Buy Them at Convenience Stores! Simple Fireworks for Summer in Japan
Fireworks paint the night sky in beautiful colors. Japan has a summer custom wherein people go out and watch large-scale “uchiage hanabi” (aerial fireworks) or enjoy “omocha hanabi” (toy fireworks) that are sold everywhere for use by general households. So, what are these so-called “omocha hanabi”?
The types of fireworks in Japan can be roughly divided into three categories: uchiage hanabi, shikake hanabi (set fireworks), and omocha hanabi.
You can enjoy this type of firework at various events, such as in the major fireworks displays that are held across the country and in an amusement park’s fireworks event. With these fireworks, propellants in containers like iron cylinders are launched into the sky to create designs like massive flowers. Uchiage hanabi are characterized by the loud sound and spectacular lights that they produce.
Shikake hanabi are fireworks that form different shapes and letters based on a mechanism that’s set up on the ground. They are mainly seen in fireworks festivals. The popular type of shikake hanabi is the Niagara, which is a kind of “harimono shikake” (decorative fireworks that look like a shower of lights). By hanging these fireworks that are contained in thin cylinders on strings, they create a thrilling light show that resemble Niagara Falls.
During summer in Japan, there are many omocha hanabi that are sold in various places, such as convenience stores, supermarkets, toy stores, and department stores. These fireworks range from those that you can buy per piece (on average, priced at a few 10-yen coins) to those that are sold in a set containing different types of fireworks (on average, priced at a few 100 yen). They are generally enjoyed with family and friends at gardens, parks, and rivers.
Below is where omocha hanabi will be discussed in detail.
This is a kind of firework that spouts sparks from its tip, so you can enjoy it while holding its handle. Its gunpowder is wrapped in paper or cylinder, and it creates long sparks that resemble the ear of a susuki (zebra grass). It is known for the varying intensity or degree of brightness of its sparks, which turn a variety of different colors (sometimes up to 20 colors).
Spark is a type of firework in which the gunpowder paste is wrapped around a rod. It has its own kind of beauty and looks like a snow crystal when thin lines of fire spark out of it. This firework does not make a lot of smoke or have strong fire, so it is perfect for small children. Many last relatively longer than the Susuki.
This firework is the strongest among the fireworks that are held by hand. It creates an over-the-top show of lights. It comes in several kinds, such as the type that spurts sparks from its tip when it is ignited and the type that generates colorful balls of light in succession.
This is a handheld firework wherein the paper part that is held is designed using various pictures and shapes. The gunpowder is wrapped into a pipe-like shape with paper and plastic. The usual kinds of this firework that you’ll see are the ones designed like a gun, the ones that have a drawing of an octopus on the paper part with the gunpowder set where the legs are, and others that bear pictures of characters.
Senko Hanabi (sparkler) is a handheld firework with gunpowder wrapped around a koyori (string made from twisted paper). When you light it up, it creates sparks that first swell into flowers that look like peonies before changing into shapes that resemble moss roses and chrysanthemums. Its delicate appearance shows off traditional Japanese beauty.
Dragon is the main type of “fukidashi hanabi” that will let you enjoy sparks and fire flying from the ground that it is placed on. It is known for the relatively quiet sounds that it makes compare to its flashy appearance.
Fireworks could cause fire and accidents if you make the slightest mistake when using them. So, if you are really serious about using fireworks, then make sure to observe these rules and manners.
Fireworks are generally used in wide, open spaces (such as at the park, along the river, and on the coast) where there are no nearby objects that could easily catch fire. However, in recent years, more local governments have been putting up “Hanabi Kinshi Kuiki” (No Fireworks Zone) signs due to the deepening problem of the nuisance that the noise and trash places on nearby residents (the photo below shows an example of such signage). Make sure to check the ordinances of the area and verify if fireworks are allowed there before you use them. It also need not be said that you ought to take caution with using fireworks late at night and during other times of the day when they might bother others. Furthermore, you have to be careful with fireworks that create high-flying sparks or loud sounds.
· Do not aim the fireworks at people, houses, and so on.
· Stop using fireworks when the wind is strong. There are many houses that open their windows in the summer, so beware about the direction of the wind to prevent any nuisance created from the smoke coming from the fireworks.
· Be careful not to let fire get on your clothes!
· Light up the fireworks in the right position and the right way. Do not light up a lot of fireworks at once.
· Never look into the cylinder, even if the fire goes out midway through.
· It is dangerous to put fireworks in your pocket or loosen and play with them.
· Fireworks are treated as dangerous goods, so they cannot be sent through post or be taken into an airplane.
Japan is home to different types of omocha hanabi – from colorful ones that can be enjoyed by a lot of people in a lively manner, to the type that has a subdued kind of vibe. If you ever get the opportunity, make sure to experience the beauty and fun of these fireworks!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.