(This is a past event)
Each year at Christmas the streets of downtown Kobe are lit up in a spectacular arrangement known as the Kobe Luminarie. Thousands of tiny bulbs are arranged on frames to form tunnels of light, whilst glittering towers and cathedral like creations combine to dazzle the senses. The effect is truly enchanting.

Originally conceived as a commemoration to the victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, this ‘festival of light’ provides cheer for its citizens and has become a great showcase for the city’s recovery.

Streets in the vicinity are closed to traffic, allowing pedestrians to fill the streets and enjoy the lights, whilst vendors set up stalls, offering traditional snacks and hot drinks. The atmosphere is pleasantly light and festive.

This year 2012, the illuminations last from Dec. 6 to Dec. 17 and the times are as follows: Mon to Thurs 18:00 – 21:00, Fri 18:00-22:00, Sat 17:00-22:00, and Sun 17:00-21:30. Admission is free but donations are appreciated.

To get there take the train to Sannomiya or Motomachi Stations, and follow the crowds. The illuminations are very popular and get very crowded at peak times. Be prepared to wait in line.

Website : http://www.kobe-luminarie.jp/ (Japanese only).

Why not combine your visit with a wander around Kobe’s attractive harbor land and something to eat in nearby Chinatown? Or you could take the cable car to Mt. Rokko, and enjoy spectacular views of Kobe?

Osaka also has a festive illumination although much smaller in scale. ‘Osaka Hikari-Renaissance’ is held at Nakanoshima near the Osaka City Hall from Dec. 14 to Dec. 25. 17:00 – 22:00. Get off at Yodayabashi subway station, on the Midosuji Line.

In addition, many malls and shopping areas throughout Kansai are heavily decorated during this period. The Umeda Sky Building, for example, has a huge Christmas tree and lights, while Universal Studios Japan is also illuminated.