Summer fireworks

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Summer fireworks festivals in Japan are spectacular. Last night, we watched Tamagawa challenge its rival, Kawasaki City, to a duel on the inky black battlefield of the sky.

Nine of us lined up on Elizabeth Andoh's narrow balcony to watch and keep score. Tamagawa's show was to our right; Kawasaki was across town to our left. We watched like spectators at a fiery tennis match. For an hour, both fired off rocket after rocket with hardly a break; the variety of patterns was astonishing.

"Oooh, look at that--it's a smiley face!" Tammy exclaimed.

"I thought it was a sombrero..." her husband admitted. "There's another one. OK, it's a smiley face."

"Over there, look! That's sakura," Atsunori pointed to Kawasaki's riot of tight, brilliant white and pale pink bursts.

After a half an hour, we were all ready for the big finale. Kawasaki let loose an amazing volley of bright colored spheres, overlapping to form an exotic mountainscape. Surely that was the end for them. Then another rocket burst high in the sky on their side and the show continued. Not yet...

Tamagawa tricked us the same way. What would have been taken as the grand ending in any American fireworks display was simply a crescendo for Tamagawa.

Sixty minutes after the first beautiful explosion, the finales really arrived. Too amazing to describe, they lit the entire river valley. We turned and filed back into the house and just as I was slipping off my slippers, Kawasaki let out a final battle cry.

Who won? We did.

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