Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sumidagawa Fireworks

There's a first time for everything, and this was the first time I've been dragged along to brave the crowds at the Sumida River Fireworks festival, Tokyo's biggest (though pretty limited by the urban setting; some other displays are much bigger).
If you're really up for a big evening, you should pony up for tickets on a boat. The fireworks have been held in more or less the same location since 1733, and the very groovy Edo-era woodblock prints, while being extraordinarily expensive due to their groovy subject matter, show similar lines of boats lined up across the Sumida. In what becomes a recurring theme to anyone's stay in Japan, these boat trips are likely at the high end of the range you'd be willing to spend. On non-fireworks nights, they're about $100 per person, so I can only imagine. One place we investigated (in a building across from the main firing site) changed their dinner course from $50 to $300.

For us reg'lar folk, you'll be walking the streets. Colleagues have said in the past that there are certain streets famous for having good views of the fireworks, and the best thing would be to walk on the broad terraces along the river...except that you need a ticket to get in there, as the omnipresent rent-a-cops delighted in telling us. As you get farther north toward the actual firing sites, there are whole streets that are totally closed off, with real police who have real authority to keep you from walking on them. The view is too good, I think.
So what happens is that people shuffle along the sidewalks hoping for a clear view, or camp out in the streets. This is accepted - the middle of the street is roped off so people can sit there, while two lanes are kept clear on the outside for emergency vehicles.
Let's not go on too much. Eventually we settled into a spot (rather, I started getting grumpy from too much standing and not enough exploding) right by Kuramaebashi and stood around to wait.In fact, there was a decent view between the buildings where we were standing to wait. We moved, but there were people standing 10 rows deep, just 4 across, for this slice of view.
There was no lack of explosion. Here are some high points (at least as far as captured by my camera). These orange shells were cool; I read that it's a newish color.

More orange!

At last a clear shot.

Me and five thousand of my closest friends.

And to give you a better idea, the becoming-ubiquitous cheap video...

 A recent commenter commented on a recent post, and therein did aver that my post about the 35th Annual Chiba Bluegrass Festival had insufficient food-related comment. Rather than vengefully hit this blot, I chose to include some foodities herein: yatai, or the common types of Japanese street food. Pictured here is a girl selling chocolate-covered bananas.

And here a cheerful chap cracking eggs onto large mounds of Hiroshima Yaki, which is more or less like okonomiyaki, or 'Japanese pancakes' or 'Japanese pizza' if you must.

Truly a great of street food, what with the batter loosely holding together cabbage and other fillings, and tons of sweet worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise and shaved dried bonito on top. I was pretty happy to chow down on one of these.


  1. Chocolate covered bananas are Japanese street food? Really? You just didnt take enough ethnic food pics so you went with what you had.

  2. It's true that I went with what I had, but chocolate-covered bananas are absolutely typical. They're right up there with cabbage pancakes, octopus balls, fried noodles, cold cucumbers, shaved ice and fish-shaped bean-paste buns. I've often thought of doing a theme post showing all the basic food stall types. By the way, none of those things sound 'ethnic' to me (although I can see how they're more exotic than fried chicken, pulled pork or funnel cake) - 'ethnic' in Japan is reserved for Southeast Asian, more or less.

    Come to think of it, it's Thursday, so there should be stalls at the temple tonight...