In a rural part of Fukuoka prefecture there’s a small company that’s been making children’s fireworks for over 80 years. Tsutsui Tokimasa Fireworks specializes in small, handheld sparklers and are one of only three other Japanese makers of sparklers. Their handmade sparklers are so beautifully packaged you might not want to burn them, especially in the dark.
Among the lineup of products at Tsutsui Tokimasa you’ll find animal-themed fireworks like a dragon and a whale. You’ll also find your standard hand-held sparklers like the ones you might see sticking out of a birthday cake. Then you’ll find the senko-hanabi (literally, incense fireworks), an extremely delicate yet beautiful Japanese firework. Once lit, they start off as a small, shivering red ball. They pitter and patter a bit before suddenly blossoming into a flower of sparkle. But you have to hold them still or the tiny red ball will detach and fall to the ground and you will be sad.
Tsutsui Tokimasa explains that their senko hanabi are made with just 0.08 grams of gunpowder, which has to be expertly inserted into the handmade washi paper. Even 1/100th of a gram difference can make or break the sparkle. They also explain that these sparklers are meant to be aged like a fine wine, which is why they come in wooden boxes that keep out moisture. Use some up this summer but then put away the rest and keep them for next summer.
Want to learn how to make fireworks? Tsutsui Tokimasa offers periodic workshops in their a detached space that neighbors their gallery and factory where they’ll teach children and adults how to make their very own fireworks. If you’re interested, you should get in touch. Or if you’re in the area, stop by to pick up some the most beautiful fireworks you’ll ever see.