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Tuesday, 22nd July 2014
In General Japan News,

Enjoy a fireworks festival in Japan this summer

Summer is getting underway in Japan, and as the temperatures soar across the southern regions and bake those living in Kyoto, Tokyo and Osaka, there is a palpable sense of excitement. For this is the firework display season.

Fireworks - or Hanabi, which means 'fire flower' - have a long and fascinating history across the nation. Originally developed in order to ward off evil spirits, pyrotechnic displays are particularly common throughout the summer holidays. Drawing thousands of spectators, they can go on for hours at a time and include such fizzbangs as Yonshakudama shells that weigh in at several hundred kilograms, and Niagara sparklers that are often set off under bridges to create a waterfall effect. Starmines are also worth looking out for. These are pyrotechnics that would give Gandalf a run for his money.

Many displays see fireworks used in a unique or innovative way, with some choreographers using them to create shapes depicting popular anime characters or other symbols from Japanese culture in a star-strewn sky. The Chunichi Shimbun Gifu Fireworks display, for example, sees pyrotechnics used to create giant flowers with vibrant multi-coloured petals and three leaves - a sensational vision that requires a great deal of work to pull off convincingly.

Displays to attend

There are so many displays taking place across Japan that it would be impossible to list them all here. However, if there's one you absolutely must attend, it's Sumidagawa Hanabi Taikai, which transforms the sky above downtown Tokyo into a dazzling display of spectacular colours on the last Saturday of July every year. Its roots are said to lie in the Suijin matsuri, which is dedicated to a water deity that cares for the souls of those who have died of starvation or plague. As part of tradition, spectators yell out cries of "Kagiya!" and "Tamaya!" every time a firework is set off - these are the two most major pyrotechnic manufacturers in the country.

Also worth attending are the Chunichi Shimbun Gifu Fireworks, the Omagari National Fireworks Competition, Nagaoka Fireworks and Osaka Tenjin Fireworks displays.

General advice

Firework displays in Japan - especially those listed above - are extremely popular in Japan and are a cause for great celebration. These are events that see visitors turning out in their thousands, so good viewing areas can get busy very early on. Crowds often cause the festivals to become chaotic - if jubilant - places, so bear this in mind.

Public transport also becomes very crowded, particularly before and after the show, so it's worth budgeting extra time for your journey. Furthermore, accommodation is likely to become booked up much more quickly than usual, so be sure to book your holiday before this becomes an issue. While metropolises such as Osaka and Tokyo can accommodate the extra rush, places such as Gifu and Kyoto may see beds becoming scarce months in advance, such is the excitement surrounding these events.

If arriving early to secure a good viewing spot, it's worth bringing with you a seating mat and plenty of water to stave off thirst.