Next Stop, Japan

Kobe City

Kobe Luminarie

こう
Kou
be
ルミナリエ
Luminarie

Kobe's annual illumination festival started in December, 1995 as a memorial to the loss suffered in the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake on January 17th of the same year. It was a bright message of hope called "Dreams and Light" that over two and a half million people came to see when they turned on the lights south of Kobe City Hall. Following the success of the first festival, it has been held every year since to celebrate Kobe City's recovery from the disaster.

Today, around 3.5 million people come to view the illumination displays in late December. Each year since 1995, Valerio Festi and a local Kobe company team up to design and light up the night with thousands of lights. The basic format has remained mostly the same with the entrance gates, the main plaza in the park south of Kobe City Hall and a number of displays next to Flower Road.

Viewing the Lights

Kobe Luminarie is officially lit up at around 5:30 on the weekends, Friday and holidays and 6:00 on weekdays. In order to walk through the entrance gates you must line up to the west of Sannomiya from near JR Motomachi Station. Finding the end of the line can be a challenge as the crowds are enormous and barricades are put to corral people safely through. People begin lining up around an hour before to be one of the first through.

The lights are bright enough to easily photograph. Tripods aren't really necessary (and too cumbersome in the crowds), but steady hands are a must. Food and souvenir stalls are located beside Flower Road.

Statistics

  • 2014 - 3,444,000
  • 2013 - 3,541,000
  • 2012 - 3,401,000
  • 2011 - 3,421,000
  • 2010 - 3,434,000
  • 2009 - 3,650,000
  • 2008 - 3,755,000
  • 2007 - 4,043,000
  • 2006 - 4,650,000
  • 2005 - 4,358,000
  • 2004 - 5,383,000
  • 2003 - 5,066,000
  • 2002 - 4,640,000
  • 2001 - 5,190,000
  • 2000 - 4,738,000
  • 1999 - 5,158,000
  • 1998 - 5,164,000
  • 1997 - 4,732,000
  • 1996 - 3,856,000
  • 1995 - 2,523,000

Source: Kobe Luminarie website. Rounded to nearest thousand person.

Getting There

Transportation links into and out of Kobe are jammed during the festival. Unless you live close enough to get there on the local trains, you are probably better off taking a tour bus to Kobe. Hundreds of tours come to Kobe and return each day.

Posted: April 21, 2011 Updated: February 13, 2015

External Resources

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