Fireflies (hotaru in Japanese) are symbolic of the start of summer in Japan. With a short lifespan of only seven to ten days, the mysterious glowing insects appear around rainy season. They strive on humidity so although you won’t see them while it’s raining, they appear just after the rain when humidity is high and the temperature is nice and warm. Fireflies live in clean, natural places such as wet, wooded areas.
In Japan, the most common firefly is a variety of Luciola cruciata. By emitting light signals in the dark, fireflies are able to communicate with each other. Light production in fireflies is due to a type of chemical reaction called bioluminescence. This process occurs in specialised light-emitting organs, usually on a firefly’s lower abdomen. It’s the start of firefly viewing season in Kyushu, so we’ve rounded up some of the best Hotaru festivals and some tips for viewing.
Hotaru Viewing Tips
Here are some basic tips to remember when firefly-watching:
1. No flashlights or flash photography. Fireflies communicate each other through their own light signals. If there is another source of light, or a camera flash, the fireflies cannot communicate, and will instead fly in darkness.
2. Do not take fireflies back home. Fireflies only live by clean rivers, and have a short lifespan of just 7 ~ 10 days. Leave them in their natural habitat.
3. Do not litter. Keep their habitat nice and clean.
4. Check the weather in advance. Fireflies don’t come out when it’s too cold, too windy, during heavy rain, or under strong moonlight.
5. Time your visit right. The prime viewing time for fireflies is around 20:30 ~ 21:30.
6. Be quiet. Enjoy the peaceful atmosphere created by nature.
Firefly Festival Guide
Many firefly festivals are held in Japan to celebrate the fleeting appearance of the glowing, winged bugs. Enjoy food and entertainment from the afternoon to evening. Here are some of the best spots in and around Fukuoka to view fireflies this year.
Toho Village Mt. Hoshu Hotaru Festival
Enjoy the buzzing energy of food stalls, an event stage, great music and, of course, glowing fireflies in the night’s sky. A shuttle bus runs from behind the JR Hoshuyama train station to event area between 16:00 ~ 22:30.
• 6/1 (Sat.) 17:00 ~ 22:00
• Tanadashinsui Park
• 3100 Hoshuyama, Tohomura, Sakura-gun, Fukuoka (map)
Night Hotaru Walking
Take this 8km late-afternoon walk, and watch as the fireflies come out for the night. The course takes around 3 hours to complete, starting from Hoshuyama train station (JR Hitahikosan Line) and ending at Chikuzen Iwaya train station (JR Hitahikosan Line). You’ll pass through the main Toho Village Mt. Hoshu Hotaru Festival area, so it’s a great chance to see the fireflies while taking an invigorating walk in nature. The reception at the goal stays open until 21:00 and the event is free – just show up on the day! Note: there is no parking area, so it’s advised to use public transportation.
• 6/1 (Sat.) 15:30 ~ 18:40
• No pre-application required
Hotaru Festival in Fukutsu
This lively firefly festival starts in the afternoon in Fukutsu, with a stamp rally for prizes (16:00 ~). Food stalls open at 16:30, and the first 300 to arrive receive a special present. At 17:00, you can watch a choral stage, and at 18:00 a candle road will be illuminated. Enjoy the festival atmosphere as you wait for the fireflies to appear. There is a shuttle bus running every 30 mins. (15:30 ~) from Fukuma train station to the venue, Hotaru no Sato, and temporary parking is available for up to 400 cars.
• 6/8 (Sat.) 6/9 (Sun.) 16:00 ~ 21:30
• Honkinokawa Shizen Park, Hotaru no Sato
• 1957-1 Motogi, Fukutsu City, Fukuoka
NOTE* Fukutsu City Hotaru no Sato stays open for firefly watching from 5/25 (Sat.) ~ 6/23 (Sun.) ~ 21:00. More info: 0940-42-8800 / http://fantasticparks.jp/
Myohoji Firefly Festival
Located centrally in Tojinmachi, Myohoji is said to be the spot where firefly watching became a trend, back in 2001. Enjoy free firefly-watching events on weekends (Fri., Sat., Sun., from late May to mid-June). On June 9 (Sun.) there’s a Firefly Tea Ceremony around dusk (¥500) and a free matouqin concert from 19:00~. The spot is a seven minute walk from Exit 4 of Tojinmachi Station on the Kuko Line of the subway; a one minute walk from “Tojinmachi Sanchome” bus stop on bus no. 61, and there is a 70 car parking lot available.
• Fri., Sat., and Sun. from May 31 ~ Jun. 16, 20:30 ~ 23:00
• 3-10-41 Tojinmachi, Chuo-ku
JR Hakata City
For two exclusive nights (6/7 (Fri.) and 6/14 (Fri.)), the Tsubame no Mori Hiroba Rooftop Garden above the JR Hakata train station opens a firefly garden. Along with a firefly enclosure and a 360 degree panorama view of the city, there’s a range of local treats on offer – cider, alcohol and snacks. The perfect spot to catch a glimpse of fireflies if you can’t make it out of the city. The “nakamise” rooftop stalls open from 12:00 ~ on the firefly viewing days. Entry to the garden is free.
• 6/7 (Fri.) and 6/14 (Fri.)
• Tsubame no Mori Hiroba Rooftop Garden
• 12:00 ~ 21:00
• JR Hakata City, 1-1 Hakataekichuogai, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka City
Hosenji Onsen Hotaru Festival
Every Saturday from around June 1 until the beginning of July (depending on fireflies’ lifespan) there is a festival held at Hosenji Onsen Village in Oita Prefecture. The stage is home to folk entertainment and local performances, plus a shuttle bus which takes you to the best firefly viewing spot after the show.
NOTE: Oita Hosenji Onsen Village stays open for firefly watching comparatively longer than other spots because of the water temperature. The best viewing spot is around the entry to the main “onsen street”. More info: http://www.housenji.jp/hotaru/
☆ Firefly Photo Contest at Hosenji Onsen Village
Photographers – professional and amateur – take note! Enter your photos of fireflies taken at Hosenji Onsen into the photography competition. One photographer will win first prize of ¥50,000, and eight runner up entries will be selected – four selections from the “hotaru” category and four from the “onsen” category. These eight runners up will each receive a voucher for a night’s stay for two people at Hosenji Onsen Village. Conditions: Photo must feature fireflies at Hosenji Onsen Village. Photo size A4 or quarter (unframed). Once submitted, your photo will not be returned and may be used in a magazine or promotional materials. Application is open from 6/1 (Sat.) ~ 6/29 (Sat.). Submit in-person, or post your entry to [Ryokan Kokonoe, Hotaru Photograph Competition, 2424-1 Machida, Kusugunkokonoemachi, Oita] Write title, dates, photo location, zip code, home address, name of photographer and contact number on a piece of paper and stick it to the back of the photo. Winners announced on July 6 (Sat.) at Ryokan Kokonoe. More info: 090-8667-6882
NOTE: The information presented here was gathered and summarized by Fukuoka Now staff from many sources and then translated. While we have done our best to check for accuracy there is a possible of error and also details may change. If you notice any errors or changes please contact us. This report was originally published in May 2013.