Summer in Japan means the boom of the festival drum and the rat-a-tat of fireworks. One of Tokyo’s biggest summer fireworks festivals is the Jingu Gaien Fireworks Festival. This event began in 1980, and has been a major feature of summer in Tokyo ever since. This year’s was held a week and a half ago at the huge No.2 field of the Meiji Jingu Gaien Sports compound (just to the bottom right of Shinjuku Gyoen Park on the map) on August 16.
In the mid-summer heat – sweltering even after sundown – thousands and thousands of people massed to either get into the grounds for 1,000 yen, or sat around on the streets and in the parks surrounding the grounds.
For the 1,000 yen you were given entry, handed a blue plastic mat to sit on, a fan to help cool yourself with, and left to your own devices. The whole field was close to jam packed, but there were still enough tiny plots between groups of people just big enough to solitary me to squeeze into.
There was a stage with entertainment, modern and traditional, that kept the crowd happy until the first magnificent volley of sound and light at 7.30pm. The next hour was uninterrupted pyrotechnic fun as a total of 10,070 fireworks were let off. The variety of shapes, patterns, ways in which the fireworks ‘flowered’ (fireworks are actually called ‘fireflowers’ – hanabi - in Japanese) was amazing and kept the gargantuan audience gasping, oohing and aahing the whole way through.
Stalls around the edge of the grounds sold food and drink. Like almost any major gathering in Japan, even though alcohol is on sale, unruliness just doesn’t happen.
One thing I hadn’t counted on was getting absolutely filthy thanks to the very fireworks that were enchanting us so. The amount of soot and fragments of exploded paper that is rained down on the crowd has to be experienced to be believed! Not a spectacle to be visited in your Sunday best.
Watch a video clip of the Jingu Gaien Fireworks Festival
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Monday, August 27, 2007
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