The Lost Blogs #35
Festival Dates: Bentenjima Hanabi Taikai (July 7, 2012);
Tsu Hanabi Taikai (July 29, 2012)
One of my favorite pastimes in Japan was attending hanabi taikai, or fireworks festivals. These festivals are typically held in the hot and humid summertime, and they are a great way to just kick back and relax with a cold drink, some snacks and sweets, and the company of good friends.
Last summer, I was able to enjoy not one, but two, fireworks festivals held at local beaches. The first was in my own city of Hamamatsu, in a small town called Bentenjima. My friends and I actually gathered at the beach in the neighboring town of Arai where it was less crowded. Although we weren’t at the main site of the festival, there were still plenty of street vendors, and plenty of people. I actually ran into a few of my students, who were surprised to not only see me outside of school grounds, but wearing a bright pink jinbei (甚平).
Jinbei is a set of clothing traditionally worn by men consisting of a kimono-style top and matching shorts. They are usually worn around the house, like pajamas or casual house wear, but are also worn outside of the home when attending summer festivals. Men can choose to wear these in place of the traditional yukata (casual summer kimono). Lately, it’s become popular for women, teens, and children to wear jinbei to summer festivals. I actually own two sets of yukata and have worn both of them out to festivals, but I actually prefer to wear the jinbei because it is easier to put on, and is much more comfortable to wear…
Above is a picture of me jumping around freely in my comfortable jinbei and Birkenstock sandals. Weeee! I would not have been able to do that in my yukata!!
Although the yukata is a “summer kimono” and doesn’t require the several layers of robes that a traditional kimono has, many sets still come with an “undergarment” robe or slip which can be worn underneath the yukata. Additionally, there is the koshi-himo or “waist cord” which is used to hold the yukata in place after putting it on properly and adjusting the length by folding it. And then after getting everything into place, you must also put on an “obi”, which is the decorative sash. Many modern yukata sets now come with simpler obi, which you just wrap around and either velcro, snap, or tie into place; and come with a clip-on pre-tied bow. I have one of these, but I also have a traditional obi which requires a lot of practice to tie it properly. It’s really just a lot of work, and without centralized air conditioning, I am usually sweating by the time I manage to get everything on… and since the sleeves and yukata are long in length, I can’t really manage to cool down. This is why I prefer wearing jinbei, because as you can see, the fabric is light and airy, and both the sleeves and bottoms are short. The only downside is that suddenly all your skin is exposed to the hungry mosquitos…
It was so much fun to sit around with the friends I had made over the past two years in Hamamatsu and enjoy the fireworks on the beach with them. So, when we were visiting our friend in the tiny town of Tsu, I was ecstatic when she informed us that there would be a fireworks festival down at the beach in her town, too! Although, looking at the WalkerPlus website for finding hanabi, you would think that Tsu wasn’t so tiny after all.
In the screenshot above detailing the Bentenjima Hanabi Taikai, it says that there are approximately 2,600 fireworks released and that about 100,000 people are expected to attend based on the previous year’s data.
In comparison, the Tsu Hanabi Taikai has approximately 3,000 fireworks and an attendance of 150,000 people! I was really surprised. Though the size of the festivals are roughly the same, I could definitely tell the difference. The firework display in Tsu was so impressive! You could hear people in the crowd ooh-ing and ahh-ing and gasping in surprise and delight. There was plenty of food, but I was really shocked to see…
So enough chit chat, I’ll leave you with some pictures I took of the amazing fireworks display. And if anyone living or visiting Japan this summer is interested in finding a fireworks festival, Surviving in Japan has written an awesome “How To” guide on navigating the Walkerplus website.