Mushi! 虫! 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 level of fandom going on…
Japanese rhinoceros beetle
If you’ve got any familiarity about Japan or even just anime, you already know about the Japanese rhinoceros beetle (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 in Ryukyu:
They also make good pets.
I WANT ONE.
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.)
Asian giant hornet
Another much more horrifying mushi is the Asian giant hornet (オオスズメバチ – 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.
OH MY GOD RUN
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.
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.
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.)