One of Tokyo's most famous fireworks festivals returned for the first time in four years on Saturday following the lifting of coronavirus pandemic restrictions, lighting up the sky over the Sumida River with a staggering display of 20,000 fireworks.

A record-high 1.04 million people showed up for the event, according to organizers, who were vigilant against crowd crushes and other potential accidents following years of such large festivals being canceled.

Photo taken on July 29, 2023, shows a display of fireworks and Tokyo Skytree in the Japanese capital. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

The Sumida River Fireworks Festival, which had been held every year since 1978, was suspended from 2020 amid the spread of the novel coronavirus, but began again this year, with the government downgrading the legal status of COVID-19 to the same category as seasonal influenza in May.

"This lively atmosphere is something we have not seen in a while," said Sadae Takahashi, an 80-year-old local resident. "I feel our lives are returning to normal."

Iroha Kurihara, a 10-year-old who came from Yamagata in northeastern Japan to watch the festival with her family, said, "I was excited to come here because I love fireworks. They were spectacular."

Fireworks explode over the Sumida River in Tokyo on July 29, 2023. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Unlike other fireworks festivals, where people gather in open spaces to enjoy the spectacle, the Sumida festival is watched while people stroll Tokyo's nearby streets and bridges, as the view is otherwise obstructed by tall buildings and there are few spacious areas for people to assemble.

Another fireworks festival in the capital off the Arakawa River was also held for the first time in four years, attracting a record high 740,000 people on July 22.