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  • Writer's pictureHanshin Area

Guardians of the Past: Exploring Kobe's Historic Treasures


Kobe, a port city nestled between mountains and sea, has blossomed through its interactions with foreign cultures. However, amidst the modernity, traces of traditional Japanese culture still linger in its streets. Let's take a stroll through the Mikage district to glimpse history woven into contemporary life.


Shrine

While landmarks like Asakusa in Tokyo and shrines in Kyoto draw international attention, shrines play an indispensable role in the daily lives of Japanese people. Beyond the customary New Year's visits for blessings, shrines serve as sanctuaries for life's pivotal moments. From prayers for safe childbirth to seeking success at milestones like school enrollment or employment, these sacred spaces nurture a deep connection between individuals and their communities.


Wakamiya Hatchiman-gu

Though destroyed by the Great Hanshin Earthquake, but the Ujiko parishioners rebuilt their local diety's home



Local communities, known as Ujiko, actively participate in shrine events throughout the year, fostering unity and tradition. Festivals, such as the renowned Gion Festival in Kyoto, not only showcase cultural heritage but also symbolize the collective spirit of the parishioners. Even smaller towns and villages hold festivals that serve as a source of identity and community pride, shaping the very fabric of Japanese towns around their cherished shrines.





Jizo

Wandering through Japan's streets, one encounters ancient stone statues known as Jizo, rooted in Buddhist tradition. In eras where medical care was rudimentary, the mortality rate for children was tragically high. Jizo statues, often seen in groups of six, symbolize the hardships of life and offer solace to the spirits of children who departed prematurely. These compassionate figures, rooted in Buddhism, embody the hope for peace in the afterlife and provide comfort to grieving mothers.




Six stone statues are lined up in the town of Mikage. They stand in front of a local school as if watching over children.



In some instances, solitary Jizo statues stand as poignant reminders of local history. Take, for example, the Kakinoki Jizo in Mikage, a testament to the area's granite production. Here, the statue serves as a guardian, offering prayers for the safety of workers amidst the challenges of quarrying granite.




Kakinoki Jizo (Jizo under Persimmon Tree)



Waterwheel

Kobe's Nada region boasts Japan's most prolific sake production, owing to its proximity to mountains and swift-flowing rivers. Historically, waterwheels harnessed the energy of these rivers to mill rice, sustaining the sake-making tradition. Though modernization has seen the disappearance of many waterwheels, Mikage proudly preserves one of these relics, a tangible link to the city's rich brewing heritage.





Kobe, with its blend of old-world charm and modernity, offers a captivating glimpse into Japan's past and present. As you navigate its streets, you're enveloped in a tapestry of shrines, Jizo statues, and historic artifacts, each telling a story of resilience, tradition, and community. Whether lost in the wonderland of its ancient alleys or marveling at the innovation of its modern skyline, Kobe invites visitors to immerse themselves in the timeless allure of Japanese culture.



 

The pictures were taken by a local photographer, Mr. Mieda. His favorite spot in this area is the Sumiyoshi River, along which you can enjoy a lovely walk.




 

Explore Enchanting Locations in Mikage




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