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Scaled-back memorial in lights for Hanshin quake victims starts in Kobe

The Cassa Armonica light installation is seen in Kobe East Park in Kobe's Chuo Ward on Dec. 4, 2020. The installation is normally a part of the Kobe Luminarie memorial illumination event for the victims of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, but the annual event was canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Mainichi/Tatsuya Fuji)

KOBE -- The annual Kobe Luminarie illumination event here to commemorate the victims of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake was canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but one impressive part of it has been relocated to a city park, and has begun casting its soft light in the heart of this city.

    The churchlike Cassa Armonica installation was lit up on the evening of Dec. 4 during a scaled-back substitute event at Kobe East Park in Kobe's Chuo Ward, also home to the commemorative "1.17 Kibo no Akari" (Jan. 17 light of hope) gas light commemorating the date of the deadly quake in western Japan.

    In a normal year, the structure would be part of the Kobe Luminarie, a vast memorial in lights, named for the Italian word for "illuminations," that was first mounted in 1995, the same year the temblor struck Kobe. When this year's event was canceled -- a first -- the Italian firm that makes the Luminarie displays put in a special request that the "lights keep shining," and created a new illuminated archway that was set up around the commemorative gas light.

    On the event's first day, members of "1.17 Kibo no Kakehashi" (Jan. 17 bridge of hope), a group composed of people aged 10 to 20 dedicated to commemorating the 1995 earthquake, showed visitors photos of the devastated city and explained what the scene was like at the time.

    "People are slowly forgetting the events that led to the start of the Luminarie, so I'd like us to take on the mantle of speaking about it (the disaster) to the younger generation," group head and Kobe resident Yuya Fujiwara, 18, told the Mainichi Shimbun.

    The event will continue until Dec. 13. There will be no souvenir stands or other booths at the site. If the area becomes too busy, the lights will be turned off before the scheduled daily switch-off time of 9 p.m.

    (Japanese original by Kimi Sorihashi, Kobe Bureau)

    In Photos: Great Hanshin Earthquake memorial glows in downtown Kobe

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