Saidaiji Ichinomiya Park Firefly Festival is held at the beginning of summer every year in a park located in the southeastern part of Okayama city. It starts at around 6:30 pm but really gets going around 7:00 pm.
Families and friends come together to usher in the new summer and greet the fireflies that rise from the creek in the evening. The location is spectacular. Part of an area known as Sannan or “south of the mountain” has been set aside for a wonderful Eden-like park. The park is encircled by the hills and mountains that give Okayama its name. From the middle of the park you can see a towering cliff overhang that has a walking trail for the adventurous types who are game to make it to the top.
The festival is put on by the members of the community event association. They start early on a Saturday morning, putting into place plans laid out at numerous meetings at the local community center.
One by one they arrive at the park in their eco-friendly 660cc trucks called keitora in Japanese. They are all volunteers full of local spirit. They unload the trucks and start the setup. There’s the awning for distinguished guests, stalls for hot dogs, fried noodles, grilled squid, popcorn, and drinks. Everything is priced from 100 to 250 yen.
People line up and wait patiently to buy a treat and then go back to their friends and family. Children run here and there and parents chat. It’s the quintessential Japanese festival that could spring up anywhere and at any time.
After a short lecture on the fireflies of the area the real guests of honor make their appearance. The fireflies teasingly flicker above the stream. Everyone ventures closer to see them. The summer air takes on coolness as the fireflies take comfort in the darkness. The stalls have sold out and everyone starts to clean up. The little trucks return one by one taking away all the gear, only to be brought back for the firefly festival next year.