Fireworks are an essential part of Japanese summer nights, and people come out in summer kimono to enjoy the festival atmosphere and see the pyrotechnics, which really are an art. Numerous smaller festivals augment the larger and more famous exhibitions. Called hanabi, or “fire flowers” in Japanese, sparklers and rockets can be bought nearly anywhere, and families and groups of friends hold private displays on weekend evenings, setting beaches, parks, and riverbanks alight with light and sound.
Omagari National Fireworks Competition
Held in late August, the Omagari National Fireworks Competition is a real treat for fireworks fans, with the top 30 pyrotechnic makers in the country vying for attention with 15,000 stunning fireworks.
Matsushima Lanterns and Fireworks Festival
This festival is held annually in mid-August as part of the local obon ceremonies. In addition to 10,000 fireworks, thousands of lanterns are set floating on the bay and with those set on islets in the sea reflecting on the water, this is a real spectacle of light.
In the middle of August every year the sleepy hot springs resort town of Suwa wakes up and puts on one of Honshu’s largest display of pyrotechnics, with over 50,000 fireworks set off over the lake.
Nagaoka Festival Fireworks Display
Another of Honshu’s most exciting displays of hanabi, and the main event of town’s summer festival in early August, 20,000 fireworks are let off over two evenings.
On the banks of Japan’s longest river, the Shinano, Katakai holds the Guinness world record for the largest firework. Ever. Actually, they do it every year. As part of the two day Shinto summer festival, or natsu matsuri, in early August, a 48 inch firework is set off each evening. The resulting explosion is 800 metres across, and breathtaking.
Tsuchiura National Fireworks Competition
Featuring 50 fireworks makers, this early October display is one of your last chances to see a spectacular display, or whet your apatite for next year’s festivals. The Tsuchiura competition also works as a trade fair- this is where next season’s pyrotechnics are chosen.
A spectacular fireworks display kicks off the impressive Tanabata matsuri celebrations in early July.
The biggest fireworks festival in Tokyo, 22,000 fireworks light up the late July night over the Sumida River, and annually draws around 1 million spectators and celebrants.
Tokyo Bay Fireworks
A mid-August spectacle where 12,000 fireworks explode over Tokyo Bay, lighting up the cityscape.
Yokohama Port Opening Festival International Fireworks Display
As the conclusion of the festival, held in the middle of July each year, 7,000 fireworks light up Yokohama’s fair-ground like water-front, commemorating Yokohama’s history as an international trade port.
Atami Ocean Fireworks
This famous hot-springs resort town periodically treats residents and visitors alike to pyrotechnic displays over the ocean.
20,000 fireworks make for a spectacular summer festival in early August, which traces its history back to 1630 when ferrymen prayed to the water gods for luck in the coming year.
Stunningly backlighting the famous floating shrine, 5000 fireworks are set off over the Inland Sea annually in mid August.
Kurume City, Chikugogawa
Dating back to 1650, when sparklers were used by pilgrims at the Suitengu Shrine, the Chikugogawa Fireworks Festival is now the largest in Western Japan. This August 18,000 fireworks will be set off over the river.