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.
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.
Kojio area: Kojio Rever
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 mid-June. The best time to view them is from 8 to 9 pm. This year the forecast is excellent for firefly viewing.
Photo: Ukiha City
Mamushi-no-yu Firefly Viewing Nights
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. Visitors gather at 8 p.m. in front of the entrance to the Mamushi-no-yu spa and a guide (Japanese speaking only) takes the group to the best viewing spots near the Mamushi-no-yu’s parking lot.
• 5/20 (Wed.) ~ 6/10 (Wed.)
• Guided tour: 20:00~21:00 (meet in front of the entrance of Mamushi-no-yu by 20:00)
• Free (hot spring ¥670; click here for a ¥100 coupon good for two persons)
• 2380-1 Nijo-yoshii, Itoshima City, Fukuoka
Toho-mura: Tanadashinsui Park
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.
Around the Machida River area, a tributary of the Chikugo River, which flows through a hot spring town, you can see many different types of fireflies. From late May to early July, three species of fireflies can be seen: in late May, Genji-botaru, in mid-June, Heike-botaru and in early July, and Hime-botaru.
Photo: Kokonoe-machi Tourism Association
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.
Originally written in May 2016, updated June 2020.
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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.