Fireflies, known as hotaru in Japan, have inspired numerous artists and writers, including Haruki Murakami, whose short story “Firefly” was later adapted into the first part of his best-seller “Norwegian Wood.” In the real world, however, fireflies are sadly in decline, as their natural habitats — near clean, standing water — are increasingly being destroyed by urbanization.
The lifespan of adult fireflies — the time when they delight us with their glow — is only two weeks, but the community of Higashiizu in Shizuoka Prefecture dedicates the whole year to nurture and conserve them. Larvae are caught and fed with water snails throughout the summer and carefully protected for a nine-month-long hibernation. Local elementary students then return more than 5,000 larvae back into a pond the following March so that they can pupate and emerge as fireflies.
“Hotaru Kansho no Yube” (“An Evening of Firefly Viewing”) is an annual event that has been a tradition in Higashiizu for the past 30 years. Visitors are welcome to view the spectacle of the glowing insects and then borrow lanterns to light the path to a local festival held each night of the event. Shuttle buses from Izu-Okawa Station to the site are available and, if you wish to stay in the area, there are six hot-spring towns nearby.
“Hotaru kansho no yube” takes place at Takegasawa Park (near Izu-Okawa Station) daily from June 5 to 15 between 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Entry to the park is ¥200, which helps raise money for the conservation project. The event may be canceled on rainy days. For more information, visit www.e-izu-hotaru.org.