Three Great Hanabi Festivals To Go This Summer + Miyajima Water Fireworks Festival
In Japan, Hanabi or fireworks are a seasonal tradition of the summer. Since we were little, we would look forward to wearing our yukata (summer kimono) and geta-sandals and head to a hanabi-taikai (hanabi festival). In the summer, hanabi events of various sizes are held all over Japan. Today, I would like to introduce the 3 major hanabi-taikai “Nihon San Dai Hanabi Taikai” and an additional super lovely hanabi event that is held by the water.
Zenkoku Hanabi Kyogi Taikai (Oomagari no Hanabi)/ Akita Prefecture
This event which started in 1910 (43rd year of Meiji) is held to determine the number one hanabi-shi (pyrotechnic technician) in Japan. It is held in a contest format where hanabi-shi from all over Japan compete against one another. The hanabi-shi’s works are judged based on design, color, and creativity. The condition is that the same person who made the hanabi must shoot the hanabi up.
In recent hanabi festivals we see hanabi that shoot up in the shape of smiley faces, anime characters and even mushroom (?!) etc, but such creative hanabi-design had its origins in this event. You can see that the hanabi-shi must be an expert not only technically with the use of explosives, but they must also be an artisan who has an aesthetic sensibility.
Some tips if you are planning to go. During the event they have traffic restrictions so be prepared to do some walking to the venue. Another tip is to make sure and go early so you can save a good spot!
Date: Saturday August 22nd 201517:30 to 18:15
Official Homepage: http://www.oomagari-hanabi.com/
Tsuchiura Zenkoku Hanabi Kyogi Taikai/ Ibaraki Prefecture
This hanabi-taikai started in 1925 (14th year of Taisho) and has a lot of history. Though many hanabi events are held during the summer, this Tsuchiura Taikai is special because it is held in the fall. This is because this festival also has a purpose to celebrate the autumn harvest and the hard work of the farmers.
Multiple hanabi that is shot up simultaneously at great velocity is called “star mine”, just like this picture. It is a display of several-hundred hanabi shot up at precise timing and multitude of changing colors. It is such a wonderful spectacle that it is often used for the grand finale in many hanabi events. The history of Tsuchiura Hanabi Taikai and the star mine hanabi is very closely intertwined. This Hanabi Taikai had created a specific competition for the star mine (at the time this part of the competition was called rensharenpatsu). There was fierce competition to fight for the pride and honor of the hanabi-shi and this area of competition has become an important part that represents the Tsuchiura Hanabi.
Date: Saturday October 3rd 2015 18:00 to 20:30
Official Homepage: http://www.tsuchiura-hanabi.jp/
The Nagaoka Matsuri Ohanabi Taikai/ Niigata Prefecture
One of the highlights is the “Sho san jyaku dama”, which is a hanabi that opens up to be 650 meters (2132 feet) in diameter. This is shot up 2 times a day, so a total of 4 times during the event.
Though the Nagaoka Matsuri hanabi event is often grouped with the other 2 hanabi festivals as the 3 major hanabi events in Japan, what makes the Nagaoka Matsuri different from the Omagari and Tsuchiura is that this is not a “hanabi competition”. This is a hanabi event that represents consolation of the spirits and restoration after the disasters that struck the area such as air raids and natural disasters like the Chuetsu earthquake.
See this article for more information on the history of hanabi.
Why Have Fireworks in the Summer? Japanese Sentiments and Traditions
Date: Sunday August 2nd 2015, Monday August 3rd 2015 19:20～21:10
Official Homepage: http://nagaokamatsuri.com/
Miyajima Water Fireworks Festival/Hiroshima Prefecture
What’s special about this hanabi-taikai is the number of hanabi that is used for the under-water hanabi. When the fireworks and the under-water hanabi ignite, the torii (gate ) of the shrine is backlit and you see this very mystical scene. Because it’s such a great location, it is very popular among photographers.
Date: Tuesday August 11th 2015 19:40～20:40
Official Homepage: http://www.miyajima.or.jp/event/event_hanabi.html
Each hanabi taikai is distinctive and offers so much excitement. With a lot of people gathering for one event, it’s better to prepare yourself to be in a huge crowd (like checking where the bathrooms are ahead of time, lol). What’s good about the hanabi though is that you don’t have to necessarily be really up close to enjoy it. My personal recommendation is to find an “anaba (secret spot)”, somewhere that’s a little distant from the venue, but has no tall buildings blocking the view. Another tip is to think of an exit plan before the grand finale of the hanabi starts. Once the event is over, the streets get so crowded that it may take hours to get home. Hope you enjoy the beautiful hanabi of Japan this summer!