Hanabi: Enjoy the Summer Like a Japanese With Handheld Fireworks!



Hanabi: Enjoy the Summer Like a Japanese With Handheld Fireworks!


Japanese summers wouldn't be the same without fireworks or hanabi (literally "flower fires"). Many summer events feature spectacular firework displays, some of which can get quite crowded. But the Japanese also enjoy getting together with their loved ones, friends or families and play with small, handheld fireworks call temochi hanabi.
japanese fireworks hanabi

During the warmer months, you can find assorted packs of them in supermarkets, convenience stores, 100 yen shops and just about everywhere. We visited two shops in Asakusabashi, Tokyo, that actually specialize in fireworks, and got our own personalized selection.

Asakusabashi, a Town With Drifting Echoes of Edo


Asakusabashi Edo-dori street


Cats in Asakusabashi

Edo-dori street, right outside the East Exit of JR Asakusabashi Station, is lined with charming stores selling Japanese dolls and crafting accessories. 
It used to be on one of Tokyo's five main routes during the Edo Period (1603-1868) and as such it boasts many historic landmarks.

Consult a "Fireworks Coordinator" at Hasegawa Shoten

A short walk from Asakusabashi Station is Hasegawa Shoten.
Asakusabashi Hasegawa Shoten Fireworks shop

Inside are some 400-500 varieties of fireworks. From handheld ones to rockets, the shelves are overflowing with colorful trinkets that will make you want to try them all.

Japanese fireworks shelves


Hasegawa shoten fireworks shop

The shop opened in 1947 and is currently in its third generation of family ownership. We met with Mr. Kosho Hasegawa, the current owner.
Hasegawa shoten shop inside

He helps people choose the perfect fireworks based on their preferences and budget. He calls this service a "fireworks coordinator". People from all over the country come here seeking his advice, and he even helps organizing small fireworks events.
Hasegawa-san and his Japanese fireworks shop

Hasegawa Shoten Fireworks shop


Hasegawa Shoten Fireworks shop

Looking at all these different shapes and brightly colored packaging, we're glad to have someone help us decide! We asked Mr. Hasegawa to show us some of the more unique items. To our bewilderment, we were shown fireworks that keep burning even in water, crazy spinning ones and ones that smell like chocolate or curry.
peach-flavored fireworks
These  sparklers smell like peach!
Fireworks that burn even in water
Fireworks that burn even in water?!

The fireworks sold in regular shops usually burn for 15 to 20 seconds, but some of the ones sold here can burn for up to two minutes!
Japaese handheld fireworks

In between our questions, Mr. Hasegawa also told us some interesting facts. Did you know that fireworks don't have an expiry date? He even showed us a video of a 50 year old firework being lit.
There are signs indicating how big of a sound each product makes, and the burst distance for the rockets. Some even have a QR code that you can scan to read more information about them.

Hasegawa shoten fireworks


Hasegawa shoten fireworks

We couldn't resist trying Mr. Hasegawa's famous coordinator's services. "How about some fireworks for two girls, for a budget of about 2,000 yen?". "Gotcha. Leave it to me".
Shop owner helps us choosing fireworks!

About 3 minutes later he was back with a large selection that perfectly matched our request.

traditional and cute Japanese fireworks


Unique ad crazy Japanese fireworks

We ended up having two sets prepared for us. One more traditional and pretty, the other one containing more novelty items.

We were touched by Mr. Hasegawa's passion and knowledge. We recommend a visit to his magical shop, where the owner himself will help you put together the best fireworks assortment!


Hasegawa Shoten | 長谷川商店
Address: 2-7-3 Yanagibashi, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 10:00am - 6:00pm
Open every day
Access: 5 min. walk from JR Asakusabashi Station East Exit / 1 min. walk from Asakusabashi Station on the Toei Asakusa Line, Exit A6


Dolls, Fireworks and a Warm Smile at Ningyo No San'Ou

Right next to Hasegawa Shoten is another shop that we visited, called Ningyo no San'ou.
Asakusabashi Ningyo No San'Ou fireworks shop

From autumn to spring it stocks Japanese dolls as many other shops in Asakusabashi do, but in the summer it turns into a temporary fireworks shop.
Asakusabashi Ningyo No San'Ou fireworks shop

The shopkeeper, Mr. Takahashi, welcomed us with such a cheerful and warm smile that we felt right at home.
Asakusabashi Ningyo No San'Ou fireworks shop, Takahashi-san owner

Encouraged by the kind Mr. Takahashi, we started perusing the shop and found a selection of senko hanabi, traditional Japanese sparklers that are made by a shaft of twisted paper with a small ball of black gunpowder at the tip. This is perhaps the most common hand-held type of fireworks here in Japan, and it is said that watching it sparkle evokes an empathy for the ephemeral things in life. These are usually the last fireworks you light, contemplating them silently before going home.

Senko Hanabi


Senko hanabi

"These ones here? They're made in Japan and only sold at a shop called Yamagata Shoten here in Nihonbashi," Mr. Takahashi said answering our question about some longer ones we found. Senko hanabi are normally held with the lit end straight down, but Mr. Takahashi revealed that the longer ones like these burn best if held at about 45 degrees. The little ball of gunpowder falls very easily once lit, and people often have battles to see whose fireworks burn longest.   

Our eyes fell on another type of senko hanabi that looked a little shorter and unusual. "This one originated in the Kansai region," explained the shopkeeper, "and you actually hold the burning tip upwards, not downwards. There is only one place left where they make these now".
super long Japanese fireworks

We also found some giant sparklers that promise to burn for about two and half minutes! You could sing a whole song while you're watching one of these burn.
Takahashi-san talking about fireworks

And so we spent a very pleasant time looking through shelves and shelves of fireworks, with Mr. Takahashi kindly explaining how each of them works.
Ningyo no San'ou has a somewhat nostalgic, retro feel to it. We definitely recommend a visit here too.


Ningyo no San'ou | 人形の三桜
Address: 2-7-4 Yanagibashi, Taito-ku, Tokyo (next to Hasegawa Shoten)
Hours: 9:30am - 6:30pm
Open every day

Moving to the River Bank to Try Our Newly Purchased Fireworks!

We had a lot of fun visiting the two shops. Now it's time to go to the Arakawa River bank and have our own private fireworks festival. Every year a big fireworks display is held here, and this is one of the few places where it's ok to play with handheld ones.
Video: MAPPLE LINK Editorial Team
Video: MAPPLE LINK Editorial Team

Garbage Cleanup Tips

In Japan everyone is always careful not to litter. It's common practice to bring a bucket of water where you can throw the fireworks after using them, but it can get really messy to scoop them up when throwing them away. Here's a simple technique that will make it super easy:
Cut a few small holes in a plastic bag. Fill a bucket to the brim with water and put the plastic bag over it. Throw your fireworks away in the bag with the water in it. This way when you lift the bag, the water flows out and you're left with just the fireworks. Easy to throw away!

Where Can You Play With Handheld Fireworks in Tokyo?

Places where the use of fireworks is permitted in the city are becoming scarcer every year, but don't worry! Here are three spots where you can enjoy fireworks in Tokyo.

1. Arakawa river bank

2. Komazawa Olympic Park Central Square (MAP)

3. Nakano Heiwanomori Park (MAP)

All of these are nice open spaces, so you can enjoy your fireworks without a worry. Be aware that each place has its own rules, so be sure you check them on their official website or upon arrival.
*To prevent fires and injuries, please use proper care when playing with fireworks. Always bring a bucket of water and a trash bag to clean after yourself.

Feel the Japanese Summer With Your Own Fireworks Festival

Handheld fireworks are a great way to experience the Japanese summer. Try the traditional senko hanabi, as well as some unique and weird fireworks. If you get the chance, definitely check out these two stores in Asakusabashi and get your own special selection!

The original Japanese version of this article was published on MAPPLE LINK Editorial Team.


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