Hanabi the summer time fireworks festival in Tokyo
Hana = Flower
Bi-> derived from Hi = Fire
Together Hanabi = fireworks
Summer in Japan is time for Hanabi. Traditionally the two months of July and August have been the months for firework shows. Various cities communities organizations join hands to hold annual shows on specific days, varying across regions. In Tokyo the Sumida river area, Edogawa, Odaiba, Makuhari and nearby Hachioji etc area are some of the popular Hanabi festival zones. In some cases like for Sumida river fireworks show this is a tradition now running for more than Six hundred years!
Sumida river fireworks
It is a competition
Most shows encourage competitions, adding to the festive spirit. Participating teams select a theme, such as dance of the dragons or starlight show etc. Shows start with either a slow periodic whoosh of rockets going up. Growing in increasingly faster sequence and culminating in a fiery blaze of rapid fire balls. Or start with a spectacular show of blisters followed by magical glow of sudden flashes bursting here and there. Theme changes with each team. Crowds cheer as the fireworks light up the sky, increasing in tempo like in recital of musical ensembles. The entire show duration ranges from 30 minutes to 90 minutes, with each team taking up 10 minutes or so.
Each set of fireworks, known traditionally as Katamono / Warimono / Pokanono etc, are bound and set in sequence. The bundles are set up usually on a floating platform in the middle of river. This is both for the purpose of safety and for effect – lighting up a vast horizon visible to people from both sides of the river. In fact as far as its visible people throng on the two sides of the meandering rivers, taking in the view. The summer breeze spreads a festive cheer up and down the river banks.
It is a social occasion
On the preset day people from neighborhoods start gathering by the river sides early on. Just like Hanami celebration in Spring, Hanabi in summer is an occasion for families and friends to get together. Food and drinks flow. People in Kimonos and yukatas throng all ways leading towards the venue. For the big ones special trains are arranged, road traffic are diverted. People queue up early for prime viewing spots. Special cruises for viewing up close from the river upstream or downstream fill up early.
Fests like Sumida river fireworks has become an annual event attended by large number of tourists. Tv cameras descend down on the event day on land, pan in from helicopters, or are set up atop cruise boats. Swell of crowds fill in the stations, roads around Asakusa station approach towards Sumida river.
Other major Hanabis in or close to Tokyo
Some of the other big ones in Tokyo are held on Arakawa and Edogawa river beds near Kasai and Ichnoe stations. Outside Tokyo the fireworks in Showa Kinen park Tachikawa, Yamashita park Yokohama, Aeon mall park Chiba also draw large amounts of crowd. Not to forget the show in Odaiba. Fireworks over the Tokyo bay at Odaiba adds that extra charm when you are tired shopping, and, er more shopping.
Eogawa city fireworks festival
Koto city fireworks festival
Fireworks at Showa Kinen Tachikawa
More than the show its a tradition
Some say the invention of video recording and tv transmissions has killed the original wow factor. Perhaps it’s a truth. Perhaps the Spectacular fireworks are not the top draw anymore.
Besides People visiting Disney have long come to appreciate the Magic Kingdom fireworks show. It runs daily. It’s joined by peppy music and laser wizardry. It has helped set new level of expectation.
Even Out in the suburbs fireworks have become a part of the increasingly popular year end celebrations. Availability, affordability has removed that hard to come by feeling.
Despite all that what makes the summer Hanabi stand apart is the common feeling of joy. It’s the Bon Vivacity that permeates through traditional dress traditional food traditional smell and the memories it brings back.
It is that sense of belonging together that has not been erased by recent technology. Rather each year people participate just to have that little togetherness, add to familial bonds, or say start a new knowing.
In that sense Hanabi is a way to feel the pulse of the people who call this part of the world home. That remains the USP the reason we all join. Even if you prefer to stay away from crowd or summer temperatures, you would perhaps not like to miss the experience at least for one time.
Reference: Hanami the cherry blossom viewing festival