remembrance. The tragic event of ‘The Great Hanshin Earthquake’ will not soon be forgotten. The light installations that take place every two weeks in December are a reminder that in the dark, cold night, these lights will guide the way if you believe that out of despair, comes hope.