Tag Archives: japan

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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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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KITA HANABI TAIKAI

WHAT: KITA HANABI TAIKAI
WHY: FIREWORKS FESTIVAL
WHERE: KITA HANABI TAIKAI VENUE, TOKYO
LOCATION: AROUND ARAKAWA RIVERBED AND IWATASUKI SLUICE
WHEN: SATURDAY 28TH SEPTEMBER FROM 4:30PM TO 8:30PM
COST: FREE

As we know, the Japanese are known for their action-packed events, with some of the most spectacular fireworks over the summer months. If your lucky, at some events, you may get a short glimpse of the fireworks through some of the high-rise buildings or try battle the crowds to get the perfect place to view. The Kita Hanabi is perfect for pyro lovers as it may not be as big as some of the other events, but as it is held along the flat bank of the Arakawa river it guaranteed some impressive views of the action.

Marking the 8th time for the event this year, and last years leading fireworks company “IKEVEN” will launch 8,888 fireworks into the skies above the river. The event is organised by a private organisation representing the Kita Ward along with the locals and residents of the city.

The event is free with three separate sections of seating divided up along the riverbank. If you would like a more impressive view and more of an insight into the atmosphere at a Japanese event you can purchase a seat in the following areas:

  • Blue Water Gate – This offers a concert-level sound where you can view the fireworks with music.
  • Red Gate Area – This is the locals favourite spot as the fireworks explode over the gate giving the spectators some fantastic photo opportunities.
  • All the rest of the seating areas are free, but it is advised to arrive early to grab a spot.

As mentioned before wherever you decide to sit to view, you will have an uninterrupted fantastic view of the fireworks setting the skies alight.

Programme of events:

  • Grand Opening Celebration – “first year of the war” directing the performance is the Ground Self Defence Force’s first-team music with fireworks performed at the welcome stage.
  • Act 2 – Fireworks unique to the Kita Ward Fireworks Association. This year the story will be told about the creation of the foundation of the modern Japanese economy in Asukayama, Kita-ku of “Eiichi Shibusawa” who was decided to be the face of the new 10,000-yen bill
  • Act 3 – The 4th Kita fireworks expo, where the famous fireworks from Japan Art Fireworks Association show off their famous fireworks to the crowd. This is the latest pyro that Japan boasts to the world.
  • Act 4 – “Elephant Kashimashi” an artist proud of Akabane who the departure melody at Akabane station was last year. This year they will collaborate with the Kita Ward fireworks association to put masterpieces together and launch a star mine.
  • Act 5 – Grand Finale 2020 and beyond – “Ikeven” will launch innovative fireworks selected from the award-winning past competitions. Along with popular songs Genshi Yonezu “lemon” and Foorin “Paprika” fireworks and music that dances in the sky.

The schedule of other events

12:00 – Opening/fireworks association food court open

13:00 – Fireworks display on stage start

16:30 – Paid seat opening

18:30 – Opening / Closing Ceremony

18:45 – Fireworks Launch

19:30 – Fireworks launch end 21:00 Closed

With plenty on offer throughout the evening, why not don your yukata, join the locals and enjoy this autumn pyrotechnic delight.

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