Fireflies and Fireworks: Lighting Up Yokohama’s Night

From late May to early June, fireflies sparkle across the Tokyo night sky. Back in the day, it is said one could see them anywhere. Nowadays, they are far and few, but trekking out to find them is worth the while. While many remote locations (about 1-2 hours from Tokyo by train) boast firefly viewing spots, festivals and events, we decided to find a place closer to home: Sankeien Garden in Yokohama.

Although I’ve known about the park for quite some time, I have thought of endless excuses not to make it out there: it’s far; it’s too cold; I don’t want to take a train and bus; I’ll go later. Well, later came. And I’m very happy we made it out there (even if under the pretense of a special firefly viewing event). Instead of heading over just for the event, however, we set out earlier for a nice stroll before the sun set. The grounds are huge but not overwhelming and certainly not boring. There are old houses trails, and observation points to be discovered through the ups and downs of the garden paths. Even in the hour and a half we had before it got dark, we weren’t able to explore all the garden has to offer. Bunches of hydrangea colored the forest walk, adding splashes of light to the naturally dark area. Along the pond, patches of irises stood boldly and beautifully. I was mesmerized by all the beauty and so happy to breathe in the fresh garden air. (The only unappealing point of the garden? The observation point overlooks the bay whose occupants include a soccer field and industrial compounds.)

The crowds started to build around sunset, as we took a dango and miso-oden snack break to hold off until dinner. By 7pm, the viewing area in the valley between the hill with pagoda and old homes past the lake was full of people. Despite the darkness and woody smell, there was nothing soothing about the situation; children shrieking and people crammed into nooks, pushing to find a viewing space, did not contribute to a pleasant experience for anyone. We were a little unlucky to be beside a young family whose baby kept crying and young daughter kept announcing everything she saw, none of which slightly resembled a firefly’s light. The “official” time for their appearance was 7:30. Would they be fashionably late or kindly ahead of schedule? The answer is both. In the valley which we waited, they were few and far to be seen. When we moved deeper into the crowded bridge area further up the stream, however, they were everywhere. Beautiful.

We didn’t stay long but we didn’t need to either. There is only so much you can enjoy a natural “show” in such circumstances. We were happy to have arrived early to explore and see the fireflies right away. Those who showed up afterwards had to wait a long while in lines reaching past the lake and nearly to the park entrance, since the park officials closed the viewing area to let people move out and make space. Lucky lucky.

By the time we caught a bus and arrived in Yokohama, it was nearly 8:40pm. The Yokohama Port fireworks had begun at 8:20, and we managed to catch a few glimpses here and there from the bus’ rear window. Boom! From Yokohama’s Bay Quarter, the final bursts looked quite nice. There we settled on Aloha Table for dinner. Quesadillas, Jambalaya, and Cobb Salad? Don’t mind if we do. Even if they aren’t remotely Hawaiian. At least our shared Alo Alo cocktail was fruity, paradise in the mouth.

Who says Sunday night needs to be boring?

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