Today’s word: Tamaya!
I love fireworks. Today’s word comes from a particular 4th of July when I was a kid.
I think I was around 7 or 8 at the time. Our family had gone to Penns Landing to see the fireworks. The memory is somewhat hazy in my mind, but I remember eating a grape-flavored sno-cone while I watched the display. As fireworks exploded in the sky, with each burst, my dad yelled “Tamaya!” He encouraged me to shout out the word too, and I did, not knowing what it meant.
It wasn’t a tradition we kept in years to come, and we also eventually stopped going to Penns Landing, opting to watch the fireworks at the Art Museum instead. But that word stuck in my head, and I couldn’t remember what that word meant.
When I called my mom today, she had explained that Tamaya was one of the most famous companies that produced fireworks in Japan. The rival company was named Kagiya. In Japan, it’s a tradition to yell Tamaya! Kagiya! when viewing the fireworks, as a kind of tribute to those companies that produced the brilliant displays. I found a brief history of Japanese fireworks here.
The Japanese word for fireworks is hanabi— hana, meaning flower, and hi (or bi) meaning fire. I think that’s an appropriately descriptive word.
July 7th is the Tanabata festival. Tanabata is based on an old myth of two lovers who can meet only once a year, on the 7th night of the 7th month. During this festival, people make paper cutouts and strips of paper with wishes written on them to hang on trees. When I visited Japan when I was a kid, we also had handheld fireworks at my grandmother’s house– these kind of fireworks are called senko-hanabi (senko meaning incense, since the sticks look a lot like the incense sticks), and I had thought that the soft, quiet sparks and colors of the Japanese version were more beautiful than the harsh, sizzling sparklers I knew back in the States.
July 7th, by the way, is the anniversary date of this here blog. I’ve now been writing online for a year.