Let me first say that this chemistry class was spectacular. I heard that the one at my home college was hard and boring, but this one was fun and challenging in a good way. The professor had almost daily demonstrations, there were explosions, and we made things like nylon and ice cream with liquid nitrogen. The firework factory field trip was only one among numerous fun things we did for that class.
Fireworks are a big deal in Japan, definitely more so than in the United States. Here, we light them off for the odd big celebration, but primarily just for Independence Day. In Japan, there are weekly festivals all over the country during the summer, each with their own firework display at the end. Most big festivals, regardless of the season, have fireworks, but in the summer there are festivals just for the fireworks themselves. Huge bags of smaller fireworks are found in most general stores during the summer, and they are always in the kids’ section. They’re much bigger and impressive than the dinky ones we set off in our driveway in Colorado, and since Japan is so humid, there are fewer fire restrictions keeping you from getting some big ones, too.
This factory didn’t make the small ones for kids, though. They made huge ones shot out of launching tubes the size of big tree trunks. And we got to see the somewhat dangerous step-by-step process.
The first thing I noticed about the factory was the many flowers around the property. In Japanese, the word for firework is hanabi, which literally translates as “flower fire.” Our tour guide explained that his company was always trying to think of new fireworks, and so they planted flowers to give them inspiration for colors and shapes.
I know from experience that fireworks have the magic ability to fill your heart with pride for your country, and hope and optimism for its future. I didn’t get to make it to that big fireworks competition, but I am sure that for the many people affected by the earthquake and its aftermath, there had never been a more beautiful, inspiring show.