Saturday, August 27th. The day of the Omagari Fireworks. We’re here at the venue! It’s a beautiful clear day. You wouldn’t believe it had poured with rain up until yesterday.
Written by Fumiko YABUKI
Editor; former designer. Born and raised in Akita, she is a hardcore Akita native! She is Deputy Chief Editor for the free magazine “non-biri”.
Photographs by Yōma FUNABASHI・Nozomi TAKAHASHI
5.30 pm. The ‘Hiru Hanabi’ (Daytime fireworks) start with the venue packed to capacity with crowds of people. This is the only competition of its type held anywhere in Japan. The fireworks are judged on the basis of the different colors of smoke they produce. The venue has a unique atmosphere and buzz about it.
The evening fireworks begin when the sun goes down! Tonight 28 fireworks companies from all over the country have gathered here and will compete in three categories, launching fireworks in the following order: ‘10-go dama shin-iri warimono’ (30cm multi-layered bursting firework); ‘10-go dama no jiyu tama’ (30-cm freestyle shell); ‘Sozo hanabi’ (creative fireworks).
The beauty and intensity of these fireworks is beyond words. Take a look at these photos to see for yourself!
Now the ‘creative fireworks’ have begun. Omagari Hanabi Kagaku Kogyo’s entry is called ‘In Appreciation of the Stars Shining Brightly’. Mr. Niiyama is launching these fireworks in honor of his late father.
The fireworks rise up as if gently addressing the glittering stars in the night sky, gracefully moving in time with the music. Mr. Niiyama’s key emphasis with these fireworks is on their brightly burning charcoal color. They are simply made, with no fancy, over the top mechanisms or devices. The sentiments and feelings packed into every shell come across clearly and precisely.
Sighs of wonder and admiration can be heard from the crowd, in total contrast to the bustling noise and cheers heard in the venue before.
Afterwards, when the ‘Event Sponsor’ fireworks which form the climax of the evening are over, and the fireworks accompanying the playing of the Akita prefectural song have finished, the crowd take out penlights they have brought with them.
At the end of the evening, it is customary for the crowd to turn to the river bank where the fireworks were launched, and wave their lights simultaneously together to convey thanks and appreciation to the pyrotechnicians, who in turn wave red lights back in acknowledgement. Everyone acts as one and in unison. I see now how fireworks can be a symbol of peace, just as Mr. Niiyama wished for.
The next day it is announced that Omagari Hanabi Kagaku Kogyo is the runner-up in the ‘Creative Fireworks’ category, a commendable achievement. I spoke to Mr. Niiyama once more.
“Just one tiny slip-up and we lost points. I’m frustrated because if it hadn’t been for that, then who knows… Anyway, I’m pretty sure that my Dad up in Heaven will have seen the fireworks. Even so, the ‘itsueshin’ [five core shell] was totally out of the question for us… It might take two years, it might take three years, but I’m going to perfect a firework that takes everyone’s breath away!”
I’ve taken an in-depth look into what the pyrotechnician’s profession entails. After this experience, the fireworks I saw seemed all the more beautiful to me. At the end, everyone at the venue was united in their appreciation of the fireworks. After hearing Mr. Niiyama’s stirring words, I can’t help feeling I’ll be back next year!
click ‘here’ for the official website of Omagari no Hanabi
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