The Magic of a Japanese Summer

Dancing fireflies, part of the magic of a Japanese summer
Photo credit Falcon Lee, Flickr Creative Commons
Despite the bad rap that summer in Japan gets, there are a couple of things that make the relentless heat and humidity worthwhile. One is the myriad of fireworks festivals  and the other is the chance to see fireflies.

As I am from an area too far south to see fireflies in Australia, I find this time of year particularly exciting and special. I may have already made 3 trips out to the local firefly spots...

So, when can fireflies be seen?
The season for most of Japan is May-July, although it is much earlier on the Okinawan islands and a little later in Hokkaido. Generally they are best seen between 8-10 in the evening.
Where to find them?
There are places throughout Japan where you can find fireflies, however, generally speaking, you will need to get off the beaten path a little. Here is one list of places you could try. Your other option is to ask at a local tourist information centre. Here in Fukui, the best I have seen so far are just out of town in a small town called Ago and also at the Ichijodani Asakura ruins. In both places, the fireflies congregate along small streams and rice paddies sometimes flying up into the surrounding trees.

What kind of weather is best for firefly viewing?
You want to aim for warm evenings, with higher levels of humidity and little wind. If your evening is above 20 degrees, they are more likely to be up flying around. We found out the hard way on an evening that was around 15 degrees and breezy that they don't really get excited by cool weather! In between the two and you are likely to see fireflies glowing in the vegetation but not doing too much flying.
Other tips and a request 
  • Cover your skin so the mosquitoes don't make the viewing experience unpleasant! 
  • If you want to try and photograph fireflies, a tripod is a must as is a slow shutter speed and a lot of patience. 
  • Finally, sadly firefly numbers are falling in many places due to river pollution and use of fertilizers and pesticides. While some areas are working to improve the environment and increase numbers please keep in mind that if you make an evening out of firefly viewing and take a picnic, please take away all your rubbish and of course, never catch the fireflies! 

Travelling Firefly