Hanabi Matsuri--These aren't your Gramma's fireworks
I'm here to share my experience at the Natsuo Hanabi Festival near Asakusa with my host family. This was some time in late July, which is, of course, the month made for fireworks :3
Otoosan was there to pick me up after school activities were done, and then our Odyssey began. Between the two of us, my knowing little Japanese and he knowing about as much English, it was an interesting start through the busy streets.
For starters, we stopped by a combini (convenience store) to stock up on drinks before we decided to tackle the train ride to the area around Asakusa and the Sumida river. My fellow blog readers, if there is even one bit of advice you garner from me, please let it be this ancient Japanese wisedom:
「Always buy drinks from Convienience Store」
Because seriously, when we actually got there and the hawkers were on the street sides selling, they were charging pretty high just for water, never mind soda and alcohol--all of which you can get from your local combini (with better selection and more variety) for MUCH cheaper!
But I digress. So we stocked up on drinks (I love the macha green tea they sell) and we dove through this THICK crowd of people all headed for a spot to watch fireworks. It was too easy to get lost in that sea of people on the street, then bottle-necking to the station, then being a thick crowd in the metro too, which seemed to carry over into the trains themselves.
Think of sardines, neatly layered together in a small tin can...
...Now give those sardines yukata and bags and brief cases, and give that tin can wheels while you set it on a track. There you have the Japanese Metro system at peak time. Otoosan was generous and stood in the way so that I had a seat and not some weird stranger looming over me, while he was in front. We tried to make small talk, and he told me an anecdote about my younger host sister, (whom I will call Imoto-chan) who used to be deathly afraid of fireworks and cried on her first Hanabi because of the loud sounds. We also discussed the finer points of footwear (geta vs zori) and how to properly wear yukata plus accessories; all in our part English, part Japanese, part some form of wordless/sign-language communication. It was actually a lot of fun.
Once we reached our station (bear with me, getting there was really half the adventure) his back became my beacon as we literally squeezed through this oceanic mass of color and noise and cameras. The Omowari-san (police) were standing on small taiko-drum-tower like stands, calling out with mega phones and, even at one point, forming a human chain with linked arms to assure people weren't going to flatten them.
Finally, after we got to the section of the Sumida river where my host family saved themselves the best view of the fireworks out of the barges from the river. We were up front and center, and I could even see the new Tokyo Sky Tree. Okaasan was there with my younger host bro, whom I'll call Otouto-kun. We ate bento Okaasan made for us while sitting on a picnic blanket right by the river.
It was fantastic! These fireworks were truely a spectacle. I mean, we think the 4th of July is cool in the states. Even Carowinds couldn't pull off something like this.
I truly believe I wouldn’t have been able to experience Hanabi Matsuri the way I did, with as much fun and in such a unique and VIP location, had I not been with my host family. Because of them, I had one of the best nights of my stay in Tokyo so far. I got to experience the fireworks the way a Japanese family would, and this insider ticket made the night even more special for me. The langauge barrier didn't matter--awe is universal. We laughed and ooh-ed and aah-ed at the different displays, ate delicious bento (I now have a deep love of pickled plums) and snapped pictures of each other in turns.
It was a night to remember. I couldn’t have done it any other way. If you’re ever in Japan in the summer, make SURE you go to Tokyo, and if you have any local family or friend you can tag along with, so much the better. Make certain you go see the fireworks during the Hanabi Matsuri festival!
Those fireworks are worth the experience. Of course, then it was back into the subways…
Till next time, bloggers! Ja matta ne~