At the beginning of summer, between July and August, people can enjoy Hanabi Taikai [Fireworks Festivals] in cities across Japan. The festival is always anxiously awaited by Japanese people and has also become a major tourist attraction in the country.
The word hanabi [fireworks] is derived from hana [flowers] and bi [fire]. The tradition of setting off fireworks in Japan began around 1613. The festival was first held in an organized manner by Shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune along Tokyo’s Sumidagawa River in 1733.
Initially, Hanabi Taikai was a ritual to pray for the departed spirits of people who died from hunger and cholera. Around 900,000 people died from such suffering in the area. It was hoped that the fireworks would calm the spirits.
The festivals usually take place on the edges of lakes or in coastal areas. Spectators at Hanabi Taikai are usually divided into two groups — those with tickets can sit on chairs provided by festival organizing committees near the location where fireworks are set off, while other visitors can enjoy the festival for free from outside the location. [ebf]