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Fireworks experts aim to wow with techniques borrowed from overseas

Hajime Oka

Oct. 4, 2017

Fireworks shoot up into the night sky, bursting into giant patterns. The crowd watches in excitement as the colors transform. A pair of fireworks experts -- one from Japan, and the other from Spain -- aims to upgrade their displays by incorporating the best of East and West.

Fireworks are carefully propelled into the air to burst open across the night skies. Each display is about 300 meters in diameter. A key feature is the colors changing into various hues like red, blue, and green.

Tadanobu Komatsu, the 5th-generation president of a fireworks company founded more than 130 years ago, says "Each firework shell is made with great attention to detail and we want everyone to see that. At the same time, we must be able to offer something extra in addition to the Japanese traditional way of displaying fireworks."

Komatsu was keen to set off an unconventional show this year. What inspired him was a symposium held in April. It brought together pyrotechnists from around the world. One of the displays, produced by a Spanish expert, caught Komatsu's attention. Fireworks were accompanied by music, timed perfectly to match piano tunes. Such displays are popular in Europe.

"It highlighted an artistic sense that's different from ours. It surely was a rhythmic display. Watching a variety of fireworks of other countries was a precious experience for me," he says.

Spanish Pyrotechnist Ricardo Caballer created the fireworks that captivated Komatsu. He's the 4th-generation representative of a fireworks company that started more than 130 years ago. Using a computer, he synchronizes fireworks with music. Thanks to the technique, his company has won a number of awards at competitions worldwide.

Caballer is now devoting himself to creating fireworks featuring colors that change, like the Japanese ones. "I'm working on fireworks that turn from yellow to blue. I first add blue, and then put in sparkling yellow powder," he explains.

Caballer has tried more than 100 different combinations trying to recreate the exact image in his mind. "The fireworks we saw in Japan were so impressive I couldn't find words to describe them. I felt the urge to try making one myself," he says.

In San Sebastian, a Spanish resort, Caballer set off his new creations inspired by Japanese fireworks. The fireworks illuminate the Spanish night skies, but the way they change colors leaves room for improvement. "I'd be happy if my fireworks proved to be a fusion of Japanese and Spanish types. I'll work harder and keep making upgrades," he says.

This summer in Japan, a top fireworks show drew 740,000 people. Pyrotechnists from across Japan set off 18,000 fireworks, thrilling crowds. Komatsu and his team picked music to match their fireworks. They'd been carefully considering the optimal timing to set them off.

Finally, they set off the fireworks produced using Spanish techniques. "We must have the urge to create something new to pass on tradition in a better way. I want to incorporate more different styles of fireworks into my own and brush up my skills with the hope of displaying my fireworks at events abroad," he says.

The creations of Komatsu and Caballer lit up the skies at locations some 10,000 kilometers apart. They both share the pyrotechnists' never-ending quest to wow the crowds with their creative displays.