The fireworks or "hanabi" is one of the traditions of a Japanese summer. During July and August, there are many fireworks festivals all over the country. I'd like to introduce how to enjoy the fireworks festival for those who are interested in this summer tradition.
How to enjoy the Japanese fireworks
You can feel the ephemeral beauty in how the fireworks appear with a loud bang, but then disappears leaving a trail of smoke. The Japanese have a unique sensitivity to this ephemeral beauty. Enjoying how the colors burst into the night sky and then disappear, is the Japanese way to enjoy the fireworks.
Photo from www.yakatabune-kumiai.jp/
Enjoying the fireworks on a "Yakata" houseboat
On the day of the festival, all the festival grounds are packed. If you want to get out of the crowd and watch the fireworks in a special place, I recommend the "yakata" houseboat. You can order a luxurious dinner on the boat, and some boats have a sky deck where you can see the whole sky filled with fireworks. A 360 degree view of the fireworks is a sight to see. You'll need to make reservations with a "yakata" boat agency beforehand. Once the seats are sold out, that's it, so be sure to make reservations early on.
Photo from Komatuya.net
Fireworks festivals you can see from a "yakata" boat
- Adachi Fireworks Festival July 19, 2014 (Sat.)
- Katsushika NORYO Fireworks Festival July 22, 2014 (Tue.)
- Sumida River Fireworks Festival July 26, 2014 (Sat.)
- Edogawa Fireworks Festival August 2, 2014 (Sat.)
- Koto (Koh-Toh) Fireworks Festival August 5, 2014 (Tue.)
- Tokyo Bay Grand Fireworks Festival (Tokyo-Wan Dai-Hanabi-Sai) August 10, 2014 (Sun.) scheduled
Watching the fireworks from paid seats
At large festivals, there are "paid seats" or "sponsor seats" for people who pay to sponsor the festival. They're situated nearer to the fireworks, and you can watch the fireworks leisurely away from the crowd. There are all types of seats, like single seats, group seats, bench seats. And the cost of the seats differs according to the type. It's necessary to buy tickets beforehand to sit in the "paid seats" (or "sponsor seats"). And in case of rain, your money will be fully refunded. You'll need to buy tickets early on in this case too.
Watching the fireworks from the riverbed
The most popular way to enjoy the festival is to bring a picnic sheet and sit on the riverbed with the crowd. Families, couples, groups of friends; everybody enjoys the fireworks in their own way. People who live near the festival grounds can enjoy the fireworks from their balconies.
Enjoying the festival booths
For festivals held near riverbeds, it's not unusual for booths to line the grounds. There's cotton candy, shave ice, candied apples, and all kinds of drinks. And also, "takoyaki" (octopus baked in batter), "yakisoba" (fried noodles), and other fast foods. There's also booths with games you can play for prizes. It's one of the small enjoyments of going to a festival to walk around in the crowd and see all the booths.
Photo from Dick Johnson @ flickr.com
Enjoying the fireworks in a "yukata"
A "Yukata" is a type of traditional Japanese clothing. You wear it over you bare skin, so you can say it's a casual summer kimono. They have many colorful designs, so it's popular with young people. You wear "geta" sandals with the "yukata" instead of shoes. And you can hear the sound of the wooden sandals hitting the ground when people walk by. Nowadays, most people don't wear traditional Japanese clothes on a daily basis. But at summer festivals, many people dress in the "yukata" so it's become a common sight at the fireworks festival.
Photo from Takayuki Suzuki @ flickr.com
Enjoy the Japanese summer to its fullest!
During the summer season, there are fireworks festivals held all around the country. For people planning to visit Japan in the summer, be sure to see if there aren't any fireworks festivals held during your stay. If there is, I recommend taking one night out of your trip and enjoying the Japanese summer the Japanese way.