Fireworks light up Japan to lift spirits amid pandemic
Dozens of fireworks displays erupted simultaneously across Japan on Monday to cheer up the public, urge the gods to end the coronavirus pandemic and provide practice for struggling pyrotechnic artisans.
More than 160 manufacturers launched their displays at precisely 8pm local time at secret locations across the country for a five-minute display called "Cheer up Hanabi" (fireworks).
After a severe famine and cholera epidemic in 1732, the 8th shogun of the Edo Bakufu, Tokugawa Yoshimune (1684-1751), ordered Japan's first fireworks display in 1733 as a memorial to the dead and as a prayer for the eradication of the lingering disease.
In an era of social distancing, the synchronised shows were designed to be long enough for people to rush to balconies or doorsteps to see them but too short for people to race to the launch sites.
The pandemic has been particularly harsh for fireworks producers, who spend all year making and testing their crafts and now are unable to sell them because summer festivals have been called off.
The postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics was a major blow for the industry, leaving craftsmen unable to sell fireworks they had spent months making.
Elaborate prayer ceremony
The Okunitama Shinto shrine held an elaborate prayer ceremony to bless the fireworks team and to tell the gods their wish for the virus to end.