Kobe’s Earthquake memorial

Carrying on with our exploration of Kobe we stumble across a veritable cornucopia of cute road work signs. How boring and mundane our traffic cones look now!!

Sadly Kobe is better known for the tragedy that befell many of its inhabitants in 1995 when a huge earthquake wracked the city and surrounding areas.

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The Great Hanshin earthquake  or Kobe earthquake, occurred on January 17, 1995 in the southern part of Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan, known as Hanshin.

It measured 6.9 and tremors lasted for approximately 20 seconds. Damage was extremely widespread and severe.

Nearly 400,000 buildings were irreparably damaged as well as numerous elevated road and rail bridges, and 120 of the 150 quays in the port of Kobe.

Up to 6,434 people died and about 4,600 of them were from Kobe.

It was Japan’s worst earthquake in the 20th century after the Great Kantō earthquake in 1923, which claimed more than 105,000 lives.

At Meriken Park you can see for yourselves some of the preserved damage at the Earthquake Memorial Park near the port of Kobe.

Here lampposts lean at impossible angles and you can still see how the ground was violently ripped apart.

This visit has since acquired a more personal resonance as we were in Kos in July of this year when an earthquake of the same magnitude occurred.

It was a truly terrifying experience but thankfully the death toll was far lower. However tragically two people did lose their lives in Kos town.

It was a sobering reminder of the power of mother nature and the transient nature of our existence on this beautiful, but dangerous, planet.

Then we pop to the port to see the Kobe Port Tower which was designed by the Nikken Sekkei Company and completed in 1963.

It’s also home to the maritime museum and some unusual boats.

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Horror and hope

Our next stop is a sombre one – the now infamous town of Hiroshima, forever synonymous with the horrors of the atomic bomb.

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Whenever we travel, we do our best to try and get beneath the surface of a country, to see all sides of it and it’s history. This can sometimes mean uncomfortable, or harrowing viewing.

We did this in Thailand with the Hellfire pass and death railway, in Cambodia with the killing fields and in Poland with the claustrophobic horror of Auschwitz.

While for some people this might seem macabre, or distasteful, we feel that we owe it to the people of each country to try and fully comprehend their histories, for good and bad.

The Atomic Bomb Dome was formerly the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall and is now part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Little Boy was the code name for the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945.

The Dome was 160 meters from the hypocentre of the atomic blast but because the bomb exploded almost directly overhead, the building kept its distinctive shape.

Everyone inside the building was killed instantly.


66,000 people were killed as a direct result of the Hiroshima blast, and nearly 70,000  were injured to varying degrees.

The dome was controversial, with some locals wanting it torn down, while others wanted to preserve it as a memorial of the bombing and a symbol of peace.

Ultimately, when the reconstruction of Hiroshima began, the skeletal remains of the building were preserved to forever stand testament to the horrors of war.

Close to the A bomb is a statue dedicated to Sadako Sasaki a little girl who was two years old when the bomb was dropped.

Sadako became one of the most widely known hibakusha — a Japanese term meaning “bomb-affected person”.

She is remembered through the story of the one thousand origami cranes she folded before her death, and is to this day a symbol of the innocent victims of nuclear warfare.

Sadako developed leukaemia nine years after the bombing, in a pattern that quickly became apparent as high levels of the illness began to occur as a result of radiation exposure.

Her hospital roommate told Sadako about a Japanese legend that promises that anyone who folds one thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish.

She therefore set out to make 1000 of the cranes in the hope that she would get well but sadly she died aged 12.

To this day people from around the world continue to make beautiful colourful chains of cranes in memory of Sadoko and for the hope of eventual peace on earth.