Hunting for Fireflies ホタルの祭り
The characters of Grave of the Fireflies in the glow of insects.
Firefly marking the beginning of summer in Japan.
"The hunt for fireflies" (detail), engraving by Chikanobu (1836-1912)
The glow of the night
In Japan, watching the fireflies in the night-- known as hotaru-- is a well-known summer pasttime.
Often described in Japanese literature as a magical moment of contemplation equivalent to that of watching the cherry blossoms, catching fireflies was a popular pastime of the Japanese bourgeoisie.
This hobby, called hotaru-gari (firefly hunting), was done in the countryside, near stream. Many prints of the Edo Period (1603-1867) depict young women dressed in beautiful kimono walking under willow trees, equipped with boxes (for catching) and fans.
A Disappearing Tradition
However, today, more than just firefly "hunting" has been harming this popular pasttime. Pollution and urban development are a big threat to these luminescent insects, added to the new business of reselling fireflies for private gardens in hotels and restaurants.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to enjoy the wonder sights of these flashing lights in the night, as once enjoyed by the two young heroes of the famous movie, Grave of the Fireflies.
From late May to late June, some cities still host these famous fireflies and each year organize festivals around them: the Sankeien garden of Yokohama , the Expo Park in the prefecture of Osaka (from May 24 to June 8, 2014), the garden Hotel Chizanso of Tokyo , and the city of Fussa (near Tokyo).