Flower Fires: Toda-shi, Saitama

One hot and sticky night a few weeks ago, I was calmly making supper when a loud bang caught my attention. Forgetting for a moment that I was not back in South Africa (where gunshots can occasionally be heard), I didn’t think anything of it until a second, even louder bang rang throughout the air as light flashed into the lounge window. Over one of the houses, to my delight, I saw another huge firework exploding in the summer night sky, a loud bang following close on its heels. I suddenly realized that one of the infamous Japanese summer firework festivals was taking place right by my house!

A view from my window

Fireworks (花火 hanabi) have played an integral part in Japanese culture and history. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that firework festivals are still held year-round in Japan – most of them taking place during the hot, humid months of July and August. These events attract hundreds and thousands of spectators, all vying for a spot closest to the riverbank where the fireworks take off.

After watching the fireworks from my window for a few moments, I left my air conditioned house and made my way onto the humid streets outside. I now suddenly realized why my home station was so unusually crowded after work that day… there were people everywhere. But the atmosphere was light and there was a definite festive feeling.

After making my way through the crowd, I came to a stretch of road with lanterns hanging above long lines of stalls selling streetfood. Delicious smells filled the air as people swarmed to make sure that they could have a taste of the food being prepared right in front of their eyes.

hippie-flowerFireworks (or hanabi) is literally translated as flower 花 and fire 火 (written in kanji). That means that in Japanese, fireworks are literally seen as fire flowers – a very apt description indeed.

After having gotten some yakitori, I made my way down to the riverside where I luckily managed to find a place to sprawl out and watch the rest of the fireworks under the night sky.

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One thought on “Flower Fires: Toda-shi, Saitama

  1. Pingback: Festivals and Humidity: Summer in Japan | Booth in Japan

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