Hanabi taikai is very popular in Japan. Coming from Hawaii where public fireworks displays are few and far between and personal fireworks are illegal except for New Years and the 4th of July, I was amazed to see the huge selection of them for sale here in Japan - in shopping malls, hardware stores, and even convenience stores. Public displays are found all over Japan at any time of year and are far longer and more elaborate than what I was used to in the USA.
The fireworks for Kashima City's annual display are set off near the south end of Lake Kitaura and the area is packed with spectators. Special buses shuttle people from the train station to the designated viewing area. As much as I like fireworks, I'm not at all fond of crowds, and so as dusk came, K packed up our picnic dinner of corn on the cob, baked pumpkin (both fresh from the garden of K's parents), omlette, and inarizushi (sushi rice wrapped in boiled tofu). We loaded the bikes and road down to the lake.
The lake is surrounded by a levy with a sealed road on top. We went to an area that projects out into the lake a bit, which gave us a nice unobstructed view over the water toward the show. We sat on the grass slope of the levy by the edge of the road and enjoyed our picnic as darkness closed in around us.
The lake was calm and sky only partly cloudy. There were fewer observers this year, but some families came down and parked along the levy to watch as we did. Overhead, as the stars appeared, a constant stream of airliners lined up as they followed, one after another, on approach Tokyo International Airport at Narita. Occasionally, a fish would splash the water's surface, and the call of a coot or other waterfowl would be heard. A multitude of insects buzzed and chirped in the grass and bushes. The air was almost still and a perfect 24 C (75 F).
The fireworks started at 7:30. I had brought the digital camera, K's small 35mm, and a tripod. I was doubtful about getting any good pictures with the digital, especially as I was not using the tripod with it, but it surprised me. They aren't perfect, but still pretty. For a nice website with great photos and information about "Hanabi" click here. It will be a while before I see how K's camera did - presumably better. We were about 3 miles or 4.7 km from the fireworks, so the sound did not reach us for 14 seconds. I also brought binoculars, which we used from time to time both for watching the show and sometimes spotting the dark silhouette of birds on the lake.
The display had a great deal of variety to it. In addition to the different sizes and colors, there were some that lingered in the air and continued to burn as they fell and others burned with an intensity that made them look metallic. Shapes varied too, with flying saucers, split spheres of two colors, smiley faces, and Saturn-like spheres with rings. Hanabi Taikai aficionados are sticklers for proper names of each type, but for me it is more like looking for familiar shapes in clouds and I call 'em as I see 'em. Here are a few examples with my names for them.
The display ended a little after 9:00 and we turned on our lights and headed home. A young teenage boy, who had a fishing pole with him, rode along with us for a while, as his bike had no light. He asked if we had ridden our bikes down to see the fireworks and seemed surprised to see adults on bicycles, or maybe it was the "gaijin" (me) that was odd to him.
Sorry for the fuzzy pics. If the ones in K's camera are better, I'll post them later.
Happy Birthday Bailey Kaiolohia!