Japan’s most traditional fireworks festival which has been preserved by true-born Tokyoites “Edokko.”
Sumida River Fireworks Festival is held on the last Saturday of July, which is July 25 this year. A total of about 20,000 fireworks will be launched from two sites along the Sumidagawa River near Asakusa in Tokyo. Every year, nearly one million people come to watch one of the three major fireworks festivals in Tokyo.
It is Japan’s oldest fireworks festival on record. Its history dates back to 1733 when a ceremony was held at the river to mourn for the people who died of famine and cholera in the previous year. As a part of the ceremony, the Tokugawa Shogunate decided to carry out a fireworks display to console the spirits of the dead and drive away the illness.
In the early years of the festival originally called “Ryogoku Kawabiraki,” the two fireworks makers Kagiya and Tamaya were engaged in fierce competition to get applause from Tokyoites. The rivalry contributed to the development of the fireworks craftsmanship. At some point, the spectators began to shout out the names of their favorite pyrotechnicians. This has led to the national custom of calling out “Tamaya!” “Kagiya!” when dazzling fireworks color the evening sky.
The fireworks festival was suspended from 1961 to 1977 because of transportation problems, river pollution and other issues. In 1978, it was revived under the current name Sumida River Fireworks Festival.
Recently, the landscape of the traditional festival has become somewhat modern with the erection of the world’s tallest free-standing broadcasting tower in the neighborhood. From its opening in 2012, TOKYO SKYTREE offers the best viewing spots for the display. The tickets to its observation decks on the night are available to only 945 people.
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