Fire flowers in the summer

Along with the heat, rain and intense humidity, summer brings something spectacular in Japan – fireworks (hanabi) season. Literally translated, hanabi means “fire flowers”, a way cooler name that is quite possibly worth stealing.

There’s a lot of hanabi events in Tokyo at this time of year – just about every weekend you’ll find one. These shows are not done by halves – they are BIG. The particular one we attended was on a river with people crowding the banks on both sides, and lasted for an hour and a half.

As you arrive, you’re handed a program which precisely details the evening’s events – a pyrotechnic banquet menu of sorts. It catalogs two to ten minute courses of different types of fireworks, launched by different teams trying to make the neatest looking explosions. At 8:30pm exactly, as advertised, the fireworks finish. There was no vaguely synchronised 80’s rock soundtrack. There was no F-111 flyover. Just spectacular fireworks, the likes of which ye… err, me… had never seen.

The other nice touch is that lots of guys and girls dress traditionally to come to these events, wearing cotton kimonos (yukatas) and wooden sandals, enjoying a beer as they watch the fireworks. There are a lot of stalls and other entertainment running around the place too, giving the whole evening a really nice community feel. Tip – get there early, the good places fill up fast!

I took some shots as well, of course, which took a few contortions when dealing with the large crowd, most of whom were sitting down. I kept trying to creep my tripod up a bit higher to get better shots, and got very politely told off on a couple of occasions. I compromised on an uncomfortable crouching position, but managed to get the shots I wanted. You can see more at the fireworks gallery (try the slideshow).

Next weekend – another fireworks show. But this one’s bigger. I’m not sure how’s that’s possible, but I’ll find out…



8 thoughts on “Fire flowers in the summer

  1. Seahorsily san,

    FANTASTIC Shots – I am green with envy (or maybe bad chinese food) I really need to get out with my camera sometime 😦


  2. Absolutely stunning photos – you should be very proud.

    Now – please explain, because I’m a little concerned…

    How can the bogans appreciate the majesty of fireworks without a rockin’ soundtrack? Having to think .. pause .. for themselves how to feel, during, must leave them emotionally drained by the end of the show – if they can even determine when that is, what with no natural break in the (non-existent) music to guide them.

    On the upside, that guy on the steps at least appears to be appropriately attired. He’s correctly wearing his Jackie Howe and, on his plates of meat, a pair of what can only be the local Ugg equivalent.

    “Take me back to you, it’s been a long time….”

  3. That first shot (on here, not in the gallery, although the first shot in the gallery is nice too) is fantastic. Not only for being a good picture, but a well done bit of pyrotechnics too.

    I so wish I could see a fireworks display sans the triple-m-70s-80s-and-90s-hosted-by-Richard-Wilkins- and-agro-brought-to-you-by-some-random-milk-drink-camera-keeps-panning-over-the-drooling-masses -rather-than-the-god-damned-fireworks-and -ooh-there-goes-yet-another-afterburner-i-hate-you -all-kill-kill-kill crap that we get here.

    Um, don’t show my psychiatrist this comment… 😀

  4. MDB, doing some Web 2.0 hacking, eh? Remember, I know where you lived… once. Anyway, I’ve corrected your terrible misdeeds now.

    Yeah, some of the fireworks were absolutely amazing, and I had no idea how they were done. Ones that only spit out sparks in a certain direction, or that change colour as they moves out. There’s even names for the different classes of fireworks (including one co-incidentally or not called “pokamono”). It’s a real art-form, one that random acts of arson alone will not train you for. Pity.

  5. Great pictures, Chris!!

    While you are there and when you can, you should buy the hand-held hanabi (or one you put on the ground that goes up in the air) from grocery stores. That is one thing I miss from Japan.

    Have a fun!

  6. Masako, I can buy hand-held fireworks here?? How was I not made aware of this? Please excuse me, I have to go out right now. For food.

  7. Konbanwa Chris san!

    Hanabi wa kirei desune!

    Hanabi no eiga ga suki desu!
    Beat Takeshi wa sugureta haiyu desu.


    (I humbly expect that my particles and grammar are incorrect….:-)

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