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August is peak summer season in Japan.  We can look forward to some of the most spectacular fireworks displays and festivals in the world, ...

Omagari Fireworks Competition


There are three big fireworks shows in Japan: Omagari, Ibaraki, and Nagaoka.    No summer in Japan would be complete unless you attend all three of these events.   
Akita is far away from most major cities, but even still it drew a crowd of close to a million visitors for this event.   The first picture is a local delicacy found all over Akita.  It's called Kirintanpo a cylindrical shaped rice treat with light miso.   The best way to enjoy this is when it's slightly burnt. 
The drinks for the evening came from Dewatsuru of Akita Seishun.   Ginnama ( Ginjo-nama; quite dry;nihonshu-do +3; seimai-buai 57%; ) Fresh, vivid, fruity flavor profiles.      Acid Seven was the next best sake I tried, but one that is only available online, and one I probably had direct involvement in its production...When stopping in Akita Prefecture, you simply must drink the sake.  
This sake is extremely rare.   Last spring I had attended a sake event in Akita for a sake naming event.  Everybody critiqued several dozen different sake and wrote down their favorite ones.  We also had to come up with a name for the sake.   Acid Seven?   Never understood why Acid Seven was selected... Here's a link if you read the back of the label.  I assume because there were no good names to choose from, seven of us( six friends plus me) were the best names that came up.  I do not know if this is true.  I am just making up a theory.    A beautiful sake to drink, nevertheless.  



I had been looking forward to this trip for a long time, and finally the day came.   I packed light and headed out to the station to catch the 4:19a.m. train out of Yokohama to Tokyo where I'd changed over to the Shinkansen bound for Aomori Prefecture.   There I would rendezvous with three friends and then head down to Akita, the site of the Omagari Fireworks show.   

My Japanese sake brothers  BMW coupe was clean.  Luckily we were able to park the car at a sake brewer friend's house very near where the fireworks show was being held.   We stocked up on plenty of beer and snacks for the road.   It took us about three and a half hours to reach Omagari from Aomori.   By the time we got there I was nice and sauced.    Thankfully all the unseasonably scattered showers dissipated before the show.   A sake brewer friend had reserved "A" seats for us on a stage like structure situated next to the river.    I was able to lay down flat on my back and enjoy some amazing views.

Unlike other fireworks shows, this one is a national fireworks competition where 27 fireworks manufacturers from all over Japan shoot 18,000 fireworks high up into the night sky.   The whole show lasts about 2 1/2 hours!   The winner is awarded the Emperor's cup.   Close to a million visitors and locals from all over Japan were in attendance.   

In this video you can get a sample of the apotheosis in a beautiful symphony like score with dazzling lights.  To simply take pictures wouldn't be enough.   


The highlight of the evening for me was when The Chariots of Fire musical score was being played and all of a sudden heavy rain fell.   It poured for about ten or fifteen minutes straight and the whole place got soaked out, yet the fireworks display never stopped!    It was strangely beautiful for me because somehow the music and the fireworks display worked in perfect order with the rain.    When the rain finally stopped and all you could hear was water dripping from the guard rails The Godfather score played over the speaker with accompanying fireworks in dazzling white.    Something about the violin, cello, and the slow dirge working in sync with the white colors in the fireworks, and as each tear drop shaped firework fell from the sky I was moved.    That stuck in my mind.   


To compare this display with others is totally unfair.   In a previous post, I had ranked Nagaoka the best fireworks show.    The music makes the show memorable.   Nagaoka used a lot of Mariah Carey's music along with some J-pop whereas  Omagari used a lot of Enka pieces and a few musical scores from hit movies like The Godfather.     These two shows are completely different, even the technical merits.   Omagari uses bigger shells.    Another interesting point is the afternoon fireworks displays.   At Omagari you can enjoy daytime fireworks which are completely different from nigh


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