Friday, September 23, 2005

Save the bugs! I mean, the trees.

I was taking a nice jog around the neighborhood, and I saw a row of three large trees, colorfully decorated with signs plastered all over them. Upon closer inspection, the signs were written by kids, complete with little pictures of beetles. The signs said: "Don't cut the tree! It has lots of bugs!" Now, to you or me, this may be a compelling reason to cut that tree down real fast. But here, there is a national pasttime of bug catching. ..Okay, not just ANY bugs. Big beetles, in particular, are what little kids are looking for. The rhinoceros beetle (called a kabuto-mushi ...mushi means bug) is native to japan, and I have to admit, they're pretty cool looking. They walk very slowly, have a hard shell, and the males sprout a large horn.

My first experience with this enormous bug (they can get up to 2 inches!!) was a little over two years ago. I was visiting Takeshi's parent's house in saitama, and it was a pleasant summer day, and I was walking back from the nearby convenience store, when all the sudden... (cue dramatic music) I see this HUGE BLACK BUG strolling along at its own pace in the middle of the street. "AUGHGHGHGHGHGHG WHAT THE HELL IS THAT!!" I yelped, running home at top speed. As I slammed the door, Takeshi's mom said "Oh, are you alright? what happened?"
I tried to collect my thoughts and remember my limited vocabulary. "There's a .. there's a.... really big bug! Outside!" This piqued her interest. " Oh really? Where?" she stepped outside. Yep, it was still there. It stopped and looked up at me, as if to say 'you got a problem, sugar?'
To my ultimate dismay and horror, Takeshi's mom PICKED IT UP WITH HER BARE HANDS. "Good job, you found a kabutomushi! These are pretty rare these days! They're not dangerous, here, hold it!"
Of course, there was a battle raging inside of me. One half said 'You're not SERIOUSLY going to TOUCH that thing, are you?!' .. the other, much more primal side, was drawn with an odd mixture of revulsion and delight at touching something so gross. (you can probably guess which side won). It was hard, cool, and had prickly feet. ^_^

Bugs are an industry here. you can usually find beetles for sale in the kids toy section of any major department store, even if it doesn't have a pet shop. They range from 5oo yen (the price of my bikini) ^^ to over 10,000 yen ($100!) Really big, african 'Hercules' beetles can cost even more than that.
Sega has made a series of games and toys called 'mushi king' that are currently their best sellers in japan. I'm not exactly sure how to play, but they seems to have a lot of fighting beetles in it.

Apparently a couple of weeks ago, a sign was posted that those trees were scheduled to be cut down for city maintenence. So for those poor kids, they just want to make sure their favorite beetle catching spot isn't destroyed. I'll let you know if the trees stay up or not... hopefully they will, for the sake of children's innocence and love of touching gross things!
although I must say, they obviously had help from their parents ^^

On Site Footage! Breaking exclusive bug-tree photos!!



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