Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of The Asahi Shimbun.
June 24, 2020 at 13:09 JST
Daylight hours sometimes feel a bit too long around the summer solstice.
I couldn’t wait for sundown when I visited a small valley, a known habitat of fireflies.
As dusk gradually deepened, the stage was set for the show I was awaiting.
Flecks of light began to fly one by one. I imagined them telling me, “Showtime. Watch us.”
A haiku poem by Teiko Inahata effectively says, “The sky must darken for fireflies.”
The thrill of joy we humans feel over the arrival of dusk must be felt just as much by the fireflies.
After all, this is their time to whisper sweet nothings to one another with their blinking lights.
The Japanese affection for fireflies dates back centuries.
Yokoi Yayu, a haiku poet of the mid-Edo Period (1603-1867), extolled the firefly to the point of elevating the bug to the “pinnacle of seasonal features.”
A piece he penned went something like, “I even think that the dusk of May exists solely for the firefly.” Under the lunar calendar, the summer solstice fell in May.
In his time, I imagine even human settlements in the countryside must have been swarming with glowing fireflies.
But perhaps their fantastic shows are appreciated and valued much more today because of their rarity.
Their mesmerizing luminescence even makes me wonder if the soul of the deceased resides in each of those dots of light.
A haiku poem by Sumiko Ikeda goes, “I was reincarnated as a firefly for losing at rock-paper-scissors.”
One does not have to believe in transmigration of the soul to let one’s imagination fly.
Perhaps by some small chance, I may be born as the one watching the firefly, the reincarnation of someone else. Dusk is the backdrop that induces this kind of sentimentalism.
According to one theory, the Japanese word “mushi” (insect) derived from the expression “mushi mushi,” which means “steamy” or “humid,” because bugs are born in such places.
Some people detest bugs. But even if you are one of them, perhaps there is a bug or two you like or find lovable.
This is the season for those tiny creatures to be living their lives to the fullest.
--The Asahi Shimbun, June 24
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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