Simultaneous fireworks displays colored the night skies in Tokyo and other parts of Japan on Monday, with the hope that the sight would cheer up the nation amid the coronavirus pandemic.
With many of the country’s summer fireworks festivals having been canceled or postponed, pyrotechnicians nationwide joined hands to launch the “Cheer Up! Hanabi Project” for a short, surprise fireworks display.
To avoid drawing crowds, the organizers set a five-minute limit for the fireworks. They initially intended to keep the date, time and locations under wraps but later went public with the date and time amid concerns some people might find the sudden fireworks displays disconcerting.
In Tokyo, the fireworks began without warning at 8 p.m., with bursts of light filling the rainy sky.
Despite the rain, more than two dozen people gathered on the banks of the Tama River located a short walk from Keio-Tamagawa Station.
“I had a hunch, so I came here,” said Yukiji Kushiro, who was among those eagerly watching the night sky under their umbrellas around 10 minutes before the display began.
“Even though they say it’s a secret, there are only so many places they can launch fireworks. I live on the Keio Line so I decided to come have a look,” Kushiro said.
A resident of the area also waiting on the banks said a notice had been passed around during a neighborhood meeting, but residents were told to keep the information quiet.
“With coronavirus and everything, they didn’t want too many people gathering,” she said.
People dispersed quickly after the five-minute display. Usually, fireworks last one hour or more at summer festivals.
“Watching (the fireworks) has reminded me to be thankful for our medical workers,” said Taiji Sato, a 25-year-old company employee.
Fireworks displays also took place in Sapporo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Iwanuma, Miyagi Prefecture, and Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture.
“People are facing tough times now because of the coronavirus. So we decided to do what only we can do, which is to set off fireworks in the hope of providing encouragement,” said 38-year-old Kohei Ogatsu, director of the Tokyo-based Marutamaya Ogatsu Fireworks Co.
“As we face gloomy news due to the virus, people often tend to look down but when fireworks are set off, we look up. I hope we can help people do just that,” he said.
His company set off the fireworks on the banks of the Tama River.
Ogatsu was one of 11 people taking the lead in the project. The idea was conceived in April and early last month the organizers sent a fax to about 300 companies detailing their plans. About 160 firms nationwide expressed a desire to participate.
“The fireworks also carry our wish for the coronavirus outbreak to be contained,” said Ogatsu, whose firm dates its founding to 1864 and is one of the companies involved in the Sumida River summer fireworks festival.
Ogatsu added that fireworks in Japan began as a response to an epidemic. The first event, he said, was held in 1733 following an outbreak of cholera to pray for the souls of those who died and for an end to the disease.