Monday, October 19, 2009

Omagari fireworks festival

On August 22, hubby and I went to see Omagari fireworks festival in Daisen city of Akita prefecture. It is an annual national fireworks competition held on the dry bed of Omonogawa River in Daisen city on the fourth Saturday of August. It is one of the major fireworks festivals in Japan that has been held since 1910. The official name of the festival is ‘Zenkoku hanabi kyogi taikai (National fireworks competition)’. In the competition, about thirty fireworks artists selected from all over Japan compete to show off their techniques. The competition is split up into three categories: ‘hiru-hanabi (day fireworks)’, ‘10-go warimono (shakudama, which are 12-inch round shell fireworks)’, and ‘sozo-hanabi (creative fireworks)’. Omagari was the first competition in Japan to incorporate ‘sozo-hanabi’ as one of the categories for its evening display in 1963. In recent years, the fireworks displays are usually orchestrated to music which offers greater enjoyment to the audience.

This year was the 83rd edition of the Omagari fireworks display. It attracted an audience of about 680,000 from entire Japan to Omagari district, which only has a population of roughly 40,000 people. The display started from 5 pm and about 15,000 fireworks were displayed. We started from our home at about 11 am and bought two foldable picnic chairs and a picnic sheet from a nearby home center store. We bought our lunch from a convenience store and had it during our car drive to Omagari city. We reached Omagari at about 1.00 pm. Hubby had to park his car at a parking area that was very far from the fireworks display venue. So we had to walk for almost an hour to reach the venue.
Me walking towards fireworks display venue

Hubby holding foldable picnic chairs and walking towards fireworks display venue

As we neared the festival venue, we started seeing many people walking towards the venue. There were people who came from faraway places in their cars and camped overnight near the site. We saw people taking rest in their cars, camping cars, and camping tents. We also saw many food as well as toy stalls put up for the purpose of the festival that sold many mouthwatering snacks and toys related to the fireworks festival.
Cars, camping cars, and camping tents of people from faraway places

Food stalls

On reaching the festival site, we saw a huge crowd of people searching for an open area for seating. There were several reserved seats for which tickets had to be purchased in advance. However, most of the people preferred to just go early and look for an open area for seating. We were lucky that we got a nice place to sit within ten minutes of our search. Police personnel were deployed to control the huge crowd and also to provide security and help to the people.
Crowd at the fireworks display venue

Crowd at the fireworks display venue

Police personnel at the festival site

After getting a seating area and making ourselves comfortable, we realized that it was just 2.30 pm and still a few hours remained for the fireworks display to begin. We saw that many people had put up tents and parasols and took rest inside. Some people were just lying and relaxing on picnic sheets in the sunny weather. Many others were enjoying various kinds of snacks. Hubby bought yakisoba (fried noodles), yakitori (grilled chicken), yaki-tomorokoshi (grilled corn), kakigori (shaved ice), cold drinks, and a can of beer form a nearby food stall, and we enjoyed eating and drinking while watching the huge crowd. We thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere of the event.
People relaxing and having snacks in tents, parasols, and picnic sheets at festival site

Hubby eating yakisoba

Hubby enjoying non-alcohol beer

Hubby eating grilled corn

At about 5 pm, hiru-hanabi (day fireworks) started. Hiru-hanabi competition is held in daylight using enryu (smoke dragon) and warimono (round shell) fireworks. Instead of using light in the night sky, enryu (smoke dragon) fireworks form patterns with colorful smoke (red, yellow, green, purple, etc.). The colorful smoke patterns looked really beautiful. Warimono (round shell) fireworks were a little bit difficult to see in the daylight as they look the same as night fireworks. Hiru-hanabi display ended at about 5.40 pm. We loved the beautiful display of colorful smoke.
Display of day time fireworks

Display of day time fireworks

Display of day time fireworks

Display of day time fireworks

At about 6.50 pm, the night time fireworks display started, which included a grand display of 12-inch round shell fireworks and creative fireworks. About 30 fireworks artists and manufacturers from all over Japan competed and battled for the title of ‘Best in Japan’ with an amazing display of light and sound. There was a spectacular display of highly advanced fireworks that used latest fireworks technology and very intricate techniques to form various kinds of colorful shapes, patterns, and animation characters in the night sky. I compiled a video of the fireworks display of four of the fireworks manufacturers.
Display of night time fireworks

Display of night time fireworks

Hubby enjoying the fireworks display

Various patterns of night time fireworks

Various patterns of night time fireworks

Various patterns of night time fireworks

Various patterns of night time fireworks

A compiled video of four of the creative fireworks display

There was also a display called ‘main event’, where different fireworks artists and manufacturers collaborated to give a wonderful display of colors and patterns. The theme of this seven-minute event was ‘Bushido’. We were overwhelmed by this fireworks display, and became intoxicated by the sounds that rattled our bones as the colorful flames and patterns danced in the sky. The fireworks rose into the sky one after another in rhythm to the music played and then exploded into spectacular patterns. It was an exquisite display of original color, style, and light.

Video of the ‘main event’ of the fireworks display (original clip; please increase the sound volume)

The display of creative fireworks by various fireworks manufacturers continued after the ‘main event’. At about 9.20 pm, there was a ‘final event’ where a spectacular display of mostly round shell fireworks was carried out. The masterpieces and passion of the fireworks craftsmen were on grand display.

Video of the ‘final event’ of the fireworks display (original clip; please increase the sound volume)

The fireworks display came to an end at about 9.30 pm. It took us about 45 minutes just to go out of the venue due to the huge crowd. It took another 1.5 hours of walking to reach the car-parking where we had parked our car. It was about 1.30 am of the next day when we reached back our home. We were very tired due to staying outside for almost 14 hours but we thoroughly enjoyed the Omagari fireworks festival and the grand display for color, sound, and light.


ckuramitz said...

wow...manisha...walking to and from the venue itself would have taken so much of energy...cant imagine driving back and waiting for the firework to start...something tas unimaginable when u have kids i gueess...The shots looks really good.

Subbi said...

Nice narration & great photos/video, Manisha. I felt as though I were witnessing all this in real-time.

guitarotoko said...


i enjoyed your videoclips.
thank you very much!is the first time i saw omagari fireworks festival,and without crowd,cold and to walk.did you walk for 1,5 hours??? really???where did you park the car?in sapporo?great photos as usual.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks ckuramitz for your comment. Actually there were several car-parking areas quite near (about 15 minutes walk) the fireworks display venue. However, all were full as people from all over Japan came to watch this festival, and camped and stayed overnight in the parking areas. So hubby had to park his car about an hours walk away. But we are used to long walks. So it was not a problem for us.

And now that you pointed out, actually I did not see families with very small children; though there were many 8-9 year old kids around the place where hubby and I got a place for seating.

Thanks for appreciating the photos.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Subbi for your nice comment. Great to know that you enjoyed a virtual trip to Omagari fireworks festival :)

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks guitarotoko for your comment. Thanks also for appreciating the video-clips and photos.

Well, there was a very big crowd. About 650,000 people attended the festival as it is one of the three largest fireworks festivals in Japan. However, Japanese people (even the kids!) are extremely well mannered (generally) in public places (atleast as compared to Indian public that I know very well from my experience), that even a big crowd looks so orderly; and doesnot feel like a crowd :)

Your comment about walking from Sapporo really made me laugh :) As I wrote in one of the earlier replies, there were several car parking areas near the festival site itself but all were occupied as people from all over Japan camped overnight in those places! So we had to park our car about an hours walk away. While returning back, due to the crowd, our walking speed was considerably slow and took us 1.5 hours to return to the parking area. But that itself was a very nice experience!