By Aileen Kawagoe 

There are several kinds of firefly (hotaru in Japanese): the genji firefly / Luciola cruciata Motschulsky (see image below on the left) and the heike firefly / Luciola lateralis Motschulsky (middle image) and the hime firefly / Luciola parvula Kiesenwetter (image on the right).

Genji FireflyHeike FireflyHime Firefly

Genji female is 18 millimetres long as opposed to the 15 millimetre male while the Heike female is 10 mm long to the 8 mm male. The hime firefly is only 5 mm in length. Only the males have lights, a ploy to attract willing females.

In some places where the Heike Battles were fought, folklore says the Genji fireflies are the ghosts of the samurai warriors who fell in battle. Iheard the Japanese adults tell the kids not to try to catch or hurt the fireflies ... out of respect for the departed souls might be why.

We have been going firefly watching near our danchi (apartment) for years at a small satoyama-park called Kuraki Koen in Ooka, Yokohama.

Last summer, mson caught two fireflies, one by swiping with a shoebox and another with his bare hands. We brought them home (in the name of science and for his nature journal). Then we all fell asleep watching the flickering lights … we had the magic of Twinkletoes in our bedroom.(The fireflies made us think of Twinkletoes, or the little fairies at least the mystery must persist until one actually catches one.) See his photos here.

Firefly watching season usually takes place around mid-June onwards or July in other places. To read more, click here: F is for Firefly Fun.

Where to go:

The nearest wooded park with - a water source like a pond, marsh, satoyama rice fields, river or lake is a must. A rainy night gives the best conditions. Make your way there after an early dinner and the fireflies should float out surreally probably right around 7.30 or 8 onwards.

4-21-1 Takashimadaira, Itabashi-ku. Itabashi Ward’sfirefly-breeding facility shows rare species of fireflies (this time: Genji fireflies) including natural treasure Genji Hotaru. Rare kind of fireflies not seen in Tokyo area anymore are being bred in asemi-natural environment at this facility. Two hours from 19: 30 to 21:30 during the night time special opening will take place. 7:30-9:30pm. You can observe protected specie, Genji Hotaru, in a glass-walled confined areas with man-made shallow river "Seseragi (Purling brook) inside. Please enjoy this early summer evening full of Japanese atmosphere. Heike Hotaru will be seen to the public at this facility in late July. The observation takesplaces for two hours in the evening.

Santo Town is a famousplace for watching fireflies in the Kansai area (for access info see A Water Tour of Kansai-River of Genji Fireflies Shiga Prefecture).

Fireflywatching at the Arimagawa in Kobe: on the riverbanks downstream from the Masu-ike Pond on Takigawa River and the area spanning from Koen-bashi Bridge to the Otokura-bashi Bridge.

Read about the River of Genji Fireflies here River of Genji Fireflies

Firefly watching event at Otomeyama Park, which is a 10-minute walk from JR Takadanobaba Station.

(Note: This article was published on July 10 summer of 2006)