Hand-Held Fireworks (SENKO HANABI) Make Japanese Summer Nights SPARKLE!
By Avi Landau
I have said it before- in Japan summer means fireworks! I forgot to mention, however, that by fireworks (hanabi), I was not only referring to the kind that are launched up into the sky.
If you pass through any Japanese residential neighborhood at night in late July or August, do not be surprised to spot an orange-red or yellowish glow, not high up above, but low to the ground, often behind a wall or fence – emanating, in fact, out of someone’s garden or yard. This will more often than not be accompanied (or preceded) by the smell of smoke and the sound of excited young voices. If you have a chance to peek through the gate, or over the fence, you will surely see some kids, usually under the supervision of barbecuing or beer-drinking parents, playing with HAND-HELD fireworks ( senko-hanabi, literally- incense stick fireworks).
In fact, I can hear the cries of glee outside as I write this, wafting in my open window along with the smoke!
When these “fireworks” are lit, they sparkle brightly, eerily illuminating the wide-eyed, excited faces of the kids playing with them. The smoke they give off, obscures parts of the scene, now here, now there, and then drifting off, with its acrid, gun-powdery smell. The laughter, crackling, sparkling, and sulphorous odor, all combine to make for a distinctively atmospheric Japanese Summer`s night.
As magical and FLEETING as childhood itself.
You can buy cheap packs of these hand-held fire-works ( also called Te Hanabi, hand -fireworks, or niwa-hanabi, garden fireworks) at ANY convenience store and at most toy stores.