There are four key ways that you can tell that summer on its way in Japan. The top three are obvious: the convenience stores replacing nikuman with cold ramen; cool biz mercifully replacing suits and ties in the office; and everyone is saying “atsui ne!” every thirty seconds. But the fourth one? It’s the coming of the fireflies.
Fireflies, or ‘hotaru’, in Japan conjure up magical memories of summer, perhaps recalling long summer evenings playing amongst the rice fields, or maybe being sat on a grandparents porch as the first fireflies of the summer dance across the garden (an image that is replicated at the beginning of the silly, though thoroughly enjoyable TV show Hotaru no Hikari).
With the season now upon us, why not join the locals in getting out and enjoying the romantic, beautiful and entertaining flight of the fireflies.
Taking place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the Seichi Koen area of Yomiuri Land, these evenings have become an annual occurrence. The long grasses of the park are an ideal breeding ground, and as well as the flies there are all sorts of fun things to do in the park, more about which you can read here.
This small botanical garden in Shibuya may not be well known, but when it comes to firefly season, it sure draws a crowd. It’s pretty easy to get to (12 minutes walk from Shibuya station) and as well as the fireflies themselves, there will also be screenings of documentaries on the stages of a firefly’s life, making it an educational event for the whole family.
Approximately 500 Luciola fireflies have been raised by the locals of the western town of Fussa for this annual festival. As well as the majesty of the fireflies, there is all sorts of other entertainment with staged performances by local artists, and of course plenty of stalls selling traditional festival food.
Yuyake Koyake Fureai no Sato is a village-type recreation that offers a hands-on experience of nature amid the vast greenery of the surrounding mountains, and in early June, the grounds are open free of charge for an attraction dubbed Hotaru no Yube, or ‘Evening Lit by Fireflies’. Visitors can enjoy an evening with some 2,500 fireflies floating along the clear stream of the Kitaasa-kawa River that flows through the site.
Although this event is out in Yokjohama, it’s so delightful that it really is worth the trip. The Sankein Gardens are home to a number of historic buildings from all across Japan, with a pond, small rivers, flowers and wonderful scrolling trails. From late May to early June the gardens are open in the evenings to allow visitors to enjoy this gorgeous setting enhanced by the enchantment of the fireflies.
By Mark Guthrie