Fireworks festivals in Japan may have a strong image as 'summer exclusive' events, but did you know that many firework festivals are actually held in seasons other than summer? In addition, there are various "Japan's No. 1" fireworks festivals all over the country, such as the large-scale ones that are known as "Japan's Top Three Fireworks Festivals", the one with the longest history, and the one with the largest number of fireworks. Read this article to find out which fireworks display you want to visit on your next trip to Japan!
*This article was written based on information from the time of each fireworks festival held each year, or from the most recent event.
*The event may be canceled or postponed due to weather. Please check the official website for the latest information.
*The images are from past events.
What are "Japan's Top Three Fireworks Festivals"?
If you want to enjoy fireworks in Japan, we recommend the big name "Japan's Top Three Fireworks Festivals" which are the largest three fireworks festivals in Japan.
Due to each event's long history and its large scale, the “National Fireworks Competition 'Omagari Hanabi'” in Daisen City, Akita Prefecture, the “Tsuchiura All Japan Fireworks Competition” in Tsuchiura City, Ibaraki Prefecture, and the “Nagaoka Festival Grand Fireworks Show” in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture, are now generally called the "Japan's Top Three Fireworks Festivals". Being one of the "Sandai" (三大 - 'the big three' or 'the top three') fireworks festivals, each of them guarantees power and realism that cannot be expressed well enough with just words.
Japan's Top Three Fireworks Festivals ①:【Akita Prefecture】National Fireworks Competition "Omagari Hanabi"
The "National Fireworks Competition 'Omagari Hanabi'" (全国花火競技大会「大曲の花火」) in Omagari City, Akita Prefecture, has a long history since 1910. It is held in the form of a competition in which pyrotechnicians from all over the country compete for prestigious awards such as the Prime Minister's Award and the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology's Award. The aim is to bring together top-notch pyrotechnicians from all over the country in one place and reward them accordingly, so you can expect some the cutting-edge technology and the latest trend fireworks, not to mention top-class quality fireworks.
This competition, which is considered to be the most prestigious in both history and tradition, consists of two divisions, the "daytime fireworks division" and the "nighttime fireworks division". Daytime fireworks are fireworks aimed at enjoying the color of smoke and the impact of sound, rather than enjoying the "light" of nighttime fireworks. It is said that Omagari is the only place in Japan that still continues such daytime fireworks competition.
In the "daytime fireworks division", colored smoke such as red, yellow, blue, green, and purple draws patterns in the sky, while in the "nighttime fireworks division", the "fireworks provided by the convention", wide-scale star mine fireworks (continuous and simultaneous multiple fireworks) with a width of 500m are launched for about 5 minutes. The sight of about 1,500 fireworks being launched from 10 locations in time with the music is simply a masterpiece!
The Omagari Hanabi is famous as one of Japan's national summer fireworks competitions, but the "Omagari Hanabi -Spring Chapter-" and "Omagari Fireworks -Autumn Chapter-" which have different themes for each season are also not to be missed. Also, according to a company that manufactures and sells fireworks in Omagari, fireworks are often set off at shrine festivals and school events as well - this is indeed a "city where fireworks go up all year round!".
National Fireworks Competition "Omagari Hanabi"
- Venue: Omonogawa Kasen Ryokuchi Athletic Park (Omagari Hanabi Park), Funaba-cho, Daisen City, Akita Prefecture
- Date: Last Saturday of August every year
- Time: Daytime fireworks from 17:15 / Nighttime fireworks from 18:50
- Access: About 30 minutes on foot from JR Omagari Station
- Official site: https://www.oomagari-hanabi.com/
Japan's Top Three Fireworks Festivals ②:【Niigata Prefecture】Nagaoka Festival Grand Fireworks Show
The "Nagaoka Festival Grand Fireworks Show" (長岡まつり大花火大会) in Niigata Prefecture, which began in 1879, is the longest-running fireworks display among the "Japan's Top Three Fireworks Festivals". As part of the Nagaoka Festival, it is held on the Shinano River, Japan's longest river, and is visited by more than one million people over two days in August every year. The reason for its popularity is the splendor of the fireworks. The "Sho-sanjakudama" firework (正三尺玉), which becomes a flower of light with a diameter of 650m in the sky, and the "Phoenix Fireworks Wishing for Complete Recovery" (復興祈願花火フェニックス), which has a width of about 2km, are all too enormous to be captured as photos on a smartphone.
In addition, the 650-meter-long “Niagara Fall”, a large waterfall type of fireworks set on Chosei Bridge and Ote Ohashi Bridge, is a must-see feature of the “Nagaoka Festival Grand Fireworks Show”!
Approximately 20,000 fireworks are set off over two days - Once you see them with your very own eyes, it will burn in your memory for a lifetime!
Nagaoka Festival Grand Fireworks Show
- Venue: Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture, around the Shinano River riverbed, downstream of Chosei Bridge
- Date: August 2nd to 3rd every year
- Time: Around 19:20-21:10
- Access: About 30 minutes on foot from JR Nagaoka Station
- Official site: https://nagaokamatsuri.com/en/
Japan's Top Three Fireworks Festivals ③:【Ibaraki Prefecture】Tsuchiura All Japan Fireworks Competition
One of the few autumn fireworks festivals in Japan held in Tsuchiura City, Ibaraki Prefecture. You can enjoy about 20,000 artistic fireworks presented by first-class fireworks craftsmen, combining competitive fireworks by fireworks vendors nationwide and entertainment fireworks provided by the event. The fireworks competition is held over two hours in three divisions: "Starmines", "Size 10 Shells" and "Original Displays". In particular, the size 10 shells (10号玉 - also called Shaku-dama), which rise to 330 meters above the sky and bloom with a diameter of about 300 meters, are very incredible. The sight of the fireworks shining brilliantly in the autumn night sky is truly a masterpiece!
As it is the only one of Japan's Top Three Fireworks Festivals to be held in the Kanto region, it is easily accessible from the metropolitan area centering on Tokyo, attracting about 800,000 visitors every year. Early November is also the time when autumn leaves in the prefecture reach their peak, so why not take a short trip that combines fireworks viewing and autumn leaves viewing together?
Tsuchiura All Japan Fireworks Competition
- Venue: Tsuchiura City, Ibaraki Prefecture, near the Gakuen Bridge along the Sakura River
- Date: First Saturday of November every year
- Time: Around 17:30-20:00
- Access: About 10 minutes by shuttle bus or about 30 minutes on foot from JR Tsuchiura Station
- Official site: https://www.tsuchiura-hanabi.jp/
There are also fireworks festivals with "Japan's No. 1"!
For fireworks fans who aren't satisfied with just the "Japan's Top Three Fireworks Festivals" introduced so far, we will also share the various recommended fireworks festivals that are honored as "Japan's No. 1". If you knew every festival below, you would be a Japan guru too!? All of them are big events that the editorial department wants to recommend with confidence!
【Tokyo】Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival: Fireworks Festival with the Longest History in Japan
The oldest fireworks festival in Japan, which began in 1733 during the Edo period, the "Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival" (隅田川花火大会 *up until 1961, it was held under the name "両国の川開き" / "Ryogoku no Kawabiraki"). At first, the 8th shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune set off fireworks along the Sumida River as part of the Suijin Festival, but it is now a summer tradition that everyone in Japan knows. The launch venue is divided into two locations, the 1st venue and the 2nd venue, and a total of about 20,000 fireworks will be launched. At the 1st venue, a fireworks competition is held participated by 10 companies that have achieved excellent results in representative fireworks festivals in Japan, while at the 2nd venue, the highlights are the bright fireworks such as creative fireworks and star mines, plus the continuous shooting of fireworks.
This is a major summer event that attracts more than 900,000 spectators every year. On the day of the fireworks display, the Asakusa area is bustling with fireworks fans wearing yukata. If you want to avoid the crowds as much as possible, it is recommended that you view from a little further away, such as nearby hotels, parks, restaurants, houseboats, etc., rather than near the special venue along the Sumida River. Go and capture the fireworks blooming against the background of Tokyo Skytree and downtown with your smartphone!
Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival
- [1st venue] Downstream of Sakura Bridge to upstream of Kototoi Bridge, Taito City, Tokyo
- [2nd venue] Downstream of Komagata Bridge to Upstream of Umaya Bridge, Taito City, Tokyo
- Date: Last Saturday of July every year
- [1st venue] Around 19:00-20:30
- [2nd venue] Around 19:30-20:30
- [1st venue] About 15 minutes on foot from Asakusa Station
- [2nd venue] About 5 minutes on foot from Asakusa Station
- Official site: https://www.sumidagawa-hanabi.com/
【Nagano Prefecture】Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival: the Largest Number of Fireworks in Japan
Nagano Prefecture's "Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival" (諏訪湖祭湖上花火大会) is said to be the largest in Japan in terms of both the number and scale of fireworks. Speaking of Lake Suwa, it is famous for being said to be the model for Lake Itomori, which appears in animated movie "Your Name", but it is also a mecca for fireworks festivals. Its biggest feature is the number of launches - approximately 40,000 launches per day! Lake Suwa is surrounded by mountains on all sides, so the sound of the fireworks reverberating in the mountains is impressive!
*500 fireworks were launched in a distributed format every day from 20:30 to 20:40 between August 1st to 15th in 2022's event.
Another feature of the "Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival" is that you can enjoy the fireworks reflected on the surface of the lake. Water Surface Star Mines (rapid fire fireworks) unique to the Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival are rare fireworks that create a semicircle with a diameter of 300m on the surface of Lake Suwa. In addition, there is also a production that boasts an overwhelming sense of scale, such as the 2km-long Niagara Fall fireworks. The fantastic sight created by the fireworks dancing in the night sky and the fireworks reflected on the surface of the lake is impressive! It is no exaggeration to say that this is "a fireworks display where you can enjoy fireworks twice as much".
Lake Suwa Fireworks Festival
- Venue: Suwa City, Nagano Prefecture, Suwa City Lakeside Park (Kohan Park), Suwa Lake
- Date: August 15th every year
- Time: Around 19:00-20:45
- Access: Approximately 10 minutes on foot from JR Kamisuwa Station
- Official site: https://suwako-hanabi.com/kojyou/
【Hokkaido Prefecture】Lake Toyako Long Run Fireworks Display: Japan's Longest Fireworks Festival
While many fireworks festivals are held in one day, the fireworks festival held in Lake Toya, Hokkaido Prefecture, is a long-run event that lasts about half a year. Its name is "Lake Toyako Long Run Fireworks Display" (洞爺湖ロングラン花火大会).
Every year from the end of April to the end of October, over 400 fireworks are set off for 20 minutes every night. It is said that the fireworks can be seen anywhere in the lakeside hot spring town because of the mobile style that the firework boats move as they launch fireworks. Either soak your feet in the footbath, ride on a pleasure boat, or soak in the baths and large public baths of the inn - you can spend your time from your own special seat of your choice.
Being able to see fireworks every night is more than happy enough, but at this event you can enjoy both the fireworks and underwater fireworks. Plus, the "Urahanabi Cruise" where you can see the fireworks from the backside during the festival season will surely make your trip more special. Along with visiting the hot springs of Lake Toya, let the relaxation from the sight of fireworks spread to every corner of your body as well.
Lake Toyako Long Run Fireworks Display
- Venue: Lake Toya hot spring lakeside, Toyako Town, Abuta District, Hokkaido
- Date: Usually from the end of April to the end of October
- Time: Around 20:45-21:05
- Access: About 20 minutes by Donan Bus from JR Toya Station
- Official site: https://www.laketoya.com/ (Toyako Onsen Tourism Association)