Flowers of fire


During my last trip I learned from Hirota-san that watching fireworks is a favorite pasttime in Japan during its hot, humid days of summer. “Hanabi” literally means “flowers of fire,” and although I’ve never seen a show there myself, I would like to someday.

Fireworks would not be what it is today without the contribution of two great craftsmen – Kagiya and Tamaya.

Dexterous in pyrotechnics, Kagiya started a family business in 1659, which rapidly expanded along with his fame and influence in society. As an apprentice of Kagiya, Tamaya soon became a master in his own right, even surpassing the wizardry of his former teacher.

Trying to outdo his old master, the ambitious Tamaya often challenged Kagiya to stunning fireworks performances in public.

In a twist of fate, Tamaya’s popularity came abruptly to an end when one of his innovative experiments caused a disastrous fire that burned village houses to the ground. Consequently, he was banished and his family heritage ruined, but his legacy lives on.

To this day, many of Tamaya’s exquisite fireworks achievements engrained in ukiyoe (woodblock prints) are sold in souvenir shops.


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