KOFU, YAMANASHI PREF. – Bugs are no longer just for the boys anymore — studying insects has become a hobby for women, too.
“It’s so much fun, quietly moving up close to insects and taking closeup photos of their tiny faces,” said Tamaki Morita, a 30-year-old office worker from Osaka.
Women like Morita have recently been tabbed by the media as “mushi (insect) girls” — the latest group to be labeled after “yama (mountain) girls,” who enjoy climbing mountains in fashionable outdoor clothes, and the shutterbugs known as “sha (photography) girls.”
As opposed to boys and men, who often enjoy collecting and playing with “kabuto mushi (Japanese rhinoceros beetles),” mushi girls’ interests range from mantises to caterpillars and even stink bugs.
In September last year, Morita took part in a one-day event for female insect lovers in Hokuto, Yamanashi Prefecture, at the foot of the Southern Alps.
About 40 women attended, with more than half from outside Yamanashi, including as far away as Kitakyushu and Nagoya.
The participants were mainly in their 20s but also included elementary school kids and senior citizens, according to the organizer, Hokuto’s Omurasaki Center, named after the great purple emperor butterfly.
“I’d long wanted to see the larvae of Omurasaki butterflies,” Morita said at the center’s Hibarium Nagasaka observation facility.
Morita’s fascination with insects first bubbled up several years ago during a visit to an exhibition displaying photos of insects. Since then, she has flown every year to Iriomote Island, Okinawa Prefecture, to take photos of butterflies and mantises.
In response to the growing number of hobbyists, Recruit Holdings Co. recently released an app for smartphones to help identify insects. Users can upload pictures of insects to discover their species and features. Morita and the other participants at the Omurasaki event used the app after taking pictures outside the facility.
Yuriko Atsumi, a 23-year-old official with the center who was in charge of the event, is a mushi girl herself.
Atsumi said she always takes a camera and magnifying glass with her and that she often finds herself observing insects for more than an hour.
“My favorite is the mantis. They are so cute when they are eating,” she said.