Japan from the inside out

Magic mushrooms

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, April 13, 2010

SOME MAGIC MUSHROOMS create an interior light show after ingestion, but other magic mushrooms in Japan emit their own light.

Called shii no tomobishi-dake in Japanese and mycena lux-coeli in English, the night-glo shrooms were discovered on Hajijojima, an island under the jurisdiction of the Tokyo Metro District, in the early 1950s. Scientists thought they were exclusive to that island for several decades, but in 1995 they started to find other sites in the coastal area of the southern Kii Peninsula, Kyushu, and elsewhere.

One reason reason for their recent discovery is that they grow only in humid areas with a lot of trees and little human presence, which means they prefer places where people are unlikely to be wandering around in the dark. They sprout during the rainy season from the end of May to July, when the weather is humid enough in this part of the world to be ladled into a bowl. The caps can grow to about two centimeters (roughly one inch) in diameter, but they seldom survive more than a few days after the rain stops because they’re prone to dehydration.

They glow green in the dark because a chemical reaction occurs with luciferin, a light-emitting pigment in the mushrooms. No one’s sure why the reaction occurs, but one theory holds that the shining light attracts insects that help disperse spores in areas with little wind dispersion.

It’s not the rainy season yet, and it’s not Hajijojima, but some mushrooms popped up in Tatsugo-cho on Amami island in Kagoshima this week well ahead of schedule. Residents attribute the early appearance to unseasonably warm weather.

People also say they’re edible, but there’s no word whether their consumption will lead to spiritual illumination!

3 Responses to “Magic mushrooms”

  1. J said


  2. Glowing fungi is something we see around the world (think foxfire). There’s even a mushroom that grows in my part of SoCal that is, as far as I know completely unrelated. Convergent evolution, perhaps?

    I can’t but help but picture Miyazaki portraying a forest of these in a Princess Mononoke type of setting. 木霊 must use these as stools.

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