June is already summertime in Tokyo, but it’s still a bit too early for fireworks and festivals with people in yukata. While some see June as the month of the dreaded humid days and summer rains, it’s also a time to see a beautiful natural phenomenon: fireflies. Since it’s mating season for them around that time, these little bugs light the night sky aglow, looking almost magical in the process—like little floating lanterns. Japan’s two most common types of firefly are the genji-botaru and heike-botaru, which, for some reason, were named after rivaling clans during the Heian period. Perhaps it has something to do with how the phenomenon of fireflies emitting light is also known as hotaru gassen, or “battle of the fireflies.”
Tokyo being the urban sprawl that it is, it’s already got enough neon lights to make its nights bright, and less nature compared to other parts of Japan. That means that there are better places in Japan to see much more fireflies, but fortunately, Tokyo’s still got some relatively well-known firefly events, and here are some of them. Time to whip out your best camera to capture the fireflies in all their glory!
1. Fussa Firefly Festival
Where: Firefly Park and the vicinity of Tamagawa Josui’s Ome Bridge (both near Ushihama Station on the Ome Line, or Kumagawa Station on the Itsukaichi Line)
When: June 17, 2017, 1:00 pm-9:00 pm
Never heard of Fussa City? It’s located in suburban Tokyo, and its popular firefly festival might just be your chance to go see what Fussa is like. Its festival features about 500 fireflies, and, for side attractions, they’ll have food booths and stage performances, such as Okinawa’s eisa dance, taiko, and soran bushi. Of course, you’ll want to see the fireflies’ orb-like lights, so the best time to visit is at night.
2. Yuyake Koyake Fureai no Sato
Where: 2030 Kamiongata-machi, Hachioji-shi, Tokyo
When: June 3-18, 2017, 6:00-9:00 pm
Yuyake Koyake Fureai no Sato is a camping ground and recreational facility in Hachioji, also in suburban Tokyo, and it’s one of the closest you can get to experiencing countryside life in Tokyo. It isn’t located immediately close to a train station, so you’ll have to get off at JR or Keio Line’s Takao Station, board a Nishi-Tokyo bus bound for Jimba Kogen-Shita, and get off at the Yuyake Koyake stop 30 minutes later. Although you normally have to pay admission (200 yen for adults, 100 yen for children below junior high school age, and free admission for kids less than 4 years old), entrance is free during their firefly nights.
3. Hotel Chinzanso
Where: Sekiguchi 2-10-8, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo (Edogawabashi Station)
When: May 19-July 2, 2017, 7:00-9:00 pm
Admission: Free for paying customers
Thanks to the swanky Hotel Chinzanso’s beautiful Japanese garden, you don’t have to leave central Tokyo to see fireflies. The hotel garden is open only to paying customers (hotel guests and/or restaurant customers). If you want to add a touch of class and maybe even romance to your firefly-viewing experience, the hotel has some accommodation packages and special menu items to celebrate firefly season—none of which come cheap, of course. But there are, of course, more affordable options, such as ordering tea and cake from their cafe. (Still, if you’re willing to pay 9,800-10,500 yen for a buffet, 15,500 yen for some nice jazz music and French cuisine to accompany the fireflies’ glow, or even 60,000 yen for a private firefly-viewing night, we’re not going to stop you!)
4. Botanical Garden Fureai
Where: Higashi 2-25-37, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo (Shibuya Station)
When: June 15-18, 2017, 5:30-9:00 pm (last entry 8:15 pm)
A botanical garden in Shibuya, of all places? Who would’ve known? It’s a 12-minute walk from Shibuya Station, although you can take a quick bus ride from Shibuya Station’s east exit to get there. Despite this garden being small and not that well-known, its firefly nights are a hit. In 2015, its firefly nights drew 9,734 visitors over a 5-day period.
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Aside from seeing the fireflies, there will also be screenings of documentaries about the stages of a firefly’s life.
5. Sankeien Garden Firefly Evening
Where: Sankeien Garden (Negishi Station)
When: May 22-June 2, 2017, sundown-9:00 pm (last entry 8:30 pm)
Admission: 500 yen (200 yen for children)
Sankeien Garden is in Yokohama, but it’s still not that far from Tokyo. For its annual “firefly evenings” event, the garden will be open until 9:00 pm, but the organizers say that the best time to see the fireflies is from 7:30-9:00 pm. (They also caution that on rainy nights, the fireflies might take cover behind leaves, so it will be difficult to see the little buggers.) Additionally, this year, Tomyoji—the three-story pagoda in the garden—will be opened to the public from 6:30-8:45 pm May 26, 27, 28, and June 2nd. There, visitors can see fireflies in cages, as well as images and panels about a firefly’s life cycle.
This post was originally published in June 2015. Last update: May 2017
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