Fireworks in Japan, a different tradition from America’s

Posted on by Jin posted an interesting article about a new line of designer sparklers in Japan, which reminded me of a conversation that I have every year with Americans about what fireworks are like in Japan – especially around the Fourth of July.

The article introduces the elegant sparklers – elegant, even before they’re fired – below.

Sort of English friendly-Japanese site selling the fireworks

My childhood included similar sparklers, albeit not so high-end. During Obon, I would visit my grandparents who lived in Nara, a 3.5 hr trip from Tokyo by bullet train, local trains, and car. We would buy a package of temochi hanabi – handheld fireworks – from the supermarket nearby and we’d light them in my grandparents’ front yard.

This is not me, but you can get the idea…

These sparklers came in all different shapes and colors of flames. The packages would also almost always come with a few “weird” fireworks – ones that spin on the ground, ones that leave a snake shaped debris as it burned, and so on.

“Hebi Hanabi”

“Nezumi Hanabi”

As I grew older, I went out to go see fireworks shows with my friends more often. Fireworks shows in Japan are called “Hanabi Taikai,” which is literally a “fireworks competition.” Old, famous fireworks houses and small local fireworks shops would compete to make the most beautiful and unique fireworks. Japanese fireworks are, like Japanese people’s taste in flowers, subdued, asymmetrical, and emphasizes its ephemeral quality.

Sumidagawa Fireworks Show in 2008

Because so many people would go early to camp out and find the perfect spot, some years, I had to be there as early as 9AM to get the best location! But there are plenty of vendors with traditional Japanese matsuri foods and games to enjoy with your friends. And it’s Japan, so there’s always a lot of drinking.

Playing cards and waiting for the Tokyo Wan Fireworks Show in 2006

Edogawa-ku Fireworks Show in 2008

Tokyo Wan Fireworks Show in 2009

In the end, I love both Japanese and American fireworks. But whenever I see one, I get nostalgic about the other.



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