Japan Atlas: Festivals


Date: Late in July

Place: Tokyo

Number of Visitors: 920,700

Coloring the Night Sky of Summer Fireworks Originally Started as a Memorial Program.

Sumida River Fireworks Display is held near the end of July, along the banks of the Sumida River, which flows through east crowded low land part of Tokyo, and 20,000 fireworks are set off every year.

Other annual events including competitive displays of the skills of fireworks markets, fireworks from overseas, and a fireworks photo contest, are also presented during the event.

While watching the fireworks, people enjoy the summer evening eating and drinking with their family or friends. Many people try to find a good spot to view the fireworks and spread out a sheet somewhere beside the river. Others ride boats on the river. On the day of the display the whole area is crowded with spectators. It is not unusual for people to take reservations of restaurants and hotels that offer a good view of the fireworks for the day of the display a year in advance.

The first Sumida River Fireworks Display was held in 1733. In the previous year the whole of Japan had suffered a great famine in which over 900,000 people starved to death. At that time, in Edo (present day Tokyo) so many people were dying of cholera that bodies were abandoned on the streets. The government decided to hold a fireworks display to comfort the souls of the dead and to drive away the pestilence.

In the early years of Sumida River Fireworks Display, furious competition between two fireworks makers, Kagiya and Tamaya, contributed to development of the event.

Around 1879, as overseas trade increased, a succession of new chemicals entered Japan. This made it possible to develop new bright colors like red, blue, and green fireworks and become even more impressive.

In Ryogoku, the Ryogoku Fireworks Museum, a comprehensive fireworks resource center, has exhibits detailing the history of the Sumida River Fireworks Display.

Photo: Sumida River Fireworks Display (Taito City)

Unauthorized reproduction of the photos in this page is prohibited.

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