The theme of this article is actually pretty rare in touristic leaflets and other travel guides about Japan. Yet, Japanese people have a long, involuntary acquaintance with cockroaches, and foreign expatriates fear them as they have been barely prepared to meet those tiny inhabitants of the archipelago. These insects are indeed numerous and everywhere in Japan. They are particularly big and can be 5 cm long and 2 cm wide (or double in southern parts of Japan, such as Okinawa).
When summer comes, in the heat and humidity of tsuyu (the rainy season), the Japanese cockroach arrives with waves of humidity as early as June. Along with other summer pleasantries (i.e., mosquitoes and typhoons), we will see them until the end of September, even in the cleanest apartments and houses. As they love darkness, it is mostly at night that they reveal themselves. Quick, it will climb walls and fly to escape from you!
We say about cockroaches in Japan that they are getting more resistant as years pass by. One being seen means dozens of others hidden everywhere: closets, corners, behind pipelines, etc.
A difficult eradication
There are several options to fight them:
- The old technique of crushing them under a slipper or a newspaper is not very smart as the smell will attract its friends.
- Spraying an asphyxiating bomb on them (but insecticide can be poisonous for human as well).
- Insect traps or baits that will let them go back to their friends, contaminating them in return.
The main effective approach is to prevent them: avoid keeping windows open and leaving food pieces on the floor, and keep rooms very clean and the least humid as possible. Despite these techniques, it is hard to avoid them for the whole summer. A famous Japanese website, the well-named Gokiten, forecasts (just like weather does for hanami or koyo) their “visit”. Naturally, Hokkaido happens to have fewer of them.
To keep smiling, Rui Tamachi’s manga Gokicha (our illustrating image), also made as an anime series, takes the point of view of cockroaches in an unexpected and funny story: here, the insects are nice little kawaii women mistreated by humans who do not understand their feelings!