Martin Giles

Itabashi & Saitama Summer Fireworks

A great way to experience the Hanabi festival in Tokyo

Martin Giles
Martin Giles   - 3 min read

July and August weekend in Tokyo are often full of regional Hanabi firework displays (花火大会) with a festival-like atmosphere.

This video shows a time-lapse I took of the Itabashi & Saitama fireworks from the banks of the Arakawa river. The quality, scale and length of the fireworks is very impressive and the local authorities put a lot of effort into providing a great experience for the locals and visitors.

Locals predominantly wear a Yukata (a kind of very light Kimono style costume for both women and men). At these festivals are often roadside food stalls like Yaki Soba (fried noodles 焼きそば), ’Takoyaki’ Octopus ball, Fried Potatoes (フライポテト) plus beer and Shochu based alco-pops (焼酎) are abundant in ice baths outside convenience stores.

There are many of these festivals to choose from in Tokyo but one of the best is at Itabashi (板橋) where you will get open views of the riverbank park area and plenty of space to sit. Most people visit a 100yen store and buy a ‘blue recreational sheet’ so you can sit cleanly without getting doo-doo on your Yukata! From this position next to the Yawada river you will also be able to see the Saitama ( 埼玉) fireworks which are neatly timed to alternate with the Itabashi ones; each district facing-off against each other like a friendly competition.

One of the other famous displays happens at Asakusa on the other Sumida River but was overcrowded and quite frustrating for visitors as the crowd were told loudly to keep moving and not stand anywhere near the river to view the fireworks. A few streets away over the river from Asakusa there were a couple of designated main streets closed off for the festivities where you could view the fireworks but this was not obvious without prior local experience. If you are wanting a relaxing enjoyable evening I would highly recommend attending Itabashi’s relaxed and well organized offering instead.

If visiting any of the summer fireworks in Tokyo please allow at least an hour of extra time to get to the destination as the crowds are huge and you will not likely get onto the trains you want due to overcrowding. Bus routes in these areas will also have the same issues as the number of buses seems unchanged even during busy events.

Many of the major prefectures have displays of their own at some point during July and August so if you visit during that time it's really a great free experience. Locals make a great effort to dress-up on these Hanabi evenings and the beautiful Yukata colors lend their traditional magic to the balmy summer air. 

Martin Giles

Martin Giles @martin.giles

Travel addict and regular visitor to Japan I enjoy photography and film making whilst sampling different cultures.