The western Japan city of Kobe and its vicinity on Friday marked the 25th anniversary of the magnitude 7.3 earthquake that claimed the lives of 6,434 people.

Local residents and victims' families observed a moment of silence at 5:46 a.m., the moment the Great Hanshin Earthquake struck the port city in Hyogo Prefecture and neighboring areas on Jan. 17, 1995.

At a memorial event held at Higashi Yuenchi, a park in Kobe, the city worst affected by the disaster, people lit some 5,000 bamboo lanterns that were aligned to form "1.17," the date of the disaster.

"When I close my eyes, I can hear my mother's voice telling me, 'Keep going, Yocchan'," said Yoshihiro Ueno, 47, who lost his 47-year-old mother Michiko.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga offered condolences to the victims and said the government will take all measures against disasters.

"By passing down the experience and lessons, we will give our utmost in protecting the lives of the people and their assets and realizing a society in which all can live feeling safe," said the top government spokesman.

A quarter of a century since the quake, Kobe faces the challenge of passing down the memory and knowledge of the catastrophe to future generations.

"As the number of residents who have not experienced the disaster grows, we will take on the challenge of passing it down to the next generation," said Kobe Mayor Kizo Hisamoto.

Among some 13,800 officials of the Kobe city government as of April last year, 59 percent joined the local government after the disaster, according to the city.


Interest in the disaster is waning 25 years on," said Naoyoshi Shiromoto, 74, after lighting 105 candles at a park representing the victims in the area.

"It is a modest effort, but we would like to keep holding these events," he said.

Earlier this week, about 60 members of Shinko Gakuen High School's baseball club helped with the preparation for the memorial event at Higashi Yuenchi.

"Our generation did not experience the quake disaster but we will continue to do what we can for people who lost their loved ones and suffered," said Toshiki Kawamura, the 17-year-old captain of the team.

Crown Prince Fumihito and his wife, Crown Princess Kiko, attended a memorial ceremony held by the Hyogo prefectural government and other entities at a public hall.