Summer in Japan means festivals and just about every city and town has one. But no summer in Japan would be complete without fireworks. Japanese hanabi (fireworks), which many argue are the world’s most gorgeous and elaborate, are displayed each year during July and August in festivals held throughout the country. However, nothing compares to the Enshu Arai Tezutsu Hanabi – Arai Handheld Cannon Fireworks.
Arai (新居町) was a town located in the Hamana district, in Shizuoka Prefecture. On March 23, 2010, Arai was merged into the city of Kosai and thus no longer exists as an independent municipality. The Hamana district was dissolved as a result of this merger but the fireworks festival is still referred to as the Arai Handheld Cannon Fireworks Festival. The tradition has been carried over from generation to generation for well over 300 years. All of the hand cannons are hand made by each of the villagers according to instructions handed down by their elders.
The tezutsu (cannons) are constructed by cutting bamboo, wrapping them in tatami mats, clearing the inside of the bamboo tubes and finally, on the day before the fireworks, a specialist adds the chemicals for the firework itself.
Enshu Arai Tezutsu Hanabi is an integral part of the Suwa Shrine Festival. On the evening of the fireworks, a special fire is lit at Suwa Jinja and candles ignited by this fire are handed over to the leaders of each fireworks group. They carry the lit candles in lanterns to their respective groups and use it to carefully light the cannons.
The climax of the festival is the Sarutahiko Enka. One man dressed like a tengu (goblin with a long nose) along with 1,000 participants ignite their handheld firework cannons and dance in the sparks created. Large columns of sparks light up the night sky. It is truly amazing!
Additional information about the festival can be obtained from: The Japan National Tourist Organization (10th floor, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan Bldg., 2-10-1, Yurakucho, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo; (03) 3201-3331).