Sunday, June 11, 2006
Yesterday we timed our entire day so as to arrive at Hotaru (Firefly) Grove on time. I call it Hotaru Grove because it has no name. Oddly, it's not distinguished at all by the fact that it's the best hotaru-viewing place around. Nominally, it's just part of the charmingly named Moriyama City Exercise Park. Ah, the sensitive nuances of bureaucracy...
Because we live up on the mountain with streams all around (some of them even natural!) we still have a few hotaru each summer, but in a corner of Moriyama City Exercise Park there is a stream whose deepish bed meanders as of old through an original grove of tall trees, creating the perfect dark, humid and protected place for hotaru to propagate, survive and show their stuff for 10 days each summer amidst the metropolization of everything.
According to the history explained in the little hotaru museum they have there, even back when this area was still rural it was famous for its hotaru. Folks used to come from the big cities to catch thousands of the flying lanterns each day, to watch sparkle in their homes and gardens at night.
Last time we went to Hotaru Grove, three years ago with Kaya, it was pretty crowded, but this time it was like all the roads to Woodstock. There was even a Hotaru Park and Ride system available. Traffic jams everywhere, as hotaru fans from all over tried to get to the last weekend of the light concert.
We found a spot about a kilometer away and dodged insane cars in search of parking as we wended our way toward the mobs pilgrimaging through the dark, tiny flashlights here and there going down into the streambed and nudging along the special ramps built there for the purpose, the air filled with swooping flashes of pale green light from fireflies who couldn't care less about the crowds, they were head over thorax in love. Some of the folks in the shuffling mob tried to take flash photos(!) of the hotaru flashing, outromancing the hotaru and blinding everyone else seeking those tiny lights in the dark.
One of the folks in the little hotaru museum told us that last week was the peak (the light concert only lasts about 10 days), when one night they counted 150 hotaru, many fewer than last year (and the year we went there). After watching the museum video on the life cycle of hotaru, it's a wonder there are any of the little lanterns left at all.
And judging by the thousands of folks woodstocking through the dark and the madly weaving cars so that their kids could catch just a glimpse of the maybe few dozen hotaru that used to be so plentiful (agricultural toxins and urbanization are killing them off), those swooping flashes of pale green light at the heart of night may be about to go out forever...
Posted by Robert Brady on Sunday, June 11, 2006