Toyohira River Fireworks Festival

The Toyohira River Fireworks Festival is the number one fireworks show in Hokkaido! This seasonal tradition marks the height of summer in Sapporo.

The Toyohira Fireworks Festival is held along the banks of the Toyohira river. About 4,000 fireworks will be let off, with all types and shapes that soar high into the heavens with a loud bang shaking the entire area, in a massive “Summer Night Fantasia”. The elaborate grand finale is not to be missed as it lights up the night sky in Sapporo. The show goes on for approximately 1 hour from launch.

A good viewing point is the bridge over the Toyohira river just down from Nakajima Park, about 5 minutes on foot from both the Nakajima Koen Subway Station on the Nanboku line or from Nakanoshima station. However, traffic is very congested around the venue on the day so expect it to be very crowded. It is recommended that you give plenty of time to walk from the subway station or even rent a hotel room with a view in advance to avoid the rush. Many hotels around the venue welcome customers with special seating and room plans. This is especially popular with groups of business people and couples, but must be booked far in advance. Please contact the desired hotel directly. It should be noted, the fireworks will be postponed until Monday the 29th July in the case of stormy weather on the day.

There are several theories about the history of fireworks held in Sapporo at the Toyohira river. One is that the predecessor of the Sapporo City Transportation Bureau, the Sapporo Electric Railway Co., Ltd. began the show for PR purposes around 1935. It is said that at that time the festival was held for a period of 10 days, with fireworks reminiscent of the arch of the Toyohira bridge being demonstrated. Another theory is that the fireworks originated with an annual celebration of Japan’s Russo-Japanese War victory, which was handed down. At this time the festival was also a competition of fireworks skill, and famous pyrotechnicians from across the country gathered to compete. The goal of the festival then seems to have been slightly different from today’s goal of enjoying the cool summer breeze and an outdoor gathering. In the past the fireworks become grander and grander, with more than 50 pyrotechnicians gathering in 1918 from across the country, and an article in the “North Sea Times” (currently the Hokkaido Shimbun) that reported on the fireworks at the time states fireworks with glamorous names like: “Five Colored Morning Glory”, “Trellis Ran Ball”, and “Peony Lion”.

In around 2006, there were three tournaments co-hosted by the Hokkaido Shimbun Press (Doshin), Hokkaido bunkahoso (UHB), the Yomiuri Shimbun, and Asahi Shimbun, carried out over three consecutive weeks each Friday in July. But in 2007 the Yomiuri Shimbun transferred the venue to Yubari from Toyohira to assist with the Yubari reconstruction efforts, and Asahi Shimbun cancelled their sponsorship in 2009. Currently the only sponsors are UHB and Doshin.

The event is an enjoyable one for the whole family, and is free to attend, but make sure you leave with plenty of time to get there and back, as it is extremely crowded and can be slow going.

This post is also available in: Japanese