Fireworks are displayed at Shinoda Shrine on May 4 every year for the shrine’s annual festival. This tradition dates back to the Edo period, when villagers made fireworks using potassium nitrate and dedicated the fireworks display to the deity in token of their gratitude for rain.
The fireworks displayed here are the Japanese traditional gimmick fireworks. Sulfur, potassium nitrate and paulownia ashes are mixed together and applied onto the patterns drawn on the cedar board, which is 15 m tall and 25 m wide. It takes more than 1 month to make these fireworks. The patterns are selected from the topics of the year.
At 7:00 P.M., when the Japanese drums are powerfully beaten, the people carrying a large torch come into the shrine precinct and set it up on the ground. At the moment the fireworks are lit at 9:00 P.M., the precinct is covered with smoke and blaze. Small fireworks are shot up in rapid succession with explosive sounds, while swirling fireworks beautifully illuminate the precinct. When they are burned down, fantastic picture fireworks come up among vanishing smoke.
Shinoda Fireworks Festival, Sagicho Festival and Hachiman Festival are generically called the Fire Festival at Omi Hachiman Shrine, which is selected as a national Important Intangible Cultural Property.
The origin of the handmade fireworks of Seinaiji Village in Nagano Prefecture goes back to the middle of the Edo period, when a villager who had gone to peddle the local product, leaf tobacco, brought back a secret recipe for firework production from the Mikawa district (present-day Aichi Prefecture).
The handmade fireworks were set off to celebrate the completion of the shrine building of Suwa Shrine in 1731. Since then fireworks have been displayed in dedication to the shrine for more than 270 years. Presently, the displays of handmade fireworks are dedicated to Kami-Seinaiji Suwa Shrine on October 6 and to Shimo-Seinaiji Suwa Shrine on October 8 every year.
Today, there are more than 50 fireworks manufacturers who have obtained necessary licenses in the village. They begin to produce many different kinds of fireworks including traditional tube-typed fireworks as well as innovative ones more than one month before the festivals. It is famous that their handmade fireworks were displayed at the closing ceremony of the Nagano Winter Olympic Games in 1998.
The firework that colors the night of a summer is made using gunpowder and metal powder. The various metal powders are mixed in to produce color.
Evidence of the use of firecrackers have been found in China that date back to about the 3rd century BC. During the 6th century, firecrackers evolved with the use of gunpowder. In the beginning, they were like rocket fireworks and were not used as official weaponry.
Fireworks were first manufactured in Japan in the 16th century after the introduction of guns. According to the 'Kyu-chu Hisaku', it is recorded that Tokugawa Ieyasu viewed fireworks in 1613 within the premises of Edo castle. This is also the oldest record of the Japanese word for firework: 'hanabi'.
Mikawa Fireworks are a traditional industry of Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture. Fireworks first began to be made when gunpowder became openly available during the Edo period. The making of firearms developed here in Okazaki and soon evolved into the production of fireworks.
The first fireworks entered Japan when the King of England presented them as a gift to the Shogun in Edo during the 1600s. On the night of August 6th, 1613, Hidetada, the second Shogun of Edo, set off the fireworks to welcome guests. Soon after, many fireworks were made and displayed, but much time was still needed to perfect the methods and skills of its production. Due to the many injuries caused by fireworks, they were once banned by the government.
Some of the most famous Mikawa Fireworks are the sea-based displays and the goldfish fireworks. The first fireworks display to take place in Mikawa was part of a festival held in 1948. The Okazaki Fireworks Display, as it is now known, is still held annually today.
Tezutsu ('hand-tube') hanabi are fireworks consisting of a large bamboo cylinder that is held in the hands and fired. Smokeless black gunpowder fires out from the top of the tube opening. The main tube of the firework is hollowed out from a green bamboo about 10cm in diameter and 70~80cm long. Hemp rope is twined around it.
The origin of tezutsu hanabi is believed to be the 'noroshi', which was a form of communication by beacons in the Civil War period. With the introduction of black gunpowder and the gun, noroshi improved greatly. In 1700 (Ganroku 13), was being described as the 'giant noroshi'. It is considered that 'noroshi' had developed well enough by that time, to be appreciated more as a firework, than as smoke communication. Later, tezutsu hanabi were used as a form of prayer at festivals for bumper crops.
The gigantic column of flame shooting out from the tezutsu hanabi is vigorous, mesmerizing the viewer with its thrilling sound and light like an Ukiyo-e print.
This Iga-style Ninja Museum is located in Ueno, Iga City, Mie prefecture. Ninja is a kind of samurai warrior who engaged in espionage activities. Ninja House in the museum originally belonged to the local ruling family in Iga and was renovated and moved.
In Iga, people manufactured secret elixirs using medicinal herbs there, or they dispensed gunpowder. Thieves often broke in to steal the scrolls with the secrets of their production methods.
To deter intruders, many tricks were set up everywhere in the house so that it took longer for thieves to find the scrolls or escape. These tricks explain why the house is called Ninja House. The appearance of the house is like a typical thatched farmer's dwelling.
A visit to the house these days, includes demonstrations by Ninja actors who show the house's secret devices, like fake walls, trick doors and hiding places. Visitors to Iga Ninja House can experience the atmosphere of a former warlike period.