Phantom fireworks show leaves western Japan city stumped

OKAYAMA — Messages zipping around social media promised a sizeable fireworks show along the coast of Tamano, Okayama Prefecture, western Japan on Aug. 14, but when the appointed time came, not even a sparkler was seen lighting up the night.
Posts reading, “Because the coronavirus and other things have made all kinds of stuff impossible this summer, my friend wants everyone to have some fun. So they’ll fire off 2,000 fireworks and wants anyone with free time to come!” and similar content were circulating widely on social media, promising a show in the city’s Shibukawa beach area. The municipal government first heard of the “event” on Aug. 5, when a resident asked the city about it.
There were no fireworks shows scheduled for the Shibukawa coastal area on Aug. 14, including unannounced shows that have been taking place in some parts of Japan during the coronavirus crisis. The municipality posted a warning on its homepage and put up some 3,000 notices in junior and senior high schools in the city asking people not to spread the fireworks rumor lightly.
To prevent confusion and crowding in the Shibukawa area on the evening of the rumored show, the city closed public parking lots by the coast two hours early, at 6 p.m. A local bureau of the Okayama Prefectural Government and the Tamano Police Station, among other bodies, also coordinated to deploy around 20 people as security.
When the phantom fireworks show’s 7:45 p.m. start time rolled around, the sky remained dark, and the security detail dissolved at shortly past 8 p.m. However, some young people who had apparently believed the social media posts did appear along the coast.
According to the city fire department, anyone firing off more than a legally determined number of fireworks in Okayama Prefecture must first submit an application to the department. There was no such application received for Aug. 14.
It is unknown whether the original social media posts were a prank, or what other motivations were behind the “announcement.” A city official commented, “It’s possible someone just posted it without putting much thought into it, but there were some people who believed it.”
(Japanese original by Kazuki Iwamoto, Okayama Bureau)
Bluetooth code reader