We interrupt this travelogue to bring you a taste of the most astounding light show we have ever seen. We have them in Canada, but I have never seen anything on the scale we observed here and this is a 'rural' area.
The travelogue of our trip to Hokkaido is not complete, but someone whose initials are KY strongly suggested I interrupt the travelogue and BLOG about "Hanabi" where the word "hana" means flower.
Our host Okano-san mentioned that people were reserving spots as much as a week in advance. So he had reserved one for his gang as well.
It is August 25, 2012, Saturday. Because it is so hot (hottest summer people can remember) I got up at 4:30am and went to do some gardening. About 6am there were a number of explosions down below and I wasn't sure whether another war had started or whether the nearby freeway was blasting away soil for the road. Then about 7am as I was walking Muko there was an announcement over the villages loudspeaker (location still unknown), probably concerning the evening's events. At 12 noon there were some more explosions.
On weekends we usually see more people in the village, for example, children coming back to see parents or possibly looking after the empty family home. But this weekend there appeared to be more activity in the village and unfamiliar people. Traffic patterns on our few streets appeared to have changed as well. Late afternoon there was another announcement over the local loudspeaker.
Prior to 6pm Kenji and his sister Etsuko showed up on our farm yard. Then Shigeko's mother and Akio's older brother arrived on the property. At about 6pm we piled into three vehicles, although two of us protested that we could walk. In our ignorance we assumed Akio had reserved a spot up on the edge of our plateau near the "hatake" or field. We drove down to the 'valley' and parked on the edge of the dike next to the river that runs to Lake Kasumigaura.
The story was that we would be eating "onegiri" or rice balls, which was true along with a number of other delicious dishes, for one, "karage" or fried chicken pieces.
There were cars and people everywhere on the little roads surrounding the "tanbo" or rice fields, as well as back up on the plateau we call home.
Then at 7pm after the sun had set we set our sights in the direction of Edosaki and the extravaganza began. At one point early in the evening the "hanabi" paused and I assumed the airplane flying in the area on its way to Narita airport had to be allowed for. But watching many more planes later without any cessation of the fireworks, I jokingly suggested that the pilots were saying to their passengers "Welcome to Japan, the land of fireworks". It appeared as though they were deliberately flying through the danger zone.
Apparently there is a fireworks factory in Ibaraki Prefecture, but I suspect the factory was empty after that evening. There must be some very skilled artistic craftsmen in this factory. There were supposedly ten thousand individual fireworks that were fired off and considering the complexity of each, assuming a cost of at least $100 each - do the math.
This was no ten minute show, but carried on until 9pm with one interlude at which time floodlights came on in the distance and we believe the speeches began.
There were a variety of flowers, faces, even a Mickey Mouse being created ephemerally in the sky. There were plenty of 'ohhs and ahhs' from our little group. I estimate I took about 250 photographs of which I deleted many and then selected a few to publish. Photographing "hanabi" is not easy, although even with a tripod knowing which area of sky to focus on would have been difficult.
Towards the end we had a traffic jam, believe it or not as cars from Edosaki came back to our area and groups such as ours started leaving the rice fields to go back home. Our group went back to the Okano's where we had some of that delicious "suika" or watermelon that my favourite farmer has been growing. What a wonderful evening, with no admission fee nor any parking charge.
Click on Hanabi to see photographs on Picasa.