The 23rd Kobe Luminarie gets under way in the city's Chuo Ward on Dec. 8. (Video footages taken by Takeshi Shimawaki and Sayuri Ide)

KOBE--Kobe's dazzling winter light festival, held each year to commemorate victims of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, got off to a soggy start Dec. 8 under the theme of “Miraieno Manazashi” (Looking to the future).

The 23rd Kobe Luminarie, held in and around the former foreign settlement in Chuo Ward, kicked off with silent prayers for the 6,400 people who perished in the Jan. 17 disaster.

A choir of elementary school children gave a rousing rendition of “Shiawase Hakoberuyoni” (So that we can carry happiness).

Around 400,000 LED bulbs, 100,000 more than last year and the largest ever, were then lit up, bathing the area in a magical glow.

The festival will run until Dec. 17 and 3.25 million or so visitors are expected to attend.