Hanabi Taikai – The Fireworks Festival and How to Prepare for it

Summer in Japan can be very humid – especially if you are not used to it. But with the heat and humidity come the incredible summer festivals of Japan which totally make you forget about the heat – well…almost!

Though the firework festival happens at many places, the most famous one in Tokyo is at the Sumida River near Asakusa. If you want to experience the Japanese culture, this festival gives you the perfect excuse to wear a Yukata, stand alongside Sumida river and gaze up at the evening skies lit up by the thousands of fireworks in dazzling colors. This is an annual event, dating back to the 1700’s, that happens on the last Saturday of July and draws a LOT of people. It is an event where rival pyrotechnic groups compete to outdo each outdo each other. In its early years, it used to be fiercely competitive though that level competitiveness has faded now.

Don’t worry if you are farther away from Sumida river. There are some other places in Tokyo where you can view the fireworks –

1. The Sumidagawa Hanabi Taikai :

Sumida river FireworksOn the 25th of this month, tens and thousands of fireworks will be launched over the Sumida river. This will be one of the biggest fireworks festival in Tokyo so if you get the chance, this is a must watch event.

Access from Tokyo Station : Take the Yamanote lane towards Ueno and get off at Kanda Station. From there, catch the Asukasa line for Asakusa and get off tat Asakusa Station and walk about 14 minutes to reach Sumida River.


2. Tokyo Bay Fireworks Festival :

Tokyo Bay Great Fireworks 2012 -東京湾大華火祭

This event will take place on August 8th with about 12000 fireworks in wide array of colors being set off in a span of 80 minutes. The best viewing spots for this festival will be Odaiba, Tokyo Tower or any place nearby which is not packed with people and does not block the view with its tall buildings.

Access from Tokyo Station : To get to Tokyo tower, take the Yamanote line towards Shinagawa and get off at Hamamatsucho station and walk for about 20 minutes. To get to Odaiba’s Rainbow Bridge get the same Yamanote line towards Shinagawa but get off at Tamachi Station instead.

3. Kanagawa Shimbun fireworks Festival :

the 28th Kanagawa Shimbun Fireworks Festival 67About 15,000 fireworks are fired from boats in front of Rinko park between 7:00 p.m to 8:30 p.m on August forth. This event takes place right next to Minatomirai station.

Access from Tokyo Station : Take the Keihin Tohoku Line towards Ofuna, from Tokyo station and get off at Yokohama.At Yokohama station, get the Minatomirai line towards Motomachi Chukagaiand get off Minatomirai Station.


4. Jingu Gaien Fireworks Festival :

Jingu Gaien Fireworks Festival 神宮外苑花火大会③
This festival will take place in the middle of Tokyo on August 11th between 7:30 p.m and 8:30 p.m where 11,000 fireworks will be launched. It is a 10 minute walk from Gaienmae Station.

Access from Tokyo Station : Take the Marunouchi Line towards Shinjuku, from Tokyo station and get off at Akasakamitsuke station. From there, get the ginza line towards Shibuya and get off at Gaienmae station and walk for about 10 minutes to reach the venue.

5. Saitama City Owada Fireworks Festival :

About 5000 fireworks will be launched over Owada park, near Owada station, starting 7:30 p.m on July 30th.

Access from Tokyo Station : Get the Utsunomiya line towards Utsunomiya and get off at Omiya station. From Omiya Station, get the Tobu Noda line towards Kashiwa and get off at Owada.

How to get the best out of the festival :

1. Check the weather Forecast before heading out:

Beginning of June to mid July is the rainy season (Tsuyu 梅雨 ) for most of Japan.  Seeing as it might rain, make sure to check whether the event hasn’t been postponed. In many cases, if there’s a high chance of rain, the hanabi festival can be postponed to the next day. And sometimes, the festival continues in case of light rain. If so, we suggest that you carry an umbrella or a rain coat with you. It would also be a great idea to take a plastic sheet that you can sit on. During our first hanabi festival, we were really surprised to see the Japanese people well prepared and donned in their Yukatas regardless of the weather.

2.  Reserve your spots early on:

Even though the Hanabi festival takes place across Japan, it still has a big turnover every year. People start arriving as early as lunch time to reserve a spot. The bigger the event, the harder it is to get a good spot even if you make it there an hour early. Our suggestion would be to be there at least 2 to 3 hours early, reserve your place and enjoy a nice picnic. And if you’re by yourself, take a book with you.

3. Bring your own food and drinks:

  The bigger hanabi festivals are so HUGE that almost half of Tokyo will be there. Like with any Japanese festival, there will be food and drinks stalls but the drinks there are usually sold for a higher price. So if you are not up for standing in a huge queue to get a bite to eat, we suggest bringing your own food and drinks. This is something the Japanese people are really good at and you’d see them waiting patiently in long queues for their food.

4. Carry a garbage bag with you to take your garbage home.

If you are gonna be getting your food and drinks, don’t forget to take a garbage bag with you. At the previous festival we went to, all the trash cans were sealed. You really don’t want to carry all that garbage in your hand in case you forget your bag. Its not common to find garbage cans at any of the Japanese festivals. Sometimes, you can return the the garbage to the shops you bought the food from but more often than not, the Japanese people take it home with them.

5. Put on the traditional Yukata and feel like a local: Hanabi couple (Firework couple)

A yukata is a traditional garment, like a casual kimono,worn during the summers. If you plan on wearing a yukata for the festival then make sure to  wrap the left side of  the yukata over the right. The opposite is usually done when preparing a body for the funeral.

Some of the places that you can get your yukata on a budget are Rakuten, Shimamura and Uniqlo. You can get the more expensive ones at Marui or Ito Yokado.

Your Thoughts…

Have you ever been to a Hanabi Taikai in Japan? Share your experience in the comments below smile



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