Japan has a special affinity for fireworks. During summer, fireworks festivals, called Hanabi Taikai, are held almost daily somewhere in Japan. In a way, you have not truly experienced summer until you have seen these colourful bursts lighting up the sky.
Amongst these festivals, Omagari no Hanabi, the Omagari Fireworks Festival, which takes place in Omagari, Akita, is one of the most renowned fireworks festivals in Japan, and has almost 800,000 visitors in a single night. Omagari no Hanabi has a long-running tradition. It started in the year 43 of the Meiji Era, 1910, and has been held annually on the fourth Saturday of August. Every year, pyrotechnicians all across Japan compete against one another with their vivid fireworks to determine who is the best.
Vying for the best
The actual event of Omagari no Hanabi is separated into three different divisions: the afternoon division, the 10” fireworks division, and the creative fireworks division. Each event has separate criteria on which fireworks are graded under.
Afternoon fireworks used to be very common in the early days of fireworks in Japan. However, nowadays, Omagari no Hanabi is one of the only festivals which still includes this division. In the afternoon fireworks division, pyrotechnicians utilize shells and colored smokes to substitute gunpowder, and show off their creations and skills in broad daylight. The 10” fireworks division takes a very traditional approach. Each contestant sets off two rounds of 10” fireworks and is scored by the synergy shown in the display of the two fireworks. The first 10” firework must have at least 3 shell layers of gunpowder inside, and the second has no specific rule and can be any style. Pyrotechnicians must find the best combination to bring out the best for both of their fireworks.
Last but not least comes the creative fireworks division. Creative fireworks refer to fireworks that break the traditional preconception of round-shaped fireworks. These fireworks come in various shapes and colours, such as in shapes of popular characters like Pikachu or Doraemon. Creative fireworks were introduced in the year 39 of Showa, 1964, during Omagari no Hanabi. People were astonished by the concept of fireworks that weren’t round. For the creative fireworks division, pyrotechnicians compete to see who makes the most colourful, original fireworks with the best appearance that matches the year’s theme.
Gazing up into a lit up summer sky
Fireworks festivals are one of the main summer events in Japan, and either signal the beginning of summer, or hint at a nearing of the end of the season. The festivities begin after sundown, when the sweltering heat has become slightly more bearable. People make their way through the crowded streets with their family, friends, or loved ones, and munch on the various snacks served at the food stalls while waiting for the first shower of light and “bang” to reverberate across the sky.
Once you have had your first taste of fireworks, you are sure to be mesmerised by its fleeting beauty. If you are in Akita for the summer, make sure to go to the Omagari Fireworks Festival for a dreamlike experience.
- Event date
- Last Saturday of August
- Daisen city
- Corresponding at the time of bad weather
- Not effected by weather condition