Lifestyle

5 Places To See Fireflies In Tokyo This Summer

About now, for only a brief period, fireflies, or hotaru in Japanese, emerge from rivers around the country, eager to begin the most important part of their short lifetime — the mating season. So each summer, for a short time, these beautiful bugs turn forests and parks in Japan into unworldly scenes straight out of a fairytale motion picture.

Similar to the idea of springtime hanami (cherry blossom viewing), it is popular for Japanese to gather together on a warm summer evening to delight in the fireflies’ unparalleled glow. But to the Japanese, these little luminous insects are not only beautiful. Ever since Manyou-shu’s 8th century anthology, fireflies have symbolized passionate love in Japanese poetry. Their eerie lights have also been linked to the spirits of loved ones returning from the dead. No doubt, you have heard of the incredibly popular Japanese song: hotaru no hikari (the light of the firefly) which is often sung at graduation and end-of-year ceremonies.

So with the season finally upon us, why not spend the next summer nights in a makeshift fairytale land surrounded by exquisite beauty? Here are the top five locations in Tokyo where you can do this. 

1. Shibuya’s Fureai Botanical Garden Center

Known as the smallest botanical garden in Japan, this beautiful oasis in central Shibuya turns into a major gathering hub in June when over 10,000 visitors head to its annual Hotaru no yube (firefly evening) event. Here you can see the two main types of fireflies in Japan, the heike botaru, the smaller ones generally living in paddies and ponds, and the relatively larger genji botaru, which are commonly found in rivers. The best viewing time for heike botaru is from 5:30 p.m., while the genji fellows light to their best at around 9 p.m. It gets very crowded at around 7 p.m., so the sooner you get there, the better!

Viewing dates and time: June 20-24, 2018. 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Last entry: 8:15 p.m.
Address: 2-25-37 Higashi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Access: 12 minutes on foot from JR Shibuya station’s East exit
Cost: Free during firefly viewing period

2. Setagaya’s Firefly Festival and Sagiso Market

© Photo by Setagaya City

This annual two-day festival in Setagaya brings the best of traditional Japanese summer festivities: delicious food, market stalls, music, people, and of course, a dazzling firefly watch. One of the largest in the capital, the Setagaya Festival attracts over 25,000 people over the weekend when it’s held, so be prepared to sweat in the crowd. But despite that, you’ll be impressed by the sight of the over 3,000 natural light bulbs that will wait for you there. The festival also celebrates the sagiso – a special orchid that also happens to be the official flower of Setagaya Ward — which will be at its best bloom right in time for the fireflies (and even after that).

Viewing dates and time: July 14-15, 2018. 5 p.m.-9 p.m.
Address: Setagaya Daikanyashiki, 1-29-18 Setagaya, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Access: A 5-min walk from Setagaya station on the Tokyu Setagaya Line
Cost: Free during firefly viewing period

3. Hotel Chinzanso’s Garden  

© Photo by © HOTEL CHINZANSO TOKYO

If you want to combine firefly watching with an exclusive dinner in the heart of Tokyo, head nowhere else but to Hotel Chinzanso. Each summer, Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo’s Japanese botanical garden, a massive green oasis in the middle of Tokyo, becomes home to thousands of fireflies. Their magical beauty has been enjoyed by both locals and tourists alike since 1954 when Chinzanso began hosting firefly viewings. Catch a glimpse of the enchanting night at the garden of the beautiful hotel while enjoying a firefly-inspired dinner buffet including roast beef, abalone and much more.

Viewing dates and time: May 18-July 3, 2018. 7 p.m.-9 p.m.
Address: Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo, 2-10-8 Sekiguchi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
Access: A 10-min walk from Edogawabashi station’s Exit 1A on the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho Line
Cost: (Mon-Thu) ¥9,800 (Adults), Fri.-Sun. ¥10,500 (Adults). Includes buffet, free-flow of drinks and firefly viewing. For more details, see here

4. Yomiuri Land’s Seichi Park

© Photo by Yomiuri Land

An amusement park during the day, this Tokyo favorite spot becomes a popular firefly viewing destination for thousands of locals and tourists alike in June and July. You will see hundreds of these light bugs at the venue’s Seichi Park area, where the annual Hotaru No Yoi event is held.

One thing to keep in mind when visiting is that it gets really, really crowded. So upon entry, you will be given a ticket indicating when you can enter the viewing area. As you wait, however, you can visit the many food trucks and market stalls, and hang wishes for the upcoming Tanabata (Star festival) on July 7. In addition to fireflies, you can also enjoy the famous Aomori Nebuta traditional festival art installation and various performances, too.

Viewing dates and time: Every Fri, Sat and Sun between June 1 and July 1, 2018. 7:30 p.m.-9 p.m.
Address: 4015-1 Yanokuchi, Inagi-shi, Tokyo
Access: Take a bus for a quick ride from Yomiuri Land-mae station on the Odakyu or Keio lines.
Cost: ¥500. Free from children under junior high school age. ¥2,600 for a half-day free ride and firefly viewing at the park. See more details here (Japanese language only). 

5. Hachioji’s Yuyake Koyake Fureai no Sato

A post shared by So Noguchi (@not_noguso) on

A lesser-known spot among Tokyoites is the Yuyake Koyake Fureai no Sato Park. Located on the outskirts of Tokyo, the park — also a farm, barbecue spot and campsite all at once — is a great spot to relax and enjoy nature. Every year in June, Yuyake Koyake also becomes a hub for firefly-admirers, where they can see more than 2,500 of the wild floating lanterns. Though a bit far if heading from central Tokyo, goers can enjoy a romantic evening with significant others, with the kids or with a group of friends at this event.

Viewing dates and time: June 9-24, 2018. 6 p.m.-9 p.m.
Address: 2030 Kami-Ongata machi, Hachioji, Tokyo
Access: Take the Nishi-Tokyo bus from Takao station on the Keio line and get off at Yuyake Koyake bus stop.
Cost: Free during firefly viewing period

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