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Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009

JAPAN LITE

Welcome to autumn, and the insect world


Welcome to autumn, the spider season. Spiders are everywhere on our island. Should you dare to go hiking or walk the pilgrimage there will be elaborate spider webs, constructed by the best Japanese spider engineers, hanging taut across your every path.

In autumn, even when walking to the grocery store it is advisable to carry a long stick to clear the way lest you come home wrapped in a spider web with an overjoyed spider attempting to eat the largest four-limbed insect he has ever caught. You wouldn't want to ruin his day.

I have learned to live with the spider. Here we have indoor spiders and outdoor spiders, genkan spiders and pilgrimage spiders. Those that hang out in the corners of the living room, just watching, and those that hang out in the toilet, just watching.

The living room I can understand — the new plasma screen TV, the stereo with D.J.s who dutifully change the music on queue, and a variety of people always coming in and out. But you gotta wonder about the toilet spiders — a solitary life watching humans output their input.

We have recently remodeled our house and the spiders seem very pleased with this. I never thought renovation would appeal to spiders who you'd think would prefer dark, dingy places.

But modern Japanese spiders like new housing. They're tired of the old drafty Japanese houses that don't let in as much light.

And the spiders are even hanging out in rooms that are still being renovated, such as our bath area. I suspect they are looking for some new building tips. Not happy with the traditional spider web building like their forefathers, they're looking for some new ideas. And with the popularity of the web these days, spiders are taking a keen interest in their natural talents. Or nudity.

But I've always thought that if I could just get those spiders to move their webs out of the corners and over the windows in my house, they'd make the best fly screens in the world. There would be a mutual benefit as everyone knows that flying insects prefer entering houses through windows.

But the best thing about the spider is that he is a loner who keeps to himself. This is not so of other insects, such as ants, who'll steal your food.

An increase in the ant population has been another effect of renovation. When we started renovating, we got rid of all the extra shoes in the genkan shoe cabinet. This brought in a lot more ants.

This makes sense because from the ants' perspective, those extra shoes were like stockpiled ammunition. Think of how many ants are killed each year from being stepped on. Think of how many end up on the soles of people's shoes.

Insect rights groups say millions upon millions of innocent insects are trampled to death every year at major outdoor events in cities such as Beijing and Tokyo. In addition to squashes, hundreds of thousands die from newspaper whacks. A much smaller number is poisoned by bug sprays or private exterminators. Shoes remain the major killer of ants. And with shoe bombers and shoe throwers in the media recently, we know what can happen when shoes get into the hands of the wrong people.

Nothing seems to stop the increasing population of insects in my house. Recently, I came home to find a whole forest in my living room, including a bat.

Insects are really just that — sects. They hang out in groups. Where there is one, there are hundreds of them. So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when I came home to the stereo on full blast playing the Grateful Dead.

Newly arrived spiders had set up their tents in the corners of the living room and centipedes were lounging on the sofa. Green crickets were having antennae exhibitions on the white kitchen floor and large mosquitoes were hovering about singing karaoke. I couldn't walk anywhere without a roach darting across the floor. The whole atmosphere was very insectuous.

This scene was topped off by ants grooving around the cat food bowl and a bat, obviously not sober, confusedly flying around the house.

I hadn't seen any of these insects all summer long, so I was confused as to why now they had decided to congregate in such numbers. Then it dawned on me — insects have calendars. Which is how they know things like when it is autumn.

Furthermore, they had figured out it was Silver Week and had all come to my house for vacation.

"I just might get some sleep, tonight."



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