Summer is the traditional time for fireworks in Japan. Here, they are called Hanabi (花火), fire flowers. If that is not an amazing name, I don’t know what else is. People come together at the rivers, dressed in beautiful traditional Yukata (light Kimonos for hot summer days), bring their own picnic or buy stuff from the food stalls, meet their friends, have a good time, get drunk, and watch the fireworks.
I had missed all the famous fireworks so far and was bummed out about it. When the big one happened in Kyoto, I was in Tokyo. And you guessed it, when the big Sumida Hanabi happened in Tokyo, I was in Kyoto. So I was pretty excited when a friend of mine mentioned that on that day there would be a Hanabi in Osaka, the Naniwa Hanabi at the Yodogawa River. We thought that it would be an amazing idea to go spontaneously, met two hours later and took the train to Osaka.
We arrived in Osaka at a local train station and let ourselves flow with the crowds towards the river. I read on Wikipedia that typically about five hundred thousand people show up. People were excited, meeting up with friends, presenting their outfits to each other, and just looking forward to the evening to come. We got some snacks at a supermarket because we both hadn’t known that the riverside would be lined with stalls, and felt pretty stupid about that when we arrived there. But we didn’t let that deter from our fun. We had arrived far too early and the sun was only beginning to set. Still, that allowed us to get a good spot with a splendid view.
We tucked into our picnic and enjoyed the last rays of sun. Then, the insects came out. Thumb-sized bugs, looking like a cross between a grasshopper and a cockroach, came out and jumped on blankets and people. I think that they are completely harmless, which made it even more fun to see people’s panicked reactions whenever one came close. All around the riverbank we could see people jumping up suddenly and it was clear what the reason was. But I was made really made uncomfortable when one bug jumped onto the shoulder of a guy sitting close to us. The guy saw the bug and seemed perfectly happy to let it sit on his shoulder. That level of comfort I cannot understand. When it finally became dark enough for the Hanabi to begin, people calmed down. Perhaps not because the bugs had vanished but because no one could see them crawling over their legs and backs anymore.
When the show started, I switched my camera off. I wanted to concentrate on the spectacle and anyway have never managed to make an interesting picture of fireworks (you can find nice pictures on google). Let me tell you, the Japanese make the best fireworks. Super impressive. Super long, too. More than once, the staccato of explosions became so impressive that when silence came, I was convinced that the show must be over, certainly, only to be surprised by the rockets rising again. All in all, they blew through over ten thousand rockets, I believe. Whenever the explosions became particularly impressive, everyone cheered.