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Summer Sky: The Four Types of Japanese Fireworks

It's getting close to the end of fireworks season but there's a few more festivals left.

By 2 min read

From July to September, fireworks light up the sky over at least part of Japan nightly. From waterfalls of color to cheerful smiley faces, these fireworks, called hanabi (花火) in Japanese, come in a dazzling number of varieties. After watching an hour long display with dozens of different types of fireworks, you may start to see the similarities between certain kinds of fireworks.

As explained on the HanabiNavi website, Japanese fireworks can generally be divided into four basic categories: warimono, pokamono, hanwarimono, and katamono.

Warimono, 割物

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Warimono are the quintessential Japanese firework, exploding outward in a spherical shape. Over two dozen named warimono subcategories exist, but, as explained by Yakabune.com, the most representative of the warimono firework are the chrysanthemum (菊, kiku) type, which is a circular firework with “stars” streaming out of the middle, and the peony (牡丹, botan) type, which is also circular but has “stars” with less of a streaming tail.

Pokamono, ポカ物

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The pokamono fireworks are created when the shell breaks into two in the air, releasing the contents. Pokamono fireworks often give off sound, and its “stars” may go in random directions or flow down the sky. Two well-known types of pokamono fireworks are the willow (柳, yanagi) type, which has “stars” that stream down the sky, and the bee (蜂, hachi) type, in which the “stars” spin around like bees around a nest.

Hanwarimono, 半割物

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The kanji “han” in “hanwarimono” means “half”, indicating that these fireworks are half warimono and half pokamono. Hanwarimono fireworks don’t become as large as warimono fireworks but can still put on colorful and visually stunning displays. The senrin (千輪) subcategory is the most recognized of the hanwarimono fireworks. The Omogori Firework Festival website states that senrin fireworks contain small shells inside the larger shell, creating a spectacular show of numerous smaller fireworks all going off at once.

Katamono, 型物

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Katamono fireworks are probably the most novel of the major four categories of fireworks. When katamono fireworks go off, they create a “drawing” in the sky. Some common shapes include smiley faces, hearts, and spades. More complex shapes, such as cats, chicks, and even squid, have become possible.

With the large variety of beautiful fireworks, it may be difficult to choose, but what is your favorite type of Japanese firework?

  • KagKa says:

    They have the coolest fireworks in the world 🙂

  • Yoshiyuki TEZUKA says:

    Thank you for your details explanation and I’m really impressed. The biggest type of firework called shakudama (尺玉) requires a large space. Therefore, interestingly, shakudama is not seen in Sumidagawa firework, one of the most famous fireworks in Japan.

    • Lynn says:

      I appreciate your comment and the new info. I wasn’t familiar with shakudama but looked up some photos and, wow, they’re amazing! I’d love to see one in person.

  • kei says:

    I still find warimono the most beautiful

  • JohnChristianGalas says:

    I see that katamono is the best fireworks i’ve ever seen, because of designs like cats, chicks even the squid. Thanks for these topic and you hopefully enjoy travelling in japan.

    • Lynn says:

      The first time I saw a katamono firework, a smiley face, I was seriously moved. My Japanese friends must’ve thought I was being silly, but they really are so cool. I’d love to see a squid one in real life.

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