I guess the Chinese and Japanese weren't talking.
As usual, the Japanese quickly made up for lost
They adopted and adapted these fire flowers, weaving them into the fabric
of Japanese life.
Popular belief held that viewing fireworks would cool you on a hot summer
day, so displays were arranged all through July and August.
That tradition continues today.
My first experience with hanabi took place at Tokyo's
1993 Sumida River show. This is the biggest and most important fireworks
event in Japan, and it has been held, fairly regularly, since 1733.
Knowing that this would be a crowded event, we headed to
the river early. We arrived, however, to find that our two-hour head start
had put us eight hours behind everyone else.
Tokyo - normally a city of concrete, pavement, cars, and cigarette smoke -
was now a sea of makeshift mats, beer, dried squid, and cigarette
And about one million people
All the sidewalks and open areas around the river were
We wandered for an hour, but still couldn't find a place to sit.
Finally, the police closed off some streets, and we raced fifty thousand
people to get a prime piece of asphalt.
After an epic battle, we secured one square meter of road to sit on, and
toasted our success with a cold beer.
Then the fireworks started.
We knew this because we could hear the explosions.
Unfortunately, buildings on each side of us prevented our actually viewing
the show. Well, we didn't come all this way to listen to fireworks, so we
got up (quickly, as the crowd swallowed up our vacated space like some
kind of kamikaze vortex) and found a spot where we could see half of the
The show was loud, colorful, and creative.
Japanese fireworks makers like to display clever images in the sky.
We saw exploding 'smiley faces', exploding eyeglasses (some argue that
these are bikini tops - proving that we see what we want to see), and
exploding Mickey Mouse heads (a dream come true for me).
I also saw some exploding sperm - which may not be the effect the
designers were intending.
During the climax, there was a barrage of sparkling
white clouds, with starbursts and screaming strands.
For one moment, I thought I saw god (or the appropriate Buddhist
equivalent), but it could have just been the delirium induced by 980,000
sake-filled Japanese, crushing me while they gasped "ooo" and "aah".
Anyway, it was impressive and a lot of fun and I'll never
do it again.
Don't get me wrong, we still watch the fire flowers.
We just pick better spots now.