Summer has a special significance in Japan. It is the season of the summer festivals. The heat and humidity in Iwaki this year made me wish I was some place else. But after experiencing the festivals, for sure I am glad I was here.
In Iwaki, the first Saturday of August is the designated day for the Fireworks festival or Hanabi in Japanese. This festival is held at the Onahama port. People from Iwaki and around make it a point to attend this and it is taken for granted that everyone is attending. No questions asked if you plan to attend. Most probably you hear- “hope to see you at the Onahama fireworks” or still better “which place are you going to be while watching the fireworks”.
The fireworks display is held over the Pacific Ocean. The best viewing place is between the Iwaki La La Mew and Aquamarine Fukushima, just in front of the Bishoku Hotel. The show is from 7 pm to 8.30 pm but people reach the place right in the afternoon braving the blazing summer sun just to find a good viewpoint. Many people go and reserve a place for them and their family and the families or others in the group join in time for the festival. Not only a place to sit but even finding a parking spot for the car needs luck. We reached at 6pm but it took us almost 30 minutes to find a place to park the car.
All around the port and at all access points there are stalls selling food, drinks and trinkets. People come with picnic baskets and picnic mats and enjoy the fireworks. We asked a local friend as to what is the usual way to enjoy the fireworks and the reply was this – “You carry a hand fan and a beer can and you enjoy the show “.
We saw lots of people including toddlers barely able to walk dressed in Yukata ( summer kimono). We also saw a few dogs in a yukata kind wrap dress but regret not being able to take a picture.
We had heard from everyone that it was difficult to find a good place. We were not to sure if we would find a good place this being our first time . Being a foreigner helped us. We read in the monthly newsletter from the Iwaki International Association ( IIA) that they had organized a group viewing event and anyone wishing to join had to just call the person incharge so that they knew we would be joining in. All this also for no cost. They had the best spot , just next to the water and for the nest 1 and half hours we enjoyed the fireworks show. Not that this was restricted to the foreigners or members of the IIA. We had a couple of local friends who had joined us to view the fireworks and they also sat with us and we all enjoyed our picnic dinner while watching the show.
The fireworks show is a delight to watch. No words can describe it. The colours, the formations were all breathtaking and each time there was a special one the crowd cheered and clapped. Almost 10000 fireworks are launched in the evening sky .
Our friend told us that this is a competition sponsored by a few companies and firework specialists from all over Japan come here to participate. As was evident before the special fireworks, there were announcements which I guess were the sponsors name and message.
We had heard that on the way back home sometimes the traffic jam can be heavy and could take up to 2 hours to cover the 10 km distance. But we were lucky and reached home in just about 20 minutes.
To sum it up, the Onahama Fireworks was a wonderful experience which we will remember for a long long time.