Awight! It’s the Japan Blog Matsuri for September! It’s all about MUSIC! Classic or contemporary, it continues to move us through the years. The evolution of Japanese music, like its culture in general, is particularly fascinating! I hope these articles serve to further incite your interest, as they did for me.
That’s right! I can’t believe this hasn’t been done yet. I’m a big fan, as are many others all over the world. Whether you’d like to talk about artists currently in the Japanese media, different aspects of Japanese musical style, your favorite Japanese songs, Japanese instruments of ancient times, or whatever else have you, it all fits into September’s theme! Just make sure your post follows the Japan Blog Matsuri guidelines for submission.
Rules and Guidelines
Include at least one picture. People need visuals!
Write enough substance. Not too many pictures, y’all.
If you’ve got any familiarity about Japan or even just anime, you already know about the Japanese rhinoceros beetle (ç”²è™« ~ Trypoxylus dichotomus) and the exciting fights they often engage in for money. That’s right, two males are pitted against each other, and people bet on which one will push the other off of a log or table first. Apparently it’s very popular to do in Ryukyu. (For some reason, I couldn’t find any video of this. Figures.)
Something you might not have known: The beetle has a fan page on Facebook. Only 18 people are fans as of this posting! C’mon people, these beetles are awesome. I actually owned the shell of a similar-looking beetle when I was a kid, but I lost it in a move. It was pretty awesome, though. It was as big as my hand. (I used to keep giant bugs’ shells after they died.)
Another much more horrifying mushi is the Japanese giant hornet (å¤§é›€èœ‚ ~ Vespa mandarinia japonica). Like the rhinoceros beetle, it looks pretty awesome, and I’m pretty sure there are some vehicles themed off of its appearance.
I say they’re horrifying only because they are awful mass-murdering bastards, and on the off-chance you get stung by one you’ll probably be hospitalized.
What happens when a terrifying killer engages my favorite insect? It’s not pretty. (This saddens me, as I only just found out that praying mantises can eat snakes…and I think birds, too. Holy crap, nature.)
Apart from being the enemy of bees, they’re a fine part of the balance of nature… I guess. Hey, who am I to question how nature works?
Some Household Mushi
Here in the US, bugs + indoors usually don’t mix. Me, I can’t get enough bugs, personally, but in Japan there are a handful of good-luck bugs that actually enhance the home. Bugs such as…
The huntsman spider (Sparassidae), which is actually harmless to people, and comes in varying levels of cute and fuzzy.
And this gejigeji bug, Scutigera coleoptrata, the household centipede. Every kid is informed at a young age that centipedes (or was it millipedes…?) can freaking kill you, so I guess it becomes ubiquitous that avoiding them is necessary. However, these things are also cleaner-uppers for homes and actually won’t kill you. I love giant bugs that won’t kill you! Yay!
Miscellaneous Things About Mushi
Those insanely popular and/or infamous mushi, as well as others, are constantly featured in Japanese media.
The manga series Mushishi obviously takes its influence from little things crawling around in the ground, with its ubiquitous supernatural spirits (also called…”Mushi”) that have existed since time’s dawn.
The place where I grew up [in Machida, a western Tokyo suburb] was still rural back then. There were rice paddies, rivers, forests. It was full of nature. Then development started taking place, and as it grew, all the insects were driven away. I was really interested in collecting insects. Every year they would cut down trees and the population of insects would decrease. The change was so dramatic. A fishing pond would become an arcade center.
If you recall how the original two games played, there were always a lot of simple bug-catching kids in the beginning, and to this day there’s still lots of wading around in grass, looking for things… even if the pocket monsters these days have grown to ridiculous proportions.
There are several tokusatsu series with bug-themed heroes, such as the Kamen Rider series.
Anyhow, bugs are awesome, and they’re a big part of Japan. Should I ever get the chance to go there, I want to go bug-watching. (I also want to hunt bugs in Australia, except I know I’ll probably definitely die over there.)
Although I didn’t like it very much at first, the kappa has quickly become one of my favorite mythical creatures. What is it that I like about them? Is it the fact that there are many different interpretations of them historically, or that they can be downright adorable in modern depictions? Or maybe it’s just that little bowl of water on their heads. Let’s talk about it some more!
Anyway, kappa. At first I thought they looked terrible. Duck-things with reptilian bodies! It didn’t help that I don’t really like ducks or turtles. (Except sea turtles. They’re adorable. Kappa sea turtles would be adorable, too, I guess.) And if I were to see one in reality, they would frighten me. I mean, that’s just too creepy to see walk up to you, realistically.
But the cuter they look, the more acceptable they become… (Which I believe is a general rule. Do you think anybody would have cared about Pandora if all the Na’vi resembled Gremlins? Exactly.) Kappa are known as troublemakers, and also consumers of children. Of course, they don’t really seem to have any ill will towards humanity. Why else would we love them?
I am in fact writing and drawing a short comic story for print centering around a kappa right now, which should be out later this year. Perhaps I’ll post about that then. Another one of my comics, this one online, involves many yokai and other types of demons, and a kappa may make its way into its story as well.
I can show you the kappa my mom drew for me for the print story:
The famous King Bowser Koopa from the Mario game series may have taken inspiration from kappa. He’s not very watery, though. You’ve got to admit, their names do sound similar. (His name actually is more closely inspired by a Korean food dish. Appetizing!)
As you can see, the kappa is fairly popular in Japan. (Understatement!) I’m beginning to understand why! People cosplay them, they crop up here and there in stories of all forms, both ancient and modern, and they serve as friends, symbols, and mascots. Long live the kappa!
Yes! My personal Top 7. Why 7? Because it’s lucky!
I’m a great fan of short things; short stories, short animations. They’re all opportunities to show a powerfully concise moving, touching, or just plain funny story. They require a special kind of skill to execute, and all the better when they’re visually unique!
I won’t say too much about each of these animations, or else I would be spoiling them. Needless to say, they mostly speak for themselves.