An essential part of summer in Tokyo, fireworks displays will be taking place all over the capital in July and August, plus a few more in September and October. This year's celebrations kick off with Kurihama Perry Festival Fireworks and Yokohama Sparkling Twilight on July 14 and include everything from the classics (Sumida River, Jingu Gaien) to special film-themed festivals (Chofu) and smaller-scale events out in the western forests (Ome).
It's time to dust off your yukata, secure the best viewing spot well in advance, and enjoy the colourful spectacle while snacking on some tasty festival grub. And if you need a drink after the show, try one of the city's best beer gardens or 24-hour restaurants.
Watch the colours burst
If the many Tokyo summer fireworks displays are a little too urban and crowded for you, head on down to Kamakura countryside for this small-scale but equally fun and energetic local show on the beach. The colourful explosions are made even more impressive by the reflections on the surface of the water, but the best part is, unimpeded views are not hard to find.
Held every year along the Edogawa River, Katsushika's popular fireworks festival is known for the short distance between the action point (where around 13,000 rockets are shot up) and the spectator zone (where onlookers are allowed to sit). It also features the spectacular 'Niagara Falls' and 'Digital Star Mine' crackers, both supposedly representing the latest in pyrotechnics. On your way to the river, walk along the picturesque street starting from Shibamata's Taishakuten temple and you'll get a taste of what Edo must have been like in the summer of yore.
If fireworks at the beach are your thing, there's no better summer event than Hayama's annual hanabi festival. Around 1,200 fireworks are shot up from the Isshiki tide embankment, making for a small-scale but spectacular show as the colourful explosions reflect off the water. Consider heading there early to find a comfy spot on the sand and watch the fireworks rise from behind Mount Fuji while the last rays of the sun are still visible on the horizon.
Japan’s oldest fireworks festival dates back to 1733, where it was held in memory of the victims of a severe famine the previous year. It turned into an annual event in 1978 and is now Tokyo’s biggest hanabi event, with close to a million people oohhhing and ahhing over some 22,000 rockets lighting up the night sky.
It may not be the biggest of Tokyo's many fireworks displays, but Tachikawa's hanabi is certainly one of the more comfortable ones. Set on the spacious Showa Kinen Park and taking place for the 60th time this year, the festival always attracts massive crowds, so make sure to arrive early in order to reserve your viewing spot. The 2018 edition will see around 6,000 fireworks shot up during the hour-long show. If you've got cash to spare, consider booking a seat right underneath the action (¥4,000 for one, ¥6,000 for two, ¥40,000 for ten).
The Edogawa Fireworks Festival deploys over 13,000 rockets, with different themes every few minutes. This is Tokyo’s most eastern hanabi, but don’t be late: the show starts in style with 1,000 sparkling rockets shot up at once within the first five seconds, marking a breathtaking start into a colourful performance.
First held in 1948 to mark the opening of Toei Bus service in the Ome region, this fireworks display is recommended for those who want to escape the crowds at Tokyo's big-name alternatives. The 'falling fire' effect caused by some of the explosions is impressive (and loud!), but the real highlight is when nearby Nagayama Hill is lit up by the massive fountain of bursting colours set up along the hill's hiking trail.
Taking advantage of a serendipitous schedule clash, Itabashi's annual fireworks display takes place at the same time as the one in Toda City (Saitama prefecture), just across the Arakawa River. You can expect a combined 12,000 fireworks to go up in the course of the evening, including an enormous ‘star mine’ and the spectacular ‘Niagara Falls’, a 700-metre chain of explosions that always draws the biggest cheers of the night.
Fireworks festivals are a Japanese summer tradition, so it's no surprise that the shopping and entertainment district of Odaiba has decided to light up the sky at the beginning of August. Four of Japan’s leading pyrotechnics companies will each create a colourful segment which will see a total of 12,000 fireworks shot into the sky – and the event will end with a bang (well, several hundred bangs) when the quartet of companies collaborate to produce an explosive finale.
Yukata-clad spectators crowd the streets of Harajuku and Aoyama during the annual Jingu Gaien Fireworks, a display that ranks alongside the Sumida River Fireworks as one of Tokyo's top summer festivals. The cluster of sports stadiums to the south of Sendagaya Station offer the best vantage points, albeit at a significant premium: expect to pay between ¥3,500 and ¥7,500 for admission into each of them, which features a program of J-pop performances in the run-up to the fireworks themselves. Alternatively, just wander around the surrounding area until you find somewhere you can see the action for free.
Northern Tokyo’s hanabi kicks off the autumn season with 7,777 fireworks colouring the clear autumn sky. Since it takes place behind the old Iwabuchi sluice gate, get your cameras ready for a magnificent shot where the vibrant explosions in the sky bring out the bright red hues of the antique dam.
Chofu celebrates its connection to the movie industry in an explosive way. As several film scenes have been shot on the banks of the Tamagawa, and Chofu is home to multiple film studios and companies, the festival is dubbed 'City of Cinema: Chofu Autumn Fireworks'. Around 10,000 rockets will be launched over the river, choreographed to popular film scores.