Rather than battle the 430,000 people who reportedly showed up at the annual Hiroshima Port Dream Fireworks Festival in Ujina last night, my son and I avoided the crowds and enjoyed the display from afar, from the top of 231m Ushita-yama in Higashi-ku.
With around 10,000 bangs spread over an hour, the Hiroshima Port Dream Fireworks Festival is very impressive. So impressive that it can take over an hour just to board a streetcar at Hiroshima Station to get there. Then, unless you have managed to get hold of one of the premium seating tickets or even better, a room at the Prince Hotel or a spot on a friend’s boat in the bay, you have to find yourself a decent spot from which to view the display – which is exactly what the 429,999 other people are trying to do. Once it’s all over, you’ve got to get back into town… Just thinking about this (especially if you have children in tow) is exhausting.
This year, I asked my 11 year old son if he’d like to do a night hike up a mountain from where we could view of the fireworks. He was excited by the idea and we loaded up on snacks and packed plenty of water, as well as a large tin of Sapporo Black Label, and headed out just as the sun was started to make its way towards the horizon. We started from the Yamane entrance to the Ushita-yama trail, just above MAHOGANY restaurant, not far from the Peace Pagoda. Even though the sun was well on its way down, we were both soaked with sweat by the time we’d made the initial short, but very steep climb up to Onaga-yama. I was worried we were in for a miserable time, but once we got on the shady trail and darkness feel things started to cool down. It took us about an hour to get along the ridge to the summit of Ushita-yama.
We arrived a few minutes before the fireworks started at 8pm. Other than ourselves, there was only one other older guy at the summit who had had the same idea. Although in no way as impressive as seeing the fireworks up close, we had a good clear view of the fireworks exploding over the city lights. With the display site some 8km away, the muffled sound of the blasts didn’t reach us until well after the fiery remnants of each blast had fallen into the sea. The sound of the commentary for the baseball game, which was going on in the brightly lit stadium below us, coming for the transistor radio attached to the belt of our elderly companion provided an appropriate soundtrack.
After the finale at just a couple of minutes before 9pm, we packed up our gear and wandered further down the trail and took the path to Ushita Waseda Elementary School, from where we wandered down through the labyrinth of hillside streets back to the bright lights and bus routes of Ushita.