Although not in Hiroshima, our near neighbours in Yamaguchi have the beautiful humped bridge of Kintaikyo that hosts a fantastic fireworks festival at the beginning of August each year.
It only takes about an hour to drive to the famous bridge on the expressway (Iwakuni exit) and there are signs in English to get to the Kintaikyo bridge. I like to stop at the Miyajima expressway rest-stop to recharge at the Starbucks and take a quick peak at Miyajima island from the viewpoint. This is also a good stop if you have little ones or want a shady spot for a picnic as there is a nice park and playground area.
I felt a bit worried leaving Hiroshima at 4:30 pm as I had heard that the official parking lots at Kintaikyo were half full at 1pm! However, since the fireworks weren’t due to start till 8pm, I thought I’d try.
I had a couple of hours to walk around the festival and snap a few shots while people were picnicking and enjoying the day out. It was really humid and the occasional light showers were very welcome. Most people were sitting on their mats chatting and fanning themselves waiting for the evening entertainment to start.
Once I sat down on a grassy patch near the traffic bridge (where all the photographers had set up their tripods), I enjoyed watching the sightseeing boats glide up and down the river. At dusk the festival stalls and stage near the Kintai-kyo Bridge seemed to glow with activity as the Taiko drummers performed and preparations for the fireworks began. On our end, cormorant fishers in traditional costume went by, the birds working hard catching fish in the light of the burning bundles at the bow of the boat.
The firework festival was actually a ‘taikai’ competition between companies and organisations that sponsored the event. In Japanese, they would announce how much was spent on each display and the name of the company as well as a little advertising before and after each bout of fireworks. Sometimes they would announce a delay as they waited for the smoke to clear before the next segment of fireworks would begin. I’d love to see the MCAS Iwakuni marine base sponsor their own bout of fireworks someday- this would be a nice international friendship gesture. There were a lot of residents of the base enjoying the festival. There was a very friendly, international vibe at the Kintaikyo festival, it’s a beautiful place to enjoy such a spectacular summer festival.
Sure enough when I arrived just after 5pm, the parking lots were full. So, I joined the many cars parked along the side of the road starting from about a 1km away from the bridge. There was an official announcement every ten minutes warning people that they would be fined if they parked their cars on the main road (rt 2). However, I heard the local people sat around me discussing the fact that there wasn’t enough official parking so they had no choice and never got a fine in the past… so I didn’t worry too much. Luckily when I got back to the car mine was one of many along the side of the road and none of the cars had the dreaded yellow stickers, whew! It’d be great if the owners of some of the empty lots around this area would offer up their lots for parking (even paid parking) it would be a great service and a good little side business a few times of year during the festivals.
The benefit of parking on the main road is being able to leave anytime you like. I enjoyed the fireworks for an hour and then headed home when the roads were free and clear, official car park users have to wait until the end and wait in line for all the cars to leave at once. Great if you want to make a day trip of it, but not very convenient if you want to enjoy some fireworks and move on. Another option would be to take the train to Iwakuni Station, or Shin-Iwakuni Shinkansen station (closer to the bridge) and take a bus or taxi to the bridge to enjoy the festival, have a few drinks at leisure and not worry about any of the car park, traffic hassle.