Category Archives: Japan Fireworks

NAGASAKI LANTERN FESTIVAL 2019

WHAT: NAGASAKI LANTERN FESTIVAL
WHEN: 5TH TO 19TH FEBRUARY 2019
WHERE: ALL AROUND NAGASAKI WITH MAIN EVENTS AT MINATO & CHUO PARK
COST: FREE

Be mesmerised and enchanted by the brightly coloured, exotic dreamworld this winter, by visiting the spectacular lantern festival in Nagasaki.

The original celebration took place alongside Chinese New Year celebrations in Nagasaki’s Chinatown, in 1994 it expanded from the Chinatown to all over Nagasaki and was officially named the Nagasaki lantern festival.

The festival lasts throughout the 15 days of the Chinese lunar new year celebrations and has now become so incredibly popular that over 1 million locals and visitors come along to see the lanterns and all the beauty that Nagasaki has to offer.

Known for one of the biggest Chinatowns in Japan alongside Yokohama and Kobe, you can tell that the city had a strong influence from China with their trading history and the celebrations that are involved on these days.

Along with the lanterns are acrobatics shows, lion and dragon dances, theatre performances, emperors’ parade, and of course fireworks. If you fancy trying the local cuisine there are plenty of food stalls to choose from and souvenir shops to take a little memento home with you.

With plenty to see and do all over Nagasaki during the celebrations, you can cram plenty into your days. If you are short on time however, the two main places to where all the action takes place are Minato Park and Chuo Park.

Schedule

  • 5th February – Opening Ceremony – 5:30pm to 6pm

The opening ceremony and lantern lighting for the 15 days begin at Chuo park there is just the lantern lighting whereas at Minato park you have the added extra of the fireworks.

  • 9th & 16th February – Emperors Parade – 2pm to 4:30pm

This is an enactment of how the emperor and empress celebrated the new year with his people during the Qing dynasty. Participants include slaves to carry them both on seats and over 150 flag bearers parading around in Chinese costumes.

  • 10th & 17th February – Maso Procession – 1pm to 4pm

This was originally carried out by the crews of the Chinese ships entering the port at Nagasaki during the Edo period.

Alongside the schedule here is another few pointers for you to have a look out for and make sure that you don’t miss out on:

Dragon Dance – This is thought to have originated from China, as a rainmaking ritual. Wearing traditional clothing the locals chant to the clouds attempting to make it rain, along with carrying a 20-foot dragon trying to attempt to swallow up the moon, the rain chant is done to ensure a good harvest.

Lion Dance – this is characterised by bright coloured costumes and Chinese percussion instruments, with both acrobatic and energy filled rhythms; this is a must see.

Erhu – these are local performances by the residents of Erhu and Kokyu, they include traditional Chinese instruments and is held at various venues around the city.

For the photographers out there to get perfect snapshots the best place to be is by the Megane Bridge, known as Japans oldest arch-shaped bridge, where you will see the only yellow coloured lanterns of the whole festival. Hanging above the water they give off a glowing reflection in the water below as though it is alight; a beautiful sight to see.

As well as the lanterns, there are paper ornaments of the Chinese Zodiac animals.  This year celebrates the Year of The Pig, so the main attraction will be centred around this. Also, there will be Chinese gods on display amongst other things that are known or supposed to bring good luck. These fantastic lantern masterpieces are often made by Chinese artisans or brought over from China each year specifically for this celebration.

Those born in the Year of the Pig are said to be artistic, refined and intuitive with good manners and a refined attitude. Whilst on the whole people born this year are caring and self-effacing, they can be stubborn and indecisive.

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Yodogawa Fireworks Festival

Fireworks festivals in Summer are not normally the ‘done thing’ here in the UK, but in Osaka, Japan this is when they hold the world’s biggest and most popular firework festival. The main summer event is held in Osaka on the Yodogawa River and was started by volunteers in 1989 using handmade fireworks crafted especially for the event. This is a tradition that is still carried on today and brings not only a big display but a more one of a kind and dynamic firework display to be enjoyed by all.

Osaka is known as the city of water due to the number of rivers passing through the area, the best known of which is the Yodogawa River. This was, therefore, the perfect venue for volunteers who decided to combine all their knowledge and expertise around pyrotechnics and so the firework festival was borne. Each of the display nights can last over 1 hour with combinations of different effects, synchronised to music.

Tickets are available from around 2,500 Yen to get seats to the event also you can pay up to 8,000 Yen per person to get a chance of a prime viewing spot and this also includes a bento (a Japanese lunchbox) and chilled drinks.

Whilst paying is an option, there are plenty of free seating and standing areas around the venue. However, it is recommended that due to the massive number of spectators attending the event that you get there early for your chance to grab a spot as at the height of the event, some 500,000 people are in attendance.

As well as the fireworks display the side streets are lined with and abundance of food stalls named (Yatai or Demise in Chinese) all serving traditional foods. Why not try something different like:

Okonomiyaki- Japanese savoury pancakes that are made with cabbage, pork and cheese topped with a savoury and sweet sauce and mayo

Ikayaki – this is grilled squid on sticks normally washed down with a cup of beer.

And for those who have a sweet tooth there is:

Choco-banana – banana dipped in chocolate (this is only available at the summer festivals in Japan)

Kakigori – Shaved ice, perfect for cooling down on a hot summers day they come in many flavours like strawberry, melon, lemon etc.

The dress code for the event normally consists of men and women dressed in their traditional summer dress of the Yukata. These are a popular choice of dress especially in the summer months as it is the perfect way to keep cool.

The shells that the Japanese use in the displays can range in size from small to the world record-breaking like the Yonshakudama shells that are 1.2 meters in diameter and weigh several hundred kilograms.

The most common shells used are called starmines, as these have a variety of burst patterns. Other unique fireworks include Niagara sparklers that are set under bridges to resemble the famous waterfalls and shaped shells that burst into familiar patterns such as hearts, smiley faces and cartoon characters.

Fireworks normally begin after sunset and can last up to 2 hours long. They are broken down into shorter segments to make for better viewing. The best and longest display on the event is always the finale, making the night sky so bright that it resembles daylight due to the thousands of shells launched into the sky simultaneously.

Due to the popularity of this event, travel agents around the World have now got in on the act and have started offering packages to the event that is all inclusive so that you can avoid the difficulty of crowded transport, seating and viewing areas etc.

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JAPANS MIDSUMMER FIREWORKS

WHAT: JAPAN’S MIDSUMMER FIREWORKS (MATSURI)
WHEN: MID SUMMER FROM LATE JULY TO EARLY SEPTEMBER
WHERE: ACROSS JAPAN
COST: FREE

From late July to early September, the night skies over the whole of Japan will be illuminated with fireworks at some point.

Most of the festivals and events around the country are for the giving of thanks and appreciation for the prosperity in their own regions. On the whole, they will all include fireworks and parades as a matter of course but this is not the end of the matter. Each festival brings in hundreds of thousands of spectators and of course, funding to each area. The parades will generally include the carrying of the local deity (Kami) through the town on a Palanquin – aka Mikoshi (a carried cart). This is the only time of the year when the Kami will leave the shrine.

Most of the festivals include a huge number of fireworks in all forms but there will be a large concentration of the super shells Japan is famous for. There will be food concessions all day, various performances of traditional dance and music and even dragon boat races.

The area of Kyushu for example, where they hold the Sasebo Seaside Festival they launch super shells which have a burst which is more than half a kilometer across reflecting on the water. They also hold a massive ‘tug of war’ competition.

Over in the Nagaoka, the first day of their summer event is dedicated to the 1486 people who lost their lives on 1st August 1945 during the bombing of the area by American allies. There were many more casualties of the war and in fact, Japan lost over 2 million people during the hostilities. The Nagaoka Rehabilitation Festival began one year after the end of the war. During the daytime, they hold a parade where the children of the region carry a wooden statue of Jizo through the village where fresh water is splashed over it for good health. As evening falls, a 25 foot high pyramid created with 3,300 lanterns which look like a giant glowing Christmas tree. The late evening of course, is packed with beautiful fireworks.

feathers fireworks

Over in Huis Ten Bosch, there is the largest Theme Park in Japan which has been operating for more than 20 years. The area has been created to look like a Dutch town. In spring, the area is covered in pink tulips. Come summer, the tulips are replaced by huge yellow sunflowers.

Come the evening, the area becomes a magical Kingdom of Light at around 6.00pm with an organic electroluminescent display (fairy lights to you and I!!) a carriage parade and bright lights illuminate the streets, castles, palaces, canal and of course the Dutch inspired windmills.

Another ‘must see’ is the Night Garden featuring 5000 sunflowers lit by LED lights. Fun is never far away and you can spend the afternoon with the family at the water park which has a huge outdoor pool and two super slides.

Beautiful KujukuShima are a large bunch of small islands off the coast off the Nagasaki Prefecture where there is also an aquarium and you can take a boat tour around the islands. The place is the setting for the opening scenes from Tom Cruise’s The Last Samurai.

Of course, as you would expect, the fireworks on display will be nothing short of magnificent, particularly as the Japanese are the masters of the big shell or ‘Warimono’. There are fireworks competition, festivals and displays all over the country from late July through to early September which are mostly for the entertainment of spectators. Collectively, they represent the whole of Japan and individually, they are in support of their local shrines, the people and the individuality of the region.

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