Crazy butterfly in Kyoto

While attending Kyoto’s Aoi Matsuri (Hollyhock Festival) last week, I came across an endearing scene. A huge black butterfly had decided to have a rest in the sun, right on top of someone’s head.

Crazy butterfly in Kyoto sitting on someone's head
Crazy butterfly in Kyoto sitting on someone’s head

The person in question was keeping very calm, quietly posing for photographs.

Crazy butterfly in Kyoto
Calmly posing for pictures with a butterfly on his head

After a few minutes the butterfly took off and made for a new spot in the sun, this time on the head of a lady.

Crazy butterfly in Kyoto person nr 2
This lady has no idea that her head is the new resting spot for the crazy butterfly

At first this lady had no idea that she was the new ‘chosen one’ but as amateur photographers flocked to her, she took a few moments to pose for pictures and then calmly resumed walking, completely ignoring the butterfly on her head.

Crazy butterfly in Kyoto person nr 2 posing for pictures
Lady nr. 2 poses for pictures with the butterfly on her head

I was able to follow the butterfly to a third person. This time it was someone holding a white vest. This person responded in exactly the same way as the previous two people: he just stood there calmly, without moving or even smiling, while people where taking pictures of him.

Crazy butterfly in Kyoto person nr 3
The butterfly having a rest on the sleeve of person nr. 3
Crazy butterfly in Kyoto person nr 3 photographers
Posing for photographs with the butterfly on his sleeve

In this whole situation, I was actually more intrigued by the Japanese people’s behaviour than by the butterfly. European people in the same situation would either make frantic movements to chase the butterfly away (possibly accompanied by loud screaming) or they would make a show of themselves and pose conspicuously for the photographs. The modest behaviour of the Japanese and their simple acceptance of the situation impressed me.

Crazy butterfly in Kyoto close up
Crazy butterfly close up

6 thoughts on “Crazy butterfly in Kyoto

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  1. This butterfly might be the ‘papilio macilentus’.
    Papilio is a big family of butterflies. (‘page’ in dutch). The macilentus is found in China, Korea and Japan, from april unto june, in valleys and on the edge of woods. They fly lowly because they drop their eggs on the leafs of plants.

  2. I have the explanation!

    In Lafcadio Hearn’s book Kwaidan, there’s the following passage:

    “It’s also possible that some weird Japanese beliefs about butterflies are of Chinese derivation; but these beliefs might be older than China herself. The most interesting one, I think, is that the soul of a living person may wander about in the form of a butterfly. Some pretty fancies have been evolved out of this belief, – such as the notion that if a butterfly enters your guest-room and perches behind the bamboo screen, the person whom you most love is coming to see you. That a butterfly may be the spirit of somebody is not a reason for being afraid of it.”

    1. Very interesting! I didn’t know that. That might indeed explain it. I wonder how alive those beliefs are today. Japanese readers, care to comment and help us out?

      Thanks for sharing this Finorgan! 🙂

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