There is a magical quality to the summer nights in Japan that is impossible to ignore. As the sun sets and the sky turns to a deep shade of indigo, the air is filled with a chorus of cicadas and the sound of local matsuri (festivals). In the more natural areas, the flickering light of fireflies transports us back to the long, warm nights of our youth.
Fireflies, known as "hotaru" in Japanese, have long been a beloved symbol of summer in Japan. As the days grow longer and the weather grows warmer, these tiny creatures take to the air, illuminating the darkness with their twinkling lights. In many rural areas of Japan, the sight of fireflies dancing above the rice paddies and along the riverbanks is a common and cherished sight. There is a whimsical, nostalgic quality to the firefly's light that seems to transport us back to a simpler time, when the days were long and the world was full of wonder.
Where in Tokyo can you see fireflies?
As you know, Tokyo is a megapolis, not exactly the kind of place you'd expect to find fireflies. But actually there are several places where you can see fireflies near Tokyo (although many are paid as these are organised events).
Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo (May 19 to July 2)
Chinzanso is in central Tokyo and is thus really easy to reach. The course is small and you can see everything in under 30 minutes. If you want to splash out, the hotel puts on special dinner courses for the firefly event called the “firefly evenings dinner buffet”. One highlight is the "garden of mist", where the pond area becomes filled with illuminated mist. Very magical! This event has been held since 1954, so it's surely stood the test of time. They raise the fireflies in Nagano and transport them to Tokyo for the event in January as larvae.
Fussa Festival (June 15, 3-9pm)
Fussa in West Tokyo, known to many through the American military base there, holds an annual festival every year with traditional dances, taiko drumming and of course the famous Japanese food stalls like okonomiyaki or takoyaki. Near the Tamagawa aqueduct you can see hundreds of fireflies in their natural habitat.
Yukake Koyake Fureai no Sato (through June)
This festival is held in Hachioji, which is a city in between central Tokyo and Mt. Takao. Its closer proximity to nature means that you can find not hundreds but thousands of fireflies flitting around the park in June. They also have other attractions like pony rides, a petting zoo and even an accommodation facility.
Minakami Firefly Festival (Tsukiyono Firefly Village) – Mid-June to mid-July
If you want to take a longer trip, Gunma is an option. This would best be done with an overnight stay in a nearby onsen as it is a bit over an hour from Tokyo by shinkansen. Minakami has set up a 2km walking trail along which you can see fireflies in their natural habitat. It takes about 1 hour to do this course, best done around 8pm. One good thing about this festival is that it is free of charge!
Roman-no Mori Kyowakoku in Chiba (Through June)
East of Tokyo is the Roman-no Mori Kyowakoku Park. Nestled within a lush forest spanning 40,000 square metres, the park, aptly named 'Romance Forest Republic,' is a paradise for nature enthusiasts seeking a respite from the bustle of Tokyo.
This leisure park offers an array of family-friendly activities throughout the year, from river-fishing and fruit-picking to BBQ and golf, but its summer firefly viewing is a must-see. Thanks to a long-term breeding programme, visitors can witness tens of thousands of fireflies of various breeds fluttering around during the firefly viewing period.
Genji fireflies, known for their elegant and graceful flight, make their appearance from late May to mid-June, painting the night sky with their mesmerizing light. Heiki fireflies take over from mid-June to early July, with their warm and steady glow lighting up the forest floor.
Shikinomori Park in Kanagawa (mid-May to mid-June)
This park contains fields of grass and flowers, hills and wooded areas. Unlike other venues, entry here is free and you can see fireflies completely naturally. There are staff there to show you the best spots to see the fireflies.
QED Club (June 7 - 23)
Another option in central Tokyo, they offer an exclusive firefly viewing and dinner event. Reservations are required and you must dress nicely. It is peaceful and includes excellent food, but comes with a high price tag.
Setagaya Firefly Festival (July 8/9)
Held in the grounds of the old Edo-style Oda family house, this festival happens a little later. The fireflies are in a few different locations, first transparent boxes set down several little lanes and then a huge dome filled with 3000 fireflies. There are also food stalls, live music, crafts and sagiso orchid flower displays.
Location:Setagaya Daikanyashiki, 1-29-18 Setagaya, Setagaya, Tokyo 154-0017 Japan
As we watch the twinkling lights of the firefly against the dark summer sky, we are reminded of the beauty and wonder that still exists in the world, if only we take the time to look. Happy firefly hunting!
Article courtesy : OMAKASE Tour https://omakase-tour.com/