Tsuruga is a small coastal city (pop. 65,400) facing the Sea of Japan. Best known for nuclear power plants feeding power to Kansai (Kyoto, Osaka, etc.), Hokuriku (Fukui, Ishikawa, Toyama), and Chubu (Aichi, Gifu, Nagano, etc.) regions.

Tsuruga has this famous and historic beach of pine trees called Kehi no Matsubara (気比の松原), a National Scenic Site (名勝). The Tsuruga lantern-floating ceremony and fireworks are held here annually on Aug. 16. It’s a short bus ride from JR Tsuruga Station (becoming a Hokuriku shinkansen station in 2022). 第68回とうろう流しと大花火大会、福井県敦賀市「気比の松原」海岸

Map: https://goo.gl/maps/d3X2xZriaCq

Waiting for the train to Tsuruga to see the lantern floating (toro nagashi) and fireworks in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture on Aug. 16, 2017.
After getting off the shuttle bus, a walk to the beach.
Kehi no Matsubara beach.

This is my second time to see this event. The first time was in 2006, and the biggest change since then are all these chairs on the beach for paying spectators. In 2006, most everyone sat on the sand and it was free.

I was disheartened at first, but when I heard that the seats (or beach mat space) were “only” ¥2,000, I thought it was reasonable compared to other fireworks that ridiculously charged ¥4,000+.

It seems to be a trend in Japan to charge for fireworks, especially in provincial cities where there are fewer sponsors. In Tokyo, even the biggest fireworks are still free. I guess that’s why I’m not used to paying for fireworks. But ¥2,000 is not a problem.

All the seats are numbered. So you get a reserved seat like in a concert hall. This was the nice view from my seat. The free seating area was behind the beach and it didn’t have a view of the water (blocked by rest houses and trees). The lantern floating was scheduled for 6:30 pm.

This is where you could buy a lantern for ¥500. They sold 6,000 floating lanterns.

Lanterns came in red, yellow, and blue. It has straw base, bamboo frame, wax candle, paper, and matches. The lantern is printed with “Memorial for all ancestors” (先祖代々之霊位). You could also write a message on the paper.

I didn’t notice it when I took the photo, but this woman (maybe in her early 30s) wrote a wish on her floating lantern: “I wish to have a boyfriend within this year!!” (「今年中に彼氏ができますように!!」) Maybe she’s confusing this ancestral festival with the Tanabata lovers’ festival, but she’s got about 4 months left, so good luck to her!!

From 6:30 pm, people line up to float their lanterns on the water. Buddhist priests (not sure which sect) were chanting over the PA system.
People who didn’t want to go into the water gave the lantern to a staff person (man on the right) in the water.
The staff person tried to put the lanterns out to sea.
This woman’s lantern fell apart as soon as she set it on the lapping waves. No offense to her ancestral spirits I hope…
Fragile lanterns.

The problem was, many water-shy people put the lantern on the water’s edge. The lapping waves would then topple (and destroy) or beach the lantern in seconds. The result was many lanterns never made it out to sea. They crashed and littered the beach. So if you plan to release a floating lantern, wear shorts and go a few meters beyond the water’s edge.

Might be hard to go in the water if you’re wearing a yukata. She was trying to nudge the beach-bound lanterns out to sea. Kind of futile in this attire. Bottom part of her cotton yukata was pretty soaked.
Floating your own lantern is fun and cheap. Kids need to be reminded of their ancestors and to appreciate them. This is what the Obon season is about.
As it got darker, the lanterns looked more beautiful.
Lantern floating ended at around 7:30 pm.
Ancestral spirits must be happy to see this…
After the lantern floating, the fireworks started around 7:30 pm. (It was totally dark, but my camera’s exposure made this sky look lighter.)
Wide variety of fireworks.
Definitely world-class fireworks. About 190,000 spectators. My little camera’s Fireworks mode worked pretty well. OK, now I can agree to paying for my seat.

Great fireworks, lasting for about 70 min. Finale was fantastic. It seems it was more spectacular than usual because they were also celebrating the city’s 80th anniversary this year. Well-worth the trip. Highly recommended.

Free shuttle buses back to JR Tsuruga Station didn’t take long. Lots of buses came to pick us up.
Video of the festival on Aug. 16, 2017.