The biggest fireworks festival in Japan — Sumidagawa Hanabi Taikai 2014!

I’ve been living in Japan for 2 years and now I know how little I really knew before I came here. Of course, before I arrived at the Land of The Rising Sun I had read a heap of books, novels, websites, everything I could get my hands on.  If you’ve ever wondered what aspect of Japan I’m interested in, the answer is coming right up. It’s…. history. Not cute pop culture, not games, not fashion. I mean – all that stuff is equally interesting, but the history of Japan was something I spent the most time on when I was a student. (Answering another question that might come up — my particular interests are Meiji Period, World War II and the post-war society and economy of Japan). Anyway! I admit — I didn’t know a darn thing about the annual summer fireworks festivals. All the guidebooks I had might have mentioned them, but I guess I wasn’t a careful reader. Naturally, when I found out about these events, I knew I just had to go to one. Despite living on a tight budget at that time, I got my first yukata and I’ll be honest here — I  felt fabulous wearing it.

This year there will be no yukata unfortunately — but there will be lots of fun, Asahi beer and bad quality photos!

2012                                                ♥                                             2013

 

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If you’d like to read a few words about the historical background of the whole event (but you’re too lazy to google it yourself), here are a few websites:

Good old Wikipedia

Sumidagawa Fireworks Official Website

The Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival Survival Guide 

隅田川花火大会

The Sumidagawa Hanabi Taikai 2014!

 

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I admit that choosing Asakusa as your perfect fireworks observation spot is like loading your own gun and then shooting yourself in the foot. Everybody knows it’s going to be insanely crowded with thousands of people, everybody knows that it’s going to be hot, and by hot I mean Lucifer’s sauna kind of hot. Cook an egg on the sidewalk kind of hot. Yet every year most of the attendees go to Asakusa and for the third time in a row, I was one of them. I regret nothing.

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The sweetest people ♥ My best friend Ayaka (the little one), her younger sister Chika (but you can call her Chii) and Ayaka’s coworker Yama-chan!

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Every festival in Japan equals lots of food stalls selling typical festival food. What’s typical? Yakitori, takoyaki, yakisoba, sausages on a stick, shaved ice. Bad news for vegetarians — I guess you’ll have to bring your own snacks. What I like about Japan is that it’s perfectly okay to drink on the street. Not that I do that often, it’s just, you know — there’s nothing better and more refreshing than an ice cold Asahi in this simmering heat!

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I’d like to give you at least a tiny idea of how many people attend Sumidagawa Fireworks. Sometimes you don’t even walk — you just float with the stream of people. Streets around Sumidagawa river are closed, there are thousands of policemen guiding the spectators, patiently holding that yellow tape to keep everything in order. There’s no trespassing or taking shortcuts — if it says NO it means NO. This is Japan.

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These lucky guys! It was a great observation spot — no pushing through people, good view on the fireworks, just sitting there wearing a yukata, drinking beer, looking cool. Awesome.

Legend has it that these spots can be reserved months prior to the event. How exactly you book it, how much does it cost and how can you actually choose a spot? I have absolutely no idea — please enlighten me if you do.

Seeing all the best spots taken, we had no other choice but to keep walking in search of a place where we could feast our eyes on the colourful sky extravaganza.

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We kept walking and walking thought streets of Asakusa with thousand of other people, until it got dark and the fireworks started. It was high time to lower our standards and find a spot where we could see anything. At that point, really anything would have sufficed.

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YAAY! We found a good spot! Slightly tipsy crowd got all friendly, people were talking to each other, trying to catch the fleeting beauty of the fireworks with their smartphones. I’m sorry if these photos are not as impressive — I snapped a few shots for this blog entry only. I might not look at the photos ever again, I might lose the SD card, I might mistakenly delete the “Sumidagawa fireworks” folder from my PC one day. But the memories of what I saw with my own eyes — not through an itty-bitty lens — will stay with me for a lifetime.

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And what do you do after the fireworks? The party is not over, no no! Find the nearest convenience store, buy snacks, more snacks, tons of snacks! Get a sweet pineapple cocktail or a strawberry calpis drink if you feel like it…

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…then find a sweet spot like we did (with an amazing view on Sky Tree and some ToiToi toilets 10 meters away…), spread out that 100 yen small plastic tarp  (← or “leisure sheet” if you want to use Japanglish!) you picked up earlier…and pig out on all that konbini goodness like there’s no tomorrow!


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 Fireworks Festivals in Japan — crowds, cute yukatas, the smell of fried food, heat, humidity, sweat dripping down your neck. We managed to watch the beautiful fireworks show after all, but even if we couldn’t…It wouldn’t have been even a tiny bit less awesome! It’s the people that create the unique atmosphere. It’s that sense of unity I love. We’re all here to forget about work and school and all that stuff that doesn’t make life any easier, we’re here to have a good time, to appreciate Japanese culture. It’s the people who make you think “Messy hair? Sweating like crazy? Heat? Mosquitoes? Hell, I don’t care! It’s awesome!”. These three lovely individuals made my third Sumidagawa Festival a great one.

Thank you guys!

あやとちいと山ちゃんのおかげで今年の花火は本当に最高だった!これからもよろしくね!

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 ♥

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11 thoughts on “The biggest fireworks festival in Japan — Sumidagawa Hanabi Taikai 2014!

  1. Chii-san’s shirt is so super cute! So glad you had fun. I love the different mix of canned alcoholic drinks available all the time, they’re so yummy you forget it’s alcohol. Even though it’d take a million of them to get you drunk.

    There’s something about Japan and the crowds at festivals with the humming of voices and the buzzing of the atmosphere. There really is nothing like it, it’s almost soothing.

  2. Lovely post :D, especially that final bit about who you spend it with. So true! I always get invited to this festival but never go because of the stories I hear about how busy it gets. Maybe next year 🙂

  3. Great post! I was also there with some friends this year, but I didn’t get the clearest view of the fireworks… so many buildings and all in my way 😛 Asakusa Station was an absolute nightmare, but I still had a great time – good to see you did too! (Also, I share your interest in Japanese history – especially World War II!)

  4. Pingback: Birthday fun times in Odaiba! | living the tokyo dream

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