A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

Best Tsuchiura Fireworks Ever!

By Avi Landau


The tandem forces of ideal weather and dazzling pyrotechnical artistry made this year’s Tsuchiura HANABI event the best it has been in recent memory. With temperatures and humidity levels JUST RIGHT, and an upper-air breeze which gently and steadily pushed away the smoke of each blast, clearing the air for the next burst of color, it was an absolutely perfect night for fireworks.

Hanabi lovers came from near and far, many arriving HOURS before the onset of festivities, staking out a good spot to watch from, on the road, in a rice field, or on some grassy knoll. Traditional food stands (yatai) lined country roads as well as the Tsuchiura Gakuen Line, but it seemed that most brought their own food, with munchies, and plenty to drink.

As Dan Waldhoff stated in a recent comment on this year’s HANABI, crowd and traffic control were handled with extreme professionalism and PLENTY of manpower. There were even uniformed SELF-DEFENCE FORCE troops patrolling the Sakura River in small motorboats (to rescue anyone who happened to fall into the river and intercept any saboteurs coming by watercraft!)!

Like Dan, I was lucky to have decided to go for a SAJIKI (reserved space) this year. Without a doubt it was the best way to enjoy the evening. Besides having the guarantee of a seat, the sajiki affords a front view of the various HANABI works. You see, this event is not just a show, but a competition, with the best fireworks artists in Japan coming to show off their latest creations. Many of these consist of recognizable images produced by firework bursts. These can only REALLY be appreciated from a certain angle. The sajiki seats are where the judges are sitting and that means, if you are sitting on the East Bank of the river, the firework images are being launched to be seen from where you are sitting.

Because of this, the sajiki stands resounded with OOHs and AAHS as various fruit (watermelon, persimmon), flowers, animals (pigs, mice), etc. came to brief life, in full-color, high in the sky. The series which brought on the most mirthful reaction, was a display of firework OPPAI (boobs), which elicited gleeful howls of excitement (especially from kids). Could you imagine such a moment in the US or Europe?

Even if you weren’t in the sajiki there was plenty to enjoy from other viewing points, as dozens of the best pyrotechnic firms did their stuff, going through the whole range of the latest firework possibilities.

When it was finally over, we called out for more. The delicious air (though slightly smelly), the mesmerizing hanabi display, and plenty of good food and drink had everyone in good spirits. Friendships were formed. Memories made.

We all promised to meet again at the same place next year!

Here is an amazing site with everything you could want to know about HANABI.

I can’t finish this entry without mentioning the ill-effects of this event, and by this I mean the serious disturbance to wildlife and pets. I watched with distress as egrets returning to their nearby rookery found their usual resting place overwhelmed by humans and then flying off into the sunset to find a safe place to spend the night.

Of course, dogs, cats and other pets become highly agitated when fireworks are set off. When I got home, my dog had actually jumped out of the window (no injuries) because she had become so frantic.


  • gab says:

    Great write up! I dont remember seeing any oppai in the sky…musthave missed that one!

  • Avi says:

    The OPPAI fireworks were the 57th entry, the work of the Miyagi Prefecture based Haga Kako fireworks factory. The official English title of the presentation was- Lots of Breasts.

    The winner of the creative category this year was the 89th entry, presented by the Akita based Kita Nihon Hanabi Fireworks Factory. They successfully created a series of clearly recognizable pig faces. The work was entitled- Pigs Might Climb Up Trees If They Got Flattered.

    The official announcement was that 800,000 people came to watch this years fireworks. I cant imagine that that is an accurate figure and there was no information given as to how that number was calculated.

    By the way, many locals have told me that it is popular to go scavenging on the morning after the festival. It is said that many wallets and other valuable are dropped and left behind.

    Thanks for your comment.

  • dimaks says:

    too bad i was not able to attend the event.. all i could do was watch from a far from my laboratory’s window.

    just in case by the way, I have posted a blog about this hanabi in Tsuchiura here… managed to snap some photos.