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August in Japan

August 29th, 2010


If you’ve lived in Japan, you could not have failed to see this. In August, when the heat and humidity are turned up beyond high, the two- to three-inch cicadas (“semi” in Japanese) are everywhere, and are quite loud. In traditional insect fashion, they buzz then mate and die. So you see first this, above, and then just parts after the ants get to them.

Of course, they run low on gas the last few days and so many of these bugs are still alive while prone like this. I gave this fellow the obligatory “you dead?” nudge with my foot, and he took the momentum I offered and righted himself, with a few insectoid thank-you clicks.

Find a nasty close-up of the fellow here (full-res, but cropped), if you swing that way. Me, I can put up with a lot of stuff, but insects tend to get to me. The bigger they are, the worse they are. And these cicadas are sizable bugs. Snakes and frogs and other amphibians and reptiles I think are cool; Sachi weirds out when I catch the local salamanders, which I think are cute as hell. But the cicadas are too much for me.

Recently, at their peak buzzing fervor, they started coming to my home-office window at night. Makes sense–I stay up after midnight, it’s a big frosted-glass window all lit up like an insect welcome mat. So it begins when you hear them flutter up and then bump against the glass. And these bugs have mass, it’s like a small stone hitting your window, kind of loud. Flutter clickclick flutter BONK flutter BONK BONK clickclick flutter. Then they start their trademark high-pitched, very very loud mating-call buzz.

The other night I was trying to get some work done and they started up. So I went out with an umbrella to poke at them until they went away. Problem is, these things, in classic bug form, are attracted to light as if it held them by a bungee tether. And this night, it turned out there were three of them. Just by approaching, all three started flying about–golf-ball-sized buzzing insect horrors, all blurry wings and sharp edges and too many chitinous spindly legs and bulging thoraxes, three of them flying fast and randomly about. Please, kill me now. I run for cover till they settle, then come back and poke at them with the umbrella, before they spook and start the process again, whereupon I bravely and boldly squeak like a little girl and run for safety. Repeat this about a dozen times until two of three have settled elsewhere.

But that one last one is stubborn. Another dozen attempts and he sticks to my window area like glue. When I finally get him out, where does he go? Our recessed front door alcove. Where he again refuses to leave–and now I’m trapped outside my own apartment by a bug. If I try to sneak past him, he could easily just fly in the door, and then God help me.

After a full 20 minutes or so outside, I finally get past him (he slowly crawled away when I left him alone), and went back to work.

Egads, I hate bugs.

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  1. Roger
    August 30th, 2010 at 00:18 | #1

    Well done, sir. I was right there with you…

  2. September 2nd, 2010 at 02:43 | #2

    Your post really brought back some fond memories. When I was a USAF Brat living in Chofu, my friends and I used to collect the shedded cicada exoskeletons. They could most often be found stuck to the trunks of pine trees, and if we found a particularly large cicada husk, it was considered a real prize!

    I find most insects quite interesting…except for cockroaches. Those things totally creep me out!

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