Before coming to Japan I had read about ‘mukade': giant poisonous centipedes. They can grow to be up to 20cm long. They are hunters who eat cockroaches and other small animals. Here’s a close-up of a particularly handsome fellow that I found on the internet:
And for size reference, a picture I found on the internet of some brave/crazy person with a mukade on their hand:
Half horrified, half fascinated, I wondered if I would encounter any mukade during my stay in Japan. I seem to be in luck: 4 days into my stay here, I have spotted my first mukade.
We were in the supermarket with Yasuko-san, someone from the relocation office that helps us with all ‘settling in business’. As we are checking out a drying frame for clothing, I see something out of the corner of my eye. It’s a mukade.
I crie out a warning. Instantly everyone in the vicinity is alarmed. Japanese women shriek in anxiety. Store personnel flocks to the crime scene. Calls to store department managers are being made. Meanwhile I’m trying to get a good picture of the mukade but it spots me and starts running in my direction (they are very fast!). I am forced to retreat. One dutiful employee tries to catch the mukade with a broom and a dustbin. But it outruns us all and hides beneath some shelves.
The search is discontinued. Still slightly anxious, we all return to business as usual.
I have done some research about mukade. It is hard to separate myth from fact. But here goes… Apparently they like to hide in cosy places such as shoes, toilets, bed linnens, etc. Or alternatively they crawl up to you in your sleep (with a preference for body cavities such as ears or noses) or sit on the ceiling and fall down on unsuspecting victims. Their bite is very painful and when being bitten by a large mukade, it is best to see a doctor. They appear to be tough critters, very hard to kill, even after being exposed to bug spray, fire and boiling water. In Japan they are often used as a symbol for evil. They are most abundant in the rainy season, which is roughly from june to august.
I was glad to see a mukade once, but I think I’ve had my fill for a good while now. I’m terrified of finding one in my apartment. Would they be able to find their way up to the fifth floor? In any case, all rooms and especially the bed will get mukade sweeps on a daily basis.
I wonder what other exotic insects warm and humid Japan has in store for me…