Summer is the traditional hanabi (the japanese word for fireworks) season in Japan. Fireworks became a summer entertainment ritual in Japan since the 18th century, when the Shogun Yoshimune decided to organize the first Sumida River Fireworks festival in 1733, in order to repel the evil spirits that brought famine and epidemics the year before.
Hanabi festivals are still an inalienable element of the summer in Japan nowadays, with around 7,000 fireworks across the country! The Sumidagawa Hanabi Taikai (Sumida River fireworks festival, last Saturday of July every year) is still one of the biggest, with 1 million people gathering on the banks of the Sumida river every year. Needless to say, everybody is squeezed grains of rice in a sushi and best viewing spots are invaded well in advance… Way too crowded for my personal taste! I personally prefer by far the Edogawa Hanabi. Still one of the biggest Hanabi in the Tokyo area, but outside of the city, in a much more open space, so even though it also attracts thousands of viewers it does not feel as over-crowded.
Don’t get me wrong, best spots are also hard to get, and, if you don’t come early enough, you are at risk of being squeezed in the crowd of people still trying to get out of the subway station while the fireworks have already started. To avoid such an inconvenience, and secure enough space for you and your friends to enjoy comfortably the event, you need to play by the Japanese rules: you book your spot by nailing to the ground a plastic blanket on the ground, and attaching your name upon it. It’s that simple, that place is yours! No need to let someone there during the night
to guard your territory, you can just walk away and come back on the following day, your spot will still be there waiting for you.
On the day itself, you still need to come in advance, even though your place is already booked, the reason being that there will be a huge crowd processing to the viewing points, and if you arrive too late it’s just a nightmare to get to your destination. Once there, kill the time until the start of the fireworks by sipping a few beers with your friends, and engage the discussion with your neighbors if they don’t seem too much under the influence themselves! Be very careful with the sun and heat during the Summer Hanabi period… Truth be told, you combine them with alcohol and every time you get a few people who pass out before the sunset…