Fireworks Overview

In Japan, fireworks are a part of an ancient culture that has been passed down for generations.
Fireworks are popular in many countries around the world, but Japanese fireworks are said to be the most beautiful in the world.

A firework is a mixture of gunpowder and metal powder that is wrapped and ignited to create a colorful display as they burst in the sky.

There are many theories about the history and origin of fireworks, but they are said to have originated from ancient smoke signals, which were developed with the technology of gunpowder.
In Japan, during the Edo period (1603-1868), after the end of warfare, many gunpowder shops specializing in fireworks began to appear.
The two most famous gunpowder shops of that time were "Kagiya" (鍵屋) and "Tamaya" (玉屋).
These two shops were the driving force behind the development of "Ryogoku Kawabiraki" which is the origin of the present Sumida River Fireworks Festival.
In "Ryogoku Kawabiraki," "Kagiya" and "Tamaya" competed with each other across the Ryogoku bridge, and onlookers shouted out the name of the shop they thought had the better fireworks.
This tradition is still alive today, and when the fireworks go off, you can hear them shouting "Tamayaaa!" or "Kagiyaaa!"
Fireworks are a part of traditional Japanese culture where you can still catch a glimpse of the vestiges of the Edo period.

Nowadays, there are numerous fireworks displays held across the country throughout the year, and all of them are packed with people.
Here's a ranking of some of the best fireworks displays held around the country (*as of June 2019).

◆National Fireworks Displays・Popularity Ranking
No. 1 Tamagawa (Tama River) Fireworks Festival [Tokyo]
No. 2 Tsuchiura All Japan Fireworks Competition [Ibaraki Prefecture]
No. 3 Naniwa Yodogawa Fireworks Festival [Osaka]
No. 4 Omagari Fireworks Festival [Akita Prefecture]
No. 5 Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival [Nagano Prefecture]

◆National Fireworks Displays・Number of Fireworks
No. 1 Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival [Nagano Prefecture] ~40,000 fireworks
No. 2 Utsunomiya Fireworks Festival [Tochigi Prefecture] ~30,000 fireworks
No. 3 Fukuroi Enshu Fireworks Festival [Shizuoka Prefecture] ~25,000 fireworks
No. 4 Makuhari Beach Fireworks Festa (Chiba City Fireworks Festival) [Chiba Prefecture] ~23,000 fireworks
No. 5 Tone River Fireworks [Ibaraki Prefecture] ~22,800 fireworks

◆National Fireworks Displays・Attendance Ranking
No. 1 Edogawa Fireworks Festival [Tokyo] ~1.39 million people
No. 2 Tenjin Festival Fireworks [Osaka] ~1.3 million people
No. 3 Otaru Shio Festival Doshin Fireworks [Hokkaido] ~1.16 million people
No. 4 Kanmon Straits Fireworks Display [Fukuoka, Yamaguchi Prefecture] ~1.05 million people
No. 5 Nagaoka Fireworks Festival [Niigata] ~1.03 million people

There are many more famous fireworks displays all over Japan.

◆Recommended fireworks displays in the Hokkaido area
Lake Toya Long Run Fireworks Festival [Hokkaido], Kachimai Fireworks Festival [Hokkaido], UHB Fireworks Festival [Hokkaido]
◆Recommended fireworks displays in the Tohoku region
Sendai Tanabata Fireworks Festival [Miyagi Prefecture], Akagawa Fireworks Festival [Yamagata Prefecture], Iwaki Fireworks Festival [Fukushima Prefecture]
◆Recommended fireworks displays in the Kanto region
Adachi Fireworks Festival [Tokyo], Yokohama Sparkling Twilight [Kanagawa Prefecture], Sumida River Fireworks Festival [Tokyo], Kamakura Fireworks Festival [Kanagawa Prefecture]
◆Recommended fireworks displays in the Koshinetsu region
Shinmei Fireworks Festival [Yamanashi Prefecture], Niigata Fireworks Festival [Niigata Prefecture], Gion Kashiwazaki Festival Fireworks Display [Niigata Prefecture]
◆Recommended fireworks displays in the Hokuriku region
Hokkoku Fireworks Kanazawa [Ishikawa Prefecture], Floating Lanterns and Fireworks Show [Fukui Prefecture], Kawakita Matsuri Fireworks Festival [Fukui Prefecture]
◆Recommended fireworks displays in the Tokai region
Nagara River National Fireworks Festival [Gifu Prefecture], Okazaki Fireworks Festival [Aichi Prefecture], Kumano Fireworks Festival [Mie Prefecture]
◆Recommended fireworks displays in the Kansai region
Minato-Kobe Marine Fireworks Festival [Hyogo Prefecture], Shirahama Fireworks Festival [Wakayama Prefecture], Lake Biwa Great Fireworks Festival [Shiga Prefecture]
◆Recommended fireworks displays in the Chugoku region
Ashida River Fireworks Festival [Hiroshima Prefecture], Matsue Suigosai Fireworks Festival [Shimane Prefecture], Nishiki River Fireworks [Yamaguchi Prefecture]
◆Recommended fireworks events in the Shikoku region
Sanuki Takamatsu Festival Fireworks Display [Kagawa Prefecture], Kochi City Fireworks Display [Kochi Prefecture], Shimanto Fireworks Display [Kochi Prefecture]
◆Recommended fireworks displays in Kyushu and Okinawa
Chikugo River Fireworks Festival [Fukuoka Prefecture], Seaside Momochi Fireworks Fantasia [Fukuoka Prefecture], Kyushu Fireworks Festival in Saga [Saga Prefecture]

The 3 large-scale and historical fireworks shows are called "Japan's top 3 fireworks displays." They are the Omagari Fireworks Festival in Akita Prefecture, the Tsuchiura All Japan Fireworks Competition in Ibaraki Prefecture, and the Nagaoka Fireworks Festival in Niigata Prefecture.

All of these events are elaborate and unique, but the marine fireworks displays, which launch fireworks over the ocean or lakes are popular because they can be enjoyed without being blocked by tall buildings.

There are four main types of fireworks that are shot off at these events
・Warimono (割物) - The standard round-shaped fireworks
・Pokamono (ポカ物) - Pokamono are fireworks that when launched, their stars scatter randomly
・Katamono (型物) - Katamono fireworks are special in that they create shapes and letters such as hearts and smiley faces
・Shikake Hanabi (仕掛け花火) - Literally meaning "trick fireworks," these fireworks refer to starmines, Niagara fireworks that resemble waterfalls, and other artificially created trick fireworks

In Japan, fireworks are expressed in "sun" (寸, approx. 3.03 cm), "shaku" (尺, approx. 30.3 cm), or "gou" (号, approx. 2.83 centimeters), and the largest fireworks are called shaku-dama (尺玉) with some more than 1 meter in diameter.
The maximum size of fireworks that can be shot off at a given site varies by display.

You can also enjoy commercially available fireworks without having to visit a fireworks show.
In the summer, handheld fireworks are sold at convenience stores.
There are various types of fireworks, such as pinwheels, bloomers, sparklers, bottle rockets, parachute fireworks, fountain fireworks, firecrackers, crackers, black snakes, smoke bombs, paper caps, and more!
Enjoying fireworks with family and friends is one of the most popular summer traditions in Japan.

In Japan, many fireworks displays are held during the summer season, and many of them have a summer festival at the same time.
These summer festivals are very popular with visitors to Japan, as they feature yukata, kimono, floats, and portable shrines, making July the most popular month for visitors to Japan throughout the year.
Photos and videos taken at fireworks displays in Japan have become popular on Instagram and other social networking sites.

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