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. Like sakura season, hotaru season starts in the south of Japan and moves up the country.
Firefly Viewing Season
The best time to see them in Fukuoka is from late May to mid-June, from sunset to 9 p.m. They’ve already emerged in other places, so check out the firefly forecast for more details! Fireflies are usually found near clean bodies of water and greenery. They appear just after the rain when there is low wind, high humidity and the temperature is nice and warm. The lifespan of an adult firefly is only one to two weeks. In that short time, their fluttering lights brighten the night sky, showing us their beautiful, magical world.
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.
JR Hakata City Firefly Viewing and Lecture
See a hundred fireflies in the heart of Hakata! Observe fireflies that were hatched inside the biotope located in Tsubame no Mori Hiroba, a rooftop garden above JR Hakata Station. Browse the stalls of the night market too, open every Friday and Saturday throughout the firefly-viewing season. Be sure to try some of the dagashi (inexpensive Japanese sweets)! The fireflies are most active between 8 and 9 p.m., so why not drop by on your way home?
Photo: JR Hakata City
• 5/25 (Fri.) ~ 6/16 (Sat.)
• 5/26 (Sat.): firefly observation lecture 19:00~
• 10:00~23:00 (firefly viewing: sunset ~ 20:30)
• 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
• 092-431-8484 (JR Hakata City Information)
Myohoji Temple Wild Firefly Public Opening 2018
Myohoji Temple is one of the few rare spots in Fukuoka City where fireflies can be seen. They began breeding Genji fireflies in 2001 and let them grow wild around the stream within the temple compound. The chief priest graduated from the aquatic bioscience department of Tokyo University and is currently researching on firefly breeding and ecology. A free morin khuur (Mongolian instrument) concert by a musician from Mongolia will be held at 6:30 p.m. on June 2 (entrance for the first 250 visitors).
Photo: Myohoji Temple
Yame Joyo-machi Hotaru & Tea Festival 2018
This annual firefly festival in Joyo-machi, Yame City is held at the “Hotaru to Ishibashi no Yakata” (Palace of Stone Bridge and Fireflies) along the beautiful two-arch bridge of Hoshinogawa River. Ask about the best firefly spots at the firefly information center or relax with a cup of newly-picked tea (shincha) here. The best time to watch fireflies is between 8 to 9 p.m., 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 prefer to view them on a less busier day.
Photo: Yame City
• 5/31 (Tue.) ~ 6/5 (Tue.)
• Special events (performances, markets, and more): 6/2 (Sat.), 6/3 (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)
Hebaru Firefly Festival
Witness the merry dance of fireflies near Hebaru River. The waters of the freshly-planted rice fields reflecting the firefly lights is an enchanting scenery not to be missed. Stalls selling local food made by fresh local vegetables from Tachibana-machi and more will also be there. If you’re coming by car, stop at Nagase Park. It’s a 5~6 minute walk from there to the firefly-watching spot.
Photo: Hebaru Hotaru
• 5/26 (Sat.), 5/27 (Sun.), 6/2 (Sat.), 6/3 (Sun.)
• 17:00~21:00 (firefly viewing: 19:30~21:00)
• Nagase Park
• Kamihebaru, Tachibana-machi, Yame City
• 0943-36-0285 (Hebaru Regional Revival Council)
Kojio Firefly Festival
Known as the “firefly valley,” a lot of visitors come to Kojio yearly for firefly-watching from late May to mid-June. With Kojio Hotaru-no-Sato-Hiroba as the center of the festival, food stalls and more can also be enjoyed at nearby assembly halls. At sundown hanging lanterns light up the route, luring fireflies and signaling the start of their energetic dancing in the air. Best time to view is from 8 to 9 p.m.
Photo: Ukiha City
• 6/1 (Fri.), 6/2 (Sat.)
• Kojio Hotaru-no-Sato-Hiroba
• 2469-1 Kojio, Ukiha-machi, Ukiha City, Fukuoka
• 0943-77-4835 (Kojio District Autonomous Conference)
Mamushi-no-yu Firefly Festival
Mamushi-no-yu is a popular day-use hot spring in Itoshima and its name roughly translates to “snake bite antidote”, so you can expect the waters to be very soothing! The hot spring, located ten minutes on foot to Fukuyoshi River, is home to many fireflies. Visitors gather at 8 p.m. and a guide (Japanese language only) takes the group to the best viewing spots. Consider taking a dip in the hot spring (¥600) before and after firefly watching. Hot spring users can ride a shuttle bus from the hot spring to JR Fukuyoshi Station (Chikuhi Line) for free.
• 5/20 (Sun.) ~ early June
• Closed: in case of inclement weather or strong winds
• Free (hot spring ¥600; click here for a ¥100 coupon good for two persons)
• 2380-1 Nijoyoshii, Itoshima City
31st Toho-mura Hoshuyama Hotaru Festival
From late May to mid-June, you can enjoy glowing fireflies in the night sky of Hoshuyama. There was some concern with the decreased number of fireflies due to the heavy rains that fell in northern Kyushu last year, and this year the festival is being held to encourage their return. There will be stage events with taiko drum performances and a brass band ensemble 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. There’s a temporary parking area at JR Hoshuyama Station where there are free shuttle buses to the venue.
Photo: Toho Village Department of Agriculture and Tourism
• 6/2 (Sat.)
• 16:00~21:00 (stage events: 16:00~, peak viewing hours: 19:00~21:00 *there is no guarantee that fireflies can be seen due to last year’s heavy rains.)
• Free shuttle bus: 15:00~21:30 (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)
26th Kitakyushu Katsuki-Kurokawa Firefly Festival
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 from late May to early June. Best time to view would be around 8 p.m. on a hot day. The river banks from Kimizu Bridge to Ishizaka Bridge will be closed for pedestrians only, so enjoy a stroll along the river. Browse the stalls set up at the Katsuki-Kurokawa Firefly Museum too. If you’re coming by car, there are 200 parking spots at the Katsuki Chuo Park parking lot and 150 spots at the Sugimamo Shrine parking lot.
Photo: Katsuki-Kurokawa Firefly Museum
• 5/26 (Sat.) , 5/27 (Sun.)
• Around Katsuki-Kurokawa Firefly Museum
• 4-6-1 Katsukichuo, Yahatanishi-ku, Kitakyushu City
• 093-618-2727 (Katsuki-Kurokawa Firefly Museum)
25th Hosenji Onsen Firefly Festival
Around the Machida River area, you can see many different types of fireflies. From late May to early July, three types of fireflies: Genji-botaru (Luciola cruciata, the most well-known fireflies in Japan), Heike-botaru and Hime-botaru (smaller and less famous fireflies) can be seen in the area. Each Saturday evening during the firefly season, various musical events are held in front of Kokonoe Ryokan. Their guide will show you the best spots to view Genji-botaru!
Photo: Kokonoe-machi Tourism Association
• 6/2 (Sat.), 6/9 (Sat.), 6/16 (Sat.), 7/7 (Sat., Tanabata Festival)
• Stage event: 19:30~
• In front of Kokonoe Ryokan
• 2424-1 Machida, Kokonoe-machi, Kusu-gun, Oita
• 0973-73-5505 (Kokonoe-machi Tourism Association)
Originally written in May 2016, updated May 2018.
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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.