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Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival - Blog Post

Courtesy – http://techyum.com

The Sumidagawa Festival is an annual festival observed by Japan. The festival is held over the Sumida River so the name Sumidagawa Festival. This is basically a competition which is held on the last Saturday of July, between the various participating pyrotechnic groups. This event is not a display of cheap fireworks. Sumidagawa Hanabi Taikai is an intense traditional Japanese competition between different groups of pyrotechnics. Every year, this competition gets fiercer than the last one. One can see different colours, shades, complicated shapes forming various types of designs and patterns in the sky. This is one of the many competitions being held in Japan round the year. Especially during this time which attracts many viewers as well as competitors.

It all started back in 1732, when this festival of fireworks was a ritual for the dead. Japan was going through economic crisis when people died because of famine and other diseases to a greater extent than usual. This festival was observed as a celebration of life, mourning for the dead ones and an entertaining source for the poor and diseased ones. Thus, it served multiple purposes as it became a part of rituals. It is an extension of the traditional celebrations of the Edo Period. About millions of people still come together for this occasion.


From 1810 onwards, it was formally declared as a tradition which gradually turned into competition as each year passed by. Initially the two pyrotechnicians which came across each other as competitors were Tamaya and Kagiya. They were the trend setters for the rivalry trying to impress the spectators more than the other one for support and to gain more popularity. The number of onlookers increased gradually and the people started to shout and encourage the name of their favourite pyrotechnician. Though, in earlier times Tamaya gained a lot of popularity but later on even Kagiya geared up. In 1843 a major fire broke out and the officials decided to shift the whole ceremony to a more remote and safer place than the city.

The tradition was originally called as Ryōgoku Kawabiraki and religiously followed every year till the World War II, when it ceased completely for many decades and later was restarted again in 1978 which is being continued till date. Although it was postponed in the year 2011 because of the earthquake and tsunami, it continues to attract millions across the globe.

Maria Ereku

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