Table of contents:
What is a Hanami Matsuri (and how much we loved it!)
Recreate our evening:
-Atami Bay Fireworks Schedule
-How To Watch
Japan is known for summer fireworks festivals…not that we know from personal experience, as they were all canceled for 2020 and most of 2021. But everyone has heard about how people used to flock to parks and beaches and lakeshores for fireworks festivals, or hanabi matsuri, every weekend across the country during the worst heat of the summer. It’s a seasonal tradition marked by lightweight summer Yukata robes, street vendors selling chocolate covered bananas, and picnic blankets spread out as far as the eye can see.
Our first opportunity to finally see a fireworks festival arrived at Atami bay in October 2021. The 5th Covid state of emergency had finally been lifted and fireworks companies in the area, including 117-year-old company Ikebun, went all-in on one massive show to launch 5,500 fireworks in less than 40 minutes. The setting created a thunderous echo effect; I could hear each blast 3 times as the sound bounced across the water to the surrounding mountains. The explosions were timed to music – most that I didn’t recognize, but some from MarioKart and Pokemon were greeted by delighted screams from all the children. The moon hung just over the horizon, full and orange like a ripe persimmon. We sat with the biggest crowd I’d seen in two years. Even with a 70% vaccination rate, everyone sat respectfully a few feet apart. A flock of birds took flight after the first blast, but the silhouettes of bats could be seen taking care of any last mosquitos of the season for us throughout the show. It was the kind of night I imagine featured a car commercial with a catchy summer song, the kind where you feel a little more alive than normal.
The show happened just a 15 minute walk away from the Atami train station, so it was easy to find parking nearby and make our way on foot to the water. Seats on the Nagisa Shinsui Park Moon Terrace pier were sold for $100 and included a Taiyo drum performance and a dried fish. But our seats were even better at no cost. After a day trip in romantic Hakone we drove to Atami around 5pm. We stopped at a konbini, a Japanese convenience store, on our walk down for some sake and snacks. I discovered sake in a juice box for just $2, and somehow it’s good sake! 15 minutes later we were on the beach next to the Moon Terrace Pier spreading out large blankets on the sand. We were happy to sit for an hour or so listening to the waves and festival music. After ooh-ing and aaah-ing at the fireworks show, especially the massive “Niagara Falls” finale, we shook our blankets out and drove home happy. It looks like covid might finally be over. Although the blissfully uncrowded, line-free pandemic travel might be over too, I think we all took a sigh of relief.
Want to recreate our night? Here’s our tips:
-Perfect activity to combine with a day trip to Hakone. We have a whole Hakone itinerary here.
-Grab dinner at the Atami train station and get some window shopping in before heading down to the water.
-Stop at your favorite Konbini on the way to pick up some sake, water, and treats.
-Arrive 1-2 hours early for a great spot on the beach. Here’s our packing list*:
-2 tote bags (use them to weigh down your blankets)
-2 large picnic blankets or beach towels
-cushions or flat profile chairs to sit on if needed. *I don’t recommend folding chairs – Japanese people are very comfortable sitting cross legged on the ground, you would have blocked their view with the only folding chair in sight.
-Juicebox Sake, Amazake, Strongs, Water, or your drink/snacks of choice. Drinking in public spaces is legal in Japan, just don’t overdo it.
-Cash in Yen – there will be food stalls all over the place with snacks like Takoyaki (squid balls), Okonomiyaki (cabbage pork pancakes), noodles, Karage (fried chicken), chocolate covered bananas, red bean pastries, and more.
With covid in decline, I expect you’ll be able to find a fireworks festival in almost every city during the summer, but this is Atami bay’s firework events schedule. They’re making up for lost time! Remaining shows for 2021:
30th October (Sat)
7th November (Sun)
20th November (Sat)
21th November (Sun)
27th November (Sat)
5th December (Sun)
12th December (Sun)
18th December (Sat)
25th December (Sat)
9th January (Sun)
15th January (Sat)
■8:20pm-8:40pm (20 minutes)
* Holding time may change
* Holding time on January 15 is undecided