Japanese Fireworks - weight of a sumo!
"This is the crazy Japanese style," laughs Joji Hosoya, the stocky and deep-voiced vice-president of Hosoya Enterprises, one of Japan's premier fireworks companies. A singed work coat and hands darkened with carbon are standard in this family business, started by Joji's grandfather's grandfather nearly 100 years ago. But such byproducts of the work are no secret; there is a family saying that has been passed down through the ages which insist that one must first wash their face with fire in order to become a hanabishi.
Hosoya's signature piece, the sanjakudama, is the Godzilla of all fireworks and often used in show promotions to ensure large crowds. Measuring 90 centimeters in diameter and with a weight equivalent to that of a sumo wrestler (280 kg), this firework requires six months and two million yen to produce - an outlay that many makers (of which there is only a handful qualified in Japan) will liken to the giving away of a daughter to marriage upon its firing. By contrast, more common shells will be slightly bigger than a human hand and cost between 1,600 and 3,500 yen to make.
The launch of such a beast is complicated. Hoisted with a crane and placed in a vertical trash barrel-sized mortar tube supported with extensive cross-bracing, this crowd-pleaser is sent 700 meters into the air via a wired-remote electrical charge. Its lateral reach upon explosion is such that shows need to clear a safety zone of 600 meters in diameter.