Lantern floating (Toronagashi) is a yearly Japanese ritual which takes place all over the country in August. In this ritual, people float lanterns and offerings onto the water to commemorate the souls of loved ones and ancestors.
More than 2,000 lanterns are floated onto the Otakine River running through the downtown area of Funabiki-cho, Tamura City in Fukushima Prefecture. It started in 1949 as a ritual of the Bon season to commemorate the victims of World War II. Since then it became the custom of the town and together with the fireworks display, which started in 1955, it is now the town’s typical summer event.
The lantern contest is held to choose the most beautiful lantern among the ones made by many teams of the town. The syle changes with the times, but lanterns carry away people’s continuing prayers for the souls of the deseased under the brilliant displays of the fireworks.
Matsushima Lantern Float Festival Fireworks Display is held on August 17 every year along the coastline of Matsushima Bay including Matsushima Coast. The Lantern Float Festival was first held about 700 years ago as the Buddhist ritual. The priests at Zuiganji Temple, which was the largest Zen temple in the Tohoku district at the time, floated the lanterns onto the sea and read mantra to send off the spirits of the ancestors. Today, a lot of citizens float the lanterns onto the sea praying for their ancestors’ souls from their heart.
Over the light of numerous lanterns floating on the sea, about 8,000 fireworks are shot up into the dark sky. The gorgeous displays of Starmine and a 30 cm diameter ball along with the flames of the lanterns create fantastic scenery. Matsushima Bay is famous for its scenic beauty, but on this specific night, a lot of people come to visit this area to see another gorgeous scene of Matsushima Bay.
Numazu Summer Festival held around the last weekend of July every year is the biggest summer festival in Numazu City, Shizuoka Prefecture. A lot of attractive events including the grand parade of Numazu Shiki-saisai Dance, the competitive performances of Shagiri music, the Japanese drum performance and the Mikoshi parade are held during the day.
Each day ends with a gorgeous fireworks display held over the Kano River. Kano River Fireworks Display, which started during the post-war restoration period, is now the biggest fireworks display held in an urban area in the Tokai district. The riverside is bustled with spectators to enjoy this charming sight of the summer. 9,000 fireworks in total are shot up into the night sky during the two-day festival period. The finale of the festival is decorated with the 470 meter long Niagara Falls.
Aomori Fireworks Display culminates the last day of Aomori Nebuta Festival, one of the three most magnificent festivals in the Tohoku region. In Nebuta Festival, a gigantic lantern floats called “Nebuta” illustrated with historic figures and pictures of samurai warriors in Kabuki dramas parade through the city to the music of ohayashi, accompanied by the Haneto dancers.
On the last day of the festival, the five Nebuta floats, which are awarded the prizes given to excellent floats, are placed on boats and go slowly through the sea in Aomori Bay. Then thousands of fireworks are continuously shot up to illuminate the colorful Nebuta floats. The combined beauty of colors and lights emitted from Nebuta floats and fireworks makes the spectators forget about the footsteps of approaching autumn. People are reminded of the short summer of the north land by the fantastic spectacles created by 9,000 fireworks and the Nebuta lanterns.
Ichikawa-Daimon in Ichikawa-Misato Town, Yamanashi Prefecture is one of the major firework manufacturing places in Japan. Together with the fireworks displayed in Yoshida Town (the present-day Toyohashi City, Aichi Prefecture) and Mito City in Ibaraki Prefecture, the fireworks of Shinmei was said to be one of the three distinctive fireworks of the country during the Edo period (1603-1868).
The fireworks were originally being displayed at the festival of Shinmeisha Shrine. Although the display was discontinued for a long time from the late Meiji to the Showa periods, it was revived in 1989 and has been held every year until now.
On the festival night, about 20,000 fireworks including Starmines, many kinds of gimmick fireworks and No. 4 balls are shot up and create magnificent and picturesque scenes in the sky. The most overwhelming is the 2-shaku dama fireworks, which are 60 am in diameter and create the illumination of 500 m in diameter in the sky. Along with the traditional ones, many other innovative fireworks are displayed by the participant manufactures of the firework contest.
As many as 200,000 visitors from near and far come to see this spectacular event. It seems the history and tradition handed down in the town of fireworks are condensed and “burst” at one go on the festival day.
The Lake Suwa Festival Fireworks Display held on August 15 every year is one of the major fireworks displays in Japan. It started in 1949 as the anniversary commemorating the end of World War II. The festival stars with silent prayer for the victims of the war at 7:00 PM. Then 42,000 fireworks are launched from the launching pads built on the lake including Hatsushima Islet.
The fireworks reflected on the surface of the lake are also wonderful. Highlights are Water Starmine with large semicircles bursting open one after another and the 2 km long Niagara Falls across the lake. Since Lake Suwa serves as basin form, the exploding sounds of fireworks echo with surrounding mountains, which creates overwhelming sound effect.
Nagano Prefecture is ranked first in production of fireworks in Japan, thereby a lot of pyrotechnists live in this prefecture and thus Lake Suwa fireworks are notable for their pyrotechnics.
One of the major highlights of summer in Miyajima is the Miyajima Water Fireworks Festival held on August 14 every year in the offing of Itsukushima Shrine in Hiroshima, one of Japan’s Three Finest Views. More than 100 water fireworks are shot up into the air from the fireworks boats offshore and burst with a bang.
It is famous as a unique fireworks display, and spectators enjoy this fantastic night view from more then 500 boats offshore. Itsukushima Shrine, a World Heritage Site, is famous for its Otorii (Grand Gate) standing in the Seto Inland Sea. A lot of photographers, both professionals and amateurs, are eager to take pictures of the vermillion torii gate and shrine buildings fantastically lit up in the night sky.
Matsuri Nobeoka Festival held since 1977 is the biggest summer event in the northern part of Miyazaki Prefecture. It is a citizen’s festival featuring the fireworks display, the Deai Mikoshi parade and the Banba So-odori dancing parade. Everything is planned and carried out by the executive committee organized by the citizens under the themes of “the warm heat,” “the love for homeland” and “the feeling of thankfulness.”
The members of the committee attend the necessary workshops, set the shooting ground and shoot up 10,000 fireworks by themselves with the aid of pyrotechnists.
In the Deai Mikoshi parade, large mikoshi (portable shrines) are dynamically waggled and lifted up and down. The largest mikoshi named “Sanbyakkan Mikoshi” weighs more than 1 ton.
The Banba Odori dance is a traditional performing art handed down in this area since the Edo period (1603-1868). In the Banba So-odori parade, more than 5,000 citizens including Mayor participate and dance in a huge circle. In the recent years, the new styles of Banba dances such as “New Banba,” “New New Banba” in the Okinawan Eisa style and “Samba Banba” are also popular among young citizens.