The history of たまやー and かぎやー

If you’ve ever seen fireworks scenes in a movie, anime, drama, or manga, there are chances that the characters yell the phrases たまやー(tamaya-) or かぎやー(kagiya-) while admiring the fireworks. I’d always heard of it but never really thought about it much until explaining to my Japanese friends that my father had set off some fireworks recently. As I’d been doing a lot of etymology research on certain Japanese words, the origins of たまやー and かぎやー struck my curiosity.

It turns out that the origin can be traced all the way back to the Edo period (1603 to 1868). In 1659 Locksmith Yahee (鍵屋弥兵衛) was setup in Edo [1]. Then in 1733 the Ryogoku Kawarabiraki (festival marking the start of boating season) began, and the Locksmith was the pyrotechnician for the fireworks event [1]. Then in 1810, Jewler Ichibee (玉屋市兵衛) started shop in Edo, branching from locksmithing [2]. Both shops ended up participating in the fireworks event for Ryogoku Kawarabiraki, and the spectators would call out the names of the shops as encouragement (たまやー [tamaya-] for 玉屋, the jeweler, and かぎやー [kagiya-] for 鍵屋, the locksmith).

While these shops have shut down since then, the crying of their names still remains. As for the Ryogoku Kawarabiraki fireworks event, it has evolved into the modern day Sumidagawa Hanabi Taikai
(Sumida River Fireworks Display) [3].

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One Response to The history of たまやー and かぎやー

  1. san says:

    Nice article, thanks for sharing 😀

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