Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Sizzling Japanese Tradition... Hanabi

2nd August, 2010  - Now, as I've posted about before... summer in Japan is synonymous with fireworks, or at least it used to be.  I suspect that the tradition will disappear, like so many others that have been "made safe" - which reads made boring. So as summer comes to Japan again, it's a good time to be wetting the whistle for hanabi!

Now, despite my initial disregard for safety, there are a few safety tips. Always, and I mean always point the fireworks away from yourself and anyone else. And always have a bucket of water to dip the fireworks into at the end. The fizzzzle sounds are always a treat for younger children - perhaps as much as the fireworks themselves.

Now the packs of hanabi that you can buy (just about anywhere, including supermarkets) generally have a variety of fireworks in there... and enough to keep you going for a while. They range from the small to the large fireworks. On the small scale, there's the little senkou-hanabi, which are a very old traditional Japanese style firework. These are quite interesting in that they contain the "gunpowder" in a little section at the end of a long tapering paper twine. On ignition it burns forming a hot, incandescent globule at the end... within a few seconds it's emitting a series of sparks... until the wind, or a shaky hand force the drop to fall. This is a great thing for children (and adults) to see whose will last the longest. Let's just say my hands were too shaky....

On the other hand, they also have quite large fireworks as well.... and they're a treat to watch go up. Of course, this all causes a significant amount of noise, light, and smoke that break through the hot Summer night air. We most probably don't get a sense of the mood of Japanese people (as we're now visitors here), but this seems to be getting less and less common a sight. For us, we want to make the most of the fun, and tradition, with L-kun, before it disappears into blandness.

As mentioned previously - in Australia, it's next to impossible to have your own fireworks (as it requires a licensed pyro-technician to purchase and set up anything bigger than a sparkler). To be honest, I don't know the statistics of injuries due to fireworks in Japan, and yes, I can imagine that there are plenty of burnt hands etc. I suppose with all of these things care needs to be taken, and definitely adult supervision!

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