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Tuesday, August 02, 2016

39th Sumida River Fireworks Festival 2016: Big Glam Bangs!

第39回隅田川花火大会

Fireworks explode at the 39th Sumida River Fireworks Festival.
Fireworks explode at the 39th Sumida River Fireworks Festival, Tokyo.

The 39th Sumida River Fireworks Festival happened on Saturday, July 30, 2016. This year's festival was as massively popular as ever, with the usual combined spectator crowd of an estimated 800-900 thousand people occupying the riversides and bridges of the Sumida River in Taito and Sumida wards, in eastern Tokyo.

The Sumida River Fireworks Festival has two locations from where the fireworks are let off: one by Komagata Bridge, a little south of Asakusa, and one by Sakura Bridge, about 1.3km upstream. Although separate locations, the fireworks they let off are carefully coordinated, and enhance the spectacle by creating a superimposed and complementary effect. Each location let off approximately 10,000 fireworks in the hour and a half that the display lasted, for a total of over 20,000 colorful, spectacular, intricately crafted bursts of blazing light - all with the towering Tokyo Skytree in the background.

As usual dozens of lantern-lit pleasure boats lined up a little downstream, around the Asakusabashi/Ryogoku stretch of the Sumida River, full of parties there to enjoy themselves over food and drink on the water against a backdrop of fireworks, or what in Japanese are called "fire flowers" (hanabi 花火).

Most vantage points - like the bridges across the Sumida River - are free, but there were 4,000 seats reserved along the Sumida River offering a ringside view for between 6,000 yen (on the banks near Ryogoku) to 30,000 yen (on the baseball ground of the Taito Riverside Sports Center).

This year was a little different from previous in that security was extra tight after the terrorist incidents that have rocked France in particular over the past few weeks. Over 6,400 security personnel, many armed, were mobilized to safeguard the Sumida River fireworks event - although their presence was by no means conspicuous.

This year's Sumida River Fireworks Festival was blessed with perfect weather: clear, dry skies with just a light, cool breeze - such good climatic fortune by no means being guaranteed at this time of the year when the rainy season has yet to come to an end.

Next year's Sumida Fireworks Festival will be the 40th, but it is hard to imagine how the big 40th will be able to outdo the splendor and drama of this the 39th.

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