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Saturday, July 11, 2009


The rainy season — it's not just snails on hydrangeas

The rainy season can be kind of gloomy with the lack of sunshine, but the weather may be more a reflection of Japan's economic forecast. The Land of the Rising Sun is in many ways, not so sunny anymore.

Some experts have even gone as far as to forecast exclusively sunsets in Japan from now on.

At least for now, the sun has abandoned its debut country for somewhere else more hip, such as Jamaica, where people drink dark rum with it and groove to reggae tunes at the great yearly music festival called Sun Splash. This is what the sun wants — for people to enjoy it!

Okayama Prefecture, where I live, is known as the Sunny Country, like Florida is known as The Sunshine State. But Okayama doesn't have resorts, yachts, pleasure boats, and the general vacation atmosphere that Florida does. In Japan, they just don't promote sunshine.

And this is why I believe the sun took one final look at Japan's plethora of parasols, gloves, wide brim hats, and UV-cutting arm covers and said, "Enough! I'm headed to the Caribbean!"

And who can blame it? In the Caribbean, the sun gets plenty of publicity and is treated like a celebrity: to be worshipped.

People walk around having received the sun's signature — a tan. The sun brings prosperity to the islands as people flock to their sun-kissed beaches. There, the sun is a business.

Abandoned by the sun, Japan is now left with the rainy season. But this isn't such a bad thing. I have learned to love the rainy season.

You gotta love osmosis, the process of learning to speak English without having to study it. But the rainy season has more to do with the other kind of osmosis, where rainwater is absorbed into tree roots and soaked up through the xylem and into the leaves. That's why you can speak to trees in English and they really seem to understand.

While a typical Japanese symbol of the rainy season is a snail on a hydrangea, the rainy season is much more than that. It is a marvelous season for plants and insects.

Everywhere you look there are snails out running marathons, flying termites dancing around lights, earthworms using Google Earth, and assorted bugs scuttling about doing their daily bug business.

But bugs really have only one goal in life: to reproduce. As a result, for bugs, the rainy season is sexy. Most insects are on the prowl, looking for a romantic afternoon on a leaf. The rain provides the lubricant that slugs need to go out on dates and the sultry afternoons aid trysting centipedes.

And it's not just insects. I was stunned when last night I passed five toads waiting under a street light. While the light attracts insects for the toads to eat, I'm quite sure something else was going on there. Perhaps this is where the world's princes come from. Should you decide to try your luck with a toad, however, I suggest you don't kiss any of the ones that pee on your hand. That means they're not interested.

During this season of love and lust, nature provides a stage for the insects to attract mates. Take for instance the long, surly centipede who strutted across my tatami mat the other day. He was so proud. You could just tell he knew that size 13 gaijin shoe sitting in the genkan couldn't hurt him. And you know what he said as he passed me? "Hey honey, what's your name?" He actually tried to pick me up!

Realizing how desperate he must be, I picked him up instead. I put him outside and told him to go find his own leaf.

The only place there aren't insects in my house is in my genkan. This is understandable as it would be equal to a person nestling into a bedroom chock full of loaded M14s. The shoe is the weapon insects fear most, especially among the more "squishable" insects.

I think Japan can learn from the rainy season antics of these insects. With a little bit of love and romance, maybe we can change our habits and boost the population a bit. At least then Japan would have a chance at being the Land of the Rising Son.

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