It’s the start of firefly viewing season in Kyushu, so we’ve rounded up some of the best local hotaru festivals!
Fireflies (hotaru in Japanese) are a symbol of the start of summer in Japan. With a short lifespan of only seven to ten days, these mysterious glowing insects appear just before the start of the rainy season. They thrive on humidity so although you won’t see them while it’s raining, they appear just after the rain when there is low wind, high humidity and the temperature is nice and warm. Fireflies start flying around sunset, so the best time to view them is between 19:30 and 21:00. They 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. This year, firefly season is a week or two earlier than usual. You can check out the “firefly forecast” on this website. Like sakura season, hotaru season starts in the south of Japan and moves up the country, so you can see fireflies here first!
Hotaru Viewing Tips
Here are some basic tips to remember when looking for fireflies:
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 bring 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. 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 to celebrate the fleeting appearance of the glowing, winged bugs. You can make a day of your trip and enjoy food and entertainment from the afternoon to evening. Here are some of the best spots to view fireflies this year.
Toho Village Hoshuyama Hotaru Festival
From late May to mid-June, you can enjoy glowing fireflies in the night’s sky of Hoshuyama. There will be a music stage with dance and band performances as well as a lucky draw for local products! The viewing takes place on a specially prepared path next to the river, giving you a great view of the fireflies dancing. While there are no parking spaces at the event, there will be a temporary parking area at JR Hoshuyama station. From the station you can catch a shuttle bus to the hotaru venue during the festival.
• 6/4 (Sat.)
• 17:00~22:00 (Stage events: 18:00~22:00, peak viewing hours: 20:00~21:00)
• Free shuttle bus: 16:00~22:30 (from fields behind JR Hoshuyama Sta. to venue)
• Tanadashinsui Park Hiroba
• 3100 Hoshuyama, Tohomura, Asakura-gun, Fukuoka
• 0946-72-2313 (Toho Village Department of Agriculture and Tourism)
Night Firefly Walking
Join this late-afternoon walk through Toho village and watch as the fireflies come out for the night! Starting from Hoshuyama Station (JR Hitahikosan Line), the course takes over 3 hours to complete and is about 8 km in length. No reservation is needed and everyone is welcome to join this event (and it’s free)! Registration opens at 15:00 and runs until 18:30. Check the festival website for more information. This event is held alongside the Toho Village Hoshuyama Hotaru Festival.
• 6/4 (Sat.)
• Start registration: 15:30~18:30, goal registration: ~21:00
• Free (Advance application not required)
• Fukui, Tohomura, Asakura-gun, Fukuoka
• 0947-44-0019 (Tagawa-Gotoji Sta.)
[Hakata Ward, Fukuoka City]
JR Hakata City Firefly Night
See a hundred fireflies in the heart of Hakata! The Tsubame no Mori Hiroba, a rooftop garden above JR Hakata Station, has a biotope which recreates the environment wild fireflies inhabit in nature. The rooftop stalls open during the afternoon on every Friday and Saturday throughout the firefly-viewing season – try some of the dagashi (inexpensive Japanese sweets)! The fireflies are most active between 20:00 and 21:00, so why not drop by on your way home?
• 6/3 (Fri.), 6/4 (Sat.), 6/10 (Fri.), 6/11 (Sat.), 6/17 (Fri.), 6/18 (Sat.)
• 10:00 ~ 21:00 (Rooftop: ~23:00)
• Closed: in case of inclement weather (in case of rainy weather, event will be held at the elevator hall)
• Rooftop Tsubame no Mori Hiroba, Amu Plaza, JR Hakata City
• 1-1 Hakataeki-chuogai, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
[Kokonoe Machi, Kusu-gun, Oita Pref.]
Hosenji Onsen Firefly Festival
Around the Machida River area, you can see many different types of fireflies. From late May, Genji-botaru (Luciola cruciata the most well-known fireflies in Japan) start flying, in mid-June, the Heike-botaru, and then in early July, the Hime-botaru (smaller and less famous fireflies) can also be seen in the area. Every Saturday evening during the firefly season, various events are held in front of Ryokan Kokonoe. Their guide will show you the best spots to view Genji-botaru!
・6/4 (Sat.), 6/11(Sat.), 6/18 (Sat.), 6/25 (Sat.), 7/2 (Sat.)
・In front of Kokonoe Ryokan
・2424-1 Machida, Kokonoe Machi, Kusu-gun, Oita
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 entrance to the main “onsen street”.
[Motogi, Fukutsu City, Fukuoka]
Motogigawa Nature Park Firefly Festival 2016
This lively firefly festival starts in the afternoon in Fukutsu. Enjoy the festival atmosphere as you wait for the fireflies to appear. Around 200 fireflies appear from late-May to early-June, especially on clear nights after the rain. During the afternoon, there will be performances in the Park by a variety of bands and musicians, and there are booths selling festival favorites. There will be a shuttle bus running every 30 minutes from Fukuma train station to the venue, Hotaru no Sato, and temporary parking is available for up to 400 cars. 15 minutes by car from Kyushu Expressway Koga IC.
• 6/4 (Sat.) ~ 6/5 (Sun.)
• Free (some events require fees)
• Motogigawa Nature Park, Hotaru no Sato (Parking: Free, 400 spots)
• 1957-1 Motogi, Fukutsu City, Fukuoka
• 0940-42-8875 (Mizugame no Sato)
NOTE* Fukutsu City Hotaru no Sato stays open for firefly watching from 5/23 (Fri.) ~ 6/22 (Sun.) ~ 21:00. More info: 0940-43-8850 / http://fantasticparks.jp/
[Tojinmachi, Chuo Ward, Fukuoka City]
Myohoji Firefly Festival
Myohoji is one of the rare firefly-watching spots in the city center. It is a great place to enjoy fireflies if you cannot make it to the countryside. The temple started breeding fireflies in 2001, to make the temple more popular for young people, and now fireflies breed naturally in the temple’s creek. The chief priest graduated from the aqua biotic faculty of Tokyo University and is still studying the reproduction and the ecology of fireflies. Enjoy fireflies in the authentic atmosphere of the temple!
[Yahatanichi Ward, Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka]
Kitakyushu Katsuki – Kurokawa District
One of the most famous firefly-watching spot in Kitakyushu City, located in the Katsuki area in Yahatanishi-ku. Over 5,000 fireflies are expected to appear between Ishizaka bridge and Umezaki bridge on Kurokawa river in the Katsuki area. There are limits upon the car traffic in the area during the festival, but there are 200 parking spots at the Katsuki Chuo Park parking lot (~21:00). The actual festival was towards the end of May, but since the firefly season in this area was a bit delayed, you can enjoy the “light show” right now (early June)!
• Early June
• Along Kurokawa River (Parking: Katsuki Chuo Park, 20 spots, ~21:00)
• 4-6-1 Katsukichuo, Yahatanishi-ku, Kitakyushu City
[Yame City, Fukuoka]
Yame Joyo Town, Hotaru & Tea Festival
An annual firefly festival in Joyo-machi, Yame City. The “Hotaru to Ishibashi no Yakata (The Palace of Stone Bridge and Fireflies)” is at the center of the festival where you can enjoy many events. The best time to watch fireflies is between 20:00 and 21:00, especially on humid nights. It is expected to get busy in the area during weekends, so we recommend you go on weekday evenings, if you want to avoid the crowds.
• 5/27 (Fri.) ~ 6/5 (Sun.)
• Information center: 18:00~21:00 (Closed: in case of rainy weather)
• 589-2 Kitagawauchi, Joyo-machi, Yame City, Fukuoka
• 0943-54-2219 (Yame City Construction Economic Affairs Division)
Originally written in May 2016.
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NOTE: The information presented here was gathered and summarized by the Fukuoka Now staff. While we have done our best to check for accuracy, there might be errors and details may have changed. If you notice any errors or changes, please contact us. This report was originally written in May 2016.