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…