In Japan, the firework season kicks off towards the end of July and lasts until the end of August. The popularity of fireworks is by no means a recent phenomenon, and some events such as the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival have a history dating back hundreds of years. This long history means that today firework manufacturers really know how to put on a show, and the major events in Tokyo see upwards of 13,000 fireworks of all shapes, sizes, and colors launched. The major firework events in and around Tokyo are listed below, but first some tips to help you get the most out of the evening.
Consider events in the outer wards
The temptation to go and see the major firework events in central Tokyo like the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival is understandable. They are the biggest—the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival has two launch venues—and the most famous. However, they are also the most crowded and finding a place to sit is almost impossible unless you arrive hours before the launch. Moreover, the density of apartment buildings and office blocks means that almost any view from the street is at least partially obstructed. Better, choose a firework event in the outer wards, ideally one of those held along the flat and spacious river banks. Events like the Edogawa Fireworks Festival launch just as many fireworks as the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival, so there’s no need to feel like you’re missing out.
Stations nearest to the event become extremely crowded as the launch time approaches, and so many choose to alight at station slightly further away and walk. In any case, you should aim to arrive at least one hour before to get settled and find a suitable spot. Market stalls and beer vendors line the streets between the stations and venues so you’ll have plenty to keep you entertained.
Take a ground sheet
Many of the firework events do have paid seating areas, but these need to be booked well in advance and the websites are usually only in Japanese. Most visitors secure a free spot on the streets or on the flat grass area along the riverbanks—and so a cheap ground sheet comes in handy.
Check the wind direction
This might seem like overkill, but it can make all the difference. This is especially true for the events in the outer wards where the wide open spaces mean that you can choose to see the fireworks from just about any direction. If a slow wind is blowing in your direction when you face the launch venue, the considerable smoke released by the explosions will mean that after a few minutes your enjoyment of the fireworks could be reduced to watching a large, dark cloud of smoke turn a shade lighter for a fraction of a second…
The weather during July and especially August can be highly unpredictable. While the official websites do get updated on the day of the event, when the skies turn gloomy and put doubts in people’s minds these websites get inundated with ten of thousands of users checking to see if they should make the journey or stay at home, and the servers often time out. Instead, it’s best to check the official Twitter accounts where important announcements are usually given in Japanese and English.