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.

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