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
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.
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!!
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.
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.