Kobe Luminarie

Kobe Luminarie is a light festival held in Kobe, Japan, every December since 1995 to commemorate the Great Hanshin earthquake of that year. The lights were donated by the Italian Government and the installation itself is produced by Valerio Festi and Hirokazu Imaoka. Over 200,000 individually hand painted lights are lit each year with electricity generated from biomass in order to stay environmentally friendly.


Lights are kept up for about two weeks and turned on for a few hours each evening. Major streets in the vicinity are closed to auto traffic during these hours to allow pedestrians to fill the streets and enjoy the lights. It is viewed by about three to five million people each year.

When the Great Hanshin Earthquake struck Kobe on January 17, 1995, it left more than 6,000 dead and caused $100 billion in damages. Since many had to live in darkness due to supply cuts in electricity, gas, and water, the idea of putting up lights acted as a symbol of hope, recovery, and renovation. Though it was only supposed to take place once, strong popularity and demand from citizens encouraged the continuation of luminarie to become an annual event. Silent prayers to victims of the earthquake takes place in the opening ceremony, and a memorial naming those who were killed is posted during the night.

The Hanshin Earthquake left Kobe at a slump with tourist attractions for obvious reasons. One of the factors that brought tourism back to Kobe was the sincerity of the luminarie event in honoring the victims of the earthquake. The event attracts around 4 million people to Kobe every year and raises $1.3 million in donations and $6.1 million in sponsorship and merchandise sales.