Enjoying the sounds of the little critters

Culturally, Japanese people consider insect noises as “soothing” or “comfortable”. According to Tadanobu Tsunoda, a doctor of medicine at Tokyo Medical and Dental University, while Western people recognize the sound that the insects make as “noise, in their right brain, Japanese people recognize it as a “voice” in their left brain, where language is processed.
This difference is apparently derived from language.

If you visit Japan during the summer, you will hear the very loud song of the Japanese cicadas everywhere.  For Japanese people, this sound is a pleasing symbol for summer, even though they call it the ‘cicada drizzle’, meaning that when the cicadas cry all together, it sounds like falling rain. When the cicadas’ voices becomes fainter, you know that the end of summer is near.

Another bug Japanese people like to listen to:  the bell cricket.
It’s an autumn insect, and for Japanese people, its clear chirping voice gives a very refreshing feeling. Since ancient times, there has been a culture of catching bell crickets and keeping them in insect cages to enjoy their tones every evening. They are still available for sale at pet stores throughout Japan!

Petting beetles and making them fight


During the summer time, more insects begin to appear. The three most famous bugs of the Japanese summer are crickets, beetles, and stag beetles. For typical Japanese summer holiday fun, boys go into the bush to catch crickets and beetles to bring them home as pets. Then they sometimes organize fights between their beetles to see which one is stronger. On Internet auction sites, some rare beetles and stag beetles are priced from about 800 dollars to sometimes 2.5 million dollars! Even though adult insect collectors most often buy these bugs, beetles and stag beetles enchant both the young and old. (Mothers often hope that these bugs will not become permanent residents in their houses)


Watching the fireflies



Speaking of summer insects, fireflies are also very popular among the Japanese as they emit beautiful light from their body. Fireflies are used in song themes and movie themes such as “Hotaru no hikari” (蛍の光) and Studio Ghibli’s “Hotaru no haka” (蛍の), or “Grave of the Fireflies.” Between June and August, there are even some firefly festivals where you can witness their beautiful luminescence!  Famous Japanese poets, Issa Kobayashi, Basho Matsuo, and Buson Yosa often use insect names as seasonal words with fireflies appearing in their poems as the second most frequently used seasonal word. From that point of view, fireflies have been a kind of long-lived, beautiful beings for Japanese people for hundreds of years.


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Writer / Translator

I’m a freelance translator from Tokyo who likes to travel right in the middle of the unpredictables in life. Through the translation of articles I hope to create points of contact between Japan and the rest of the world. As a writer, I want to add information that isn’t in the guide book, from a “wasabi” perspective!