Category Archives: Japan Fireworks

GUY MARTIN – OUR MAN IN JAPAN

Mechanic, motorcycle racer and television presenter of the odd engineering project, like the very entertaining Tractor Racing, Guy Martin becomes ‘Our Guy in Japan’ as he visits the area of Yokahama in Japan.

During his extensive race career, he endured some horrific injuries including a broken back (reconstructed), broken ribs and breaks to his hands (pinned) and legs (pinned).

He is a straight speaking fearless Yorkshireman who experienced dinner at a café with loads of micro pigs running around, a dip in a mildly radioactive hot spring and even visited the slums to see the ‘love hotels’ (bordello) illegal gambling and gangland first-hand. The first thing which surprises is that the Wi-fi in the slums is all free of charge. He ate Fugu (pufferfish) which, due to its very poisonous nature, MUST be prepared only by specially trained (and highly revered) chefs.

The shrine in Yokahama is the centre of the firework festival and carrying the shrine is an honour bestowed on very few people. The eight towns surrounding the City all send representatives with fireworks to the temple. Each cannon (firework battery – this one looks like a Maltese shell) is made from bamboo and straw and contain so much explosive, they have to be made at night when it is a little cooler to avoid exploding due to the high temperatures in Japan. The Shinto priest purifies all the pyrotechnics so that they can ward off evil for the coming year. Unlike the UK, the display starts and finishes with the biggest and best of the fireworks on offer so once the event is officially started (with a bang) each of those representatives from visiting towns shows their wares. The cannons are still made in the same way as the 16th-century Japanese artillery would have used many years ago.

Once the cannons are lit, then it is time to stand back and enjoy. When Guy was asked if he would like to have a go – INDEEDY!  He was a little worried (understandably) but they gave him a little one to hold and it was really dramatic, with a huge shower of sparks before a considerable wallop – his language was a little colourful, but it was really thrilling. His main comment was that the people clearly have no concept of Health and Safety and would not be allowed to even hold a sparkler without gloves etc on.

A great little documentary from the very engaging Guy Martin – we look forward to seeing the next episode.

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JAPANESE FIREWORKS IN 8K

Shot in July at the Gamagori Summer Fireworks Festival with a high-speed 8k camera the fireworks featured take on a new life of their own, at super slow speeds the peonies and huge breaks seem to hang in the air defying gravity.

As the Tezutsu hand-held fireworks release their final charge, the vast amounts of energy expelled are visible on the holders faces, taking away their breath.

As we traverse through the video Stunning Magenta stars break effortlessly high above.

Sit back, relax and enjoy 2 minutes of pure pyro power.

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YONSHAKUDAMA – JAPAN’S BIGGEST FIREWORK SHELL  

Every year, across Japan there are literally hundreds of Firework Festivals. Japan has a 400-year history of firework production and they mainly create firework shells of differing sizes. Annually, the small town of Katakai plays host to thousands of firework enthusiasts of all ages to watch first hand the Hanabi Takai Festival. This event usually lasts around 2-3 hours during which time hundreds of shells are fired from mortar tubes which are everything from 6 inches in diameter to the HUGE 4-foot ones used for the spectacular Yonshakudama.

This big bad boy is an incredible 420 kilograms (925 lb) in weight and is loaded into the mortar tube (which to be fair is the diameter of a tunnel) by crane to avoid impact damage and of course because it weighs so much.

Thousands descend on Katakai by coach and train to see first-hand the giant fireworks which are held in the highest regard by the Japanese who believe that the launch will lift the spirits and that the precision of the bloom, shows the skills of the firework artist.

In Japan, like the rest of the World are specially trained to handle the explosives and create some incredible bloom effects. Traditional shell production is taught ‘hands-on’, as skills are passed through the generations pertaining to the sheer intricacy of their creation. The mega Yonshakudama takes up to a year to make as they are ridiculously time-consuming to create.

Here is the inside of a firework shell where you can see all the composite stars, how they are laid out within the shell to ensure that they explode in a certain way.

Anatomy of pyrotechnics

The mega shell is 64 times more powerful than the usual 4/6 inch ones we see over here in the UK. All pyro-makers in Japan consider themselves artists.

The programme for the event is every bit as big as the event and usually is the size of a broadsheet newspaper, packed with details of the shells, their production, sponsors and messages of love and support.

During the event, which is quite lengthy, the locals will pop along to The Shrine to enjoy food from the huge array of concession stands about and treat themselves to a selection of sweet or savory dishes available.

OKOBO MIYAKI – Japanese savoury pancakes filled with shredded cabbage, shrimp, garlic, chilli and noodles topped with a couple of slices of bacon and a fried egg.

YAKI IMO – Basically, a sweet baked potato – a little like our traditional jacket spud man.

IMAGAWAYAKI – A thick pancake with either a sweet or savoury filling.

The history of fireworks in Japan clearly goes back an awfully long way, indeed the images below were in a book produced in the early 1900s which was part of a catalogue of shells which were available.

Here is the supberb video of the Yonshakudama:

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