Originally used for ward off evil spirits, fireworks forms an integral part of the Japanese culture that are now enjoyed without any specific reason. Japanese people think of fireworks, or hanabi in Japanese, as the summer equivalent of watching sakura in spring. During the summer season, you can easily visit numerous fireworks festivals or hanabi around Japan. Almost every weekend firework shows are held throughout Japan, each of them more spectacular than the other. Some festivals attract millions of visitors with unique shows lasting for more than 90 minutes at one go!
Besides the beautiful fireworks, also a range of entertaining experiences can be enjoyed. You will see many people making it a full day activity, wearing a traditional yukata and eating typical festival snacks. Most firework festivals attract large crowds of visitor so arriving early is a good idea to claim a spot with a good view of the firework displays at night. While it is enjoyable to go to the more famous ones generally held in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, visiting a small fireworks festival in more rural areas will also be a unforgettable memory. If you are visiting Japan in the summer, a visit to a firework show is a must-do, it is more than likely to exceed your expectations. Here is a list of 10 best fireworks festivals taking place in the summer in Japan!
- 1. Sumida River Fireworks Festival (隅田川花火大会)
- 2. Edogawa Fireworks Festival (江戸川区花火大会)
- 3. Naniwa Yodo River Fireworks Festival (なにわ淀川花火大会)
- 4. Kamakura Fireworks Festival (鎌倉花火大会)
- 5. Nagaoka Fireworks Festival (長岡花火大会)
- 6. Hida Takayama Fireworks Festival (飛騨高山花火大会)
- 7. Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival (諏訪湖祭湖上花火大会)
- 8. Biwako Fireworks Festival (琵琶湖花火大会)
- 9. Kyoto Geijutsu Fireworks Festival (京都芸術花火大会)
- 10. Miyajima Water Fireworks Festival (宮島水中花火大会)
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1. Sumida River Fireworks Festival (隅田川花火大会)
Sumida River Fireworks Festival is one of the most popular fireworks festivals in Tokyo. The origin of the festival is said to date back to 1733 and it has been held regular ever since. On the last saturday of July the show kicks off at 7pm and the show lasts for a full 90 minutes! Start the day early with a visit to Tsukiji Market in the morning and make your way to the river bank early to find a good spot, because it get really crowded. The Sumida fireworks attract each year around one million visitors! Some 20,000 colorful fireworks made by professional, skilled craftsmen, will lit up the sky. Don’t miss the impressive view created by beautiful fireworks and iconic landmarks such as Tokyo Skytree along the Sumida river!
In 2021, the Sumida River Fireworks Festival is, due to COVID-19 and the Olympics, scheduled to take place on October 23.
2. Edogawa Fireworks Festival (江戸川区花火大会)
Another popular fireworks festival in Tokyo is held on the riverbanks of Edogawa river running between the Edo ward in Tokyo and Ichikawa in Chiba. The Edogawa Fireworks Festival also attracts about one million visitors each year with about 14,000 fireworks with unique design are set off based on 8 different themes and background music. The opening of the festival starts with a stunning display of approximately 1,000 fireworks continuously set off in 5 seconds. The show will lit up the Tokyo skyline for about about 75 minutes. The Edogawa Fireworks Festival happens every year on the first Saturday of August.
In 2020, the Edogawa Fireworks Festival was moved to May 23 because of the Olympics, before being cancelled. The dates for 2021 have not been announced yet.
3. Naniwa Yodo River Fireworks Festival (なにわ淀川花火大会)
Yodo River is one of the well known rivers in Osaka and on the second saturday of August it hosts the Naniwa Yodo River Fireworks Festival. This fireworks festival in Osaka celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2018. Each year it offers fantastic views of the skyline beneath the fireworks display. It is run with the support of local volunteers as well as donations by local communities. You can reserve a private seat which usually costs around ¥2,500 to ¥9,000, to enjoy the great view of fireworks without being bothered by crowds. Highlights include the giant half underwater fireworks which set off on the surface of the water like a sparkling fan!
The dates for 2021 have yet to be confirmed.
4. Kamakura Fireworks Festival (鎌倉花火大会)
Kamakura is a historic city in Kanagawa prefecture which is known as a perfect weekend destination from Tokyo. Every year in early July, it is home to the Kamakura Fireworks Festival. The event offers impressive fireworks displays on a scenic waterfront. It features both ordinary fireworks shot in the sky and underwater ones dropped under the water. Enjoy the breathtaking view created by a variety of colorful fireworks with different designs and sizes. It is a perfect option for those who prefer relatively small fireworks festivals or are looking to end their trip to a historic spots with world-famous temples and shrines with a bang!
The Kamakura Fireworks Festival 2021 has been cancelled due to Covid-19.
5. Nagaoka Fireworks Festival (長岡花火大会)
Niigata boasts Nagaoka Fireworks Festival, widely recognized as one of the three greatest fireworks festival in Japan! In spite of the relatively remote and inconvenient location, around 1 million visitors make their way down to Nagaoka every year from August 1-3. An equal number to the visitors of the major fireworks festivals in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Highlights of the Nagaoka Fireworks Festival are Phoenix, a huge, dazzling display of fireworks of 2 km in length and the portable shrine float parades and traditional dances that happen around town during the day. The event was originally started in 1946, as a war-damage reconstruction event to mourn the deceased of WWII.
The Nagaoka Fireworks Festival 2021 has been cancelled due to Covid-19.
6. Hida Takayama Fireworks Festival (飛騨高山花火大会)
If you are planning to visit the Hida Takayama area in late July during your trip to Japan, Hida Takayama Fireworks Festival is something to look out for. This relatively small festival welcomes everyone with a nostalgic, heart-warming atmosphere which makes visitors feel like they are back home. On the river bed of Miyagawa River a temporary platform is built from where fireworks are set off. Since the venue is in the center of the city and is close to the main tourist spots such as Sanmachi Street, you can explore popular tourist attractions during the day and easily get to the venue afterwards! Enjoy the scenic view of traditional townscape and fireworks against a backdrop of surrounding mountains. From Hida Takayama you can also visit other traditional and cultural highlights nearby like Shirakawago and Kanazawa, a recommend weekend trip!
The Hida Takayama Fireworks Festival 2021 has been cancelled due to Covid-19.
7. Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival (諏訪湖祭湖上花火大会)
Lake Suwa (諏訪湖) is a rectangular shaped lake located the Kiso Mountains in Nagano, said to be the inspiration of the world-famous Japanese animation movie Your Name released in 2016. You can easily find the resemblance between the lake and some scenes in the movie. The Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival was originally started in 1949, aiming to encourage people to recover from the chaotic period of time after Japan was defeated in WWⅡ. The festival is held in mid-August each year and known as one of the largest displays of Japan, with an incredible 40,000 fireworks going up in the air.
Niagara is one of the highlights of the festival referring to a colorful display of fireworks stretching 2km, which looks like the Niagara Falls created by light sparkles! The Kiss of Fire is another fascinating part of the show where underwater fireworks are shot close to the surface of water. Only the upper half of them can be seen from the audience, which resembles huge colorful flowers blooming on the lake!
In 2021, the Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival will be held from Sunday, August 1st to Sunday, August 15. Every day, a firework show is held starting at 8.30 pm and lasting for 10~40 min.
8. Biwako Fireworks Festival (琵琶湖花火大会)
Biwako (琵琶湖) is the largest lake in Japan, located north of Kyoto in Shiga prefecture, known as a great cycling destination. The lake area boasts a number of famous tourist attractions around such as Hikone Castle (彦根城) and Shirahige Shrine (白髭神社) and also turns into the venue for the Biwako Fireworks Festival which attracts considerable large crowds (~350,000 people) every summer in early August. About 10,000 colorful fireworks are shot from multiple directions, creating a unique light art in the dark sky. It’s possible to reserve a (paid) seat or take a boat cruise to have the best view of the show without crowds of festival goers. One of the highlights of the beautiful fireworks display is the Biwako Flower Fountain (琵琶湖花噴水), a giant fountain located in the Otsu Port Offering. The collaboration of impressive fireworks and 40m-high water streams offers a spectacular view!
In 2021, Biwako Fireworks Festival is, due to COVID-19 and the Olympics, scheduled to take place on October 29.
9. Kyoto Geijutsu Fireworks Festival (京都芸術花火大会)
Kyoto is one of the most popular tourist destinations along with Tokyo and Osaka in Japan. While it is widely known for the scenic townscape and word-famous historical spots, only few international tourists know it organizes an annual fireworks festival called Kyoto Geijutsu Fireworks Festival.
The festival has a relatively short history as is was first held in May 30th 2018 and is planned to take place on the last Wednesday of May at the Kyoto Racecourse in Yodo. The collaboration of colorful fireworks and impressive background music fascinates increasing numbers of visitors every year. The carefully selected music includes not only the latest hits in Japan, but also popular melodies such as world-famous songs by The Beatles and Queen. It is held annually in late May so you won’t be bothered by the scorching summer heat typical for fireworks festivals held in the middle of summer. It could be the perfect option as your first fireworks experience in Japan!
The dates for the Kyoto Geijutsu Fireworks Festival have not been announced yet.
10. Miyajima Water Fireworks Festival (宮島水中花火大会)
Selected as one of Japan’s most scenic spots Miyajima (宮島) attracts numerous international tourists. The small island in Hiroshima is home to Itsukushima Shrine, a sacred Shinto shrine built in 593, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The iconic giant red Tori gate is often featured on guide books as a symbolic landmark on the island as well. While Miyajima it is worth visiting all year round, summer is arguably the best season when Miyajima Water Fireworks Festival offers a breathtaking fireworks experience! Enjoy the stunning scenery created by the historic structures and dazzling fireworks display that light up the sky, like the famous Torii gate in the picture below.
The dates for Miyajima Water Fireworks Festival have not been announced yet.
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If you visit Japan in the summer, you won’t want to miss a firework show! In some countries, fireworks are regarded as something to celebrate the arrival of New Year. In Japan on the other hand, fireworks are enjoyed without any specific reason and during summer season you can watch a firework display every weekend in Japan. Many people think of watching fireworks in the summer as being equivalent to watching cherry blossoms in spring. Without exaggerating, firework festivals attract ten thousands of people. In the bigger cities sometimes even as many as a million people flock to the area wearing a yukata and having a picnic with friends or family. Watching the colorful fireworks sparkling in the sky is for many Japanese a fun, nostalgic experience. Visiting any of the fireworks festivals above will allow you to get a real Japanese summer experience!
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