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Western Japan's Hankyu Kobe Line marks 100th anniversary

A Hankyu Kobe Line train with a sign to commemorate the line's 100th anniversary is seen in Osaka's Kita Ward on July 16, 2020. (Mainichi/Tatsuya Fujii)

OSAKA -- The Hankyu Kobe Line, connecting the Umeda district of Osaka and Kobe in western Japan, celebrated its 100th anniversary on July 16.

Some trains on the line will have a sign to commemorate the anniversary mounted on their front until the end of September. Operator Hankyu Corp. began selling commemorative items such as key chains on July 16, and is also displaying panels showing the line's history at Osaka-Umeda Station, Kobe-Sannomiya Station, and other locations.

Hankyu trains started rolling on the line on July 16, 1920. The Japan National Railways (from which the present-day West Japan Railway Co. was created) and Hanshin Electric Railway Co. already had lines connecting Osaka and Kobe.

Kobe Station is seen when the Hankyu Kobe Line opened in July 1920. (Photo courtesy of Hankyu Corp.)

When the Hankyu Kobe Line opened, the company advertised the new service in newspapers with the catch copy, "Beautiful and fast. Almost empty, with fine views, and cool trains." The phrase "almost empty," added by Hankyu founder Ichizo Kobayashi, attracted the most attention. As a result of Kobayashi's business approach to promote housing development near the stations, the view along the line transformed from a pastoral landscape to one of peaceful residential areas popular with intellectuals and business leaders.

In the January 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, the line was heavily damaged as elevated sections of track and bridges collapsed, but Hankyu managed to resume full operations in just around five months. Kobe-Sannomiya Station, which was partly damaged in the disaster, is now being heavily renovated, and an attached 29-story skyscraper will open next spring.

(Japanase original by Koichi Kirino, Osaka Bureau)

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