Summer in Japan means heat, humidity, and summer festivals, where you are sure to see a fireworks display. Japanese fireworks shows differ from American displays. The biggest difference is that in Japan they are usually set to music and often tell a story. It is very artistic. If Japanese-style fireworks are interesting, you need to travel up north to Omagari in Akita prefecture. This town of around 90,000 people plays host to the largest fireworks competition in Japan. The event occurs annually on the fourth Saturday in August, and on that day the town swells to over 700,000 people.
The Omagari Fireworks Competition is an invitation-only competition where the top fireworks makers compete for top prize and a gift from top government officials. There are a couple things that make Omagari Fireworks stand out. First, the competitors must make all of their own fireworks. This results in amazing, unique styles that leave the audience astounded. Second, there is also a competition for daytime fireworks. Starting just before sunset, these fireworks paint the sky in a variety of amazing colors.
The daytime fireworks begin around 5:00, and the nighttime fireworks follow. Most of the seating area is paid seating that must be reserved in advance. However, there is a small free section. It fills up fast, and many people line up before the gates open in the morning in order to secure a spot with their tarp. You will also see many people pitch a tent and spend the day “camping” before taking it down for the fireworks. If you come with friends, it is very enjoyable to make a day of it playing games and eating food together.
Assess to JR Omagari Station is very simple, as the Akita Shinkansen from Tokyo stops there. From the station it is about a 15 minute walk to the spectator grounds along the river. There is no need to worry about getting lost, though, as there are thousands of people headed to the same place you are. After the competition is over, the mass exodus begins, and Omagari Station becomes packed with people. The officials have developed a great system, though, and everyone is put on their train in an orderly fashion.
Omagari Fireworks Competition is an amazing, inspiring event. You will be awestruck and thoroughly entertained by the stunning fireworks displays. It is well worth the trip and something you will remember forever.