On Japanese Insects

Regular blogging will resume on Aug. 25, God willing.

The Cicada
There’s a dead cicada on my porch, one of the sea of hummingbird-sized insects that came out of their hibernation to welcome me to Fukuoka. They’re loud, and while the guy hanging out upside-down on my foyer is cool, I live in fear of the day one of those sons of bitches lands in my hair.

The Cicadas (“Semi” in Japanese) have no mouths, but make a terrible rattling sound as soon as the sun rises. They stop in the rain, but in Fukuoka the rain is so loud that it doesn’t really matter. I’m up at 6 a.m. every morning because the semi are like roosters (though there’s also a rooster in my neighborhood).

One of the 7 books I own is a collection of Haiku, and the cicada features prominently in many of them:

Basho:
“They do not live long
but you would never know it,
that cicada’s buzz.”

Beetles
As I was sneaking around my apartment to find wi-fi, a small boy rode up on his bike and stared. I’m a cultural ambassador, so I said “Ohayo Gozaimas!” loudly. He smiled then ran away. Later on in the distance I saw him go to an open field with a big net and a plastic fish tank. When I came home the fish tank was on my doorstep, with two dead beetles in it. Apparently, they’re popular pets.

Japanese Centipedes
“Mukade” (Moo-kah-day) – the dreaded centipede – travel in pairs. Japanese people will tell you that if you kill a mukade, it will emit a fume telling other mukade to come to its rescue. For this reason, you don’t stomp on mukade, or crush it. You trap it in a paper cup and set it on fire.

There’s also a line of pesticide with wonderfully comitragic cartoon characters on them: A crying roach on one, a crying centipede on another. “Special pest killer for killing of annoying pest,” the package reads. But the crying insects don’t look annoying; they’re actually shown crying with handkerchiefs and music notes coming out of their heads. They could have their own theme park.

Japanese Cockroaches
Roach traps also overhumanize the killing of annoying pest. Roach motels look like a little town square with cartoon bugs in the windows, relaxing on vacation. Or you can get a smaller version with a mom and dad roach sending their kid off to school. After a week of use, these delightful flights of whimsy mask a collection of sticky roach bodies literally half-dissolved in a special kind of bug-acid.

On the up side, butterflies are common here, which is nice. They come in neon shades of green and blue, even.

I should also add that wildlife of any kind is rare. I’ve seen sparrows, herons, enormous crows and even wild hens, but only two cats in almost a month. Shaved dogs are everywhere, especially television, but that will get its own post.

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3 Responses to On Japanese Insects

  1. Southern Man says:

    No giant hornets, eh?

    Centipedes sound scary enough, though. Do they crawl over you at night when you sleep? Oh, I guess you might not know it.

    We have Asian, American, and German cockroaches here apparently, which is lovely. And spider crickets (Google them, they’re terrifying, and they jump AT you when scared).

    Cicadas are everywhere in the US too. And that haiku guy is stupid because they actually live like 15 years, which is insane for a bug.

    Look for giant hornets!! Look OUT for giant hornets!!

  2. Pingback: On Noise Bursts and Japanese Television | 電視と噪音 | This Japanese Life. | 生命を外面九天です

  3. Pingback: On Taking a Bath in Japan | お風呂 | This Japanese Life. | 生命を外面九天です

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