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Synchronous Fireflies in Japan

Although thousands of firefly species live around the world, there are not that many places where you can observe such magic

Synchronous Fireflies
Synchronous Fireflies
Synchronous Fireflies

The phenomenon of synchronous fireflies is quite rare and absolutely spectacular. It occurs during some species of fireflies' mating season. Lighting up is a way of communicating for these charming bugs. Their synchronized flashing tends to occur in certain places around the world about at the end of May and throughout the middle of June. One of these places is Japan.

Observing fireflies (hotaru) is a tradition for the Japanese. The country boasts over 40 species of these beautiful insects, the most common being Heike and Genji fireflies. Many hotels and parks breed fireflies for the pleasure of their customers so, luckily, there are quite many places where visitors can see them. However, most Japanese fireflies that belong to Luciolinae subfamily make flashes rather than produce a continuous glow. Okinawa in South Japan is one of the few places in the country where you can see rare hime fireflies (Luciola filiformis yayeyamana), which fly lower to the ground and produce a kind of soft glow. Males emit light together attracting females in groups.

In Okinawa, the firefly season starts earlier than in the rest of Japan. It runs from mid-March to mid-May. Firefly viewing is available at Iriomote and Ishigaki Islands. Yaeyama Hime Firefly Tours are available through reservations. Banna Park at Ishigaki Island has a Hotaru Path. There are also many fireflies around the Omoto Mountain. In other regions, hime fireflies can be seen on Honshu Island in Hyogo Prefecture. Uchio Shrine offers firefly watching tours called Hikami Dream from June to July.

There are many places in Japan where fireflies live in the wild. Scientists express concern about crowds of viewers in the woods because this may distract the fireflies and interfere in their mating process. So if you want to witness this incredible phenomenon try your best to be careful and respect the nature.

Practical info

When can one see synchronous fireflies in Japan?

Between mid-May and mid-July is the best time to see synchronous fireflies in Japan, especially during their mating season. Synchronous fireflies emit flashes of light that create mesmerizing displays in groups. Okinawa starts its firefly season early, from mid-March to mid-May, where viewers can enjoy the Yaeyama Hime Firefly Tours via advance reservations. Show more

Which locations in Japan are ideal for viewing hime fireflies?

Japan is home to over 40 species of fireflies, with popular viewing locations for rare hime fireflies found in Okinawa Islands of southern Japan. Iriomote, Ishigaki Islands, is a great location for firefly tours, featuring the Yaeyama Hime Firefly Tour that be accessed via a prior booking. Honshu Island offers firefly watching tours at Uchio Shrine that are called Hikami Dream and run from June to July. Additionally, Banna Park of Ishigaki Island lies along the Hotaru Path, while hime fireflies can also be seen in Omoto Mountain. Show more

How many types of fireflies does Japan have?

Japan has over 40 species of fireflies. The Genji and Heike fireflies are the most commonly seen, and most fireflies produce flashes. However, Japan has some unusual fireflies that emit continuous light and the rare hime fireflies are distinguished by their unique trait of flying low to the ground and emitting a soft glow. Japan is a great destination for firefly lovers to visit. Show more

Can one see fireflies in the Japanese wilderness?

Firefly viewing is possible in Japan's parks and hotels, where they breed fireflies. However, to experience their natural beauty, it is advised to avoid large crowds in the woods as this may interfere with the fireflies' mating process. To relish in the spectacular phenomena of fireflies, it is recommended to observe them in natural conditions and small groups. Show more

What is the process of synchronous fireflies mating like?

Synchronous fireflies use flashing lights to communicate during mating season. Males emit flashes of light to attract females as they fly around. Once a sufficient number of females are present, the males switch off their lights before synchronously switching them on; this creates a stunning display and is often referred to as 'Nature's Christmas Lights'. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin