- Introduction: Japan's Top 3 Fireworks Festivals
- 1. Omagari Fireworks Festival
- Access: Omagari Fireworks Festival (Akita Prefecture)
- 2. Tsuchiura All-Japan Fireworks Competition
- Access: Tsuchiura All Japan Fireworks Festival (Ibaraki Prefecture)
- 3. Nagaoka Festival Grand Fireworks (Niigata Pref.)
- Access: Nagaoka Festival Grand Fireworks (Niigata Prefecture)
No hot, humid Japanese summer is complete without visiting any one of the many vibrant fireworks festivals held nationwide in Japan. Among them, three fireworks festivals in particular – Omagari in Akita, Tsuchiura in Ibaraki and Nagaoka in Niigata, are considered the “top three fireworks festivals” in Japan.
These three festivals are awarded the title for factors such as its historical depth and its large-scale fireworks displays. Pick any one of these three (or all three!) to go to this summer, and you will fall in love with Japan’s summer skies.
These three festivals have been dubbed as such, thanks to the sheer scale of their fireworks and historical background. If you are wanting to visit a Japanese fireworks festival but are unsure of which one to go to, picking one of these three will not leave you disappointed!
Omagari Fireworks Festival (Akita Pref.) – 大曲の花火（秋田県）
Wide Starmine of Omagari Fireworks
Omagari Fireworks Festival takes place in Akita prefecture’s city of Daisen. This festival has a long history dating back to 1910, and prizes such as the Prime Minister’s Award and the Japan Tourist Agency Award are given during this festival, making it a sort of national pageant to decide Japan's very best fireworks technician. Omagari Fireworks Festival is great for those who are looking for a state-of-the-art fireworks display.
Afternoon Division Fireworks
Hearing fireworks typically evokes the image of the night sky, but unlike any other event in Japan, Omagari Fireworks Festival also has an afternoon fireworks launch. To liven up the daytime sky, colored smoke is used instead of bright lights
As the fireworks burst into puffs of colored smoke, pay attention to their final shape. Different technicians add different touches to their fireworks, and some fireworks form into the shapes of chrysanthemums and peonies.
Evening Division Fireworks
Two different fireworks competitions are held in the evening division of fireworks.
Two "size 10" fireworks are launched in the competition
In the first: the "set categories" competition, fireworks technicians must launch two large fireworks into the sky. The first of the two is called the "assigned firework", and will be graded for the technician's control over their craft. Judges will evaluate all technical aspects of the firework, such as its number of layers, shape, and timing of fading.
The second is the "free firework", and its shape is entirely up to the fireworks technician. Individual contestants bring all kinds of shapes to the table, such as heart-shaped fireworks to impress the audience. This part of the competition may be more about beauty, whereas the first is about power.
The fireworks competition ends with the "creative fireworks" category. This particular form of Japanese fireworks is said to have originated in Omagari, and is the time for every fireworks technician to shine. Without the typical constraints of the classical round firework, each technician is able to pursue their own crafty shapes, colors, and presentation.
The grand finale of the fireworks festival
The finale of the fireworks festival comes with a flurry of fireworks planned by the event hosts. Every year, this part of the festival is built on a different theme, and offers visitors a fiery spectacle that combines power and beauty.
Omagari Fireworks Festival is held at the riverbed of Omono River. The closest station to the venue is JR Omagari Station. From the station to the venue is about a 25-minute walk.
【Akita Sta.】 JR Ou Main Line / for Yuzawa
→【Omagari Sta.】about a 25-minute walk
Tsuchiura All-Japan Fireworks Competition (Ibaraki Pref.) – 土浦全国花火競技大会 （茨城県）
Wide Starmine of Tsuchiura Fireworks
The Tsuchiura All Japan Fireworks Competition is held in October, a bit later than most other fireworks festivals. The festival began in 1925 as an act of gratitude towards farmers and workers.
Like the Omagari Fireworks Festival, this fireworks festival is a competitive one, and awards prizes such as the Prime Minister’s Award to the top performing technicians.
Tsuchiura Hanabi Zukushi – 土浦花火づくし
Tsuchiura Hanabi Zukushi
Although the fireworks competitions are must-see artful displays of Japanese fireworks craftsmanship, "Tsuchiura Hanabi-Zukushi" is also an event that cannot be missed here. In this event, a system called "Wide Starmine" is used, in which a number of fireworks are lined up in even intervals and launched simultaneously.
In Tsuchiura Hanabi-Zukushi, approximately 2,100 fireworks are placed within a 500m-long strip and released into the sky for an astonishing display.
The Tsuchiura All Japan Fireworks Competition is held on the riverbed of Sakuragawa River. The closest station to the venue is JR Tsuchiura Station.
From the station to the venue is about a 30-minute walk, and there is also a shuttle bus to the venue.
【Mito Sta.】JR Joban Line / for Tokyo
→【Tsuchiura All Japan Fireworks Competitions Venue】
Nagaoka Festival Grand Fireworks (Niigata Pref.) – 長岡まつり大花火大会
Wide Starmine of Nagaoka Fireworks
Nagaoka Festival Grand Fireworks is an event held in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture. Its history dates back all the way to 1879, and is the oldest and biggest of Japan's top 3 fireworks festivals.
This festival is held annually on August 2nd and 3rd, and an astounding 20,000 fireworks are launched over the two-night event. Over a million people visit this magnificient event every year.
While the fireworks festivals of Omagari and Tsuchiura were competitions, Nagaoka's is one of prayer and commemoration towards the spirits of history's deaths, and current restorative efforts.
Sho-sanshakudama – 正三尺玉
The “Sho-sanshakudama” firework is a Nagaoka Fireworks specialty, and its explosion measures 650 meters in diameter. The firework weights 300 kilograms, 80 of which are solely gunpowder. Three of these are launched over the course of the event.
While its size is surely one to be reckoned with, the tremors of its burst shake any viewer to the bone, and are an unforgettable shock that can only be experienced in person.
Phoenix Fireworks – 復興祈願花火・フェニックス
The "Restoration Fireworks" named Phoenix is a grand event that occurs over 5 minutes and 2 kilometers.
The show began in 2004 in prayer for restorative efforts, from the devastating Niigata Chu-etsu Earthquake that occurred that year. For five minutes in unison with "Jupiter" by Ayaka Hirahara, the vast line of fireworks resemble a phoenix, while shaking the hearts of its viewers.
The Nagaoka Festival Grand Fireworks display is held on the riverbed of Shinano River, the longest river in japan. The closest station to the venue is JR Nagaoka Station. The venue is about 30-minute walk from the station.
【Niigata Sta.】JR Shinetsu Main Line / for Nagaoka
→ 【Nagaoka Sta.】about a 30-minute walk
Prior reservations are recommended for paid seating.
All of the top 3 fireworks festivals have their individual characteristics, and are great pages in anybody's Japanese summer experiences. All of them also have paid seating, which are greatly recommendable for anybody who wants a more relaxed fireworks eperience.
Tickets sell out fast, so make sure you check out the official websites in advance. Visit these sites for ticket information:
・Omagari Fireworks Festival
・Tsuchiura All Japan Fireworks Competition
・The Nagaoka Festival Grand Fireworks