花火, Japanese fireworks
Today, let's talk about fireworks! As in most countries, they are very popular in Japan but they have some specificities which I would like to introduce.
First specificity: they are only fired in summer, between mid-july and mid-august. In every region, a well-defined schedule ensures that there are no concurrent events in two different cities on the same day.
This year I attended two, the first one with friends and the second one with my new girlfriend. Since I also saw two fireworks last year, don't be surprised if the pictures I show are not consistent, neither chronologically nor geographically.
Second specificity: major fireworks events are always held on water, the fireworks being launched from boats:
Third specificity: it lasts long...veeeeeery long! Depending on the city, expect between one and two hours for the fireworks itself!
Fourth specificity, which by the way is a consequence of the third one: just like the cherry blossoms, people bring food and drinks, and sit on plastic covers to enjoy the show.
For those who haven't brought anything, no problem, there are tons of food stalls:
Even though you can find just about anything, yakitori, takoyaki etc, don't be mistaken, it's all junk food.
And I wasn't brave enough to try THAT:
Fifth specificity: quite a few people (especially women) wear a yukata, a traditional dress, for the occasion. On this picture you can see Jason, a friend of mine who might be the only foreigner wearing a yukata in Japan (just kidding of course...) :
Be careful, it looks like a kimono...but it's not a kimono.
Sixth specificity: there are a lot of people...and I mean a lot! Put simply, it's impossible to find a place to seat if you don't come like two hours ahead, even if you're only a couple. Getting out of the train station is in itself already a challenge when you arrive just on time:
In contrast, things are much easier if you arrive early in the afternoon:
Then things get worse:
Another good idea is to avoid going to the toilets:
Yes, the toilets are the cabins at the far right and the queue extends to the left of the picture...good luck.
I don't have any picture of the crowd when the fireworks is about to begin but believe me, you don't want to know and if you're late, you'll probably have to stand.
To avoid problems, some people "book" a spot by placing a cover, sometimes several days before the event:
Finally you can enjoy the show, and here comes the final specificity: I recently learned that Japanese fireworks are famous for using state of the art technology, with specific shell types allowing unique visual effects. Since it's well beyond my understanding, please follow those links if you're interested in learning more:
Actually, laymen like me won't notice any difference with fireworks in other countries, so here are only a few pictures as I'm pretty sure you've all seen fireworks before. It's still beautiful anyway:
When it's over, getting back home is another challenge, as everybody leaves at the same time:
It's much better to wait a hour or two before heading back to the station.
For your information, fireworks is written as 花火, is pronounced hanabi and literally means "flowers on fire".