100,000 LED lights float down the Sumida River

top and bottom images courtesy tokyo-hotaru.com

The inaugural Tokyo Hotaru festival was held last weekend. And kicking off the festivities were an impressive display of 100,000 LED lights – made to resemble hotaru (fireflies) – that floated down the Sumida River through central Tokyo. Dubbed “prayer stars,” the LEDs were provided by Panasonic, who claims that the balls, which were designed to light up upon contact with water, were 100% powered by solar energy. After illuminating a large stretch of the river, which also hosts a popular fireworks festival in the summer, the LEDs were all caught in a large net.

photo by Jeremy V. | click to enlarge

photo by Jeremy V. | click to enlarge

photo by Jeremy V. | click to enlarge

There are plenty of literary references indicating that the Sumida River was once home to real fireflies, which were said to gather around clean, running water. Searching for these luminous creatures on the banks was a popular activity in Tokyo (Edo, at the time) during the 18th century. For sad and obvious reasons, fireflies no longer inhabit the area. The Tokyo Hotaru festival is part of the city’s “Sumida River Renaissance” initiative.

Like fireflies? Check out these stunning long-exposure photos of fireflies by Japanese photographer Tsuneaki Hiramatsu. Then read the story about how they went viral.

photo by makure | click to enlarge

photo by ajpscs | click to enlarge

photo by Mai Suzuki | click to enlarge

source: @stevenagata


  1. David G. Tharaeparambil

    May 10, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    Really impressed. WoW!

  2. Video or it didn’t happen : )

  3. while the project is beautiful, i’m kind of horrified by the environmental implications. there’s no mention of whether these are being scooped back out of the river at any point downstream, and if they’re not, then it’s somewhat irresponsible.

  4. There is a mention.

  5. @damian0815

    Did you even read the article or do you have to throw your agenda around as soon as you see something to apply it to?

    It says that they were all special LED’s that are solar powered and at the end of the event, they netted them all up.

  6. Damian if you took the 2 seconds it requires to read the caption you would see they were all reclaimed. My question is if intended to resemble fireflies, why are the LED’s blue. Fireflies are green to yellow.

  7. ShaneFlyinFINN

    May 12, 2012 at 10:11 am

    damian, “After illuminating a large stretch of the river, which also hosts a popular fireworks festival in the summer, the LEDs were all caught in a large net.” I think you should learn to read an article.

  8. That was beautiful and Magnificent, loved the Blue LEDs!!

  9. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=xKUpGKk6pEY

    Though the lights were supposed to resemble fireflies, the original name for this is called “Project Milkyway” and thus the blue LEDs. Seems like they do it all over Japan.

  10. of course i read the article. when i wrote the comment there was no mention in the article of the LEDs being scooped up again. my comment was in moderation for around 12 hours so i guess the article was modified in between.

  11. also, “all”? all 100,000 of them? none got caught in the banks at the side of the river, or slipped through the net, or sank, or broke into parts which got eaten by a fish?

  12. @damian0815, sorry I couldn’t modify your comment right away as I was out of the office all day. As for the article, it’s never been updated or modified since it was published on May 10.

    And yes, I probably should have said “most” as it’s reasonable to assume that a few of them escaped the net.

  13. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! They should do something like this on the Chao Praya river in Bangkok, Thai people love light spectacles.

  14. Stupid. You’d think a country that just went through nuclear near-armageddon would think twice about producing a glowing river… Stupid waste of money, and lacking in tact.

  15. …and that was the last time damiano815 ever commented on an article on the internet.

  16. Beautiful; if you know of the Shinto tradition of Toro nagashi, floating lanterns down the river in honor of departed ancestors, you will know what they were emulating. It’s hardly a waste of money, it was tying an ancient tradition into modern technology, something the nation of Japan specializes in. As for the environmental impact they were specifically designed to be too large for fish or birds to swallow. Not to mention that it would be pretty easy to send someone to look for the stray ones the next night, bright glowing blue orb should be easy to spot.

  17. Excellent post. I’m going through many of these issues as well..

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