Japanese Nature: Bugs (虫)

Mushi! Bugs! They’re all over the place! And the Japanese variety are just as abundant and cool. I’ve always been a fan of bugs, but sometimes people in Japan have a different kind of fandom going on…

(First things first! This is an entry for the August Japan Blog Matsuri, specifically Through Eyes From Afar’s Nature and Japan entry! Thanks, Lands From Afar Embassy! You should see what other J-bloggers also have to say about nature!)

Popular Mushi

If you’ve got any familiarity about Japan or even just anime, you already know about the Japanese rhinoceros beetle (甲虫 ~ 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.)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rAJOvmUANs&feature=search[/youtube]

The closest thing I found. How can you tell when a certain one will win, anyway? (I mean, when one isn’t robotic.)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GFLxNF9LSs[/youtube]

They also make good pets. I WANT ONE.

Rhinoceros beetles are short-lived, but bright stars burn briefly.

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.)

Oh God get it away

Another much more horrifying mushi is the Japanese giant hornet (大雀蜂 ~ 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'll admit I only knew these existed because of FLCL

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.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fTrSOFyfxs[/youtube]

OH MY GOD RUN

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBDdIZiSgQ8[/youtube]

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…

Whoa.

The huntsman spider (Sparassidae), which is actually harmless to people, and comes in varying levels of cute and fuzzy.

To this day, this is the only thing I think of whenever I hear "huntsman". Yeah...anyway...
Looks like something that could kill you, right?

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.

Pokémon, great game series and childhood favorite of many, was originally inspired by bug-catching. Pokémon executive director Satoshi Tajiri-Oniwa enjoyed collecting bugs as a kid, as did I! Specifically, in an old TIME interview, he said,

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.

I was into American tokusatsu when I was 10, but I missed out, oh I missed out

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.)

Flickr credits: kaidohmaru, burleydude, miguelitos91, sakichin, smashedpoodle

Also informative: here

Steve from Portugal

More silly (and still somewhat Mario-related) video posts. This is one of many vids I watch when I’m in a bad mood, because it never fails to amuse me. It may be painful for some to watch, but certain gems of communication in this video have made their way into legend with me.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MusQqQVvuFQ[/youtube]

On that note, I always disliked Super Mario Land. It’s like the “red-headed stepchild” of Mario platformers, and Princess Daisy’s return to the series some decades later isn’t exactly as good as you’d hoped it would be in your younger years.

Yokai: the Kappa!

The Study of Kappa

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!

But first, note that this is an entry for this month’s Japan Blog Matsuri. Mazikeen is hosting it this time! Awesome! Thanks, Mazikeen! Take a look at the other yokai-related entries, too.

Raising kappa: is it easy?

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?

The kappa that appear in Muramasa: the Demon Blade are actually annoying as hell and frightening to boot, but the helpful kappa children that appear are ADORABLE.

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:

D'awww.

Kappa Stuff

Ooo, scaaaary

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!)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMaa1FNbTFo[/youtube]

Trailer for an animated movie called “Summer Days with Coo”, which I absolutely need to see

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxUya5wCJg0[/youtube]

A very old series of ads spanning many years (1939-1980) for Japanese Sake Kizakura, using kappa

Stay! Good boy!

Kappa no Kaikata (カッパの飼い方, How to Breed Kappas) is an anime series about…raising kappa. I haven’t seen it, but it hosts an adorably unforgettable kappa.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Fu5DYKOP3w[/youtube]

A Spore-created kappa with interesting…features.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtpxdWKNiJc[/youtube]

A kappa-related independent short animation

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!

A very informative historical perspective on kappa: http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/kappa.shtml

Historical kappa pictures and Kappa mummies!!! from Pink Tentacle

Another nice kappa article: http://monsterama.blogspot.com/2007/10/clap-for-kappa.html

KeyHoleTV: Now in More Flavors

KeyHole TV is a great resource for both the bored and the learning. I discovered it sometime last year, but I forgot how. It is a program with which you can watch live TV streaming from Japan!

Ah~~~~
Ah~~~~

Of all the live streaming websites and resources I’ve tried (see: a lot), this one is the most consistent (there’s barely any lag or video flubs, aka it actually works as intended) and the most helpful. It’s also very entertaining, if you with only the most rudimentary of Japanese language familiarity have no idea what’s going on are amused even further by that!

When I first heard of it, there was only a PC version, but now there are Mac and Linux versions, enabling me to run KeyHole TV on my laptop finally. With it, you can watch live Japanese TV, or you could use it as video broadcasting software yourself (password-protected, even), or for video conferences. You should definitely give it a try.

The Former President, as Seen in Japan

Brent Mendenhall, a premier George W. Bush impersonator, has been in some Japanese commercials recently. This is my favorite of them. It’s just so silly.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZclR2edKxc[/youtube]

To quote Japan Probe,

Each scene of the Bush lookalike acting goofy/stupid is followed by a message letting you know that Herbal Clear is supposed to help wash away bad things.