Hotaru Firefly Experience
In Nagano, every summer, at the end of June and the beginning of July, it is possible to observe the rare and enchanting electrical dance of the Japanese lightning bug (Hotaru).
Join our guide, who will lead you to the sanctuary of the Hotaru.
You will be entranced and delighted by the gentle and romantic glow of the fireflies as you witness
this unique and magical wonder of nature.
It is unusual to find an accessible area, close to town yet undisturbed by artificial light, in which to observe the Hotaru phenomena.
The conditions required by the fireflies are extremely precise and require a good source of unchlorinated water as well as rice fields and a delta shaped landscape.
The are two types of firefly native to Japan.
The Genji Hotaru and the Heike Hotaru ( named after two historical rival families)
In Nagano we are privileged to have both kinds of Hotaru in the same location.
Genji Hotaru start to glow around twenty minutes after sunset. They glow for a while in the air, then land to rest. They repeat this procedure as many times as possible throughout the night.
The male Genji Hotaru begin glowing on the ground after the sun goes down. The purpose of this is to attract and invite the female fireflies and to warn the male Hotaru.
Occasionally the males will all flash in unison.
Heike Hotaru begin to glow around ten minutes later than the Genji Hotaru.
They start glowing gently on the grass, then, after another thirty minutes, begin to fly.
Male Heike Hotaru flash once every second, the females flash once every three seconds.
When the female identifies an attractive male she increases the frequency of her flashing to once every one and a half seconds. The male responds by flashing twice every second.
There are variations of the Hotaru dance throughout Japan.
In the west they flash every two seconds while in the east they flash every four seconds.
In Nagano we are able to see both examples plus our own local three second Hotaru.
The combination of the different firefly rituals, enhanced by the gentle sounds of nature, create an enchanting dream like visual experience.
It is as if you have been enveloped by the stars at the very centre of the milky way itself.
The dance of the Hotaru is not something that can always be guaranteed.
It is a rare and precious event we should all be lucky enough to experience.
■For more information about the Hotaru firefly experience please contact
Kijima Kankou Kyoukai (Tourism association of Kijima daira)
Tel 0081 (0)269-82-2800
Katsushika Hokusai painter "The Phoenix Staring In Eight Directions" on the ceiling of Ganshouin Temple.
■Karida, Obuse-machi, Kamitakai-gun, Nagano
Hokusai has become one of Japan`s most well loved and recognised historical artists. He was a Ukiyoe print artist who lived during the late Edo period, and was one of the people who helped to develop Kasei Bunka (a culture which developed and promoted a time of peace and harmony after the samuri civil wars).
He is possibly most famous for his series of 36 pictures featuring scenes around mount Fuji produced between 1823 to 1831 (富嶽三十六景 Fugoku36kei).
It was with this series he introduced and experimented with perspective, a new concept for Japanese artists at the time. He also began using new colour materials imported from abroad, such as Prussian Blue.
It is said that an accidental oversupply of Prussian Blue led to this colour being available at an unusually low price. Hokusai took advantage of this situation and, being so impressed by the new colour, was inspired to undertake the Fugoku 36 kei series.
At the Ganshou-in Temple at Obuse you will find an example of Hokusai`s most interesting works.
A large scale ceiling painting of a phoenix.
The phoenix is painted on Japanese cypress and is a size equivalent to 21 tatami mats (approx 34.7 square metres)
An intriguing feature of this painting is the way in which the eyes of the phoenix follow you around wherever you move in the room (happou-ninam).
Another famous large scale Hokusai painting was the ‘infant of audience` which was an incredible size equivalent to 120 tatami mats.
Hokusai moved ninety three times during his lifetime and also took over thirty different names as an artist.
The last name he chose, when he was ninety years old, was Gakyouroujin (crazy old man).
At this age Hokusai suggested that, should he be fortunate enough to enjoy another five years as an artist, he may finally discover the secret of being able to paint properly.
So well respected is Hokusai, that in 1999 he was included in Life Magazines ‘ 100 people who made an important contribution to the last one hundred years`.
A visit to the Hokusai Museum in Obuse is well recommended.
Japanese Paper Making
In Iiyama and Kijimadaira it is possible to experience the gentle art of ancient Uchiyama-shi Japanese paper making.
This fascinating procedure is believed to possibly be the original technique developed for bleaching paper.
After soaking the bark of the Kozoa mulberry tree and allowing it to dry, place it upon an area of snow. As the snow melts, the evaporation process releases ozone which in turn effectively bleaches the paper white.
It is incredible to imagine how this technique was realised so long ago without a scientific approach.
Uchiyama-shi is highly regarded as a luxury item due to it`s extremely high quality and artisan nature.
As well as enjoying the paper making experience you are also able to take part in using Uchiyama-shi to create lamp shades, Japanese fans and even your own postcards.
It is a wonderful idea to send hand made post cards from the actual
place you made them, and to have been involved in a traditional form of
paper making history which dates back over 350 years.
Once you return home, and find yourself bathed in the gentle glow of the soft light emanating through your Uchiyama-shi lamp shade, you will feel calmed and at peace.
A perfect way to relax after the stresses of everyday life.
For more information regarding the Uchiyama-shi experience please contact
Abe seishi. Iiyama-City. Nagano.
Iiyama Tesaki Washi Taiken Kobo. Iiyama. Nagano.
Uchiyama Tesuki Washi Taiken no ie. Kijimadaira. Nagano.
* Please check the websites as booking is usually recommended.