Fireflies, which for many like myself are a mystical insect absent from childhood memories, are naturally abundent in different regions of Nagano in the peak of Japan’s summer months. Last year, a neighbor took me to the stream near her house to show me the native fireflies that gather every year and make the rice fields and river sparkle with speckles of light.
The dozens of fireflies my neighbor showed me, however, pale in quantitative comparison to the hundreds which prosper in Tatsuno city of South Central Nagano.
Tatsuno is famed for their fireflies and actively advertise the annual gathering in their tourism materials, website, and even road signs. With a three hundred yen ticket, families, couples, and firefly enthusiasts stroll around the large teared park which the fireflies light up in pulsating glows.
And…the sight is utterly spectacular and unlike anything I’ve ever seen. However, Tatsuno has also gained National media attention for its introduction of a non-native firefly species back in the 1960s which has actually wiped out the native population said to date back to the 1920s. In 2008, many National Japanese papers covered the story because according to a journal article and wikipedia (yes, there is a wikipedia article about it) – Tatsuno city has continued to fuel the non-native fireflies.
If you are not so bothered about the ethical practice of impinging on natural habitats, experiencing Tatsuno’s fireflies today is nothing short of magical. In fact, even knowing the slightly sketchy history of Tatsuno’s firefly population – it was hard not to be in awe and enjoyment of a moon filled night lazily strolling through Tatsuno’s firefly studded park.
But if you are opposed to paying to see wild fireflies, want to avoid crowds, or take a bio-ethical stand: keep your eyes peeled and ask locals about firefly hideaways and you are sure to find a batch somewhere in the prefecture.