National

Tokyo Bay fireworks festival may be an Olympics loser, ousted by construction work

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

This summer could be the final time the Tokyo Bay Grand Fireworks Festival is held, ending a spectacular annual celebration that began in the feel-good years of the late 1980s.

The extravagant, early evening display for hundreds of thousands of viewers perched on balconies, terraces and dock quays around the inner part of the bay is being suspended because the Olympic Village will soon be built on the vacant plot of land that the bulk of the spectators use, officials said Thursday.

The hiatus is scheduled to last only until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is out of the way, but it looks unlikely that the event will resume at the current site because the area will have become a residential neighborhood.

“The festival has been part of local (tradition) for more than 25 years, so it’s regrettable we won’t be able to host it,” said Kazuhiro Mashimo, director of the community development section at the Chuo Ward Office, which organizes the festival.

The festival draws up to 700,000 viewers every year and was first held in 1988. It was canceled last year at short notice due to a typhoon.

This year’s display, the 27th, is scheduled for Aug. 8.

Mashimo said the vacant land in the Harumi district is perfect for a festival of this kind. It was once the site of an exhibition center, but that was superseded by Tokyo Big Sight — the nation’s largest convention center — which was built in neighboring Koto Ward in 1996.

“Since that time, the land has been vacant,” Mashimo said.

Construction work on the 44-hectare plot will start next spring, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

Mashimo said the land used for the festival is on lease from the metropolitan government, and that the Chuo Ward Office is now looking for an alternative location.

“If we lose the chance to use the venue in Harumi district, we will be unable to host such big events within our ward. All we can do is to try to relocate the venue and organize a smaller event,” he said.

The festival typically involves around 12,000 pieces launched from a platform near Harumi Pier. Together with a similar display along the Sumida River it is among the biggest summertime tourist attractions in Tokyo.

Mashimo said Chuo Ward has approached the metropolitan government for “support,” asking if it might organize the event in the future or at least lend some assistance.

Fumihiro Abe, senior director of the metropolitan government’s Olympic Village section of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games Preparation Bureau, said it can only help the ward by “providing various types of information” to the public. He did not elaborate.

“We are aware that it might be difficult to organize the event there again after the Olympics,” as the area will be turned into a residential zone afterward, Abe said.

“The space will be limited, but we would like to leave the decision on whether to resume the event to Chuo Ward,” he said.

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