Summer in Japan means a few things. For some, the negatives, such as the endless days of heat and humidity, are what always weigh on their minds. But for others, summer means mainly two things: festivals and fireworks! While most cities have a summer festival to call their own, the most common and most popular type is the fireworks festival (hanabi taikai). RocketNews24 wants to introduce you to the  fireworks festival that sits at the top of many peoples’ lists as the biggest and best fireworks festival of the summer! The location will definitely surprise you!

Welcome to Omagari City in Akita Prefecture, home of the Omagari Hanabi Taikai (Omagari Fireworks Competition). Normally a city of 88,000 people, the population of the city balloons to over 800,000 people (with more coming every year) over the course of one day! People from all over the country flock to the banks of the Omonogawa River to watch the best fireworks companies in the country compete in the most prestigious pyrotechnics competition in all of Japan.


Tickets for the special seating areas sell out fast. You really have to know someone to be able to get them for yourself. Open seating on the grass is also snatched up quickly, partially because many children go with their parents and spend the evening before the big day camping on the site. The overall enjoyment of this event isn’t just through watching the fireworks and going home. Families stake out the best plot of land and enjoy an evening of “trump” (card games) while anxiously awaiting the next day.


The locals also make the day as memorable and exciting as possible. All the shops and restaurants near the river bank set up their own outdoor booths knowing hundreds of thousands of people will be walking past their front doors. Volunteers and workers are out in spades on the day, directing and assisting the mass of people to their destinations. For college students, working the event is a pretty great part-time summer job. It’s a decent payday for not a lot of hours of work, plus the added bonus of admiring the best fireworks show!


As you can tell, this isn’t just a run of the mill fireworks display. Entrants who win awards here will see their products in hot demand over the coming year. In order to participate in the competition though, you have to be exceptionally talented and you must enter fireworks in three different categories: daytime fireworks, chrysanthemum-type fireworks, and creative fireworks.


Omagari delights its viewers first with daytime fireworks that explode in the sky with brilliant colors. Since it’s still light out, traditional fireworks don’t quite cut it and the sky is instead painted in splashes of smoky color. The vividness of the colors is even more spectacular because you’d never think to be excited over something as simple as colored smoke.



As the sun sets behind the mountains and the sky becomes darker and darker, a hum of excitement drifts through the air. At long last, the main event is announced and everyone leans back in their chairs or spreads out on the ground to find the best way to view the night sky. The crowd waits together in anticipation and then oohs and awws with each beautiful explosion. First up is…

Chrysanthemum-type fireworks. These are two, single-shot fireworks which explode into a flower shape, which, not surprisingly, resembles a chrysanthemum. These competition fireworks are some of the biggest single fireworks you will ever see.





Creative fireworks are sets of fireworks which are matched to music. These entries produce some of the best visuals and match any fireworks shows in the West. The difference being here at Omagari, there are over 10 of these in one night!




The latter two categories take the viewer through a vast range of emotions and thoughts. Every firework presents a unique piece of work, interpretable by each person who sees it. It’s like gazing at the clouds; everyone sees something different, and sometimes the fireworks look like distant galaxies, tiny amoebas or even viruses under a microscope!




This amazing fireworks competition first began back in 1910 and we can only hope it will continue growing in numbers and beauty. There have been a few years that the competition didn’t occur so in fact, this year marks the 88th running of the Omagari Hanabi Taikai. As a fireworks festival that is broadcast nationally in Japan, people from Hokkaido to Kyushu travel to Akita to watch it in person. Especially for a festival as big as this one, it’s easy to get lost in the numbers. But for each viewer, it’s almost as if these amazing fireworks are only for themselves. For each of the 800,000 people, no one else is getting the exact same view as they are. Why don’t you come out to Omagari this year and see what the Omagari Hanabi Taikai has in store just for you?

88th Omagari Hanabi Taikai 
August 23, 2014
Omonogawa River Bank, Omagari, Daisen, Akita
Daytime Fireworks: 5:30pm
Nighttime Fireworks: 6:50pm











Additional Information: Omagari Hanabi
Images: RocketNews24
Video: YouTube (tatyana mahona)