Autumn

Nagano Ebisukou Fireworks Festival 2018-Beautiful Fireworks Festival in Japan

Kanaenico

Writer

Japan has very high-quality fireworks, and Nagano Ebisukou Fireworks Festival  has the most beautiful ones in the country. “Magnificent fireworks, beautifully illuminating the late autumn night sky” (by Nagano Ebisukou Fireworks Festival official homepage). If you love artisan fireworks, you should not miss it! You can see over 12,000 fireworks at the festival and they are so beautiful.

Festival Background

The Origin

Ebisukou Fireworks Festival takes place in Nagano city on November 23rd every year from 1899 (Meiji period).
At first, there was just the Ebisuko religious festival in the Nishinomiya Shrine which is located in Nagano city, and then, in 1899, a group of volunteers started a fireworks display to convey their goodwill and appreciation to Ebisu deity.
Since then, fireworks became a regular feature of Ebisuko festival, and nowadays, it became the most famous part of the festival.

Why on November 23rd?

November 23rd is national holiday in Japan known as a “Labour day”.
Traditionally, Japanese people believe that gods help people to do things safely, peacefully, and successfully. So, Japanese people set a special day for giving thanks for each god.
Indeed, November 23rd is the day for giving thanks for god (Ebisu) for everything related to work. Thus, artisan fireworks craftsmen make their fireworks to give their regards to the god of work and success every year.

Festival Breakdown

What People Gather at the Festival

People say that Nagano Ebisukou Fireworks Festival is No.1 in term of seriousness and the scale in Japan. Probably that’s it is famous for attracting professional photographers or photography lovers. The fireworks attract people, especially the people would love to watch and catch really beautiful sights. Also, it takes place in the end of the fireworks season and the best fireworks masters make the ones for the festival. So, a lot of fireworks craftsmen even who do not show their works on the festival day come to see other works for getting new ideas. Of course, there are people who just come to enjoy the festival. Approximately 430.000 guests gather from all over Japan to see the magnificent show.

Various Kinds of Fireworks

Why the Ebisuko’s fireworks are so beautiful?

There are some reasons I would say. First reason is the professional fireworks craftsmen who make each firework serious and energetic. Second one is the amount of fireworks. The amount is also important as it attracts more people to the festival. Over 12,000 fireworks fly into the sky at night. This amount is enough to overwhelm people’s visions. The sky will be filled with big flowers made of fire and artisan spirits. (Fireworks in Japanese is HANABI 花火 which means fire flower).

Competition

From 1992, the organizers also started a competition between professional fireworks craftsmen from all over Japan, where they decide which craftsman did the greatest job. Then, people can see not only the fireworks which were made by Nagano’s fireworks craftsmen, but also the ones from craftsmen from other regions of. They are crazy about the presentation also. This means that you will enjoy the music that has mood and the fireworks that have suppressing effects. It is a fascinating time indeed.

How to Enjoy the Festival

Seats

During Japanese events on the open-air people usually seat on the ground using a plastic sheet. At this festival there are free-sheets and reserved sheets.
As for the reserved sheets, you need to book it in advance and pay the fee.
Premium sheet is 20,000 Yen and in 2018, it is already sold out.
Ebisu sheet is 4,200 Yen, they will keep your sheet, and provide a Shinsu-souvenir, festival pamphlet, and disposable hot pack when you arrive. You can also bring anything you want to the designated place. The yatai (food stalls) have a lot of hot food and drinks to keep you warm. If you book your sheet in advance, you just need to go there before the festival starts.

Wear

The climate during this festival is the best for fireworks, it means…it’s chilly.
On November 23rd the highest/lowest temperature is 10 ℃/1℃ in Nagano. It is like January in Tokyo. I would recommend you bring some warm clothes.
It’s cold at night, but the cold weather makes air clean and clear enough to watch the fireworks. Some people even say:“good fireworks make us hot”.

Another Way to Join

If you do not book your sheet, everything is up to you, you can go there earlier than it starts to reserve your space (in Japan people who would like to occupy a good space just behind the reserved sheets for free come in the morning). Or if you do not mind walking around, you can come on time, but on 99% there will be no space to sit.
As the festival happens on a riverside (Sai river), you will see the beautiful reflection of the fireworks on the surface of the river.

Other Things to Do in the Area

If you have a chance, please enjoy the original Ebisukou Festival at the Nishinomiya Shrine.
Brief schedule:
November 18th, 19th, and 20th: Edosato Kagura – service with sacred Shinto music and dances
19th: Eve of Ebisu
20th: the main festival day
Place: Nishinomiya Shrine
Address:1-17 Shakecho, Nishinomiya, Hyōgo Prefecture 662-0974, Japan
https://goo.gl/maps/8Mtb8Da4ui12
As for the fireworks day, you can also watch the display at a distance too.
Like on the photo, Nagano has some traditional Japanse streets. The one on the photo is Nakamise street. Watching fireworks from such a nostalgic place is also romantic even without watching it from a close distance.
Adress: Motoyoshicho Nagano, Nagano Prefecture 380-0851, Japan
https://goo.gl/maps/YpnfPWSoM3n

Details and Access

Date/Schedule

November 23rd, 2018, start at 18:00
Place:
Saigawa (sai river) Daini-ryokuchi (second green field), in Koen Park, Nagano Oohashi west side, Nagano city.
Address:
Kawai Shinden, Nagano, Nagano Prefecture 380-0913, Japan
Access:
20 min walk from JR Nagano Station ( no parking there)
Shuttle bus services are available from JR Nagano Station.
Shuttle bus services are available from the temporary parking area.
By Train: 90 min from Tokyo to Nagano by Hokuriku Shinkansen.
By Car: 8 km from Nagano IC, approximately 20 minutes.
Homepage:
http://www.nagano-cci.or.jp/ebisukou/english.html
(You can also download English version of the pamphlet from here)
https://goo.gl/maps/x5vHZ4eyZrN2

Closing Remarks

I have to say that Nagano Ebisukou fireworks festival is not the most famous festival in Japan.
However, once people know that the festival has the most beautiful fireworks and strong spirit of Matsuri, they tend to admire it so much that they come back every year.
You can see the beautiful night sky and feel the depth of Japanese culture from the Yatai food to the artisan works. It is good timing to visit Nagano during this fireworks festival. Only during these few days, you can pick various ways to enjoy there with the perspectives to the traditions, Matsuri, and the fireworks.

 

If you need any help to join it, a local guide will help you. Huber. Is a platform connecting local guides with curious tourists? Click on the banner below and check it out! I wish you a wonderful trip this autumn!

Image courtesy of Nagano Tourism Organization

Kanaenico

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