How to make traditional Japanese sparklers

  • A Japanese sparkler made by YouTuber NightHawkInLight. Image credit: NightHawkInLight
  • A Japanese woman shows off a traditional Senko hanabi. Image credit: JujitsuYasai
  • The colour of the sparkler mixture. Image credit: NightHawkInLight
  • Putting the mixture into the sparkler. Image credit: NightHawkInLight
  • Twisting the paper to make the sparkler. Image credit: NightHawkInLight
Date:18 August 2017 Author: Nikky Knijf Tags:, , , ,

YouTuber NightHawkInLight spent 10 years trying to figure out how to make senko hanabi or Japanese sparklers – the grandfather of the stick sparkler.

There is something special about sparklers. Whether it’s a restaurant celebration or a quite New Year’s sparkler on the porch, they hold a special place in many hearts. So it wont be surprising to find out that Japanese sparklers have been around for a century.

NightHawkInLight says the sparklers are very hard to find outside of Japan. So he spent 10 years trying to figure out the best way to make them. Below is a picture of a traditional Senko hanabi.

Japanese sparklers by JujitsuYasai

A Japanese woman shows off a traditional Senko hanabi.

In this video NightHawkInLight shows how he makes the sparklers. Check it out. The ingredients and method are listed below the video.

Safety warning: Remember, like regular handheld sparklers, these are also pyrotechnics devices and can cause serious injury. It is important to not take chances with the Japanese sparklers. If you make them, remember to release the sparkler before it comes close to your hand. Sparklers can burn at exceedingly high temperatures, which could cause serious injury.

What you’ll need for the Japanese Sparklers


Potassium nitrate
Broad party streamers

*In the video NightHawkInLight shows you how to make your own charcoal, and explains why store-bought charcoal won’t work.

Ingredient quantities:

6 parts potassium nitrate
3 parts sulphur
1 part charcoal

So if you’re making 10 grams* worth, you’ll need:

6 grams of potassium nitrate
3 grams of sulphur
1 gram of charcoal

*NightHawkInLight says 10 grams of sparkler mixture is enough for over 100 sparklers.


Mortar and pestle
Mixing cups
Something to use as a spoon
A scale

Making the Japanese sparklers

Mixing the ingredients:

Mix the potassium nitrate, sulphur and charcoal together.

Using the mortar and pestle, grind them lightly. This will combine the ingredients and grind down the charcoal at the same time. You have to grind until the charcoal has the grain size of table salt – or a little smaller. You’ll also notice the powder is a light to medium grey colour.

Japanese sparklers mixture

Wrapping the sparkler:

Take a piece of the party streamer – between 15 and 20 centimetres in length – and gently fold it in half.

Scoop a small amount of the sparkler mixture into the hollow on one side. NightHawkInLight recommends using less that 1/10 of a gram.

Leave a 1 centimetre space between the end of the paper and where the mixture is placed. Now spread the mixture for about 2,5 centimetres toward the middle of the paper. This is illustrated in the image below and at the 6 minute mark in the video – alternatively, click here.

Japanese sparklers folding

Now fold the paper over on the side with the mixture and roll it loosely.

Grab the 1 centimetre end with no mixture in it and start twisting the paper. As you twist, allow the open end of the paper to move through your fingers, and also twist. Keep going until your sparkler has a tightly would “tail”.

The sparkler will now have a thin nose, a slightly thicker body and a thin tail.

Now cut off the nose of the sparkler, just before the area holding the mixture. NightHawkInLight says this greatly impacts on the performance of the sparkler.

Japanese sparkler twisting the paper


Images and video credit: NightHawkInLight

Japanese woman with sparkler: JujitsuYasai on Flickr

Source: PM USA

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