Welcome to the rainy season. Welcome to the invasion of insects! Contrary to what most people will tell you, I think the rainy season is the most exciting part of the year in Japan. Believe me, you’re gonna see plenty of strange things. Every June, I’m filled with unbridled curiosity of what new, never-seen-before creature is going to come out of nowhere.
No matter how tight you lock down your windows and doors, never underestimate the breaking-and-entering skills of insects. Once, I came home to a large fat centipede lounging on my sofa. He had a beer in his hand and the TV was switched on to NHK’s “Kawaii International.” There is just no way to prepare yourself for some of the things you’ll experience this season.
My neighborhood started preparing for the great insect invasion a couple weeks ago. First, men in jumpsuits came and sprayed chemicals in the forest around the island to ward off the ravenous pine bark beetle. A day later, a woman from the island Women’s Club came to collect a donation of one onion plus ¥500 from each resident. The Women’s Club would use these donations to carry out evil deeds in an empty warehouse.
The island was then hit by the invasion of the kemushi — which literally means “hairy insect,” but more to the point, “hairy caterpillar.” In the spring, they drop from the trees, and once on the ground, truck off to some unknown destination. It’s a worry. Blogger Gabi Grieve says that at her place in the mountains of Okayama Prefecture, “they come down our small road like an army of small tanks.” Nice. @zosiaf said, “I actually find them quite cute!” Sure you do. Until you wake up with no clothes on because these caterpillars have eaten them all off you overnight. That’s what happens to trees, anyway. In just one night, a pack of these hairy beasts can defoliate an entire tree. The strange thing about kemushi caterpillars, though, is that after making their cocoons, no one seems to know what they reemerge as. Moths? Butterflies? Superman? Something tells me we are in for one strange metamorphosis when all these guys come out of their cocoons — a fleet of Air Force CV-22 Ospreys!
Once the rainy season is in full swing, you’re in for a treat as the white ants come out to play. The shiroari (termites) tend to amass around bright lights at night. These clouds of insects are actually shiroari peep shows. And they’re all looking for mates. You’ve gotta feel sorry for them. You try mating only during a designated two weeks of each year.
As the rainy season marches on, the next vile pest to look for is the centipede. A couple weeks ago the islanders started shaking a white powder around the foundations of their houses to create a toxic centipede barrier. Ha! Dream on. Centipedes still have tools to slide into the house: hammers, drills, crowbars, wrenches and minute centipede-specific implements tucked under each leg. Especially when you’re a centipede, you’ve got to dress to impress. I don’t really mind the centipedes. I just wish they’d use the slippers I leave out for them in the genkan.
Yesterday, my next door neighbor Kazu-chan appeared at my door holding a bag full of the toxic mixture concocted in the empty warehouse. From this, we would make “roach cookies.” The roaches eat them, then die. Roaches are not like ants, who are known to carry poison back to their nest and do in the entire community in a doomsday cult-like event. No, the selfish roaches die one by one, out in the open. So I can look forward to encountering roach corpses around the house on a regular basis. I like this. It shows off my toxicological roach cookie-making skills.
It is probably illegal to share our island’s evil roach-killing formula with you, but since anyone can go onto the Internet these days and learn how to make bombs, I figure I can share our recipe as long as it is in a sincere attempt to promote a roach-free world. For those who don’t have a local Women’s Club to make the batter for you, all you’ll need: an onion, wheat, salt, boric acid and an empty warehouse.
Next, mix into a dough and make cookies by placing a dollop of the stuff on a cupcake liner. This way you can easily place the individual cookies inside drawers, cupboards, etc. (Warning: Keep these out of reach of children or pets.) I like to put mine into colorful cupcake liners with cutesy characters on them to promote kawaii Japan and attract the young and hip roaches and roachettes. I’m quite sure this is why I have the largest kill number on the island. All my neighbors use the boring metallic cupcake liners. Or maybe I have more roaches in my house than they do. I also put a fork pattern into the top of each one to make them look more like home-made peanut butter cookies. You can even put chocolate sprinkles on them if you’d like. Or a farewell message. Something like: Live free or die! Don’t worry, they can’t read.
But all in all, it’s not the normal creepy crawly things that come out during the rainy season that are scary. It’s the other, unpredictable things. Like yesterday, when I opened up my door and saw a 20-cm-long, very fat, black, hairless . . . thing! It passed my door and went up the wall of Kazu-chan’s house. It was vile. It was disgusting. It was wonderful! But the scary thought was — what’s he going to turn into? This would have to be one seriously huge butterfly. Or a pelican.