Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Enduring the Rainy Season...

....and that, dear Readers, is really the only reason not to entertain self-destructive thoughts during Japan's horrible, humid, it-just-rained-and-now-it's-worse, Rainy Season.  Those gorgeous things are planted all over the place.  My kids walk past a whole row of pink, blue, pink-shading-to-purple-to-blue hydrangeas on the way to school. 

Of course, I can't get my damn laundry dry.  Mostly, I just try to avert mine eyes from growing piles of laundry and go out for walks to look at hydrangeas... ones...

...pale blue ones...

....anything really but the DLP (Dreaded Laundry Pile).  Most of the time, honestly, it doesn't bother me not having a drier.  Hanging up nice, fresh-smelling laundry outside on a nice day is a far more enjoyable chore than, say, cleaning the toilet.  Just not during Rainy Season.  Because boy's underwear does not dry when it's raining outside.  Gah!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tweetle Beetles

"I thought my Sensei was lying when she said kids in Japan catch bugs for fun. "

--Ezmirelda said in a comment to the last post.

 Yes, It's true--kids do catch bugs for fun in Japan.  I did, too, when I was a kid.  Beetles, lightning bugs, toads, caterpillars, probably other things that have disappeared into the neurological mist.  Have I been gone too long, or do kids in America not catch lightning bugs anymore and put them in mayonnaise jars with holes punched in the lids?  Let me know about that, would you all?  My Japanese friends are under that impression, but I've told them that kids in America catch bugs, too.  If I'm wrong on that count, I'll have to 'fess up that my information on America is outdated (let's not get into speculations about how old that implies I am:)

Anyway, here's our beetle, which Cici has creatively named "Kabuto-kun", aka--Mr. Beetle.

That big horn sticking out of the middle of his head means he's a He Beetle.  He's dark brown and shiny and likes to eat tree sap.  Which is a bit hard to come by, so we give him cut up bananas, apple pieces or put some honey into a hole bored into his log.  We also buy special Beetle Jelly, which can be had at the 100Y shop (The dollar shop, or, rather, somewhat less than a dollar, given the current exchange rate).  You can buy smallish bug boxes and nets as well at the 100Yen shop.  People have been catching beetles and cicadas in the summer here for as long as anyone can remember.  It's just the summertime thing to do.

Our beetle, as I said, is a boy.  Females don't have that big horn on top that gives this species of beetle his common name in English--Rhinoceros Beetle (because of the one big horn on what would be his nose if he had one).  The beetles I occasionally used to catch (or, rather, pick off the front screen door) were stag beetles, which they also have over here.  Kids catch those, too.  Small Stag Beetle, Saw-toothed Stag Beetle--there's really quite a variety, and children as young as kindergarten age can easily identify which is which. 

  In this photo you can see the barbs on his legs for clinging to trees.  They hurt a little if he's clinging to your hand, but big brother Koshi doesn't mind. 

It took me a while to figure out why I have no problem keeping Kabutomushi in the house, but leap into the air and shriek for my dad if there's a cockroach.  Same color, roughly the same, why the different reaction?  Aha--Speed  of  movement.  Cockroaches are fast little buggers--zipping right across the floor and under the fridge in an eyeblink or two.  Kabuto, on the other hand, are *slow*, almost stately in the way they move.  And they don't really hide (unless they burrow under the mulch  to stay cool in the heat of the day).

The Japanese national addiction to catching bugs is the reason a video game like MushiKing could be the wild success it was here a few years ago (the year my oldest started kindergarten, in fact).  Actually, as video games go, MushiKing (King of Beetles) was pretty innocuous--educational, in fact.  My kids (and me, too, of course) learned the names of a large number of beetles from all over the world.  We used to look up on the map where, for example, the Great Hercules Rhinoceros Beetle was from (Brazil), or the Great Caucasus Rhinoceros Beetle (Indonesia).   The game is based on the summer pastime of catching beetles and making the male beetles fight (that's what those splendid horns are naturally for), sort of like cock-fighting.  The Kabuto is strong--they can pull something hooked to their horns that outweighs them by quite a bit.  My oldest hooked up one of his beetles with a thread to one of his toy trucks--I so wish I had gotten that on video.  *Deep sigh*.  All the way down the hall, too.  That beetle was Rocky!

 You can buy a number of species at our local Daiei--which has always made me wonder whether that's OK or not.  Turns out--not.

Yappari--figures.  I knew there were too many rare-looking bugs coming into Japan to be good for beetle populations.  Maybe that's how I can get my kids into environmental activism!

Go catch some bugs--but not from other countries!  And let them go so they can breed!
Mata asobou, ne!