Sitting outside in the summer with friends, good food and drinks can only be improved by one thing - amazing fireworks displays! Thankfully, Japan has a long history of summer fireworks, known as Hanabi festivals. They normally last around two hours and showcase the best pyrotechnics regionally and across Japan. You’ll be able to find fireworks most weekends throughout the summer in Japan but here are four of the biggest and most exciting festivals that you have to see for yourself.
The skies of Nagaoka light up against the backdrop of the Shinano River, the longest in Japan, which is also the setting for one of the most moving fireworks festivals in the country. The festival started in 1946 to mourn the deceased of WWII. The display only challenged by the incredible ‘Niagara’ display with a 650-meter long drop which is reminiscent of Niagara Falls. The finale of the show stretches right across the 2km wide river, making it the widest span of fireworks in the world, a display that will leave you speechless. During the festival period you’ll also be able to enjoy music, floats, folk parades, and dancing making this an all-round party that you won’t forget. It also coincides with toro-nagashi, so you can see the floating lanterns being set adrift down the river guiding the ancestors home. The Nagaoka Fireworks Festival is held in early August every year.
Over a million people gather in the center of Tokyo for this lavish display of pyrotechnics from some of the most acclaimed fireworks makers in the business. It’s been regularly held since 1978, and has a history dating all the way back to 1733. The party usually kicks off around 7 pm and there’s plenty of food and drink to enjoy, but it’s worth securing your perfect spot a couple of hours early because it gets busy! Fireworks are launched from two separate locations, one near Sensoji Temple and the other near Tokyo Skytree in the Sumida district. The best vantage point for seeing the fireworks is from the Sumida River but since it can get crowded along the river, people often head to Sumida Park, Shibori Park, and the northern part of the Oyokogawa Water Park. People will also often head for the tall buildings of Asakusa for an alternative view with a drink, and for this reason rooftop bars are often booked up weeks in advance. The show here is like no other with intricate nature scenes, expertly choreographed displays, and fun characters from popular culture lighting up the sky. Don’t miss this epic festival held during July each year.
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If you’ve ever wondered what happens when master pyrotechnicians come together to compete, the Omagari National Fireworks Competition the answer. From across Japan, twenty-eight of the most prolific firework makers create their best show in the hopes of being crowned the winner within three categories. For the audience, this makes for a thrilling and highly creative show, and it couldn’t be held in more dramatic surroundings than with the mountains in the background and the Omono River in front of you. Most people gather along the river banks and set up a picnic to enjoy the show, and as 760,000 attend every year, make sure to secure your space early! This grand competition has a long history dating back to 1910 and has been a beloved event every August. Don’t miss one of the most spectacular shows of the year and see if you can choose your favorite!
Suwako Lake Fire Festival (Nagano)
One of the largest displays in all of Japan, prepare to be mesmerized by over 40,000 fireworks reflected by the majestic Lake Suwa. Almost half a million people flock to Nagano’s largest lake each year to eat, drink, and enjoy the show. Lake Suwa’s fireworks display began shortly after World War II, and they’ve been a summer highlight ever since. Since this is one of the biggest displays of the year, you can expect some surprises, epic timed music and light shows, and the signature finale, the 2-kilometer long ‘Niagara’ of cascading sparkles. There’s plenty to do around Lake Suwa if you want to spend the day there, it’s a famous hot springs town and there’s even a free lakeside foot bath next to Lake Suwa Geyser Center. Many people also enjoy cycling around the lake and strolling around Lakeside Park. Make sure you set up your spot early to sit and watch the fireworks, it gets busy! The Suwako Lake Fire Festival is held in mid-August.