Katakai is a small village in Ojiya City in Niigata that hosts an amazing fireworks display on the the 9th and 10th of September each year. Katakai and Ojiya are not part of the Snow Country Tourism Zone, though being one of the big three summer fireworks festival in Niigata Prefecture (the other two being Nagaoka and Kashiwazaki) the Snow Country Tourism Office put on a bus trip up the expressway for anyone that was interested in seeing one of the biggest fireworks in the world.
Katakai used to be home to firework makers and as a result their town festival each year boasted one of the most impressive displays around. This tradition still continues, and one of the charms of this firework festival is that it is not just a big firework display, but also a small village matsuri based around the shrine. Different ages of classmates have a reunion each year and drag their float through the village and up to the shrine and viewing area, accompanied by lots of dancing, drinking, and singing.
Asahara Shrine grounds are full of food stalls and people paying their respects. There is a display of the large fireworks that are launched. They are huge. There are a few different types of paid seating or you can find a space somewhere around the shrine. Our tour had seating on wooden boards in the main viewing area. We all had a lunch box provided and had made a stop at a supermarket on the way up to Ojiya to fill up with drinks and snacks. Well prepared, we sat back and enjoyed the show.
Japanese summer fireworks tend to be impressive anyway, but the Katakai Fireworks Festival is amazing. Each firework is launched with a short dedication over the loud speaker with cheers going up from different parts of the crowd when their fireworks are launched. There is an amazing array of colors, sounds, and shapes to the fireworks, with smiley faces, hearts, and stars all making an appearance. The grand finale at the end of the night is the really big one. Many other fireworks festivals have moved the big draw to the middle of the display so that the bus tours can leave at a decent time without missing out. The Katakai Fireworks Festival has kept to tradition and keep their big bang to the very last. Once that is over it is a mad dash back to homes, buses, and cars.
It is a wonderful small town festival with one of the best firework displays around so if you are not doing anything on 9th or 10th of September next year…
[The bus tour arranged by the Snow Country Tourism Office left Echigo-Yuzawa Station at 15:15 and arrived back after midnight. The tour fee included transportation, private seating area at the Katakai Fireworks Festival and a lunch box.]