I was talking to one of my students yesterday, and we were lamenting the coming humidity, not because the heat will be oppressive and outside will feel like walking around in a wet sauna, but because with the heat will come the bane of every housewife’s existence in Japan–cockroaches.
It doesn’t matter how clean you keep your house, apartment, or room, these giant, black and brown, oily insects will find a way inside, and they will leave their babies behind to torment you for the next few months.
There are a lot of ways to deal with these nuisances, up to and including running after them with chopsticks held like daggers and a war cry, but one of the most common is to buy traps. Cockroach traps come in every shape and size in Japan. There are hanging traps, small pod traps, and for the purpose of the story I am about to tell you, little house-shaped traps. These traps are called, with their cute alliteration, Gokiburi Hoihoi, or “Cockroach, Shoo!”.
When my student and I began to discuss traps, she was instantly reminded of something that had happened to her earlier in the week. She had set out one of these traps in her tatami room (a room with traditional bamboo flooring) and the next day, was surprised to find a large black object wrapped tightly around it. She wasn’t wearing her glasses, so thought it looked like her son’s belt.
After he was called into the room, her son screamed and pointed out that it was a snake! The gum on these little Shoo! traps is so strong that it had actually caught a snake…. that had gotten into her house!
All I could think was “You’ve gotta tell me which brand you use.”
If you’re curious about the fate of the poor snake that got stuck, I’m sorry to tell you that he was deposited into a garbage bag and thrown out just like that. My student didn’t want to check and see if it was alive, or worse, try and peel it off and set it free…. after all, it was a pit viper!