NAGAOKA, JAPAN (HAWAIINEWSNOW) - Every year, the city of Nagaoka donates its famous fireworks to the Honolulu Festival — a reflection of the strong bond between the two improbable sister-cities.
As part of that friendship, Honolulu Festival organizers recently attended the Nagaoka Matsuri (festival) to take notes on how to expand their event here at home.
The first Nagaoka Matsuri was held after World War II, and today, the two-day event draws more than a million people to Nagaoka every summer.
It features different food vendors, cultural exhibits, entertainment and, of course, the city's world-class fireworks.
"Nagaoka's fireworks are always launched in condolence to the fallen and also an encouragement to the survivors of war and everlasting peace," said Nagaoka Mayor Tatsunobu Isoda.
People pack in to find seating on the ground, in stands, and on rooftops.
At this festival, different companies sponsor short two to four-minute segments of fireworks -- each with its own finale -- that run back-to-back. The dazzling displays last for almost two hours.
Organizers say more than 20,000 fireworks are shown over the two nights.
The Honolulu Festival hopes to partner with the Nagaoka Matsuri and expand the event here in Hawaii.
"This is a wonderful event. The Honolulu Festival has only 125,000 spectators at the moment. We'd like to create a sister-festival relationship between the Honolulu Festival and the Nagaoka Matsuri," said Tsukasa Harufuku, president of the Honolulu Festival Foundation.
Nagaoka officials agree.
They say their fireworks help promote peace with Hawaii and the rest of the world, and the relationship between the sister-cities is proof that respect and understanding are possible between two former enemies.
Nagaoka is in the Niigata Prefecture -- about 170 miles northwest of Tokyo. The city is known for being the birthplace of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese Naval Commander who reluctantly orchestrated the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
In retaliation, the U.S. dropped firebombs on Nagaoka for close to two hours during the final weeks of World War II, killing almost 1,500 people and destroying 80 percent of the city.
Ryuichi Yoneyama, governor of Niigata prefecture, said the bond between Honolulu and Nagaoka underscores the importance and value of reconciliation.
And he said the fireworks show is a way the two cities can come together to celebrate.
"We think it is a symbol of our relationship, so we want to make this relationship much greater," he said.