Culture Local

Japanese Fireworks: The Beauty of Hanabi


In summer, many fireworks festivals are held in Japan. And Japanese people don’t take fireworks lightly. Indeed, these shows are amazing, some lasting for hours, with concerts, food, and sake. Here are some tips to enjoy your fireworks festival experience.

The tradition of the fireworks festivals

"Ryogoku Hanami no Sankyoku", Nobukazu Yousai, 1892

In Japanese, fireworks are called “hanabi”, which literally means “fire flowers”. Back in the Sengoku period (1467–1603), Japan was facing military conflicts and civil wars, and started importing gunpowder from Europe. However, in the Edo Period (1603-1868), peace was restored, and people who supported the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) decided to make fireworks with the unused gunpowder in his honour. In 1733, the first “hanabi taikai” (fireworks festival), was held at the Sumida River, to honour the souls of the people who died of famine and cholera.

Best hanabi spots

Today, the tradition of fireworks festival is an important part of Japanese culture. Unlike other countries, fireworks in Japan are mainly launched on July and August, and not on special occasions. Here are 3 places where you can enjoy fireworks around Tokyo.

Sumida River Fireworks Festival (Tokyo Prefecture)

The Sumida River Fireworks Festival is the oldest and largest fireworks event in Japan. It is located near Asakusa, and fireworks are launched from two different places. To view it, you can go and sit near the river sides, or just walk on the streets around Sensoji Temple.

Sumida River Fireworks Festival

Date: July 29, 2017
Time: From 7:05 p.m to 8:30 p.m
Venue 1: Sumida River, Sakura-bashi Bridge downstream – Kototoi-bashi Bridge upstream
Venue 2: Sumida River, Komagata-bashi Bridge downstream – Umaya-bashi Bridge upstream
Nearby station: Asakusa Station
Home Page: http://sumidagawa-hanabi.com/

Tamagawa River Fireworks Festival (Tokyo Prefecture / Kanagawa Prefecture)

Launched from the banks of the Tamagawa river, which is one of the largest rivers of Tokyo, this fireworks festival can be viewed from both sides of the river, from Kanagawa to Tokyo and lasts for 3 hours! The best place to sit is near the water, on the Kanagawa side, or in Tamagawafutagobashi Park.

Tamagawa River Fireworks Festival

Date: Saturday, August 19, 2017
Time: From 7:00 p.m to 8:00 p.m
Venue: Tamagawa Fireworks Venue Tamagawafutagobashi Park, 1 Kamata Setagaya, Tokyo Prefecture  157 0077
Nearby station: Futako-Tamagawa Station
Home Page: http://www.tamagawa-hanabi.com/

Ashinoko Kosui Matsuri Fireworks (Kanagawa Prefecture)

Located in Hakone,the Ashinoko Kosui (Matsuri) festival is held every July 31st. Other than fireworks, it also involves others shows such as floating lanterns, and Buddhist ceremonies in honour of the deity of the Lake Ashi.

Ashinoko Kosui Matsuri Fireworks

Date: Monday, July 31, 2017
Time: From 8:00 p.m
Venue: Motohakone, Hakone-machi, Kanagawa Prefecture  250 0522
Nearby station: Take the Hakone Tozan bus from Hakone-Yumoto station
Home Page: http://www.hakone-ashinoko.net/special_page002.html

Tips to enjoy fireworks festival

・Fireworks festivals are crowded, so be sure to arrive early! We also recommend you to leave before the end of the show, in order to avoid crowded buses and trains. The best is to book in advance a hotel room near the event if you can. 
・Don’t forget to bring some drinks and food to fight the heat!
・Bringing insect repellent spray is also a good idea since Japanese summers are really hot and humid and there are many mosquitoes.

Finally, why don’t you try going with a yukata? Click here to know more about it.