Jinta Hirayama was an enterprising pyrotechnist who, in 1877, founded The Hirayama Fireworks company in Yokohama. Hirayama had come from Mikawa Province (modern-day Aichi Prefecture) which was famous for their fireworks and he recruited several firework artisans to come work for him. Japanese fireworks at the time primarily emitted only subdued orange hues but Hirayama is credited as being one of the first to incorporate brighter colors. And when Ulysses S. Grant visited Japan in 1879, it was Hirayama’s company that was responsible for the fireworks show.

In 1883, Hirayama became the first Japanese to ever register a patent in the United States – 2 years before Japan even had a patent registry – for “Daylight Fire-Works.” Hirayama passed away in 1900 but his entrepreneurial spirit lives on in the fireworks catalogues that his company produced, which were so beautifully illustrated. Hirayama apparently had clients around the world, and hence produced bilingual catalogues in English and Japanese.

The illustrated catalogs have been digitized by the Yokohama City Library and are available for download.