Summer is not summer without fireworks or hanabi in Japan. It is a greatly anticipated happening since the Edo period. My first hanabi was The Great Fireworks of Sumidagawa, Tokyo, in 2010. It was a mind-blowing experience, mostly because the sheer number of spectators. I did not come early enough, did not get a place to sit, and could not see the fireworks except for a few sparks from behind some buildings in Asakusa. It was totally unenjoyable and I could not see the reason to go back there in the following year. My second hanabi in 2011 was The Great Fireworks of Oyama in Tochigi Prefecture. Again I was not mentally prepared for the large crowds, I could barely move forward to find a vantage point to see the fireworks. I came back home even way before the festival finished. My third hanabi in 2012 (again in Oyama) was another story of complete disaster. Despite being well-prepared mentally and physically (I even wore the summer kimono (yukata)with the help of a Japanese friend), arriving early enough to secure a viewing spot, I did not manage to get a decent picture since my tripod was not functional. I felt sorry for my Japanese friend because she could not understand why I had to be so pissed off about not getting a firework picture.
So came the summer of 2013 and me with my resolution to get a nice firework shot before I could rest in peace (or leaving Japan in peace). I skipped the Oyama fireworks but prepared myself for a smaller summer festival in Moka , a town 15 minutes by car from Shimotsuke where I live, on the last day of August. Forgot the yukata, I said to myself. I just stick to the casual photo-enthusiast attire. Arrived ahead of time at 4 pm, I was not the only one trying to secure a vantage point for the 8.30 pm hanabi. Two Japanese with intimidating lenses had already took their spot, whom I joined right away for I believed that they know where the best spot was.
The Moka Summer Festival was among the last festival this summer. Since the scale is small, I could focus on the dance and music being played, and not on pushing myself forward among the crowds. It was really a leisurely festival with no long queue in front of the food stalls. The only long line I saw was as people trying to get a 500 yen lottery coupon (is summer the best time to try your luck?). I could see that everyone was enjoying their time there, especially this luminous little girl who kept on giggling as I shot her.
Followed by the dancing red stars.