Hanabi Taikai - Fireworks Display

In honor of my granddaughter's birthday, the City of Kashima offered an hour and a half long pyrotechnic display last night! Well, OK, maybe they didn't know about her birthday, but K and I went anyway just as we did last year.

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.

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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).

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Oops! I attempted to capture our picnic and fireworks, but you can barely make out a red explosion and K's blouse. My bike's reflectors are sure pretty, aren't they? (Humbling lesson in basic night photography.)

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.

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Candied Apple

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Golf Ball on a Tee

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Red Sunset

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Ice Cream Cone with Sprinkles

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Moon Rise

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!


The Moody Minstrel said...

Those pics are still enjoyable.

I wondered where those booms were coming from last night! Too bad I had a hill blocking the view...

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Fireworks are done in a big way in Australia, but not by ordinary people - only the trained pyrotech guys - e.g. Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Millenium - now that was huge even in Geelong.
As a kid though - in a country town - Guy Fawkes Day was the only night in the year when we had fireworks and it was a free for all. Later it was banned because of accidents. Now what about the meaning of Guy Fawkes - something to do with a gunpowder plot in an English Parliament I think.
Thanks for the pics.

Martin J Frid said...

I like fireworks too, but they are also a major pollutant. The different colours are produced by burning chemicals that should not be dispersed carelessly, including arsenic, mercury, lead, dioxins and radio-active barium. What is it about us humans, it seems to be built-in, why do we get such a kick out of dangerous substances?

FH2O said...

nice fireworks and nice description!

... but not so nice pollutants *sigh*
somehow I'd not 'seen' fireworks in this light until now and that really takes the kick out of it ... *sigh* :(

Pandabonium said...

Moody - the last big one sounded like someone striking a huge taiko drum (I know that's sort of redundant).

Wendy - gotta love a country that celebrates an act of sedition. :^)

Martin - yipes. I didn't know that. Danger doesn't thrill me, I just think the fireworks are pretty. Sorry to learn what they disperse. It seems throughout human history our technology is always way ahead of our wisdom.

FH2O - Thanks. Yeah, it sad to learn the downside. I'll have to find another excuse for a night time picnic at the lake. It was great just being there.

PinkPanther said...

Though those pic. were a bit fuzzy, still a nice one for sharing.

Fireworks Display, here on Sept. 2, 9, 16, & 23 will held the International Fireworks Display Contest. Will show you some photos later on.
This event has grown over the years into an international, one of the best of its kind. For the past years, over 90 international teams from China, the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan China, Japan, Korea, Australia, United Kingdom, Switzerland, France, Germany, Portugal and Spain have taken part in it.

A belated Birthday wishes to your granddaughter :-)

The Moody Minstrel said...

More more information on what Martin said, click here for the Wikipedia take on it (scroll down to "pollution") or here for a much more hard-hitting site specifically based on that topic compliments of a garden-variety concerned (paranoid?) citizen.

Personally, my reaction is somewhere along the lines of "whatever". I doubt the quantity of such chemicals resulting from a fireworks display is going to add up to much. After all, after all those decades (centuries?) of intense fireworks displays here in Japan, how many people have wound up hospitalized with heavy metal or radiation poisoning? When have we had massive amounts of dead fish washing up on the shores or birds dropping from the sky with such effects?

(Actually, we did have a mass carp die-out recently, but that was due to a strain of herpes, not fireworks!)

Sorry, this rings kind of hollow to me. I'll enjoy the fireworks and deal with the risk, thank you.

Pandabonium said...

I would be inclined to agree, but the pollutants involved are pretty bad - dioxin is very bad news. Heavy metals don't go away and become acummulate when the get into the body. So the question is, how much?

Might not matter much for an annual display (not that I'd want to be downwind breathing the stuff) but for places like Disney World where they do it all the time or for instance the displays of new years 2000 where every major city in Europe blasted off huge amounts, then you're talking tons of the stuff.

Also, firework displays are not exactly a necessity. I would like to see some scientific data on the amounts involved.

Happysurfer said...

Tomorrow, Malaysia celebrates its 49th year of independence and tonight, people would be crowding the park of the Petronas Twin Towers to watch a concert and the fireworks display at midnight.

We get to witness such colourful night skies several occasions a year. I too do not enjoy crowded places so I avoid going near but see the displays from afar.

Fireworks and fire-crackers have been banned for several years now in Malaysia.

Very nice pictures, all of them, and I like the names you give them.

Pandabonium said...

Happy Independence Day, Malaysia! Thanks, Happysurfer.