Hanabi has many categories, such as aerial fireworks that hundreds of thousands of people look up to watch, ground fireworks that show originality, and toy fireworks like sparklers that are commonly enjoyed at home. This display explains the major types of fireworks, mainly aerial fireworks.
(1) Toy Fireworks
There are presumably hundreds of types of toy fireworks categorized by each company and mechanism. They include fireworks that get wrapped in flames and sparks, spin around, run, fly, jump, sound like explosions, or emit smoke. Only a small amount of gunpowder is used, and anyone can enjoy these fireworks, but it could be dangerous if misused. A safe method is to keep water nearby and use them correctly.
(2) Types of Aerial Hanabi
Aerial fireworks can be roughly classified as Warimono, Kowarimono, and Pokamono. Fireworks with accessories to create effects when they are going up in the sky are called fireworks with rising attachments. In addition, day fireworks are launched during the day. Contrary to the standard aerial fireworks launched at night, sound and smoke are important. Warimono are the main and most basic type of aerial fireworks. Knowing the major types of fireworks makes it more fun to watch them.
[Kowarimono] Many small shells and explosives to scatter them are placed inside a large shell. When the shell opens in air, it creates many small fireworks. For example, Senrin (meaning thousand flowers) releases small shells in all directions, which resemble many small flowers.
[Warimono] These are the typical fireworks that open up to form a sphere The stars (gunpowder for lights, colors, or smoke) are scattered by certain explosives.
Chrysanthemum is the most common warimono, with stars spreading in a round shape, leaving their tails. Peony’s stars do not leave tails, unlike Chrysanthemum, and start to glow from the moment the shell breaks. Kamuro Chrysanthemum appears to be weeping as the stars burn slowly. The word Kamuro comes from the hairstyle worn by sex-workers in the Edo period. Katamono is an applied version of warimono. By arranging and scattering the stars in various ways, it draws letters or shapes like a heart, a smiley face, or Saturn in two dimensions or even three.
[Shinmono] These form at least two spheres: a pistil and petal(s). Yaeshin has three layers: a pistil and two petals. Mieshin has four layers, with a pistil and three petals. Yoeshin has five layers, with a pistil and four petals. Fireworks with up to five petals, Itsueshin, have been successfully launched. Although the number eight is used in the name Yaeshin, it does not mean that the fireworks have eight layers.
[Pokamono] These are fireworks whose shells contain components other than stars and explosives. The name comes from the explosive sound made when the various components are pushed out, which is commonly described with the onomatopoeic word poka in Japanese. Bunpou (bun means separated, and pou means guns) fire gunpowder at the center of the paper tubes and let the stars go off from each end of the tubes. By loading them inside a fireworks shell, threads of light spread in all directions when the shell explodes. Hachi (meaning bees) is another type of pokamono with paper tubes buzzing and spinning around irregularly after being popped out of the shell. Youraku (literally, falling leaves) has explosives that create colored fire painted on square-shaped Japanese papers, which are ignited when the shells scatter. The papers burn while falling like leaves fluttering down from a tree.
[Tsurimono] Kougetsu (night fireworks) involves stars (kou means star) hanging from parachutes. The most common Kougetsu, Matsushima, creates many small flowers after the pistil at the center opens up. The small fires represent the islands of Matsushima, one of the three most scenic spots in Japan, and when they fall, tsurimono’s tiny green lights symbolize fishing boat lights on the sea. It is quite an elegant type of firework. Rensei (night fireworks) have parachutes with multiple stars hanging from them to let them float (Rensei translates into a row of stars). As the parachutes themselves are invisible in the dark, it looks as if some dots of light are slowly falling form the sky. Fukuromono (day fireworks) scatter bag-shaped ornaments (fukuro means bags) made of thin paper, like a snowman, dolls, or animals. They float in the sky and fall to the ground. Hatamono (day fireworks) release long flags (hata in Japanese) with paintings and words hung from parachutes. This type of firework is often used for dedication prayers to god(s) or as advertisements. Enryu (day fireworks) contain parachutes with a smoke candle. As the name suggests (en means smoke and ryu means dragons), the swirl of smoke from Enryu looks like dragons descending from the sky.
[Types of Accessories] The accessories used to create effects when the fireworks are ascending in the sky are called Kyokudou or Kyoku in Japanese. They are attached to fireworks shells and then launched.
Rising Florets create small flowers when ascending. Florets open up successively at a fixed time interval, which is done by adjusting the length of each fuse. Fireworks with Rising Bunpou are equipped with Bunpou in layers. Bunpou are paper tubes with explosives to push out the stars from each end. (※This component is also used for the fireworks themselves.) Rising Bunka (ka means flower/fire) has the same structure as that of Rising Bunpou, but with multiple stars within their paper tubes. Several stars pop out of the left and right end of the tubes. Both Rising Bunpou and Bunka are categorized as danzakimono (danzaki translates to blooming in layers). Rising Boku is a type of attachment that leaves a thick line as it ascends. A silver one is called Silver Dragon as it looks like a dragon going up in the sky. A gold one has several names such as Gold Dragon, Gold Tug, and Nishiki Tug. Rising Whistle makes sounds while ascending. The accessory has whistles inside paper tubes, which makes a whistling sound after ignition. This greatly builds excitement among spectators until the moment the fireworks explode.
(3) Hanabi Naming
Japanese fireworks are unique in that every piece has its own name. There are set naming conventions, and the names explain how fireworks go up in the sky and disappear. It does not seem easy to understand the names, but watching fireworks gets more fun by knowing the content of fireworks and what shape they create.
For example, the name 昇分砲付（のぼりぶんぽうつき）四重芯（よえしん）菊（きく）先紅緑（さきべにみどり）白閃光（しろせんこう）can be separated into five parts and each of them means the followings.
① Accessories: 昇分砲付 means that an accessory called Rising Bunpou is attached. Therefore, the fireworks will rise while streaming rays of light from each side.
② Pistil and Petal(s): 四重芯, or Yoeshin, indicates that the firework has five layers, comprising a pistil and four petals.
③ Type of Firework: 菊, or Chrysanthemum, refers to the type of the main body of the firework.
④ How the Rays of Light Change: This section describes how the rays of light form a sphere and change in color. 先紅緑 means the edge (先) of the rays changes from red (紅) to green (緑).
⑤ How the Edge Changes: This part of the name explains how the edge of the light behaves when the fireworks’ sphere disappears. 白閃光 means the edge of lights, after turning green, releases a white (白) flash (閃光).
(4) Types of Ground Hanabi
Compared to single-shot aerial fireworks, Ground Hanabi use tricks such as combining several aerial fireworks to create special effects. There are many types of ground fireworks.
Framed Fireworks draw paintings or words in the sky using paper tubes filled with explosives on wooden frames. The flames coming out of the tubes form various shapes and letters. Falling Fireworks use wire ropes to hang paper tubes with explosives inside them. For example, Niagara looks like a waterfall with sparks going downwards; Mt. Fuji, or Mountain, is created by lifting the center of the rope. Underwater/Water Fireworks launch the fireworks shells from a launcher on the water or shore. They form a fan shape and beautifully reflect on the surface of the water at night. Spinning Fireworks such as Wheels Hanabi twist around. Tubes with explosives are attached to a frame with a fixed center. Jet propulsion moves the wheels, sometimes while releasing sparks. Striking Fireworks involve packing components like stars, kowarimono, and whistles inside paper pipes and firing them in succession with launching explosives. The components can all be of a single type or a combination of several types.