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The Japanese summer tradition

Sparklers by the Tsutsui Tokimasa factory

Texts / Ron Lam
Translation / Iris Heung

電影《海街日記》有這樣的一段,仲夏的某一個晚上,父親與第三者所生的女兒鈴(Suzu)在回家的路,與好友風太(Fuuta)談起自己寄住在同父異母姐姐家的事,猶豫著自己一直住下去是否合適,對於自己的身份始終感到不安。回到家中,卻見姐姐們準備了浴衣,要她穿上,一起在庭園上點煙花。姐妹們一起手執著纖細的線香煙花,注視著驟然燒起,躍動飛舞,然後悄然消去的煙花,煙花脆弱卻結實了姐妹間的感情。生命如煙花般短暫,能握在手裡時就好好把握,細細欣賞。這一段,記載了日本文化裡煙花與季節、與生命及情感間微妙的聯繫。

煙花是日本夏季的風物詩,一到夏季,孩子們都跑到公園、河畔點燃玩具煙花。日本曾是煙花的主要生產國之一。1999年,全國最後一家線香煙花工廠快將倒閉,日本的玩具煙花幾乎陷入只能依靠外國輸入的狀況。幸好福岡的筒井時正(Tsutsui Tokimasa)玩具花火製造所的第三代傳人筒井良太(Ryota Tsutsui),不甘心日本的傳統文化就此流失,在線香工廠快將倒閉之時,前往學習修行,並在其倒閉之後接收了所有技術與器材,將日本重要的傳統文化保存下來。

筒井時正製作的煙花非常嶄新而優美——花朵形態的「花」系列、模仿著火山爆發,先噴出濃煙再冒出火炎的「花富士」,還有造成各種動物形狀的動物煙花。不過他們最引起為傲的,大概是東西線香煙花了。東線香煙花象徵關東,關東是紙張的主要生產地故以紙張造成;西線香煙花是象徵著關西,因關西稻米生產量充足,故用稻草製作。這原是日本的傳統玩具煙花的造法,包含著上一代人無可替代的回憶,現在已是筒井時正只此一家的技術。筒井時正以一己之力維護著這微小的、短暫卻燦爛的光煇。

In one of the scenes in the Japanese movie Our Little Sister, Suzu, a love child, tells her friend Fuuta that she is now living with her half-sisters. Walking home on this summer’s night, Suzu confesses to Fuuta the uneasiness she had living with them due to her illegitimate identity. However, when she gets home, her sisters bring out a yukata and asks her to try it on. The four sisters gather in the backyard, light up some sparklers and adore the firework glows vibrantly and fades. The delicate firework creates a strong power to strengthen the bond among the sisters. Life is perhaps like firework, one has to seize the chance to embrace and admire its short-lived beauty. This scene is an adequate depiction of the subtle connection between firework and season, life and sensibility in the Japanese culture.

Firework is a Japanese summer tradition; it is almost a ritual for children go to park and riverside to light up firework to welcome the beginning of summer. Japan was once one of the main firework manufacturing countries. However, even the last Japanese sparkler factory had faced the risk of closing down in 1999, Japan now has to mostly rely on the import of small fireworks. In the face of the gradual disappearance of this Japanese tradition, Ryota Tsutsui, the third generation of the Tsutsui Tokimasa Manufacturer began to learn the production skill right before the closing down of the factory. He took in all the technique and equipment from the factory after its shut-down, therefore he managed to preserve this irreplaceable page of Japanese tradition.

Fireworks produced by the Tsutsui Tokimasa factory are innovative and elegant, for instance, the “flower” series, animal-shaped fireworks, as well as the “Mount Fuji firework” that imitates volcanic eruption, bursting out intense smoke before finishing off with strong flames. The products that they take pride in should be the East and West Sparklers — the East Sparkler that is made of paper represents Kantō region, the major region for paper manufacturing; the West Sparkler that is made of rice straw represents Kansai region, which is the home to plentiful paddy fields. The traditional Japanese firework manufacturing skill is a cherished memory shared by many of the older generation, the Tsutsui Tokimasa factory is the only place that has inherited such technique. The technique to produce this tiny, short-lived yet vibrant glow is guarded by the devotion of the Tsutsui Tokimasa factory.