Summer in Japan: intense humidity, Cool Biz (nationwide time period businesspeople can go to work without a jacket), sweat towels, and best of all, hanabi (fireworks)!
I only experienced fireworks in Japan once with CouchSurfing friends at in Nara Prefecture. It was the most spectacular display of fireworks I’ve had the pleasure to witness. Fireworks are yet another thing that Japan takes up a notch, so I had to take advantage of the fireworks festival here in Nagoya.
Now that the semester is over, I have a few days of free time to catch up and prepare for the next step (onward to Tokyo for a month!). So, I rounded up a group of fellow teachers for the annual Nagoya Port Festival fireworks show. On the national holiday of Marine Day (the third Monday in July), people go to the beach and engage in other watery activities to appreciate the sea and all of its vastness. It is no wonder that this prosperous island nation gives such recognition to the ocean.
The women who dressed me in a kimono warned me about the crowds, but it was much worse than I had imagined. It seemed as if the whole city of Nagoya had a giant exodus into the tiny space of land. Crowded spaces is a feature of Japan, specifically Tokyo, so I just kept this in mind and enjoyed this Japanese experience in full.
Among the usual food stands selling cucumbers on sticks and okonomiyaki were festival go-ers decked out in their yukata, or casual summer kimonos. The outfit wouldn’t be complete without wooden sandals, a teeny purse, and a classy updo of braids and curls. I adore how they maintain traditions while tweaking with a modern flare.
We eventually wedged our way into a pocket between picnic blankets and parked ourselves on the concrete that ground away my butt bones. The spot was pretty close to the water, making it for a nice viewing point. We couldn’t have asked for a clearer sky or a pleasantly breezy temperature. The moon was in plain view for the front and center view of the show. Two of the guys ventured out into the abyss to grab some beers, but the crowds swallowed them and we didn’t see them for the rest of the night.
The fireworks began at 7:30 on the dot. I was immediately mesmerized by the dazzling light glitter. The people around me were also in awe as they joined me in “ohs” and “ahs”. Fireworks exploded into kawaii (cute) shapes like stars, octopi, smiley faces, and hearts. I think I saw a few Pokeballs thrown in there as well as planets and atoms. I entertained myself–and probably annoyed my friends–by giving names to the types of fireworks, such as weeping willows, surprise dazzle, Sideshow Bob, and HOLY SHIT! My phone photos do not do it justice, but here are a few anyway.
The 3,000 fireworks lasted for about an hour. Sometimes, you’d think it was the finale due to the massive amount of explosives, but they continued to outdo themselves. Here is a video of the finale. I watched the fireworks, not my phone, so it may be a little off. Fireworks are one of those things where you just have to be there, though.
Tim and I, the Americans, were the only ones to stay until the end. The Brits were smart in making a run for it early. We sauntered toward the train station in no particular rush. Somehow, we ended up stuck in a single file line between two rows of bushes.
We thought we were playing it smart by wasting time around the port area so the crowds die down. After a brief tour of a sad little amusement park and magic show, we decided to call it a night, thinking the crowds must’ve turned into train sardines and shot back into the city.
Well, we were horribly mistaken. The crowd somehow seemed to multiply. We started to queue, but after five minutes of stagnantly standing amongst sweaty people, we were bored. It was like waiting in massive line at an amusement park except riding on a packed train instead of looping around on a rollercoaster. No thank you.
So, we decided to make our own adventure and walk. Loads of other people had the same idea as we headed north, following the train route. Some people dropped off and took their chances of hopping on the train, but Tim and I continued all the way to Kamimaezu, a good 6 miles away. I much preferred the exercise over a crowded train. Plus, I got to chat with one of the nicest people I’ve met here as it was probably the last time we’d hang out. As someone who is always on the move, saying goodbye becomes a routine.
I only arrived in Nagoya three months ago, but it’s already time to leave. Not sure when I’ll see this city again, but I enjoyed it for the time being!
Practical Information: Nagoya Port Festival
When: Third Monday of July
Time: Fireworks start at 7:30pm
Transportation: From Kanayama station, take the Meiko line to the end. Get off at Nagoyako, exit 3.
Website (in Japanese): http://www.nagoya-port-festival.com/
- Get there relatively early so you can take a look around, gawk at the crowd size, and find a good place to observe the fireworks.
- Bring your own snacks and drinks as one can easily mistaken the line for the 7-Eleven to be a line to play in a cage with seven Shibas.
- When the fireworks are wrapping up, it would be a good idea to shimmy your way to the train station if you want to leave within an hour. Otherwise, plan to hang around the area because the line is bound to produce headaches.