Hanabi Matsuri: 10 Summer Firework Festivals in Japan

By Annika Hotta
Updated: July 4, 2024

Summer in Japan has a number of important holidays, including Tanabata in July and Obon in August. But, why wait for a national holiday to celebrate when you can keep the celebrations going all summer long with festivals? Typically opening up in the cooler summer evenings, festivals are a way to forget about the oppressive summer heat for just a while. 

One type of festival that’s particularly loved are Japan’s summer fireworks festivals. Just as much a symbol of summer as the sound of cicadas, audiences of all ages gather to watch spectacular fireworks shows across Japan and eat classic festival food. 

So, we’ll be sharing some of the best fireworks festivals in Japan — don’t forget to wear your yukata! 

What does hanabi mean?

Hanabi matsuri, a firework festival with fireworks being set off over rippling water.

Hanabi is the word for “fireworks” in Japanese. If we look at the kanji for hanabi (花火), the word contains the characters for “flower” and “fire.” Together, they translate to “fire flower,” the literal translation of fireworks in Japanese — pretty cool, right?

This association with flowers encompasses the unique design of Japanese pyrotechnics. Made to look like flowers at different points in their bloom, it’s really no surprise that Japanese craftsmanship also extends to fireworks.

What is a hanabi matsuri?

A girl in a kimono looking at a lit sparkler.

Hanabi matsuri is “fireworks festival” in Japanese. As we’ve learned already, hanabi is fireworks, so “matsuri” must mean festival!

However, despite the festive name, the origins of hanabi matsuri are rather grim. The first fireworks display in Japan took place in 1733, when shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune wanted to honor the 900,000+ people who were affected by the ongoing Cholera pandemic in Tokyo. 

After that, temples and shrines began to use fireworks as an offering to the gods, though the fireworks festivals of today are more so a form of entertainment. Although far from their tragic origins, hanabi matsuri remain a symbol of hope to this day. 

10 hanabi matsuri: Summer fireworks festivals in Japan

  1. Sumida River Fireworks (Tokyo)
  2. Yokohama Sparkling Twilight
  3. Osaka Tenjin Fireworks
  4. Kamakura Fireworks Festival
  5. Beppu Fire Sea Festival
  6. Nagaoka Fireworks (Niigata)
  7. Omagari National Fireworks Competition (Akita)
  8. Toyota Oiden Fireworks Festival (Aichi)
  9. Lake Kawaguchi Fireworks Festival (Yamanashi)
  10. Kachimai Fireworks Festival (Hokkaido)

1. Sumida River Fireworks (Tokyo)

Sumida River Fireworks, with fireworks set off against the iconic skyline of Tokyo, including the Tokyo Tower.

Held in the same place as the very first fireworks festival launched by shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune, the Sumida River Fireworks Festival takes place on the last Saturday each July. 

You can view the fireworks at different points in Asakusa, but you’ll be able to find more street food and festivities closer to the river. 

2. Yokohama Sparkling Twilight

The Yokohama Sparkling Twilight fireworks festival. The sky explodes with multi-colored fireworks.

For a seaside destination, visit the Yokohama Sparkling Twilight festival on June 22nd, July 13th, July 27th, August 10th, August 31st, September 14th, or September 21st. Observe the fireworks as they illuminate the boats and harbor below, set against the unique skyline that Yokohama’s ferris wheel provides. 

Check out the festival’s website for the fringe events held during this time, too.

3. Osaka Tenjin Fireworks

Crowds line the streets of Osaka, attempting to get a glimpse of the fireworks at the Osaka Tenjin Fireworks Festival.

What’s better than one festival? Two festivals! Osaka’s Tenjin Festival on July 25th combines a boat festival and fireworks festival for a dazzling display of Osakan pride. Watch the fireworks light up the sky as festival goers chow down on Osaka street food and observe the decorated boats going by.

Hungry for Osaka street food? Street Food in Osaka: Top 10 Must-Try Dishes

4. Kamakura Fireworks Festival

Golden fireworks bloom in the sky at Kamakura Fireworks Festival.

Held on July 17th, the Kamakura Fireworks Festival takes place on the beautiful Yuigahama and Zaimokuza beaches each year. This fireworks festival is smaller in scale, but a fun evening activity nonetheless!

If you find yourself staying for dinner, explore our best places to eat in Kamakura.

5. Beppu Fire Sea Festival

Two boats setting off fireworks on Beppu Bay, lighting up the sky above Beppu.

If you’re going to see one fireworks display in Kyushu, this is the one. Held on July 27th and 28th, the Beppu Fire Sea Festival lights up Mt. Aso and the surrounding areas in a way you won’t believe.

Don’t forget to enjoy the nearby street food and hot springs, and take a look at the best places to eat in Beppu before arriving! 

6. Nagaoka Fireworks (Niigata)

An explosion of color and light at the Nagaoka Fireworks Festival,

Heading over to the Eastern coast of Japan, we have the Nagaoka Fireworks Festival along the Shinano River from August 1st to 3rd. Don’t overlook the rural location — Nagaoka’s fireworks are up to 650 meters tall and account for why it’s one of the three biggest fireworks festivals in Japan.

7. Omagari National Fireworks Competition (Akita)

A wall of fireworks at Omagari National Fireworks Competition, appearing almost like a wall of flowers in bloom.

Bringing in over 700,000 spectators each year on August 31st, the Omagari National Fireworks Competition isn’t one to miss. Pyrotechnical artists across the country compete to see who creates the best fireworks. Judge who is the best at this Tohoku fireworks festival.

8. Toyota Oiden Fireworks Festival (Aichi)

A firework display at the Toyota Oiden Fireworks Festival, with bright reds and golds against the night sky.

If you want to dance your heart out and see brilliant fireworks displays at the same time, the July 13th Toyota Oden Fireworks Festival combines dance and fireworks festivals for the ultimate summer festival. 

Staying in the area? Explore the best things to do in Aichi.

9. Lake Kawaguchi Fireworks Festival (Yamanashi)

Looking at fireworks over the shoulders of two people in the crowd.

Views of Mt. Fuji and fireworks? Impossible to resist. Party by the lakeside during this 55-minute fireworks show on August 5th — just be sure to avoid a certain Lawson’s for a photo op.

10. Kachimai Fireworks Festival (Hokkaido)

If you really want to beat the summer heat, there’s no better place than Japan’s northernmost prefecture. Get there on August 13th for a fireworks display that’s complete with music and lights over the Tokachi river in Obihiro. 

Heading to the capital? Where To Eat in Sapporo: 10 Restaurants & Eateries

How to stay cool in the Japanese summer?

Outside of late-night fireworks festivals, Japanese people have a myriad of ways to keep themselves from melting into a puddle during the summer. One of them is by eating delicious cold foods.

For ideas on what summer foods to eat beyond nagashi somen, or flowing noodles, check out this video where byFood host Shizuka Anderson eats her way through a few lesser-known cooling dishes for the summer! 

Another way Japanese people keep cool during the summer is riverside dining. Kawadoko dining is the Japanese concept of sitting on a tatami mat near or sometimes in the river itself.

While kawadoko is more commonly associated with Kyoto, Shizuka takes a tour of kawadoko restaurants in Hakone in this video. If you want to go out for a meal during the summer, why not try out kawadoko dining for yourself?

Looking for more ideas on how to enjoy the summer season? Discover the best things to do in Japan during the summer, the best Japanese summer foods, and some Japanese beer gardens for thirst-quenching drinks.

Fireworks in Japan FAQs

Fireworks being set off from a boat in Japan. Behind it, a city stretches out.

Are fireworks popular in Japan?

Yes, fireworks are incredibly popular in Japan, with thousands of fireworks festivals held throughout the summer months.

What is the significance of fireworks in Japanese culture?

Fireworks hold a special place in Japanese culture, symbolizing the fleeting beauty of life and the transience of nature. However, the first ever fireworks festivals was launched in 1733 as a way to honor the 900,000 who lost their lives to the Cholera outbreak in Tokyo.

When is the best time to see fireworks in Japan?

The best time to see fireworks in Japan is during the summer months, particularly in July and August when many festivals take place.

Can anyone attend a fireworks festival in Japan?

Yes, fireworks festivals in Japan are typically open to the public and are a great way to experience Japanese culture and traditions.

What are some famous fireworks festivals in Japan?

Some famous fireworks festivals in Japan include the Sumida River Fireworks Festival in Tokyo and the Omagari Fireworks Competition in Akita.

Are there any traditional foods or drinks associated with fireworks festivals in Japan?

Yes, traditional foods like yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) and kakigori (shaved ice) are popular choices at fireworks festivals in Japan.

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Annika Hotta
After studying abroad in Shiga prefecture in 2019, Annika moved to Japan in 2021. In her writing, she highlights the best dishes and places to eat in Japan for both the picky and the adventurous.
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