MY FAVES: Fireworks sites in Japan

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Japan

Throughout the summer, Japan’s night skies light up with the brilliance of “hanabi,” or fireworks. With more than 80 fireworks festivals nationwide, you’re sure to have an opportunity to catch one during your stay.

Japan’s fireworks are known worldwide for their artistic qualities – perfect shape, exquisite colors and enormous size, as well as the poetic sense of ephemerality they produce. In many cases, a single firework changes colors two to three times after it is launched.

Most events often offer other forms of fun, including food and game booths.

While some fireworks events highlight tourist attractions, others go along with traditional local matsuri festivals.

This summer, why not get off base and take in some of the local hanabi?

Here are some of my favorite fireworks festivals:

 

- Aomori Fireworks Festival (near Misawa)

Aomori Fireworks is an impressive fireworks display where you can enjoy both fireworks and traditional “nebuta” at the same time.

Nebuta is a lantern float that is crafted for the festival of the same name. Held Aug. 2-7 every year, the festival is one of the nation’s biggest every summer. The floats are made of paper mache, beautifully painted and lit up from inside. During the festival, more than 20 nebuta depicting human figures parade through the streets of Aomori town.

The six-day event is wrapped up with six barges of nebuta sailing slowly on the dark sea surface while 11,000 fireworks explode in the sky. Reflections of fireworks and the reddish-yellow glow of lantern floats on the dark sea water is quite the sight.

Fireworks-viewing stands for charge (Seat A: 4,000 yen and Seat B: 3,500 yen) are available in Blue Ocean Park and New Central Wharf. These tickets put on sale in July 7.

- Hours: Aug. 7, 7:15 – 9 p.m.
- Number of Fireworks: 11,000
- Location: Aomori Port (Aomori City, Aomori Pref.)
- URL: www.aomorihanabitaikai.jp/ (Japanese)
- Email: jigyou@toonippo.co.jp
- Tel: 017-718-1135


Aomori Nebuta, photo courtesy of Aomori Fireworks Executive Committee

 

- Hirado Port Fireworks Festival (near Sasebo)

The fireworks at Hirado Port is a unique display where you can enjoy the fireworks against a backdrop of the majestic Hirado Castle.

The five-story white castle on the hill behind the port and harbor has been the symbol of Hirado throughout the ages.

In fact, Hirado is filled with a sort of exotic atmosphere. Known as Firando in 1550, the port town was Japan’s main international trading port for 90 years until the nation instituted its closed-door policy in 1641.

If you are near Sasebo and are able to attend, be sure to stick around for the finale of non-stop giant fireworks creating a cascade of colors.

- Hours: Aug. 3, 8:30 – 9 p.m.
- Number of Fireworks: 2,000
- Location: Koryu Hiroba Park in Hirado Port 
- URL: en.city.hirado.nagasaki.jp/events.html
- Tel: 0950-22-4111


Hirado Port, photo courtesy of Hirado Tourism Bureau

 

- Nishiki River Water Festival Fireworks (Iwakuni)
If you are in Iwakuni during summer, don’t miss the fireworks display held during the Nishiki River Water Festival.

With 130 food and game booths, the festival, held around iconic Kintai Bridge, includes food vendors, stage performances, and treasure hunts that draw 120,000 visitors every year.

The Kintai Bridge, located near MCAS Iwakuni, is a symbol of Iwakuni and one of Japan’s most famous bridges. The five-arch wooden bridge spans 233 feet across Nishiki River. Due to the height of its arches, however, it has a total surface length of 690 feet. It is 16.4 feet wide and its piers are nearly 22 feet tall.

It is quite an impressive sight to see the fireworks light up the night sky over the bridge.

- Hours: Aug. 3, 8 – 9:30 p.m.
- Number of Fireworks: 6,000
- Location: around Kintai Bridge (1 Iwakuni, Iwakuni City, Yamaguchi Pref.)
- URL: iwakuni-kanko.jp/%E9%8C%A6%E5%B7%9D-%E6%B0%B4%E3%81%AE%E7%A5%AD%E5%85%B8 (Japanese)
- Tel: 0827-41-2037 (Nikishi River Water Festival Executive Committee)


Iwakuni Sightseeing Association

 

- Atsugi Ayu (sweetfish) Festival Fireworks Display (near Zama and Atsugi)
Known as one of the largest fireworks events in Kanagawa Prefecture, Atsugi Ayu Festival fireworks dazzle with brilliance. This well-known display features 10,000 sequenced fireworks that form shapes like a chrysanthemum and peony, with a dramatic finale of a 656-foot-high “Niagara Falls” fireworks cascade.

The fireworks are part of Atsugi Ayu Festival, the city’s largest annual event (Aug. 3-4). The two-day festival includes a parade, dance contest and more, and draws half a million people every year.

Fireworks are launched from the middle of the river, giving viewers along the bank a great view. The best viewpoints are along the river, but can also be enjoyed from Hon Atsugi.

On the night of the event, streets from Hon Atsugi Station to the Sagami River are filled with countless food and game booths.

- Hours: Aug. 3, 7-8:30 p.m.
- Number of fireworks: 10,000 
- Location: Sagami River Bank (15-minute walk from Hon-Atsugi Station, Odakyu Line)
- URL: www.atsugi-kankou.jp/view/event/ayumatsuri.html (Japanese)
- Tel: 046-295-5496


Atsugi Ayu, photo courtesy of Atsugi City

 

- Sumida River Fireworks Display (Tokyo)
The Sumida River Fireworks Festival held near Tokyo’s Asakusa Station remains one of Japan’s oldest and most popular fireworks events, drawing about 950,000 people each year.

The festival dates back to 1733 when Edo Shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune ordered a fireworks display at a festival on the Sumida River to ward off an evil spirit thought to be behind disease and poor harvests.

While over 20,000 fireworks light up Tokyo’s cityscape, you’ll often hear people shout “Tamaya!” or “Kagiya!” This tradition was initiated when two famous pyrotechnicians – Tamaya and Kagiya competed against each other during the festival in 1810. Today, Hosoya and Marutamaya pyrotechnics companies launch their fireworks from two different barges anchored along the river, just like Tamaya and Kagiya did 200 years ago.

Besides viewing the display along the Sumida River, you can also enjoy it aboard a “yakatabune” (houseboat) or against the backdrop of the 2,080-foot Tokyo Skytree.

- Hours: July 27, 7 – 8:30 p.m.
- Number of Fireworks 20,000 fireworks.
- Location: along Sumida River (Taito and Sumida Ward, Tokyo)
- URL: www.sumidagawa-hanabi.com/
- Tel: 03-5246-1111


Sumida River, photo courtesy of Taito-ku

 

Fireworks Listings 

July
KURIHAMA PERRY FESTIVAL FIREWORK DISPLAY (Kanagawa prefecture): July 13, 7:30-8:10 p.m., 3,500 fireworks at Kurihama Beach to commemorate Commodore Perry’s visit that opened Japan to the outside world; festival starts at 10 a.m., bazaar, band performances, parade scheduled; 15-minute walk from Keikyu Kurihama Station; 046-822-2500.

YOKOHAMA SPARKLING TWILIGHT (Kanagawa prefecture): July 13-14, 7:30-8 p.m.; 3,000 fireworks at Yokohama Port near Yamashita Park; three-minute walk from Motomachi on Minato Mirai Line or 15-minute walk from JR Ishikawa Station; 045-681-2353.

SAGAMIHARA FIREWORKS DISPLAY (Kanagawa prefecture): July 15, 7-8:15 p.m..; about 8,000 fireworks will be displayed along Sagamigawa riverside; Kanachu Bus no. 53 for Suigo Tana from Fuchinobe or Kamimizo Station, JR Yokohama Line to Takadabashi bus stop; 042-771-3767.

MINATO MATSURI NOSHIRO FIREWORKS DISPLAY (Akita prefecture): July 20, 7:30-9 p.m.; 15,000 fireworks display at Noshiro Port Shitahama Futo; 30-minute walk from JR Noshiro Station or 10-minute ride from Noshiro Minami I.C. on Akita Express; 0185-52-6341.

HACHIOJI FIREWORKS DISPLAY (western Tokyo): July 27, 7-8:30 p.m.; 3,500 fireworks display at Daiwa House Stadium (Fujimori Koen); 15-minute walk from JR Nishi-Hachioji Station or Yamada Station on Keio Line; 042-643-3115.

SHOWA KINEN PARK FIREWORK DISPLAY (Western Tokyo): July 27, 7-8 p.m.; about 5,000 fireworks in the “Open Field” at Showa Kinen Park; a 15-minute walk from JR Tachikawa Station; 450 yen adults, 210 yen children, free after 6 p.m.; 042-527-2700.

HIROSHIMA MINATO (PORT) DREAM FIREWORKS DISPLAY (Hiroshima prefecture): July 27, 8-9 p.m.;  10,000 fireworks display at Hiroshima Port 10,000 Ton Berth (Minami-chiku), and most popular in Hiroshima; shuttle bus available from JR Hiroshima Station or 15-minute walk from Kaigan-dori Streetcar stop after taking a streetcar from JR Hiroshima Station on Hiroshima Dentetsu Line; 082-554-1813; www.minato-yumehanabi.com/.

NAGASAKI PORT FIREWORKS FESTIVAL (Nagasaki prefecture): July 27-28, 8:30 p.m.; 10,000 fireworks display on two nights at Nagasaki Mizubeno-mori Koen and Nagasaki Port; 15-minute walk from JR Nagasaki Station; 095-822-0111. 

August
LAKE SAGAMI FIREWORKS DISPLAY (Kanagawa prefecture): Aug. 1, 7:30-8:45 p.m.; about 5,000 fireworks will be displayed along lakeside of Sagami; 2,500 yen for adults (designated seats), 7,000 yen for four-person (designated seats), 5.000 yen for four-person seats); 10-minute walk from Sagamiko Station on JR Chuo-Line; 042-684-2633.

LAKE SAIKO FIREWORKS FESTIVAL (Yamanashi prefecture): Aug. 2, 7:30-8 p.m.; fireworks display at 7:30-8 p.m. along with illumination of floating lanterns at 7-8:30 p.m. off the shore of the Lake Saiko Maehama; 15-minure ride from Kawaguchiko I.C. on Chuo Express; 0555-72-3131.

GOSHOGAWARA FIREWORKS FESTIVAL (Aomori prefecture): Aug. 3, 7:20-9 p.m.; 5,000 fireworks display beside the Iwakigawa River (Hokuto Athletic Field); 15-minute walk from JR Goshogawara Station; 0173-35-2121.

IWAKUNI KINTAIKYO FESTIVAL (Hiroshima prefecture): Aug. 3, 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; 6,000 fireworks display near the Kintai Bridge, and most popular fireworks in the area,  enjoy spectacular fireworks in the sky over the bridge; shuttle bus available from JR Iwakuni Station; 0827-41-2037.

ATSUGI AYU (SWEETFISH) FESTIVAL FIREWORKS DISPLAY (Kanagawa prefecture): Aug. 3, 7-8:30 p.m.; 10,000 fireworks during the Atsugi Ayu (sweetfish) Festival by Sagami River. Festival is Aug. 6-7; 15-minute walk from Hon-Atsugi Station, Odakyu Line; 046-295-5496.

OME FIREWORKS DISPLAY (Western Tokyo): Aug. 3, 7:30-8:55 p.m.; about 4,132 fireworks will be displayed at Nagayama Park; designated seats of 1,000-6,000 yen available; 10-minute walk from JR Ome Station; 0428-24-2481.

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