kobe luminarie

On the 10th of December, Richard, Michelle, J., and I went to Kobe to see the Kobe Luminarie. And on the 17th of December, Hsuan, J., and I did it again. The Luminarie is an annual memorial to the 6,000 people who died in the Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995, as well as a symbol of hope for the rebuilding of Kobe. The first Luminarie was held in 1995, the year of the quake, and it’s been held every year since then. This year the Luminarie was held between the 9th of December and the 22nd of December. The Luminarie is incredibly popular and draws millions of people from around the Kansai region every year.
Essentially the Luminarie is an oversize display of lights that is installed in the city center, constructed so that the crowd enters through an enormous entry gate (normally the entry to a shopping arcade) and then exits into an immense open-air pavilion. Because there are so many people who come to see the Luminarie there is a large contingent of traffic police present to manage the flow of foot traffic. In fact, the line to get into the Luminarie is probably a good half mile long, if you were to straighten it out, but the event organizers have instead constructed an elaborate entry route that snakes back and forth through the downtown, bringing you slowly closer and closer to the main entrance gate, which is only finally revealed as you round the very last corner before the Luminarie proper begins.
Although it was windy and cold out, the mood of the Luminarie crowd was festive and congenial, with a shared sense of quiet wonder as well — a bit like the mood in the street after the first snowfall in a large city, though it was a “light day” rather than a “snow day.” And of course, as soon as the final corner before the enormous gates of light was turned, a million camera-phones bloomed. I’m glad that I ended up visiting the Luminarie two weeks in a row because the first time we walked through I felt that I was spending at least half of my time looking at the glowing LCD screen on my camera. While I love taking photographs, it really does disrupt the sense of temporal flow that goes along with walking through a space like this.
Since this was our first time to see the Luminarie we were kind of flabbergasted at how many people had come out to see a gate of lights and then a series of gates over a shopping arcade. Of course, we hadn’t reached the end of the arcade yet, so we didn’t know that there was an entire pavilion of lights that we hadn’t seen yet. Walking into the main pavilion was quite wonderful, kind of like walking into a three-dimensional construction of Peter Jackson’s Rivendell all done up in Lite-Brite. Because the pavilion marked the end of the long parade through the Kobe cold, it was really nice to just stand around, look at the lights, look at other people looking at the lights, and kind of drift from place to place within the circle of illumination.
After the Luminarie proper, the glory of the food stalls began. During our first trip we had grilled tuna with green onion, okonomiyaki, jerk chicken on a pita, tasty fried dough things, and fresh strawberry mochi desserts. And on our second trip we ate incredible ramen in the ramen tent, and Hsuan had a chance to sample his first takoyaki while we watched about 30 kids up on stage performing incredibly complicated and perfectly synchronized dance routines to pop sounds and jingling Christmas numbers.
One of precisely 1,587,098,011 camera-phone snapsots taken during the three weeks of the Luminarie.
J. is so amazed that she’s sprouted a crown of lights.
J.’s photo of me taking a photo. Probably of someone else taking a photo.
Hsuan stares in wonder at the glory of the main pavilion.
This is a good shot of the main pavilion at the Luminarie. Note the tension wires helping to keep the walls of light stable.
We had the most delicious grilled tuna imaginable from this stand. Note the tuna head on the right. When you’ve got one of these, you can walk right up to it, look it in the eye, and ask it if it’s really quality fish. As for the chef on the left, all good tuna grillers smoke while they grill.
Don’t forget about the takoyaki!

No Responses Yet to “kobe luminarie”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s