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The Best Fireworks Festivals to Visit This Summer

From the Omagari Festival to the Lake Suwa Festival, here's what to expect from some of the top fireworks celebrations in Japan this summer.



The 94th Omagari Fireworks Festival (National Fireworks Competition) lights up the night sky. (Provided by Daisen City, Akita Prefecture)

Fireworks festivals are an integral part of the Japanese summer tradition. They find their roots in the Suijinsai festival of 1733, during the Edo period. This festival was held to console the spirits of those who died in the rampant famines and epidemics of the time, while also seeking protection from misfortune and calamities. 

Among the top-ranking fireworks festivals in Japan are the Omagari Fireworks Festival in Akita Prefecture, the Nagaoka Festival Grand Fireworks in Niigata Prefecture, and the Tsuchiura All Japan Fireworks Competition in Ibaraki Prefecture held in November. Additionally, the Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival in Nagano Prefecture showcases some of the country's most impressive fireworks displays.

Omagari Fireworks Festival: 18,000 Fireworks

After a four-year wait, the Omagari Fireworks Festival, also known as the National Fireworks Competition, is making a much-anticipated comeback in all its grandeur. The event will take place on August 26 along the Omono River in Daisen, Akita Prefecture. 

The 95th edition of the competition promises to be a grand spectacle, featuring 18,000 fireworks. A total of 28 fireworks companies from all over the country will be participating, each aiming to showcase their artistic and technical brilliance. 

With around 100,000 seats available at the main venue, the event is set to welcome 100 food and game stalls for the first time in four years. The organizing committee anticipates a total of 750,000 spectators, including those watching from nearby areas. This matches pre-COVID figures.

Overcoming the Impact of COVID

The origins of the Omagari Fireworks Festival trace back to 1910. It began as the Ou Six-Prefecture Fireworks Joint Prize Show, held as part of a shrine festival. ("Ou" is another name for the Tohoku region.)

The festival has since become an annual summer tradition, dedicated to promoting fireworks culture and advancing the art of pyrotechnics. In both 2020 and 2021, the festival had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it made a comeback in 2022 after a three-year hiatus, there were no food or game stalls.

Tadanobu Komatsu, President of Komatsu Fireworks and Vice Chairman of the Omagari Fireworks Festival executive committee, shares his excitement: "This year, as the vibrant atmosphere returns, we have the opportunity to showcase the very best of our skills. It brings immense joy to the pyrotechnicians.”

During the event's hiatus, Daisen City increased its support for fireworks companies. In fact, the executive committee raised ¥18 million JPY ($129,000 USD) through crowdfunding. This was used to organize fireworks displays in the hometowns of fireworks companies and other events.

President Komatsu continues, "The raw material costs for fireworks have more than doubled compared to before the pandemic. But we are determined to overcome these challenges and create an even more magnificent event."


Nagaoka Festival: 20,000 Fireworks

The upcoming Nagaoka Festival Grand Fireworks will take place over two nights from August 2. Its vibrant displays are expected to transform the night sky over the Shinano riverbed in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture.

The festival also holds historical significance for the city. It commemorates the destruction caused by the Nagaoka bombing on August 1, 1945. The tragedy resulted in the loss of approximately 1,500 lives and the destruction of 80% of the urban area. To honor the lives lost and symbolize the city's unwavering commitment to peace, the Nagaoka Festival was first held in 1946.

A Phoenix Over the Shinano River

Known for its impressive displays, the festival features magnificent attractions such as the majestic "Phoenix," which spans an impressive 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) and embodies a hopeful message for recovery and reconstruction. The grand "Niagara Falls" display makes use of the 850-meter (0.5 miles) bridge over the Shinano River.

The "Phoenix" display of the Nagaoka Festival Grand Fireworks embodies a hopeful message for recovery and reconstruction. (Provided by the Niigata Prefecture Tourism Association)

Other massive fireworks, with a diameter of about 600 meters (0.4 miles), will create a breathtaking canvas. Over the course of two nights, an impressive array of approximately 20,000 fireworks will be set off, ensuring that the event will be just as magnificent as last year's, as city officials have indicated.

The Nagaoka Festival gained further recognition when it appeared in the film Casting Blossoms to the Sky (2012) directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi. In 2022, the event featured a fireworks display inspired by the film, with Kyoko Obayashi, the wife of director Obayashi, watching from the riverbank.

In 2022, the paid event attracted about 280,000 people. This year, a total of 328,800 paid seats will be available along both sides of the Shinano River.

Japan has reclassified COVID-19 as a Class 5 disease, putting it in the same category as other common infectious illnesses. Nevertheless, event organizers are still prioritizing safety. They have implemented various measures, such as placing hand sanitizers throughout the venue.

Lake Suwa: Fireworks Booming Through the Mountains

At the Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival in Nagano Prefecture, the pyrotechnicians will be launching the fireworks from the lake. What sets this festival apart is not only the breathtaking visuals but also the powerful boom and vibrations of the fireworks that can be felt through the body, as described by a city official. The basin's unique location surrounded by mountains also creates a beautiful backdrop for the spectacle.

The festival's history dates back to 1949, just after the end of World War II, symbolizing hope for a brighter future. Its first edition lasted an impressive hour and a half and cost ¥186,000 JPY (about $1,340 USD) to organize, drawing a crowd of 50,000 spectators.

A fireworks display of the Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival. (Provided by Suwa City, Nagano Prefecture)

The festival grew steadily in subsequent years. But the COVID-19 pandemic forced its cancellation in 2020. In 2021 and 2022, the fireworks displays were interspersed over 15 days to avoid forming crowds. This year marks its grand return after a four-year hiatus in all its splendor. 

Number of Fireworks a Secret

As the city emphasizes quality over quantity, it has kept the exact number of fireworks to be launched a secret. In 2019, the city received approximately ¥76 million JPY ($546,000 USD) in sponsorship funds. From that number, the festival is expected to feature around 40,000 fireworks, making it one of the country's largest displays.

Visitors to Suwa Lake can enjoy 10-minute nightly fireworks displays for about a month before and after the celebration on August 15. The mountains and the tranquil Suwa Lake provide an ideal setting for the pyrotechnicians to dazzle their audience, creating unforgettable summer memories for all. 



(Read the article in Japanese.)

Authors: Tomoaki Yatsunami, Kenichi Honda, and Shigeki Harada

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