Japan’s rainy season has begun, starting early to mid-June and ending about a month later. It’s a time to start sweating from the heat and humidity; a time to appreciate the beautiful hydrangea flowers that blossom in this season. Or, you can stay dry and hide inside to enjoy Makato Shinkai’s film, Garden of Words, which is a film about Japan’s rainy season set mostly in the Shinjuku National Garden with beautiful animation and astonishing accuracy to how the park actually looks.
If you choose to hide inside, you may not be alone as the warmer weather has begun to summon sleeping insects and the rain is driving them to find shelter. Here are just a few of the critters you may find lurking in your house.
This is the bug I personally loathe the most. If you stay in the mountains of Japan, they are pretty common and they always like to find a warm cozy dark corner to hide in – maybe your bed or your wardrobe. They can grow to be over 20 cm and have the color scheme of a demon. Red heads, black bodies, and sickly yellow legs that can dart around pretty fast. They have pretty nasty bites, which have been likened to an electric shock and if you get bitten, it’s recommended that you see a doctor. If you get bitten on the head, neck, or chest, then you should definitely see a doctor. A Japanese colleague once recommended running a fresh bite under warm water to open the pores and reduce the amount of poison on the skin because cold water can actually shut the poison in and make swelling worse in the long run.
These creatures are pretty nasty, so killing them is a safer option because if you throw them outside there’s a big likelihood they will return again. Cutting them in half works, but the front end may continue to run and attack for a little while after. Squishing them can release a pheromone that attracts others, but it is satisfying. The best option is to pour boiling water over them if they aren’t sitting on anything valuable. If they are sat on your laptop then use something long enough to flick them into a bowl full of steamy water.
The mukade were used by some samurai as a symbol of victory in battle. Considering the creature, it is no wonder as they can viciously attack enemies that are much bigger, fearless in the face of death, and they pretty much overcome all other insects they face against in Japan.
These predatory spiders are brown in color and can be found in flat, dry areas. They can be seen wandering around outside on sunny days. I have seen a few of these just inland of the beach where I work, and on rainy days a few have been spotted running along the hallways and hiding in cupboards. Wolf spiders live in burrows and do not spin webs, they hunt their prey by jumping and tearing into smaller insects that wander past their burrows. They can grow to up to 10 cm, but I haven’t seen one reach that size here. They are often alone, so there are no infestation worries. That being said, there is a particularly nasty feature of these seemingly boring looking insects.
If you find a wolf spider, be sure it isn’t a pregnant mother before you decide to do away with it. Mother wolf spiders carry their eggs and young baby spiders on their backs for at least the first week of the babies life. This can be up to 200 spiders. So if you see a wolf spider, try not to just whack it in hopes you will squish it, because you may rid yourself of the mother just to end up with 200 tiny babies scattering in every direction. That way you and the babies will be stuck in the house together thanks to the rain.
These little buggers are everywhere, and if you think the rain will keep them down, think again. There may be fewer of them in the rain, but that doesn’t mean these minuscule little monsters won’t follow you through your front door and feast on your blood whilst you sleep. Thankfully, mosquito repellent is everywhere in Japan – your local convenience store should stock you up with repellent for your skin. If you need something a little more hardcore, you can get incense coils which drive them away, and sticky traps to hang around. I always find that no matter the weather, the repellent, and bug nets, they always find a way to get inside. They are out all summer but to me, the rainy season announces that it’s time to start defending yourself against bites and potential illness from these, the most annoying and persistent of the insect kingdom.
As with all bugs, there are preventative measures to take but nothing can assure that you will be able to avoid finding one of these critters, and any number of other bugs, in your house, hotel, or whilst you are out and about hiking or even shopping. These are just a few of the insects that are pretty common during the rainy season, but there are many, many insects in Japan. Stock up on bite cream and stay vigilant.
The start of the rainy season is usually a good time to look for fireflies, called “hotaru” in Japanese. Many places do official showings, where they release clusters of them into a park or hotel grounds so visitors get a chance to see them swarming like little glowing stars. If a set-up tourist attraction isn’t your cup of tea and you would rather see them out in the wild, after a rainy day is the best time. You can sometimes find wild ones along quiet river banks or standing ponds in rural areas just after sunset.