Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Things that Nobody Ever Told You About Hanabi

“You are turning into a COMPLETE Japanese!”

Jason said to me when I told him I’d be leaving the house at 2:30pm to meet my friend Tanya at Odaiba seaside park in time to watch the Tokyo Bay fireworks (hanabi) show. Jason, on the other hand, would have nothing to do with the hot and humid weather, the crazy crowds, or the you’ve-gotta-be-there-four-hours-before-the-show crap. So I embarked on my first hanabi trip of the year alone with camera, tripod and picnic food in tow.

Why does she need to leave so early, you say? Let me enlighten you.

First of all, I’ll have you know that leaving one’s house five hours before the show even though one lives only half an hour away from Tokyo Bay is in fact not early at all. By the time I got to Shinbashi station to change to the monorail (Yurikamome) there were so many people going the same direction that it took me half an hour to buy the train ticket. Secondly, the reason I didn’t have to go until so LATE, was because Tanya’s friend who lives in Odaiba (Tokyo’s manmade island) went to the beach at 8am to secure a place for the rest of the group. Thirdly, if you don’t arrive at the beach early enough, even if you have friends nice enough to reserve a space for you, you may never find them in the sea of people on the beach (seriously, you have no idea how many people can pack into a tiny stretch of beach), especially after dark.

So you see? You have to have the right mind-set for an event like this. The hanabi is not a single event (it also involves eating tons of food and drinking copious amount of alcohol before, during and after the show), nor should you expect to sit under the cool summer sky and enjoy an hour-long spectacular show without paying some price.

This year, the price included:
- Waiting in line for 30 minutes to buy my monorail ticket (lesson #1: have prepaid train card ready in situations like this).
- Taking shelter under a tarp when it rained for one hour just before the show, getting sand into everything (lesson #2: bring umbrella even if it was sunny when you left the house)
- Running back and forth between the monorail station, the JR station, and the water taxi station after the show trying to figure out which has the shortest line (lesson #3: don’t linger after the show. Better yet, get up and leave before the finale)
- Lining up in the street for 40 minutes to set foot into the monorail station (see lesson#3)
- Getting caught in a downpour when I got out of the train station so I had to call Jason to come and pick me up (see lesson #2)

Next year, we’ll try to get even closer. (More photos here.)


Anonymous said...

Hi! I found your log from

I was wondering when you began to learn Japanese, or were you raised in a Japanese speaking household? I currently only know a few phrases, and I'm going to be a junior in high school. I'd like to go to, maybe even live in Japan someday. I was wondering if it is possible to just learn it in college, or if I should be desperately searching for a way to learn it. (it is not offered at my school)

Also, when you worked in Japan, what did you do?


Cat, United States

Lynn said...

Cat, welcome to my blog!

To answer your question, I studied Japanese when I got to Japan (at 27). Prior to that I had no knowledge of Japanese. If you're still in high school, and your school doesn't offer Japanese lessons, I would say the best way is to go for an exchange program in Japan. Living with a host family in an all Japanese environment is the best way to learn. My speaking ability didn't really improve until I started working and was forced to speak.

To answer your second quesstion: I worked for a major Japanese pharmaceutical firm for three years before calling it quits. Although I have a doctorate degree in the field, being fluent in Japanese by then was the determining factor in getting that job.

Good luck to you and I hope you make it to Japan!