Every summer, fireflies emerge from the ground to put on a dazzling night show in search of love. These tiny glowing critters emit a unique flash pattern as part of their courtship ritual, resulting in a mesmerising display of twinkling orbs.

Did you know that firefly viewing has long been a traditional Japanese activity in the summer months? Regarded as harbingers of summer, fireflies are well-captured in traditional Japanese poetry and art, as well as modern pop culture. 

genji firefly

Genji fireflies are indigenous to Japan. They live in clean rivers throughout the country and can typically be seen from late May until mid-June. (Photo from: Photo AC)

There are few experiences more magical than watching fireflies light up the night. If you are a nature lover who loves a unique experience, here are three of the best firefly viewing spots in Japan.

Tatsuno Town Firefly Festival, Nagano Prefecture

In the town of Tatsuno, located in the north of the picturesque Ina Valley, people gather to celebrate the dance of the fireflies every summer. 

Tatsuno Town fireflies

Fireflies symbolise the arrival of summer as they light up the warm summer nights. (Photo from: Flickr)

The annual Tatsuno Town Firefly Festival takes place around the middle of June, and this much-anticipated event attracts throngs of local visitors in search of a glimpse of these elusive luminous night fliers that flitter around Tatsuno Hotaru Doyo Park. 

In Tatsuno, Fireflies are a much-loved symbol of the town. They have existed here since the Edo period (1603-1868) and the locals take great conservation efforts to protect their natural environment. Fireflies love gentle flowing, clean, nutrient-rich waters and the Tenryu River in Tatsuno creates just the ideal environment for them to thrive. 

Tatsuno Town Fireflies

Commonly mistaken as a breed of flies, fireflies are actually light-emitting winged beetles. (Photo from: Flickr)


The festival location is conveniently located right in front of JR Tatsuno Station and it is a good idea to get there earlier to soak in the vibrant festival vibes. There will be street food stalls and shops to keep you entertained while everyone eagerly waits for the sky to turn dark. 

At around 8pm, make your way to Tatsuno Hotaru Doyo Park, where there are four recommended spots to watch the glow of Genji fireflies. The path is lit up with Japanese lanterns and the sound of night insects fills the air, creating a most magical atmosphere.

Tsukiyono Firefly Village, Gunma Prefecture

Fireflies are mostly found in moist places with clean water. In the clear streams of Tsukiyono Town, where unspoilt rich nature is plentiful, one can find the highest number of naturally occurring fireflies in the northern Kanto region!

Tsukiyono Firefly Village

Summertime is firefly season at Tsukiyono Firefly Village and the warm, humid nights are the best time to spot fireflies in action. (Photo from: Gunma Prefectural Government)

The Tsukiyono Firefly Village is conveniently located about a 3-minute walk from JR Jomo Kogen Station, which is only a 1-hour Shinkansen train ride away from Tokyo. Between mid-June and mid-July, summer nights buzz with anticipation as people from all across Japan come here to witness the natural wonderment of fireflies emerging in the dark.

At this quaint little village, visitors can stroll along the specially created promenade (approximately 1.9 km long) and admire the beauty of flickering fireflies. See if you can spot the differences between the Genji firefly, Heiki firefly and Kuromao firefly species in their natural habitat!

This firefly viewing event is free of charge and the optimal viewing time is between 8pm to 9pm. 

Firefly Protection Group

A firefly protection group had been set up since 1981 to conserve these delicate species that only live in areas with unpolluted water. (Photo from: Gunma Prefectural Government)

While you are there at Tsukiyono, check out the lush nature that the bigger town of Minakami has to offer. Surrounded by mountains, there are plenty of activities to enjoy the great outdoors in this picturesque oasis. Summer season is especially great for water activities such as canyoning and white water rafting.

Maibara Amanogawa River, Shiga Prefecture

Maibara City, situated on the eastern shore of the magnificent Lake Biwa, is the only town in Japan with two firefly habitats designated as natural monuments. It is also reputed to be the birthplace of Nagaoka's Genji fireflies.

This idyllic settlement is blessed with gorgeous scenery and a pristine natural environment. The clean water that runs in Amanogawa River is the perfect habitat for fireflies. In June, the warm summery nights come alive with twinkling fireflies and excitement in the air.

Maibara Fireflies

An electrifying stream of fireflies illuminates the Amanogawa River as they emerge for their nightly mating ritual. (Photo from: Biwako Visitors Bureau

Four types of fireflies can be seen here in Maibara City – Genji fireflies, Heike fireflies, Hime fireflies, and Kuromado fireflies. The best time to spot them is in early June every year, preferably between 8pm and 9pm on a balmy summer’s evening.

Expect crowds as people from other cities make their way here just to witness this extraordinary spectacle. On the 1st of June 2024, the main Maibara Firefly Festival will be held where one can expect a lively affair complete with local food truck stalls and stage shows.

You can also learn more about the ecology of fireflies and the town’s conservation activities at the Firefly Forest Museum. (Photo from: Biwako Visitors Bureau

Besides Maibara City, there are other popular firefly viewing spots in Shiga Prefecture itself. From late May to early June, fireflies illuminate the night sky at Moriyama Hotaru Park in Moriyama City. They also take flight late at night on the plains and summit of Mount Ibuki, the tallest mountain in Shiga Prefecture.

If you are planning your next Japan itinerary, why not join the locals in the summer tradition of firefly watching? Experience one of the coolest natural wonders and be wowed by the captivating sight of fireflies dancing in the night!