The Big Bang, Gifu style
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Address: Nagaragawa river, Gifu city
In Gifu, there are two big firework displays within a week of each other. The first occurs on the last Saturday of July, and the second occurs on the first Saturday of August.
Not only are these two shows in competition with each other, the sponsors of them are also in competition. The first fireworks display is the Chunichi Newspaper Nagara River All-Japan Fireworks Festival, which is run by The Chunichi Newspaper. The second fireworks display is the Nagara River National Display, which is run by the Gifu Newspaper and Gifu Broadcasting System Inc.
Both shows have about 30,000 fireworks set off over the day, but most of those fireworks are set off after dark, approximately from 7 to 8:30 PM. My advice is to come early (like in the morning or early afternoon) if you want a good seat and want to avoid traffic jams. If worst comes to worst, the riverside seats are a thirty-minute walk from JR station, going north on Nagarabashi street.
Whatever you do, expect a crowd, with up as many as 400,000 spectators each day. The high attendance explains the scarcity of seats and the traffic jams.
The best place to see the fireworks is from the northern bank of the Nagara River, west of the Nagara Bridge; that is where the most spectators are. Don’t try to see it from the southern bank, as the buildings get in the way (I tried it once). Also don’t try to see it from the bridge, as the police try to keep the vehicular and pedestrian traffic moving.
There are other places with good views of the fireworks. One of the better views is from the Miyako hotel, but then a room with a river view that night is expensive. Other views are from local restaurants, from apartments in the area, from the east side of the northern bank of the Nagaragawa River (which is farther away, but not as crowded). Some view the fireworks from cormorant fishing pleasure boats, but I don’t know if the roofs of those boats interfere with seeing the fireworks. If you view the fireworks from one of these other views, be sure to go where most of the spectators are at least once, to soak up the festival atmosphere.
Be sure to bring your own food and drinks if you can, because although there are plenty of food stalls and although the food is good, it is at festival prices and the food stalls usually have long lines.
Like cherry blossom viewing, the fireworks displays in Gifu are a great to time to have a party. Have fun.