Summer in Japan is incomplete without a spectacle of fireworks! East Japan, where major cities like Tokyo, Sendai, Nagano, and Yokohama are located, is home to many exciting displays of fireworks, many of which have been held and celebrated for decades (if not, centuries!). Thinking of checking out some of East Japan’s hottest fireworks displays this summer (July–August)? Here are five major fireworks festivals that you simply should not miss out on.
1. Sumida River Fireworks Festival
Photo by Sumida City Tourism Association
When: Last Saturday of July, annually (29 July 2023, 7pm–8:30pm)
Where: Sumida River, Taito Ward, Tokyo
Held in Tokyo, the Sumida River Fireworks Festival (隅田川花火大会 Sumidagawa Hanabi Taikai) is one of the most famous and oldest fireworks festivals in Japan. Taking place along the Sumida River between the iconic Tokyo SkyTree and Sensoji Temple, this festival was originally known as the Ryogoku River Opening Ceremony in 1733 which was held in memory of the lives lost during a tragic famine which hit the area the year before. Revived in 1978 as the Sumida River Fireworks Festival, the festival is Tokyo’s most highly-anticipated summer fireworks festival.
This year, the festival took place on 29 July–4 years since its last appearance in 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 20,000 fireworks were set off into the skies from two launch sites (near Umaya Bridge and Sakurabashi Bridge respectively) for about 90 minutes, wowing the millions of crowds who come from all over Japan and even the world.
2. The Nagaoka Festival Grand Fireworks Show
Photo by Niigata Prefectural Tourist Association
When: 2–3 August, annually (Around 7:20pm–9:10pm)
Where: Shinano River, Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture
Taking place along the Shinano River in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture, the Nagaoka Festival Grand Fireworks Show or the Nagaoka Fireworks Festival (長岡まつり大花火大会 Nagaoka Matsuri Ōhanabi Taikai) is renowned for its massive fireworks display, which lasts for two nights. The fireworks show is actually the highlight of the 3-day Nagaoka Festival that takes place every year on 1–3 August, which commemorates the reconstruction of the city after World War II since 1946 as well as the more recent earthquake in 2004.
Known as one of Japan’s big three fireworks festivals, the Nagaoka Fireworks Festival showcases a total of 20,000 fireworks of various elaborate designs, including the “Sho-sanjyakudama” and “Niagara Fall”, and the crowd favourite "Phoenix Fireworks: Wishing for Recovery".
3. Sendai Tanabata Fireworks Festival
Photo by Sendai City Tourism Section
When: 5 August, annually (7:30pm–8:30pm)
Where: Hirose River, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture
The Sendai Tanabata Fireworks Festival (仙台七夕花火祭 Sendai Tanabata Hanabi Matsuri) is held on the 5 August every year on the evening before the anticipated Sendai Tanabata Festival–Japan's most famous Tanabata festival (Star Festival).
Enjoy the city's Tanabata decorations of large streamers and bamboo poles during the day, and then the spectacular fireworks at night. Approximately 16,000 fireworks are set off from the shores of Hirose River which flows through central Sendai.
4. Omagari Fireworks Festival
Photo by 一般社団法人東北観光推進機構
When: Annually, Last Saturday of August (26 August 2023, 6:50pm–8:30pm)
Where: Daisen City, Akita Prefecture
One of Japan's biggest fireworks festivals with more than 700,000 spectators, the Omagari Fireworks Festival (大曲花火大会 Ōmagari Hanabi Taikai) doubles as Japan's National Firework Competition (全国花火競技大会). As the biggest fireworks event in the region, the overall winner of the competition receives the prestigious Prime Minister’s Award, which is only given at two of Japan’s biggest fireworks competitions; this one, and at the Tsuchiura Fireworks Festival held in Ibaraki every November.
Held on the last Saturday of every August since 1910, expect Japan's best fireworks teams competing to put on the most magnificent and innovative of displays!
5. Shakado River Fireworks Festival
Photo by 「福が満開、福のしま。」福島県観光復興推進委員会
When: Annually, Last Saturday of August (7pm–8:30pm)
Where: Shakado River, Sukagawa Town, Fukushima Prefecture
The Shakado River Fireworks Festival (釈迦堂川花火大会 Shakadōgawa Hanabi Taikai) is also another fireworks festival that is making its comeback after 4 years since COVID-19. The reflection of the vivid colours on the surface of the Shakado River creates a stunning sight that never fails to draw large crowds annually every late August.
As the largest fireworks festival of the prefecture, 300,000 people from Fukushima and around Japan would gather for this exciting event. The 90-minute long show has a competition segment, as well as a performance segment which combines fireworks and music to create an impressive spectacle.
Summer Hanabi Box by JAPAN RAIL CLUB
With countless fireworks festivals taking place all around Japan during the summer months of July to August, it is never too early to start planning for your next trip!
In the meantime, why not check out JAPAN RAIL CLUB’s August Omiyage Box? Themed “Summer Hanabi”, it features a range of flavourful snacks that will remind you of the exciting fireworks festivals happening this summer. Check it out today!