Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sumidagawa Hanabi 2015 (Sumida River Fireworks)

Kris and I were invited to attend the Sumida River Fireworks Festival this year!  We received two tickets from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to watch one of the best fireworks shows in all of Japan!  The Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival dates back to the early 1700's when it was a fierce competition between two rivals.  Today, the show has around 20,000 fireworks in an hour-long show, with 12 companies competing for best in show.  

We met the rest of our group at Honjo-azumabashi Station a little before 6 pm and made our way through the streets of Asakusa to Koume Elementary School's rooftop viewing area.  

Since we got on the train so far out of Tokyo, we were lucky enough to have seats as the train slowly filled with festival-goers.  I'm glad we could watch the shoving and smooshing from a safe distance on the train car!  We made it to our station and everyone started filing out of the train...wowza! Look at the people!!  That's just the line to get OUT of the station!  It took us a bit just to get above ground.  

On our way through the HOT streets of Asakusa we passed tarp after tarp after tarp, all reserved for the evening's show.  Many people arrive in the morning (7 or more hours before the first fireworks are even shot into the sky).  To "reserve" your spot, you just lay out your tarp.  You can even lay out your tarp and then take off to explore the city a bit...no one will mess with your stuff while you're gone.  There were several spots that even had little wooden tables set up so everyone could sit around the table to eat!

We made it to Koume Elementary School around 630 and made our way to the roof.  Once on the roof, we found our table and chatted with our hosts and hostesses for the evening.

For dinner we were given an amazing bento box with food from all over Japan, water, tea, wine and beer.

Our Japanese hosts thought it was quite funny that I would take a picture of the food...I've never seen a bento box like this before!  It was yummy!  I think I ate almost everything, I skipped the egg and noodles.  I also ended up skipping the sweet potato, even though it's one of my favorites, because I couldn't politely pick it up and eat it...if I was home I would have used my fingers.  :)

Top row:  Boiled clams and Nori from Tokyo; Octopus Dumplings from Osaka; Sesame rice from Nagano; Fried oyster from Hiroshima

Middle row:  red beet, chicken dumpling, fish paste from Irate, Miyagi, Yamagata; rice with fish flakes from Kyoto; egg, flounder roe from Fukuoka; buckwheat rice and pickled ginger from Kobe

Bottom row:  Salmon roe rice from Hokkaido; Shrimp and broccoli from Yokohama; tonkatsu from Nagoya; sweet potato from Saitama

After a quick speech from the President of the Fireworks Committee, we waited for the show to begin.

I love taking pictures of Sky Tree!!!  
Especially with pretty pink clouds and lovely blue sky in the background.

Let the show begin!  Right off the bat...1,495 fireworks in less than ten minutes!!  This is over an hour long show, folks!  The program shows 22 separate demonstrations in 1 hour 20 minutes.  Each demonstration has a different theme...The beginning with Thunder, Gallant Fireworks, After the Rain, The Kaleidoscope Like a Jewel on the River, Finding Mushrooms on the Sumida River, The Rain of Cherry Blossoms, The Drunkard in Summer, Pocket Monsters, The Space Shuttle, Many Flowers of Edo, etc.  All-in-all, over 20,000 fireworks were set off during the show!  12 different companies had the chance to set off 20 fireworks each in the competition.

Here's a quick clip of one minute out of the 85 minute show.

Pocket Monsters

The Space Satellite

It's hard to see in this shot, but on the other side of the big buildings in the distance is a second fireworks show.  There are two venues for fireworks (trying to keep with the history of the fireworks where two feuding clans would set off their own shows and the crowds would chant their favorite clan name to show who won).  We didn't have a good view of Venue 2's show.  The competition was only at Venue 1, so we had upfront seats for that one!  Also, that's the MetLife blimp brightly lit to the right.

Once the show was finished, we made our way to Oshiage Station....Wow!  The people!  There were sooooooooooooo many people walking up and down the streets, queued in line for train stations and train cars.  It was crazy!  There were roughly 1,000,000 people in attendance.  We saw many girls dressed in beautiful yukatas (summer kimono).

I told you...I love to take pictures of Sky Tree!  Here's a closer shot.  I think this is the first time we've seen it from this side.  

As we got closer I just happened to notice it turned rainbow colors!!  So, I've seen it in blue, green, red, purple, and now rainbow!

Our group made it onto a crowded train and headed toward home.  After a quick change at Shinagawa we found seats and got to sit for the last 35 minutes or so of the ride.

Wow!  What an experience!!  Even though it was insanely hot when we arrived (over 90F/33C with stupid-thick humidity) we guzzled water and drank cold beer (maybe it was drank water and guzzled beer, I can't remember) and used whatever paper was available to fan ourselves.  Occasionally, a nice breeze would kick up and fan us naturally.  As soon as the sun was close to the horizon the unbearable heat subsided to become just a warm summer evening.

I can't seem to find any information on who won the fireworks competition.  Someone said it was contestant number 9.  Well, I don't know if that means #9 on the schedule (The Japanese Fireworks Viewing Banquet) or the 9th competitor to show (The Drunkard in Summer~yes, I sang that as if I was Olaf).  Either way, my favorite was The Kaleidoscope, it was definitely like looking through one of those tubes I always had plastered to my eyes as a kid.

If you are in Japan next summer, please don't be afraid of the crowds and chose not to go.  There are many places to stand and watch, even if you make it there last minute.  You don't have to reserve a spot to watch.  They set off several test shots a full hour before the show began, so if you arrive a little early you can wait for a test shot and then figure out where to sit.