An update about our year in Japan

Dear Readers, it’s been a while! We owe you an update on how we spent our last months in the two cities we called home for a year – Nara and Kobe. Three major takeaways: (1) we successfully graduated from our Japanese universities (although we’re still waiting for our diplomas to arrive by mail); (2) we’ve come to like Japan even more because (3) it turns out the amount of pleasurable things you can do in Japan is endless, even during winter.

Kobe Luminarie - A light festival remembering the 1995 earthquake

9 December 2018 — Luminarie, meaning ‘lights’ in Italian, is an event commemorating the disastrous 1995 earthquake which took the lives of more than 5,000 people in and around Kobe. It is nevertheless a beautiful event that annually attracts thousands of visitors who come to witness an artistic tour-de-force, and a time for locals to remember that moment not in an atmosphere of doom and gloom, but rather in a celebration of life and revival.

For us, this was the first time actively participating in such a commemoration, which was surprisingly fun. At the end of the route was a market with lots of street food and a light show. The atmosphere was lively and very positive — precisely the message the organisers want to convey: that the citizens of Kobe and by extension those of Japan will always recover from disasters with resilience, togetherness, hope and love.

Large tunnel with group of people listening to ocarina concert
Minatogawa Zuidō, Kobe
Storytelling and ocarina concert in Minatogawa Zuidō, Kobe, Japan

15 December 2018 — Under Kobe’s Minatogawa-ward lies a large tunnel which used to function as an emergency measure against flooding. Now unused, it is regularly open to the public. As Christmas was drawing near, I began to feel a bit lonely from the thought of having to spend both Christmas and New Year’s Eve without my family for the first time, but then I read about an ocarina concert in this mysterious tunnel. I decided to go, and was enchanted by Christmas stories being read out loud and the touching way in which the sound of the ocarinas reverberated throughout this massive tube.

Near the tunnel was one of the few remaining authentic fresh markets familiarly called Kōbe no daidokoro, ‘Kobe’s Kitchen’. Also, it turned out Kobe does have pigeons, it’s just that they only hang around in this neighbourhood (and it might have something to do with the extreme cleanliness of the streets).

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