Originally used to scare away evil spirits, fireworks have a long history in Japan and have slowly become a quintessential part of Japanese summer culture. Singaporeans may be familiar with the fireworks at New Year. But have you ever been to a fireworks festival in Japan?Here, we will take a look at what Japanese fireworks festivals are like.
Fireworks are called “hanabi” in Japanese, meaning “fire flowers”, and
displays are usually on a grand scale. Some incorporate son et lumiere shows,
while others are launched above famous historical sights. This long-standing,
spectacular tradition is not only very
popular with the locals but is also a major draw for tourists to visit Japan during the hanabi season
Japan’s pyrotechnics boasts the world’s biggest fireworks: the “Yonshakudama” sphere which measures up to 1.2 meters in diameter and weighs several hundred kilograms. The most famous ones are “star mines”, which are round firework shells that showcase various patterns when they burst, and “Niagara sparklers” named after Niagara Falls give off shapes resembling waterfalls.
Japanese fireworks festivals are not just about people
simply watching the sky light up. Its charm is also the lively festival atmosphere that is part and parcel of them. At the festivals, you will see people wearing beautiful
yukata (lightweight, casual version of kimono) and
you can find local street food and game stalls along the way.
Every summer, the top fireworks makers in Japan are invited to Omagari Fireworks Festival, considered one of three biggest in the country, to show off their craftsmanship and creativity for this breathtaking show and to compete for prizes for the best displays. This tradition has been running since 1910, and it is a national competition, you can imagine the crowds and the attention it attracts. More than 600,000 people come to Akita from all over Japan just to witness this spectacular show. There would probably be many more if the location were not so remote！
One of the most
famous fixtures of this event is
the continuous detonation of “star mines” over a distance of 500 meters: just imagine how exciting that must be！
Yet another special feature of Omagari Fireworks Festival is that it is the only fireworks show in Japan where you can watch a daytime display of fireworks！
Omagari Fireworks Festival
Address：Omono River; river bank downstream of Omagarihanabi Bridge, Omagari, Daisen, Akita
Access：30-minute walk from JR Akita Omagari Station
Operating hours：5:30 p.m. - 6:15 p.m. (daytime show), 6:50 p.m. - 9:30 p.m（night-time show）
Kumano Fireworks Festival is a traditional display
which has been held for the last 300 years. This giant fireworks show takes
place in Kumano, a seaside town in southern Mie Prefecture.
You have almost certainly watched the magical music fountain at Sentosa or Marina Bay Sands, but have you ever seen a combination of music, lasers, and fireworks?
In Kyushu, the most south-westerly of Japan’s main islands, the “Special
Festival” of Nagasaki’s theme park Huis Ten Bosch which recreates scenes and buildings of The Netherlands, are very popular.
This special fireworks performance is held just next to one of Japan’s most picturesque harbours. 13,000 fireworks will be launched into the night sky and synchronised beautifully with lasers and music. If you like music and spectacle, this is a show that you cannot miss!
This festival is
another of the three major fireworks in Japan and, as
such, extremely popular. About 1 million people visited over
the two days last year. The highlight of the event is “Phoenix,” a display
accompanied by the well-known Japanese song “Jupiter”, intended to lift
spirits after a deadly earthquake in 2004.
The festival itself is a three-day affair that starts on 1 August with parades of “mikoshi” (portable shrines), traditional folk-dance processions, and floating lanterns, while the fireworks are on 2 and 3 August.
The festival also features famous “Shosanshakudama” which are spheres of 90 centimetres in diameter and weight of 300kilograms. Said to have originated as a prayer for peace, they explode 600 metres up in the air into a huge fiery flower of 650 metres in diameter. “Phoenix” itself requires a 2 kilometre-wide launch site, while the “Kome Happyo” display comprises 100 successive launches of “Shakudamas”,which reach 300metres up in the air and expand to 300 metres in diameter.
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