Summer is the time to get a taste for downtown Tokyo’s atmosphere. Crane your neck towards the night sky on the last Saturday of July, along with a million other viewers, and enjoy the Sumida River fireworks. These large-scale, popular Tokyo fireworks attract large crowds, and are one of the happiest, liveliest Tokyo Festivals.
There is a fantastic mix of fireworks (20,000 in fact) with some of them reaching as high as 600m into the night sky before exploding into an amazing mix of dazzling colors and patterns, with an endless array of fireworks let off. The best place to view them is from parks along the river. Read on for further information.
What Are the Sumida River Fireworks?
One of the most famous firework displays in Japan is the Sumida River Fireworks, which are also one of the oldest firework displays. Around 20,000 fireworks are launched from large barges anchored in the water.
While you can see a glimpse of light flashes between tall buildings in the area, to actually enjoy the display to its fullest make sure you head down to one of the parks along the riverbank where you can view the whole variety of beautiful colors and different types of fireworks. Viewing from the bridges would be even better, but note that there is no stopping allowed along the bridges during the fireworks display.
There is a terrific summer festival atmosphere that goes hand-in-hand with the Tokyo Bay Fireworks, and is as appealing as the fireworks themselves. Traditional Japanese food vendors line the streets, game stalls and locals dressed in interesting yukata (a causal summer kimono).
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When Are The Sumida River Fireworks Held in Tokyo?
- Happens on the last Saturday of July. However, it is cancelled if it rains heavily or very windy
- Fireworks last for an hour and a half. Time: 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM
Where Are the River Fireworks Held?
The Sumida River Fireworks, also known as the Toyko Bay Fireworks are held north of the Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo Bay, which is closed to pedestrians during the fireworks show.
The Tokyo fireworks festival is actually held in 2 locations that are close to each other. The first location is Sakurabashi and Kototoibashi Bridges. The second is at Komagatabashi and Umayabashi Bridges. Both sites are on the Sumida river.
Best Viewing Spots for Tokyo Bay Fireworks
Good spots for viewing the fireworks display are along the Sumida River which flows through the eastern part of Tokyo and empties into Tokyo Bay. In particular, the neighborhood around Asakusa Station.
For some of the best free viewing spots people there will be lines. Spots fill quickly, so you will want to arrive early to find a great spot.
- From downstream of Sakurabashi Bridge to upstream of Kototoibashi Bridge
- From downstream of Komagatabashi Bridge to upstream of Umayabashi Bridge
If you would like to avoid the crowds, there is an option to buy tickets for a bay cruise. However, these do sell out weeks in advance, so if this appeals to you book early.
How to Get to Tokyo Fireworks
To get there take either the Ginza line or Toei Asakusa Subway line. The most centrally located station for the event is Asakusa Station.
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There will be plenty of people heading in the right direction, so just follow the crowds if you’re not sure where to go.
More nearby Stations: Oshiage Station or Hikifune Station on the Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line; Narihirabashi Station on the Tobu Isesaki Line, Tawaramachi Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line, Ryogoku Station or Kuramae Station on the Toei Oedo Line
Less crowded option: Main subway stations like Asakusa station will be super-crowded for the event. If you don’t mind a little walking, get off at Tokyo Sky Tree Station instead. Then, make your way to the river.
History of the Sumida River Fireworks
The Sumida River Fireworks is an annual Tokyo event on the Sumida River. It originated as a custom with the common people of Edo, who viewed fireworks while enjoying a cool summer evening. However, it is also said that its roots lie in the Suijin Festival, which is dedicated to the water deity and it was held to appease the souls of those who had died of starvation/plague and to drive away pestilence during the reign of Tokugawa Yoshimune (1684-1751).
The Sumida River Fireworks were called the Ryogoku Kawarabiraki during the late Edo period. The festival was able to survive the Meiji Restoration, and in the latter half of the 19th Century, it was almost always held yearly.
For a period, it was suspended because of traffic and building congestion. However, after 1978 it was revived under a new name, as the Sumida River Fireworks Display (Sumidagawa Hanabi Taikai), and is one of the most delightful Tokyo scenes during the summer season.