Since the weather has been warmer than usual fireflies are already appearing in some areas. It’s the start of firefly viewing season in Kyushu, so we’ve rounded up some of the best local hotaru viewing spots ! 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.
Photo by Calum Chueh
Firefly Viewing Season
The best time to see them in Fukuoka is from late May to mid-June, from sunset to 9 pm. 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 with 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.
Popular Varieties of Fireflies in Kyushu
Genji-botaru (Luciola cruciata)
These are the best-known fireflies in Japan. They can be found all around Kyushu and in Honshu and spends time near clear streams during their larval stage.
Heike-botaru (Aquatica lateralis)
The Heike-botaru is as common as the Genji-botaru in Japan, but is smaller and breeds in rice paddies and marshes.
Hime-botaru (Luciola parvula)
This is one of the most common species across Japan and known for its intense luminance and characterized by its blinking. They are often found in forests, and so they are not as commonly seen by humans.
Firefly viewing spots near Fukuoka
Tsubame no Mori Hiroba (Rooftop Garden)
Observe fireflies that were hatched inside the biotope located in Tsubame no Mori Hiroba, a rooftop garden above JR Hakata Station. About 20 genji botaru, which were released in March and grew up on the rooftop of JR Hakata City, are now living in a specially set up biotope called “Firefly’s Little Garden”. The fireflies are active between sunset and 8:00 pm, so why not drop by on your way home?
• 5/21 (Sat.) ~ 6/12 (Sun.) *approx
• 10:00~20:00 (firefly viewing: sunset ~ 20:00)
• Tsubame no Mori Hiroba (rooftop), JR Hakata City
• 1-1 Hakataeki-chuogai, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka
• 092-431-8484 (JR Hakata City Information)
Firefly Viewing Event
On June 4 and 5, a firefly viewing event will be held for elementary school students and younger to learn about the biotope where fireflies live and their ecology in Japanese (reservations required).
Photo from official Instagram
Myohoji Temple Wild Firefly Public Opening
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 firefly breeding and ecology. The Kagerou Garden is open to the public only during the firefly season, and visitors can admire the fantastic sight of fireflies in the garden (photography and cell phone use are not permitted). During the viewing period, two types of limited-edition Goshuin (red seals, ¥700 each) will be offered at the entrance to the Kagerou Garden.
Photo from Myohoji Temple
• Open to the public: 5/27 (Fri.) ~ 5/29 (Sun.), 6/3 (Fri.) ~ 6/5 (Sun.)
• Free viewing (Admission in order of line)
• Kagerou Garden, Myohoji Temple
• 3-10-41 Tojinmachi, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka
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 is located ten minutes on foot to Fukuyoshi River, which is home to many fireflies. About a ten-minute walk from here is the Fukuyoshi River, where many fireflies can be seen.
Free firefly viewing tour
Mamushi-no-yu offers a free firefly viewing tour with a Japanese guide from May 20~. (no reservation required)
• 5/20 (Fri.) ~ early June (approx)
• The first session at 20:00, the second session at 20:30 (gather in front of the entrance of Mamushi no yu before the start time)
• Free admission (by walk)
Motogi River Nature Park
Located at the foot of a mountain near the headwaters of the Saigo River, Motogi River Nature Park is a firefly spot in Fukutsu City. Fireflies live in the stream that runs through the park, and they begin to appear in late May. There are stairs by the creek, so visitors can sit and enjoy watching fireflies.
• Mid-May ~ early June
• 1957-1 Motogi, Fukutsu City, Fukuoka
Hotaru no Sato Park
This is a nature park established in 1995 along a river in Munakata City as part of a plan to restore the rich flow of water and nature. The waterfront is inhabited by fireflies such as genji botaru, heike botaru, and hime botaru, with 300 to 400 fireflies flying around during peak season. The park is also a popular walking spot throughout the year, with walking paths and playground equipment for children.
• Mid-May to mid-June
• 44-1 Yamada, Munakata City, Fukuoka
• 0940‐36-1421 (Munakata City)
Known as the “firefly village,” a lot of visitors come to Kojio yearly for firefly-watching from late May to mid-June. Residents are actively fostering the presence of fireflies by cultivating snails, which are a food source for fireflies. On the Kojio River, which runs along the side of Kojio Hotaru-no-Sato-Hiroba, you can see three of the best-known species in Japan, Genji-botaru , Heike-botaru and Hime-botaru from late May to early June.
Photo: Ukiha City
• Late May to mid-June
• 2469-1 Ukiha-machi Kojio, Ukiha City, Fukuoka
• 0943-77-4835 (Kojio District Autonomous Conference)
The area of Toho-mura is well-known for production of Koishiwara ware and Takatori ware. It’s located at the headwaters of the three rivers, Hoshuyama River, Ohi River and Koishiwara River. From late May to mid-June, you can enjoy the spectacle of glowing fireflies in the night sky of Hoshuyama. Due to the heavy rains that fell in northern Kyushu in 2017, the number of fireflies might be fewer but residents are working to protect and nurture fireflies, and their numbers are gradually increasing. At Tanadashinsui Park (there is a parking lot), where you can relax and enjoy fantastic firefly viewing at night.
Ureshino City, Saga
Ureshino Onsen area
Take a memorable trip around Ureshino for this year’s firefly season! Known for its hot springs, Ureshino also has a firefly spot where thousands of fireflies can be viewed at night. Especially in the area upstream of the Iwayagawachi Dam, which is about a 10-minute drive from Ureshino Onsen. Without any street lights you’ll be surrounded by darkness, and fireflies can be seen shining in the grass near the waterfall.
Firefly Bus * Available only to guests staying at Ureshino Onsen
From June 3, a free firefly bus will run to visit firefly spots in the Ureshino Onsen area (for Ureshino Onsen guests only).
• 6/3 (Fri.) ~ 6/12 (Sun.)
• First service: 20:00~21:00, Second service: 20:30~21:30
• Reservations: Make reservations directly with the inn where you will be staying by 17:00 on the day of your ride.
Originally written in May 2016, updated May 2022.
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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.