A City Reborn

The tragic news from Haiti the past few days conjures up images of another modern earthquake that too many people have already forgotten, even though it occurred only fifteen years ago this week. On the morning of January 17, 1995, Kobe, Japan was hit with the most devastating earthquake since the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake. I remember eating breakfast before going to school and seeing images of the damage the quake left in its wake. The Kobe earthquake (or Hanshin earthquake, as it is sometimes referred to) literally destroyed the port city of Kobe and left thousands of people homeless during the coldest time of the year. Little did I know then that Kobe would forever become part of my life story.

Fast forward almost four years from the quake. I arrived in Kobe at the end of October 1998. The Kobe that I remember was not destroyed at all, but was built up as a brand new, beautiful city. What was an industrial, port city had been reborn as a modern, clean, high-tech waterfront city in less than four years. Images of Seattle, one of Kobe’s sister cities, were floating through my head during my first few days in Kobe as I learned the city, with the mountains on one side and the sea on the other. Throughout my two years in Japan, however, I spent very little time in Kobe. The entire two years was spent in Kansai, among its wonderful people, but was spent in and around Osaka and Kyoto. But I will always remember the cleanliness and beauty of Kobe, the brand-new city by the sea.