Japan`s Summer Beetle-mania Begins as the KABUTO MUSHI (rhinocerous beetles) and KUWAGATA MUSHI (stag beetles) Emerge from the Soil!
By Avi Landau
When John, Paul, George and Ringo arrived in Japan back in 1966, screams of delight filled the air. As recently as 2018, Paul McCartney proved that he could still get crowds of women screeching – and there was even some recent excitement over a re-mastered version of the Sgt. Pepper album, put out to commemorate the golden anniversary of its release.
More than 50 years of Beatlemania. When you think of cultural longevity, though, that`s a mere drop in the bucket when compared to Japan`s more traditional BEETLE-MANIA (spelled with a B-E-E-T-L-E, just in case you didn`t notice), which has involved (if not purchased from beetle dealers in the cities and towns) the search for, collection of, and admiration of beetles – which were often lavished with tender loving care.
Since beetles are one of the largest groups of insects (which includes lady bugs and fire-flies along with about 400,000 other species!) I had better be more specific and tell you that I`m talking about a special fondness for two particular types, which have over the centuries grown large (and developed impressively large with very “masculine” features in the males) while sucking the abundant sap which has flowed from the trees in the SATOYAMA (carefully tended woods in and around traditional hamlets). KABUTO MUSHI (rhinocerous beetles) and KUWAGATA MUSHI (stag beetles). It`s something that has been going on for centuries, and the excitement aroused (often expressed in boyish shouts of glee!) each summer with the emergence of these amazing insects will persist long after the Fab Four have been forgotten by the general public.
This past weekend, it almost felt and sounded as if some rock stars had dropped by to play a gig. One of the local dads, announced that the beetles had emerged from the soil – and that he`d be leading an expedition into the woods to collect some – squeals of excitement, screeches of delight… a dozen boys aged 4-11, ran home to get their special nets and bug cases (mushi kago) their flashlights and their boots (in Japan, even little kids on an insect hunt are all equipped with the official “gear”.
If you had cycled by the woods you would have heard the frenetic chatter and seems the crazed flashlight beams occasionally cutting through the trees and up into the sky (reminiscent of the search-lights desperately trying to illuminate American B-29s).
The group emerged jubilant from the woods with their booty at 9 PM – a rare late night adventure for the kids (including a 4 year-old). The high of the hunt kept them up a few hours more as they set the beetles in their boxes and gave them jellies to suck on.
As with other annual events, shops begin to prepare for the beetle season (which begins in late June) about a month in advance. Pet shops, Hyaku-en Shops (Dollar Shops) and department stores put out large show cases full of all the stuff you need to catch and raise beetles!
And for real enthusiasts, those of us who try to raise adult beetles from their eggs laid the previous August, through their larvae (from May thru mid June) and chrysalis stages (late June). It is an amazing process to observe, endlessly better for the kids to focus on than their play-station games and the like.
To be continued…..