Fireworks (花火 – Hanabi) in Japan

Rather than being used to celebrate New Year like in the west, fireworks (花火, Hanabi) have a long history in Japan as being an important part of the Japanese summer.

Originally used to ward off evil spirits, firework shows are held all across the country mainly during the school summer holidays in late July and August. The biggest events draw huge crowds, and getting a good viewing spot often involves lots of waiting and planning in advance.

A secondary attraction of Japanese fireworks is the relaxed festival atmosphere that comes with them, including people dressed in yukata, huge floats and streets lined with food and game stalls.

Pictured above is the Nebuta summer festival in Aoomori prefecture. Festival fireworks typically start sometime after sunset and last one to two hours. Many of the longer shows are broken up into multiple shorter segments, interrupted by the announcement of titles and sponsors. They often end with a grand finale consisting of hundreds of shells launched simultaneously.