Japan


Roaches / May 25, 2005


I am sure that by now you've all seen the pictures of beautiful castles, gardens, temples and palaces. You've heard about the sushi and the sake, the schoolgirls and the geisha, the innumerable ordinary women who are just waiting to get nailed by the first passing gaijin.


But have you heard about the cockroaches?


No?


Hmmmm. I wonder why.


I guess cockroaches don't usually feature in games or anime or even the glorious posters that the JNTO prints from time to time.


Ask any Japanese and they'll all tell you the same thing: their country is full of the damn things. Whoever says otherwise is a lying bastard too embarrased to admit this fact to foreigners, trust me on this.


Funny thing is, even though the Japanese grow up surrounded by them, many people (and, of course, most of the girls) are still afraid to death of roaches. There are others, however, who treat them as nothing more than a minor annoyance. Shintaro is one such person. He once woke up at night, while staying over at his parents' house in the countryside (where roaches are almost as big as rats), and on his way to the bathroom stepped on one of them. He casually washed his foot and went back to bed. Or, at least, that's what he'd have me believe.


In any case, in the past week alone I've killed no less than 5 cockroaches in my kitchen. Giant cockroaches. Bigger than my goddamn thumb.


Just the other day I got back home only to find one of these fucking monsters hanging out in the kitchen sink. I guess I had left some dirty dishes there for... a few days and I caught the damn roach in the middle of dinner. Whenever I see one of them things I go nuts - I keep wishing for a gun to unload on them. Instead, I usually grab just about anything I can find and start throwing it at them. This time I grabbed some banana skins from the table and launched them in the general direction of the sink. Then a light bulb, some plastic cups and plates - anything I could find. I opened the fridge, grabbed a carton of milk and emptied it all over the fucker while he was frantically trying to climb out of the sink.


At that point a second one (and just as large) crawled out from under the dirty dishes. I turned on the tap and flooded the sink with water. Both of them started flailing around in a state of frenzy, gasping for air. I kept throwing trash at them - anything I could get my hands on, but they kept struggling to escape.


At some point I gave up. The fuckers JUST WOULDN'T DIE.


I steppped back and let the water drain out of the sink. The roaches were badly bruised and out of breath but they were still hanging on, still moving.


"This is it", I told myself. "It's now or never."

I grabbed a kitchen knife and hacked at one of the roaches that had just broken cover from behind some orange skins. I had almost cut it in half but I hadn't managed to fully sever its body, so it was pinned under the blade of the knife while still writhing like mad and trying to break free.


I pushed down harder and harder until I cut the bastard clean in half - and I watched in horror as both halfs kept walking and going off in different directions!


At that point I threw down the knife and walked away in disgust.


Times like these make me think of moving back to Lyon or some other picturesque city in the south of France. No cockroaches, no earthquakes, no stifling humdity or incredibly expensive and crappy food.*


And then a sunny day comes along and I go for a walk in Akihabara or Harajuku and all thoughts of ever leaving this place completely disappear from my mind.


roaches_1
This is only a SMALL one

roaches_2
The aftermath

roaches_3
More roadkill

roaches_4
I found him lying dead close to his parents the next day - he couldn't bear the pain

All pictures in this article were taken by Kai Grünenwald, jet-setting German businessman and all-around cool guy who has promised to put me up for a while in his place in Shanghai, whenever I decide to visit.


My advice to Kai: the pictures look good man but don't quit your day job.


*The food in Japan is not generally crappy. Be patient - I'll explain this remark in future articles.