20th Anniversary of the Great Hanshin Earthquake (1995-2015)

Disaster commemorative ceremonies and events

Location: Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture.

On January 17, 1995, the inhabitants of Kobe City experienced one of the most devastating earthquakes ever to take place in Japan. At 5’46AM, the whole city started to shake waking the population into chaos and panic. The earthquake of 7.3 in magnitude (JMA) caused the destruction of over 150,000 buildings and the death of 6,434 people. Still today, one can witness the trauma and impact that this disaster left on the city and its inhabitants. To understand this event, Dr Sébastien Boret (assistant professor) and Mrs Madoka Ono (technical assistant) visited the Disaster Reduction Centre and its archive centre. They were welcomed by Mr Yasunori Momitani of the Disaster Reduction Institute (DRI) and explained the 20-year process of recovery and the lessons learned through the experience of the people of Kobe.

In preparation for his next book ‘Remembering Disasters’, Dr Boret guided by Mrs Ono attended the events surrounding the Great Hanshin Earthquake. The memorial began in front of the City Office of Kobe where people from Kobe City, Japan and other foreign countries gathered in silence for a moment of prayer. Known as mokutou in Japanese, the event took place at 5’46 AM exactly 20 years after the earthquake and consisting of the lighting of large candles arranged in the shape of ‘1.17’. Later in the day, the solidarity between the survivors of the Great Hanshin and Great East Japan Earthquake was celebrated at 2’46PM with a moment of silence for the victims of the tsunami in Tohoku, this time drawing ‘3.11’ with the candlestick. In addition to these silent prayers, participants made offering at the ‘Memorial Monuments for the Victims of the Earthquake’ and the ‘Light of Hope’.

In addition to memorial services, Dr Boret and Mrs Ono attended several commemorative performances. Firstly, they visited Kiito, the Creative and Art Centre of Kobe, who held several photograph expositions of the disasters and a Noh performance. Secondly, they were invited to attend a kataritsugi or ‘transmitting down’; it has no direct translation in English. This event lasted for over  1 and 1/2 hour and consisted in Mrs Takeshita reading several texts composed by the survivors of the disaster of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Transmitting deep reflections and human experiences, the words read by Mrs Takeshita and the accompaniment incited deep emotions among the audience. Mrs Takeshita will perform the ‘3.11 Kataritsugi’ organised by the Michinoku Shinrokuden Digital Archives Project at the Cultural Centre of Tagajo City on March 5th, 2015.


Offering at the Memorial Monument (ireihi) of the Great Hanshin Earthquake. 1.17


One thought on “20th Anniversary of the Great Hanshin Earthquake (1995-2015)

  1. Pingback: Remembering The Great Hanshin Earthquake in Japan | Xpatnation

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