Japanese Fireworks: The Many-Splendored Fire Flowers Of Summer

Fireworks happen all over Tokyo in the months of July and August, and if you haven’t been to see them yet, go. Last weekend I went to the Adachi Fireworks Festival (13,000 gorgeous explosions!) but they’re just the first in a parade of splendor, and the biggest is yet to come.

The best thing about Japanese fireworks is that the entire show is like a grand finale, from the first boom & crackle to the last

I took this photo with a half-second exposure, which shows you how many can blossom in the blink of an eye!

The choreography is surprising and varied…

…often inspring crowd-wide ahhhhs with unusual sequences like this one, the “fire flowers” blooming like the lilies that burst forth all over the countryside in July

And the colors! Photos can’t come close to capturing the colors I’ve only seen in Japan. Not just blue, green, red and gold, but purple and magenta and orange and turquoise!

And even though this video is a pale thumbnail of the experience, imagine this snippet X 30-90 minutes, and you’ll get an inkling of what a Japanese fireworks show feels like:

For an overview of this summer’s offerings, Japanistry’s fireworks guide is a pretty good one, and if you’d like details on timing and maps to all the upcoming events around Tokyo, visit the Tokyo Cheapo July and August events pages.

The Adachi show is my favorite fireworks festival because it’s easy to see the show from a wide sloped area on the riverbank – peoples’ heads aren’t in the way and you don’t have to get there three hours early to stake out a spot where you can see.

Tips for going to the Adachi Fireworks Festival

• The most enjoyable way to see these is to go an hour early (not so much to get a seat as to avoid the sardine-like crowds that make a ten-minute walk from Kita-senju Station into a thirty-minute one) and buy yourself some beers and yakitori (grilled skewered chicken) from the vendors that line the streets on the way to the riverbank.

• Bring something to sit on, because the ground is damp and you’ll get a wet butt otherwise. I bought my plastic mat from a ¥100 store.

• There are two bridges that cross the river in the viewing area. The fireworks appear in the sky above and beyond the left-most bridge (as you approach from Kita-senju station), so sitting on the far side of that bridge is ideal.

• When picking a spot on the riverbank, walk down the stairs toward the river and sit on the left side of the stairs (the side that’s closer to the fireworks). If you don’t, the people going up and down the stairs the whole night will partially block your view.

• If you don’t mind standing for the whole show, the area between the streets leading to the station and the levee (which you climb up and over to get a spot on the riverbank) has a great view of the show.

• Check the weather report before you go. If there’s even the smallest chance of rain, bring an umbrella. You do not want to be stuck in a wet crowd stampeding at a snail’s pace toward the station while it’s pouring rain.

When not gazing at colorful explosions, Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Tokyo

Nine Years. Nine death anniversaries. Tomorrow will be the tenth. He always visits her grave early, to avoid crossing paths with her family. He always comes on the day he actually killed her…read more