It’s amazing how approximately 7,000 fireworks festivals are performed in Japan during its short summer. That means there is a fireworks show going on every single night somewhere in the country in this time of the year. The festival is a beautiful summer tradition where local residents dressed up in colorful yukata (casual cotton kimono) and enjoyed the famous short-lived beauty with friends and family.
The Koto Fireworks Festival is the firework show launched in Arakawa-Sunamachi Mizube Park. About 4,000 firework displays were set off during the show-making it a third of a size of Tokyo's biggest fireworks festivals. Still though, this 33- year- old small festival is colorful, charming and worth a visit.
There is no easy chore with festival traffic so I managed to arrive at the venue 2 hours before the show began. I found myself an empty space on a slope; I sat down enjoying the stunning view of the setting sun with the beautiful illuminated sightseeing boat and Tokyo Bay as back drop.
"May I sit here?" A grey haired man with formidable eyebrows asked as he squeezed himself into a space besides me. Then he plopped down in a small foldable chair, set up his camera equipment. "So many people today, I can't believe this. Last year, just 30 minutes before the show I could find a better viewing spot." He continued the conversation. Now the entire sloping lawn was occupied with fireworks patrons, however, there was some free space left on the lower ground and I found no tall tree that might obstruct the view.
The man bit into an onigiri, eyeing at the shimmering river stretch out upon the crowd. "Those sightseeing boats are so beautiful. They charged for ¥50,000 for a ride from the Sumida River. Pretty inexpensive, I think.” I smirked, not sure what to say. He then shot a glance over his watch, asking the staff, "Do you know when the show begins?" The staff replied, "7.40 pm., sir." I am so close, I told myself, shifted my gaze back to the crowd.
Unlike major fireworks festival in the city. Koto Fireworks Festival had a small number of food stalls. Options were yakisoba, yakitori, takoyaki, and the refreshing kakigori (Japanese shaved ice dessert). So most people carried their own food in large tote cooler bags.
Some forty feet away, a group of young girls dressed in yukata, popped a Coke, took a long sip from a bottle, they began to talk and sing loudly; some of them went to sleep. Minutes later, as the first set of the fireworks was launched into the sky, the sudden silence fell between them, and the clap of hands in appreciation followed. A puff of smoke spread across the sky and the faint smell of sulfur filled the air.
The show continued with the performance of traditional and new trend fireworks i.e. the fireworks made to explode into complicated shapes. About 50 minutes later, as if in celebration, the show ended in the fury of light and a loud noise. Then it seemed all the crowd was ready to leave, motioning in the same direction. I rose up, rubbing my stiff muscles. I found myself quite sweaty while I was finding the way out. The footpath in the distance was now filled with thousands of people. I headed to the dim-lit parking lot, 5-6 blocks away from the venue and rode my bicycle down the busy street.
- The love for fireworks is a national love so the competition for good viewing spot is tough. If you have an extra time, come at least 3 hours ahead of the schedule. However, if your time is limited, visit a smaller event and arrive about 30 minutes prior to the show. You know you've got the best spot when you've got a TV reporter or a camera man right next to you.
- After the end of the show, buses and trains tend to be very crowded; exiting from the fireworks festival can cause a delay.
Koto Fireworks FestivalDate: August 4th, 2015Time: 19:40 – 20:30Venue: Arakawa-Sunamachi Mizube Park (Arakawa Sunamachi Riverside Park)Details: http://www.city.koto.lg.jp/seikatsu/community/16/67.html (in Japanese)Entry: FreeAccess: Minami-Sunamachi Station on Tokyo Metro Tozai Line
Recommended Major Fireworks Festivals in TokyoIt is impossible to list them all here, but here are some biggest events to enjoy before summer ends.
- Saturday August 22nd, 2015: 37th Setagaya-ku Tamagawa fireworks festivalVenue: Futako Tamagawa Ryokuchi ground (Sports ground )Access: Futakotamagawa Station, Tokyu-Denentoshi Line/Tokyu Oimachi LineDisplays : 6,000Time: 19:00 ～Details: http://www.tamagawa-hanabi.com/ (in Japanese)
- Saturday August 22nd, 2015: Chofu-city fireworks festivalVenue: Tamagawa riverside (downstream of the bridge on Keio-sagamihara Line)Access: Fuda Station, Keio LineDisplays: 9,000Time: 18:30 ～Details: http://hanabi.csa.gr.jp/index.html (in Japanese)