Tokyo Museums: Ryogoku Fireworks Museum 両国花火資料館
Ryogoku Fireworks Museum in the Ryogoku area of Tokyo, close to the Sumida River, the Edo-Tokyo Museum and Eko-in Temple, is a free facility dedicated to the history of fireworks in Japan and the many spectacular fireworks festivals held throughout the year.
History of Fireworks in Japan
According to the curator of the Ryogoku Firework Museum, fireworks were introduced in to Japan by John Saris, a compatriot, though by no means friend, of William Adams, both men English traders in the Edo Period, working out of Hirado in Nagasaki Prefecture.
Saris brought along a group of Chinese merchants to meet Tokugawa Ieyasu in Sumpu Castle in Shizuoka in 1613. The shogun was so impressed by the fireworks display laid on for his pleasure that he allowed the import of fireworks and licensed their production in Japan. A fireworks display in Sumpu Castle in early August commemorates this initial introduction of pyrotechnics to Japan.
Sumida River Fireworks
The fireworks display on the Sumida River in Tokyo dates from 1733. A pandemic had swept through Edo causing many deaths, so local Buddhist temples organized a remembrance service where lit candles were floated on the river.
A number of stalls or yatai were set up on the river to serve people coming to pay their respects to the dead. The shogun of the day, Tokugawa Yoshimune, allowed stored military gunpowder to be used to create a fireworks display called the Ryogoku Kawabiraki Fireworks Festival to add a more powerful illumination to placate his citizens. This officially sponsored annual event lead to the growth of the Japanese fireworks industry using bamboo and hemp rope to create fireworks of different sizes and colors.
The Ryogoku Firework Museum exhibits a number of original Japanese cylindrical fireworks, launchers, the happi coats traditionally worn by Japanese pyrotechnicians, newspaper clippings, and posters celebrating the major Japanese fireworks festivals, a selection of which are listed:
Ryogoku Fireworks Museum Hours
May, June, September, October open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
July & August open daily.
November-April open Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
2-10-8 Ryogoku, Sumida-ku, Tokyo 130-0026
Tel: 03 5608 6951
JR Ryogoku station (JR Sobu line)
Ryogoku subway station (Toei Oedo line)