Every year, you see a flock of people in major cities in Japan. Fireworks festival or Hanabi taikai（花火大会）is one of the common sights in summer.
From the end of July to the beginning of August, you find many people wearing Yukata, a casual version of Kimono, walking on the street.
The problem is… there are too many festival to choose. I’m not saying some festivals are terrible. It just depends on what you expect.
Let me tell you my tips to choose a good fireworks festival.
1. Pick the one in a rural area.
This is probably the most common mistake that even locals make sometimes. The fireworks in a big city is often highlighted with fancy pictures and websites. The downside is that it gets super super crowded. Fireworks in summer is the only day that I see that many people in the city. People are everywhere. Trashes everywhere. You see the longest queue just to get a pack of Yakisoba (which is pricy and not even close to ok quality).
It’s even worse if you have to take a train to the site. Being packed with thousands of sweaty people in a tiny train, it’s just a matter of time that you start questioning your sanity. 10 minutes is more than enough to ask yourself “why am I here?”.
This still happens in a rural area, but in much smaller scale. and the best thing is that you probably get to sit on the ground.
Last week, my housemates and I went to Ome-city Noryo fireworks festival. The city opened up one of the elementary school ground. We just put a tarp on the ground and enjoyed the fireworks. We could even lie down.
It was also because there were other fireworks festival on the same date in other cities.
2. The scale doesn’t matter.
Many people choose to go to the festival in the city simply because it’s big and exciting. However, the small festivals are just as nice as big ones.
The best fireworks festival that I’ve ever been was the small festival in Kyoto called Kameoka Peace Festival & Hozu-gawa River Firework Festival. It’s in a really rural area and they only fire off 5000 fireworks. But I was surprised how big each fireworks is and how colorful it was.
Unlike other summer festivals which people expect excitement or even danger, fireworks festivals in general are seen as something quieter, something just to enjoy the atmosphere.
3. Do research before you go. (Also, ask the locals)
Finding a good spot is another problem you will probably deal with. Most people just go to the area and look for a spot but often times it’s not a good idea. If you have a time to plan in advance, go online and look for a good spot.
Sometimes, the municipal government provides designated space to watch like school grounds or national parks.
Asking locals on the day of fireworks is a good idea too. When you’re looking for a spot before a festival starts, you want to know where exactly you see fireworks. Just ask locals on the street. They should be kind to let you know. Maybe they tell you a hidden spot where only locals know.
■ What you can do to maximize the experience
Once you decide which fireworks festival to go, there are some things you might consider. These are something I personally think it’s nice to do. But it’s completely optional.
1. Yukata is worth the cost.
Yukata looks nice but it can cost like a couple of hundred bucks. (cheap ones are also available in department stores for around 5000 to 10,000yen)
You probably think it’s not worth it because you only have a few chances to wear within a year. I’d say, however, it’s worth the money. First of all, everyone would look amazing on it. Seriously, everyone. Just try it on.
2. Bring a tarp
You can get it in the local convenience store.
3. Avoid food at the night market
You usually see little shops and night market at fireworks site. It looks nice but it’s better to avoid their food if you can. It’s simply because the quality is terrible. I honestly think it’s better to eat dinner before the festival.