This is a Japanese Ryusei rocket launched in 1998 at Yoshida, Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture, Japan, of the type used in the annual Ryusei festival. Ryusei means "ascending dragon."
The Ryusei festival is a religious event in which the rockets are fired to pray to the Shinto gods for a good coming harvest of rice and other crops. The rockets are propelled by gunpowder and have long bamboo guidesticks. They are launched from high scaffold-like launch towers. The history of the custom is not well known but is claimed to go back several centuries. This object was donated to the Smithsonian by the Ryusei Preservation Association of Yoshida-machi, Saitama Prefecture, Japan.
Gift of Ryusei Preservation Association of Yoshida-machi