In Japan, fireworks were initially used to ward off evil spirits, and they’ve become an integral and much-loved part of Japanese culture. So much so that fireworks are now enjoyed for no reason other than looking incredible and bringing people together.
Want to learn more about how you can see beautiful firework displays during Hanabi in Japan? Learn everything you need to know about Hanabi fireworks festivals in Japan here.
What Is Hanabi in Japan?
In Japanese, fireworks are called Hanabi, and people think of them as the summer equivalent of seeing sakura (cherry blossoms) in the springtime. During the summertime, many Hanabi or firework festivals occur across the country, so it’s tough to miss one if you’re visiting Japan during those months.
These firework displays are held almost every weekend, each more spectacular than the next. Often, the shows last over 90 minutes, making for an excellent spectacle for all ages. Some of the festivals even attract Japan’s people and the millions of tourists who travel to Japan in summer.
Visiting a Show of Hanabi in Japan
Besides the splendor of the firework displays, these festivals offer an array of other entertaining experiences that all ages can enjoy. With people making a day of these events, you’ll find typical festival snacks and people wearing traditional yukatas (the casual version of the kimono).
Here’s a top tip: Due to the popularity of these mammoth events, it’s a good idea to get down to the display early to claim the best spot for the evening fireworks. And with many people relying on public transportation in Japanese cities, starting your journey early will ensure you don’t need to worry about missing your train because it’s full.
So, whether you want to experience a Hanabi festival in the bigger cities like Tokyo or Osaka, or you want to do as the locals do and head to the smaller, more rural festivals, there are plenty to choose from. We suggest you try both!
10 Most Popular Hanabi Japan Festivals
1. Sumida River Fireworks Festival
Sumidagawa fireworks festival is one of the most famous fireworks festivals in Japan. The event itself is said to date way back to 1733. Since then, it has been a regular part of Tokyo and Japanese culture. Typically, the festival is held annually. It takes place on the last Saturday of July, with the fireworks display at 7 pm in the night sky and lasting for a spectacular 90 minutes.
Sumida River Fireworks Festival veterans recommend starting the day early and visiting the Tsukiji Market in the morning, then heading to the river bank early to snag a good spot. No surprises here — it can get very crowded.
This Hanabi festival attracts around one million visitors each year, and we’re not shocked either – the display lights around 20,000 fireworks, all made by skilled and professional craftsmen. And as well as providing the most incredible burst of colors and patterns, the Tokyo backdrop and view of the Sumida river will make it even more special.
2. Edogawa Fireworks Festival
The Edogawa Fireworks Festival is another popular Hanabi event in Tokyo. This is held on the riverbanks of the Edogawa river, specifically between Tokyo’s Edo ward and Ichikawa in China. This festival also attracts big numbers. With a slightly lower number of fireworks (14,000, although no less impressive), the event still brings in around one million visitors worldwide each year.
The fireworks at this festival have their own unique designs and are set off based on the background music and eight different themes. The opening begins with a remarkable display of around 1,000 fireworks, which are all continuously set off within 5 seconds.
And as for how long the displays last – you’ll be treated to a generous 75 minutes of incredible fireworks lighting up the Tokyo skyline. This Hanabi fireworks festival takes place every first Saturday of August.
3. Naniwa Yodo River Fireworks Festival
On the second Saturday, the Yodo River in Osaka hosts the incredible Naniwa Yodo River Fireworks Festival in August. In 2018, it celebrated its 30th anniversary, so compared to the other traditional Hanabi fireworks festivals in Japan, this one is pretty new.
The festival treats visitors to dazzling skyline views each year as the fireworks complement the already stunning scenery. Those who want to immerse themselves in the experience and get private seats can pay between ¥2,500 to ¥9,000 to take in the views without crowds around them. The event is run with the support of donations by local communities and local volunteers.
Some of the highlights of this festival include the half underwater fireworks set off on the surface of the river. You don’t want to miss this!
4. Kamakura Fireworks Festival
Every July, Kamakura is home to the Kamakura Fireworks Festival. The Hanabi Japan event chooses to light its display on a beautiful scenic waterfront, with spectators treated to the sky and underwater fireworks. The area is a historic city, and many Tokyo natives head there for a weekend getaway.
If massive crowds aren’t your thing, but you love an incredible firework display, the Kamakura Fireworks Festival might be the event for you. The show offers fireworks of different sizes and colors and is truly a marvel. It’s also the perfect option for those who prefer slightly smaller events.
And if you’ve still got a few days left in the city, you can make the most of the rich history by checking out the world-famous shrines and temples.
5. Nagaoka Fireworks Festival
The Nagaoka Fireworks Festival is held in Nagaoka, Niigata, a city located within the largest city on the west coast of Honshu. And wait for it – it’s considered to be one of the three significant fireworks festivals in all of Japan. Despite its relatively inconvenient and remote location (compared to the other major festivals in Tokyo and Osaka), the event still reels in approximately one million visitors every year to enjoy the festivities between the 1st of August through the 3rd.
So, want to hear about some of the highlights? The Nagaoka Fireworks Festival is home to the Phoenix – a great, breathtaking fireworks display stretching 2km in length. There’s also a massive portable shrine float that parades through the festival, along with traditional dances in the town throughout the day.
This festival was created in 1946 in response to World War II. It was to mourn those who lost their lives during the war and a war-damaged reconstruction event.
6. Hida Takayama Fireworks Festival
Takayama is a mountainous city in Japan and should be on your travel bucket list, regardless of whether there’s a fireworks festival there or not. But, if you plan on visiting in late July, lucky for you, there is an annual fireworks festival that we recommend you attend. It’s a relatively small festival compared to others on this list, but that doesn’t make it any less spectacular. Some people prefer smaller events as they can feel more intimate and personal.
And personal is what you’ll get – the event exudes the most heart-warming and nostalgic atmosphere. It’s impossible not to fall in love with it after you’ve been once.
The festival is held on the river bed of the Miyagawa River, and the fireworks are set off from a temporary platform built just for the occasion. Due to the event’s venue being in the center of the city and close to many touristy spots, like Sanmachi Street. Here, you can explore some of the city’s main attractions during the day before heading to the festival in the evening.
The fireworks display will also be lit with an incredible backdrop – the surrounding mountains and the traditional Japanese town. Very Instagrammable, we think.
And as well as exploring all of Hida Takayama, you’re also close to other cultural and traditional sights, including Kanazawa and Shirakawago. We recommend you extend your trip for a cheeky weekend so you can visit!
7. Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival
Lake lovers – Lake Suwa is located in the Kiso Mountains in Nagano and is a rectangular shape. It’s said to be the inspiration for Your Name; the world-famous Japanese animation movie released in 2016. For those who have watched it, you’ll notice some resemblance between the film and the lake itself. If you’ve not seen it, we recommend watching it on the plane before you get there!
This Hanabi Japan festival was created in 1949, a few years after World War II ended. It was said to be designed to encourage the Japanese people to recover from the bleak war years after they were defeated.
It’s held each year in mid-August and is renowned for being one of the biggest firework displays in Japan. You thought 20,000 fireworks was a lot – how about 40,000? If huge displays of color and light are your thing, you definitely won’t want to miss the Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival.
8. Biwako Fireworks Festival
Biwako is Japan’s largest lake and is situated north of Kyoto in Shiga prefecture. It’s also known as a great cycling destination. So, mountain bikers, this might be the festival for you!
The lake is famous for hosting many renowned tourist attractions, including Shirahige Shrine and Hikone Castle. But obviously, you’re reading this for the Hanabi Japan festival.
In early August every year, the Biwako Fireworks Festival welcomes a modest 350,000 people, treating visitors to an array of colorful fireworks shot from different directions to create a unique light show in the sky. Count us in.
You can reserve a paid seat if you don’t want to risk being surrounded by crowds, or if you want to make the most of the lake, you can take a boat cruise to better take in the view. You’ll want to look out for the Biwako Flower Fountain, a massive fountain in the Otsu Port Offering.
With a collaboration of incredible fireworks and water streams that reach 40 meters high, you won’t be short of amazed at this Hanabi Japan event!
9. Kyoto Geijutsu Fireworks Festival
Along with Tokyo and Osaka, Kyoto is one of the most popular tourist destinations. But alongside the world-famous historical landmarks and beautiful scenic townscape that people travel across the world to visit, many people don’t know that it also organizes the annual Kyoto Geijutsu Fireworks Festival.
Maybe that’s because it’s relatively new – only making its debut in 2018 on the 30th of May. However, regardless of the number of times, it’s been held, it still deserves to make this list.
The Hanabi Japan festival is planned to occur on the last Wednesday of every May at Yodo’s Kyoto Racecourse. Once there, expect an immense array of colorful fireworks combined with incredible background music to add to the atmosphere. The songs are also thought out, as the festival wants to make sure it’s as inclusive as possible for all visitors. So, not only can you expect to hear some traditional Japanese music and the country’s latest hits, but you can also sing along to world-famous records by acclaimed artists such as Queen and The Beatles. How’s that for diversity?
10. Toyota Oiden Festival
Last but not least, the Toyota Oiden Festival. Taking place in Toyota City in Aichi prefecture every July, this Hanabi Japan event began in 1968. It was when people started coming over to Toyota City to work for – you guessed it – the now world-famous automobile company. Want to know why?
The festival’s last day sees an incredible display of fireworks lighting up the sky, with around 15,000 launched over the Toyota Stadium and the Yahagi River. It’s also one of the largest Hanabi Japan festivals in the Chubu region.
See the Hanabi Fireworks Festivals For Yourself
So, what are you waiting for?
You won’t be short of choice with an array of events to decide between. And if you can’t choose, put them on your bucket list and tick them off yearly! If fireworks, festivals, and incredible culture are your thing, there’s only one place to be – Japan.