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Kimiko Saito's Sparklers  

The ultimate sparklers"Hikari Nadeshiko" (Fire Pinks) made by a female pyrotechnist

The sparkling firework was named Nadeshiko Pinks (a variety of dianthus), because of the way the firework sparks and looks just like the delicate Pinks’ flower petals. This ultimate sparkler was made after many years of labor and study by a female pyrotechnist. She devoted every little moment to her research reading through volumes of scientific books and documents.

On the bamboo bench is the ceramic pig-shaped vessel that contains the mosquito repellant coils.The children dressed in starchy yukata, after a bath washing off all the dirt and sweat from the hot summer day's adventure, gather excitedly around in a circle in the garden. The toy fireworks’ luminous bright sparks light up the happy faces for a few seconds. The nezumi hanabi (mouse tail fireworks) spins around wildly scaring the children as they shriek and giggle. To end the evening are the sparklers. As the orange fireball fizzles out and falls to the ground, everyone gives out a sigh. It is a sigh of disappointment "Oh!...it's finished", and also a sigh of content for the few moments of tranquility the firework brought within oneself. Today, we see many generations living separately, but in the past this was a typical summer scene with three generations gathering together to enjoy the evening. I think for many Japanese people, there is something special and nostalgic to the faint fragrance of the pine smoke dust, that stirs up memories of such familiar scenes of a summer night. In Feature 005, we will introduce a toy firework for adults to enjoy and a story of the female pyrotechnist who through determination discovered the means to make the ultimate sparklers Hikari Nadeshiko.

Scrupulous decisions and painstaking subtleties--making a little magic.

Kimiko Saito often heard people say " the sparkling fireworks aren't as beautiful as it was in the past...", and this led her to dedicate herself in her research. It has taken her actually almost 30 years, to develop a firework she was satisfied with. This is great news for those that are not satisfied with the many toy fireworks imported from abroad, that often lacks that “special-sparkle-something”. They may look like simple sparklers, but there seems to be something profound to it. What exactly was so special with the "sparklers made in the olden times"?
I visited her studio, and Saito shared with me a little of her secret on what she discovered through her research.


The initial step is making the perfect raw material, the pine smoke powder, she explains. She says she finds red pine, 60 years old are most suitable. She took a piece of red pine and lit it in front of me. The pine quickly caught fire and formed a flame, giving off heavy black smoke. This smoke dust collected becomes pine smoke powder. The quality of the smoke dust and also the quantity of the smoke dust collected determine the high performance of the powder. The proportion utilized must be exact. Not too much or too little. She finds that 0.08 gram works the best. Next, assembling the right amount of potassium nitrate and sulfur to the smoke dust is important. This seems to be a secret she can not reveal. The type of koyori paper used to wrap the raw materials plays a critical role as well. It is the fibers of the paper that keeps the fireball from falling. Without the right paper fiber, the fireball will drop in an instant or remain glowing for too long. "It will last as long as it should last, and it will fall when it should fall." (It sounds like a Zen philosophy and quest for an answer.)



The winter fireworks enjoyed by the men of refined taste in the Edo period.

There are probably many people who do not know what a koyori is. They are very thin washi paper cut into thin strips. Using both thumbs and index fingers, starting from the tip of the paper, the washi is twisted to the very end. The twisted washi becomes sturdy and stiff, and will stand straight even when held up right. The raw material for the sparks is wrapped in the bottom 3 cm. Saito is also very particular about the type of washi she uses. She uses vegetable dies, such as susuki (pampas grass), kihada (phellodedron amurense), benibana (safflower) to color her washi. The "Hikari Nadeshiko" made with all her affection and tender care, is dressed in boxes made of paulownia wood. A piece of bamboo charcoal is placed together in the box to protect from humidity. She comments the colors of the spark become much more brilliant when it is left to dry for sometime. In the Edo period, in the fall and winter season, people enjoyed dry sparklers, over the charcoal brazier placed in the room with a floor made of packed earth. In the present time, it will be like playing with fireworks on the balcony of an apartment.




The 10 seconds of immense happiness

This 100% Japanese sparkling fireworks, has been measured by the Toy Firework Inspection, to have its sparks to reach a 30 cm diameter. This is the largest diameter record that any sparkler has ever made. The sizzling, fizzing sounds and the small Hikari Nadeshiko's sparks, brings a smile to everyone for a few seconds. The fireball at the end, begins to shake, as if refusing to fizzle out......fizzzzzz, sizzle...... fizzzzz, the delicate sparks continue to glitter in all direction in the darkness. The next second, it falls to the ground. The very moments the fireball fizzles out and falls, there is a feeling of emptiness. At the same time, there is something soothing watching the very impressive and beautiful performances of the dancing sparkles. One strand of Hikari Nadeshiko is just 100 Yen (80 cents US). It is up to the individuals to judge whether it is expensive or not. I felt there was something much more special than the few moments enjoying a delicious cup of coffee. The three strands of sparklers I watched glitter away, brought me few minutes of happiness. The feeling of great pleasure grows on you, from somewhere deep down in your heart. There is definitely a healing power to these sparklers. (Yuko Yokoyama)



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