Translated by Greg
Sumida River Fireworks Festival - 2019 Schedule, Access And Highlights
The Sumida River Fireworks Festival is an annual event held in July in Tokyo. Find out the schedule for the 2019 festival, how to get there, and tips to make the best out of this activity, quintessential to Japanese summers.
Written by MATCHA
Sumida River Fireworks Festival - The Most Awaited Summer Event in Tokyo
Picture courtesy of Sumida Ward
The Sumida River Fireworks Festival is an annual event held on the last Saturday in July in Tokyo. This is a fireworks festival in which a constant barrage of fireworks are launched from two separate locations: near Sensoji Temple in Taito Ward and near Tokyo Skytree in the Sumida Ward.
From near Sakura Bridge (the first location) about 9,350 fireworks are launched, while from the Komagata Bridge area (the second area) about 10,650 fireworks are launched, so spectators can view a grand total of more than 20,000 fireworks.
A Summer Event with a 400 Year History
The Sumida River Fireworks Festival dates back roughly four hundred years to the Edo period (1603-1868).
During a terrible famine in 1732, many people died of starvation. The following year, the eighth shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune held the first-ever Ryogoku River Fireworks Festival. This suijinsai (*1) event was held to comfort the spirits of the deceased and pray that those living would be free from famine or other misfortunes in the future.
This festival is considered to be the origin of the Sumida River Fireworks Festival.
During the war and also because of river pollution, the festivities were discontinued on a number of occasions, but in 1978 the former festival was renamed the Sumida River Fireworks Festival. It became an annual event.
*1 Suijinsai: A water god festival held to drive away misfortune and disasters during a period in which flooding and plagues often occurred.
Sumida River Fireworks Festival 2019 Schedule and Access
The festival is held on the evening of the final Saturday of July each year. The schedule for 2019 is as follows:
Date and time: July 27 (Saturday), 19:00-20:30
Fireworks: About 20,000
Locations: Banks of the Sumida River, between Kototoi Bridge and Sakura Bridge (Venue 1) and between Komagata Bridge and Umaya Bridge (Venue 2)
To get to the festival, please refer to the following:
Access to Venue 1: 15 minutes on foot from Asakusa Station and Tobu Asakusa Station (various lines).
Access to Venue 2: 5 minutes on foot from Kuramae Station (Toei Asakusa Line).
To see more details on the locations, please click here
Fire Flowers Bloom in the Evening Sky
The Sumida River Fireworks Festival lighting up the night sky. Picture courtesy of Taito Ward
There's a wide variety of brilliant fireworks to gaze up at during the festival. For example, the starmine, which launches a large volume of fireworks in steady succession, and exhibition fireworks (shikake hanabi), which are known for their images of logos and illustrations.
Warimono, or large round fireworks, despite being set off only one time, can really pack a punch and are well worth watching.
In addition, there are fireworks with a seasonal flavor such as snails, fish, and other creatures, all the way up to pop culture images. Look for happy faces, characters like Anpanman, and even Pokemon Pokeballs.
The shape of the images can change depending on which vantage point you’re watching from, so walking around to find the perfect viewing spot might be an interesting thing to do as well.
Sumida River Fireworks Festival. Picture courtesy of Sumida Ward
Something to watch for in particular is the fireworks competition, in which 200 fireworks are launched from location one.
A total of ten fireworks companies participate in the competition. Seven of the companies have a connection to the Sumida River and three companies who are known nationwide for their pyrotechnical expertise. All feature their latest masterpieces and compete against each other.
The presentations put on by the companies are evaluated by the spectators. The scoring system is used to help improve and advance firework technology in the years to come, so this competition is something you don’t want to miss.
About one million people visit the Sumida River Fireworks Festival each year. Many sightseeing spots, like Sensoji Temple and Tokyo Skytree, are very close by, so visitors to Tokyo can also easily come and join in the festivities.
This is an event that truly gives you a taste of summer, so not attending is simply out of the question!