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Kobe's Festival of Lights: The Luminarie

I am an expat living in Japan. Every day is an adventure and a blessing. Here are some of my most memorable experiences.

Many arches light the street

Many arches light the street

The Luminarie

Every December crowds gather in the Japanese city of Kobe as it holds its last festival of the year: the Luminarie. Every evening, for eleven days straight, over 200,000 colorful lights bring cheer to visitors and residents alike.

December in Japan is cold. I prefer to spend these nights shivering under my kotatsu with a warm cup of ocha. So when my girlfriend told me about the chance to walk around downtown Kobe for hours looking at lights, you can imagine my reluctance.

What? Another festival? The more she told me about the Luminarie more interested I was. She didn't have to tell me twice. I grabbed my camera and we were on our way. If you're in Kobe for the Luminarie, dress warm and follow the crowds streaming downtown.

If you can't make it then keep reading, I'll show you the way.

The Luminarie

The Luminarie

So what's going on?

The Luminarie is a festival in Kobe celebrated with thousands of colorful lights fixed on huge arches that tower over its downtown streets. Only certain streets in Kobe's swanky Sannomiya district are chosen. One beautiful street leads to another and it becomes a path visitors walk.

The path leads to the park: Higashi Uenchi (or Amusement Park East). At this park, there are more lights to enjoy. There are also vendors selling food and drink. Like other festivals, there are vendors who offer games but these are very few because of the weather.

Don't worry about the games. Enjoy the beer with Japanese treats such as karage (fried chicken) or corn on the cob. If beer is too cold then you'll find warm sake (also known as one-cup sake). For the kids there is hot chocolate, soda and tea.

You won't find yukatas or kimonos here. This is December at night. People dress warm and so should you.

Join the fun!

What is the Luminarie about?

The Luminarie began in 1995 as a memorial of the Great Hanshin Earthquake. This earthquake was one of Japan's strongest of the 20th century and especially devastating to Kobe. These lights and arches were a gift from Italy. They brought hope and cheer to the people still recovering from the damage. While Kobe has recovered, the message of the Luminarie is remembered every December.

Each year's Luminarie starts on a different date but usually begins on the first week of December. The festival lasts for eleven days. On Monday to Thursday, it's 6pm to 9pm. On Friday, it's 6pm to 10pm. On Saturday, it's 5pm to 10pm. On Sunday it's 5pm to 9:30pm.

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If you're in the area, swing by. You might see me there!

The lights of the Luminarie

The lights of the Luminarie

Where is the Luminarie?

More Japanese festivals - Fun all year round!

What do you think? - Can you brave the cold?

Did you have fun? - See you next year!

TransplantedSoul on March 11, 2013:

The Japanese do festivals right!

myspace9 on January 05, 2013:

Great lens, it must be beautiful. Have a wonderful day.

seosmm on January 01, 2013:

What a great experience it must have been. Beautiful.

anonymous on December 27, 2012:

I can certainly see why it didn't take long for your girlfriend to coax you into enjoying Kobe's Festival of Lights. You had me imagining the Luminarie with your enthusiasm and I was surprised to learn that beer and corn on the cob might be enjoyed then, cool! Congratulations on being included on the Silly Celebrations December Monster Board for this lovely festival!

neotony on December 21, 2012:

wow it looks so beautiful!

Gloria Freeman from Alabama USA on December 20, 2012:

Look like a fun time for all.

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