こんにちは！ Last night Katie and I went to see Tatebayashi’s tezutsu hanabi, or hand-held fireworks. It’s an annual event held every July in a large empty field right next to Tatebayashi City Hall. I was especially happy to make it, because Paul and I have missed it every summer we’ve been here – we hear about it when the finale goes off, and by then it’s too late! I kept a close eye on Tatebayashi’s event calendar this year, though, and made sure to go this time around.
It ran from 7:30 to 8:30, and we arrived just ten minutes before it began, a little nervous because we weren’t sure how crowded it would be. There was a large area with a tarp laid out for seated spectators, and then surrounding the tarp was everybody else, standing. We managed to luck out! We edged in next to a tall news tripod and settled ourselves in front of it, beneath the camera, right at the front of the standing crowd. It was a good spot!
The show started with star-mine fireworks. You can see the size of the crowd!
After a gorgeous display, they marched out the tezutsu fireworks:
It’s believed that these fireworks were invented around 400 years ago as means of communication in battle and between castles; as technology improved it became a form of entertainment at festivals. The tradition originated in the old Mikawa region (now the Aichi Prefecture, located on the east coast halfway between Tokyo and Osaka), and is most famous in the city of Toyohashi, Aichi. It came to Tatebayashi through the Sakakibara clan, the ruling family of Tatebayashi, and it is because of this connection that Tatebayashi has tezutsu fireworks; otherwise, it is very rare in this region!
They were incredible to see! First, the firework-men would step forward with their own hand-made firework accompanied by a match-man. The match-man would swing the light over his head one, two, three times, then light the fireworks and toss the match aside. The fire would sputter to life and grow in strength until it shot up to ten meters in the air! The crowd chanted “Wasshoi!” (“Heave-ho!”) until the fireworks ran their course and ended in a spectacular explosion.
Those men were incredibly brave!
The fireworks cartridges are hollowed-out bamboo tubes wrapped in rice straw and measure roughly 80 cm tall and 15 cm wide (31 in. tall, 6 in. wide). They’re filled with 1.5 to 3 kg of gunpowder (3 to 6.5 lbs).
It was amazing! I especially loved catching the fireworks as they exploded and faded away into the darkness. It sometimes looked as though the men were standing on the lip of an erupting volcano.
If you ever come to Japan in the summer, make sure to see if there will be any tezutsu firework displays near you!
Until next time! またね！
Must-See Japan: Tatebayashi Tezutsu Firework Display
Japan Times: Aichi Prefecture is Firing on All Cylinders
Japan Travel: Toyohashi’s Tezutsu Hanabi