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Sunday, May 16, 1999


Hate is a many-booted creature that bites

The word in Japanese politics these days is reform. Japan is faced with an aging population, a weakened yen and a less-than-thriving economy.

However, politicians have not addressed Japan's biggest problem: centipedes. The Japanese government, more worried about the welfare of bug-spray manufacturers than the welfare of its citizens, is clearly turning a blind eye to the problem of centipedes.

Shouldn't citizens be able to watch a whole 30-minute episode of "The Simpsons" without having a centipede rush toward them at top speed, causing panic among the entire family? Shouldn't they be able to sleep peacefully without having to worry about air attacks from centipedes dropping from the ceiling?

I have received letters from many anticentipede readers relating their unfortunate experiences. One reader says there was a centipede hiding in her bath towel. She didn't realize it until she got out of the bathtub, grabbed the towel and felt something run down her back. Another reader writes that a centipede attacked him while he was watching TV. In self-defense he reached for the closest implement: scissors. He cut the centipede into two pieces, then watched as the two pieces continued to run around on the floor.

Almost everyone in Japan has a centipede story. Every year, thousands of citizens are stung by centipedes.

Mr. Harada, who runs an inn on my island, has collected over 100 centipedes in a jar of oil. (He says he'll use the oil to relieve future centipede stings). I asked him where he could possibly have found so many centipedes.

"In the guest rooms," he said.

So you see that we are not just talking about centipede overpopulation, we're talking about centipede stampedes! Haven't we all had enough?

People can complain about the centipedes and the emotional and physical scars left from stings, but the centipede problem will never go away unless someone at the top takes action.

This is why I propose we hold a protest march called "No More Centipedes!" We can create a giant human centipede by tying 500 people together at the waist (that makes 1,000 legs) and walking around the Imperial Palace. We should demand birth control for centipedes and more research by bug-spray companies into making food for centipedes that would regulate their hormones.

We could further support the "No More Centipedes" movement with a Centipede Festival. The festival would hold exterminations. After hunting down centipedes in people's homes, we could then throw them into a bonfire for good luck. We could even do the centipede dance. You know the centipede dance: Writhe!

The Centipede Festival should feature challenging games for kids, such as a math contest with centipede word problems: Four centipedes board the shinkansen at Osaka bound for Tokyo. Two minutes later, five centipedes get on the shinkansen in Tokyo bound for Osaka. On the Osaka-bound train, one centipede is killed under the foot of a passenger. On the Tokyo-bound train, one centipede loses 20 percent of his legs in the train's automatic doors. If all the centipedes decide to get off at Kyoto, how many legs will they have in total and what is the combined leg ratio for each centipede?

We must organize Centipede Festivals and insist on an all-out assault on the centipedes to wipe them out for good. Unfortunately, no one has designed a specific weapon for killing centipedes yet. We cannot kill centipedes with fly swatters!

I suggest using whatever implements you might have lying around your house, such as baseball bats, sledgehammers or, at the very least, tongs and a jar of oil. Or simply vacuum them up.

Getting the government to face the centipede problem is an important part of Japan's reform program. A "No more centipedes movement" can employ more people, develop new products and restore the consumer economy. Stand up for the right to a centipede-free life!

I'm doing my part. I'm inventing the first centipede ballistic missile.

Send your centipede stories to amychavez@mailexcite.com.

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