The Fourth of July is right around the corner, which means everyone in the U.S. is preparing to see fireworks light up the night sky. But did you know that Japan is also known for its summer firework shows?
Rather than being a nationwide fireworks spectacular, hundreds of firework festivals take place throughout the summer and across Japan – including plenty of big ones in Shiga! These festivals typically begin in July and continue into late August. So if you want to see fireworks more than once or twice a year, Japan is the place for you!
Japanese fireworks can be viewed from any angle and often include special fireworks that look like flowers, hearts, and even cartoon characters. These displays are best enjoyed with friends and delicious food, like grilled corn, shaved ice, and candy apples, from 屋台 (yatai, food stalls) found at every festival.
Firework festivals are generally free, but you need to show up early to find a good place to sit as they tend to get crowded. If you want to secure a good, comfortable seat for yourself and your friends, most firework festivals have chairs in a premium sitting area ranging anywhere from 2,000円 to 20,000円 (about $20~$200).
Firework festivals are especially beautiful in Shiga, with the fireworks reflecting off of Lake Biwa and the lake breeze staving off Japan’s summer heat. Be sure to check out one of the following firework shows if you have the chance!
The Lake Biwa Great Fireworks Festival
Date: August 8th, 2019 7:30PM
Location: Otsu Port (大津港; Ōtsu-kō)
Getting there: From Hikone Station, take the rapid service train (快速, kaisoku) to Otsu Station (~55 minutes, 970円). From there, walk down the hill to the lake (~15 minutes).
Otsu, the capital of Shiga, has the most famous fireworks display in all of the prefecture. It’s definitely worth the trip! If you really want to see how beautiful the fireworks can be, take a ride on the Michigan Boat to watch the show from within Lake Biwa.
Nagahama & Northern Lake Biwa Great Fireworks Festival
Date: August 5th, 2019 7:30PM
Location: Nagahama Port (長浜港; Nagahama-kō)
Getting there: From Hikone Station, take the train to Nagahama Station (~20 minutes, 240円). Walk to the lake from there (~10 minutes).
Nearby Nagahama also has its own fireworks festival and can be enjoyed from any spot on the lake in town. Be sure to prepare for the crowded trains after the festival, and bring a fan to fight the heat!
Hikone & Northern Lake Biwa Great Fireworks Festival
Date: August 26th, 2019 7:40PM
Location: Matsubara Beach (松原水泳場; Matsubara-suieijō)
Getting there: Matsubara Beach is just a 10 minute walk from JCMU!
If you want to experience the magic of a Japanese fireworks show without the travel, look outside your dorm window from the JCMU campus! While a smaller festival than the previously mentioned ones, there are still a lot of fireworks to see – including a Hikonyan one often!Yatai line the path along the beach, so be sure to take out some money at the nearby 7-11 to try some festival food.
Want to learn more? Visit the Shiga Tourism Board to read more about these events & other summer festivals happening in Shiga.