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June 15, 2013

My First Fireflies: An Account

Firefly atmosphere (not my photo - from wikipedia)
I didn't take any photos, but I want to tell you about the fireflies anyway...

The previous night, over beers after yet another failed attempt to see fireflies (ホタル) at Myohoji - a nearby temple in the city, we decided to give it one last shot. The Arii-sans are strong drinkers so I've learnt not to try and keep up with them, but after a few beers I was feeling dizzy with the exhaustion of a beyond busy week. Nonetheless, catching and understanding broken parts of the other three's fluent Japanese conversation (the other three being fiance Kamil, friends Momoyo and Motoki) - I agreed with the consensus that we should try one more time. This time we would visit the countryside by car. Everyone agreed that we were sure to see more than the pitiful total of four fireflies, which Myohoji had just offered us. We would go the following night.

So on Saturday, after spending time in the city with Momoyo at an art exhibition and drinking incredible matcha ice tea (not the Starbucks frappucino kind, the real stuff), we met Kam and walked to the "Yamaya" international supermarket near Nagahama to buy fruit ciders and wait for Motoki to arrive with the car. One brief stop for dinner (Nagasaki champon) and we were on our way to the countryside near the border of Fukuoka and Saga Prefectures. It was dusk when we arrived, and unusually - rather mysteriously - foggy. Under the backdrop of the Sefuri mountains I was secretly bubbling with anticipation. Having heard so much about Japanese summer fireflies, I was eager to not miss out this year.

No bottle opener so Kam took the bottle tops off our three ciders (or were they just flavoured beers?) on a pole railing, and they bubbled over as we said "Kanpai". Poor Motoki, the driver, is the one member of the group who would have loved a drink the most, but we three apologised and then enjoyed the cool buzz of the cider - swapping sips to try each flavour. Air thick and balmy, we watched over the little river under some trees for awhile in the dusk light. Still too light. Still no fireflies, but the peace of the inaka was something.

Growing darker, finally Motoki spotted one! Then two! Off in the distance they lazily floated - their glowlight of a neon green, sometimes blinking variety. We stood mesmerised and watched as one by one, more tiny lights appeared. "They're so cute!" "It's not even completely dark yet!" We knew the adventure was about to pay off.

Soon – in a darkness you can only find in the countryside – we wandered off and explored the area around the river. Carefully taking a pathway around the bend, we crossed the pitch black road to get a better view off the bridge. Now three or four fireflies were visible at a time. Then - looking back in the distance, the magically quiet but bright lights were dotted throughout the trees. Some brave little guys were flying confidently over the river, while others stayed still, blinking steadily on branches.

Kam and I were walking hand in hand on the soft dirt near the river when I heard my name called as Motoki and Momoyo - two dark figures in the increasingly black night - ran into view. "I got one! Look!" Motoki opened his cupped hands slightly to reveal a green glow inside. We peered in, and sure enough, there was one inside. The details of it's black body were clearly visible thanks to the brightness of the light it emitted. He passed it to me but, too slow to cup my hands, the firefly started to fly away. Motoki caught it again and gave me another chance to hold it. Keeping it inside my cupped hands for a few moments, I was amazed. So bright, so peaceful, so unlike anything I've ever seen.

I opened my hands again and it flew off into the night.

Our group wandered, watching the fireflies from different vantage points around the river. A few times, Kamil or Momoyo jumped in the air, trying unsuccessfully to catch one too. Soon we got back into the car, deciding to drive a little further away from the growing crowd. We drove down a narrow off-road track to another little river and bridge. Even quieter and darker than the first place, we were the only people there. The now familiar green glows appeared to adjusted eyes on both side of the bridge - some flying close to us, others communicating with each other in the distance. In that moment, I felt grounded again.

With close, beloved friends and my husband-to-be, living some sort of magical dream life in Japan surrounded by fireflies.

When things become stressful again, I'm going to go back to that moment.


1 comment:

  1. Fireflies, it sure sounds magical <3
    This is my first time reading your blog, but I'm sure gonna be back to check your new entries.