Return of the mukade

There are few Japanese animals as fabled and feared among expats in Japan as the poisonous Japanese centipede (called mukade in Japanese). Proof of this widespread fascination is the number of people who find their way to this blog on a daily basis, looking for mukade information.

Having been a Japan geek long before moving to Japan, I had of course heard of mukade. Some of you might remember my elation when I saw my first mukade only a few days into my stay in Japan. I can assure you that I felt equally elated about never meeting a mukade since that day. Until a few months ago, that is.

It is a beautiful day in May. My parents and I are having a walk in the forest, in the lovely town of Asuke (Toyota City).

forest in Asuke
Forest walk in Asuke

Suddenly my mother calls out. “Look at this interesting animal I have found”. What could it be? A butterfly? A squirrel perhaps? I rush over to see what it is. I catch a glimpse of a shining brown exoskeleton and bright orange legs. It’s the dreaded mukade! And a big one too. “Stay back!” I shout. “It’s a mukade”.

The mukade, who almost appears to be posing for the photograph

But there is no need for fear. The mukade completely ignores us. He’s just scrambling about the leaves, probably looking for a good place to hide from us. This provided me with some wonderful photo opportunities. The previous mukade I met (in the supermarket) ran straight towards me when I tried taking a picture.

After a year of living in Japan, I think it is safe to say that at least in the Toyota City and Nagoya area, there is no need to fear the mukade. I don’t know anyone who has had problems with mukade (apart from one horror story about ‘the mukade mountain’, an overgrown mountain that is apparently teeming with mukade and is causing some problems for the nearby apartment building).

So why are expats so afraid of this animal? Speaking from my own Belgian point of view, we are not used to giant, poisonous bugs. The most dangerous bugs we have around here are mosquitoes. In hot and humid Japan, the sheer size of the bugs is a trigger for expat imagination. And then we find out they are poisonous as well! That is one advantage to being back in Belgium: no more scary bugs!


12 thoughts on “Return of the mukade

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  1. “The most dangerous bugs we have around here are mosquitoes.”

    Not really true. We got wasps, too. Though, I guess even those are laughable compared to Japanese hornets and their flesh-melting poison.

    1. Those Japanese hornets scare the crap out of me. I’ve only seen dead ones so for, fortunately, but they are huge!!!
      I have been stung by a wasp in Belgium once during my lifetime. Although the wasp sting was far from pleasant, I think if I was given the choice between a mukade bite or a Belgian wasp sting, I’d go with the wasp :-s But who knows what kind of wonderful, horrifying bugs the climate change will bring to Belgium in the future…

  2. Can Mukade be found anywhere in the home? I read some articles about that, and most of them say that one have to boil or cook or keep them in a little dark box for a long time so that he can kill Mukade.

    1. I never found mukade in my home. If you live in an urban area, you won’t see many of them. It’s mostly people who live in rural areas and old style Japanese homes, in the more Southern regions of Japan like Kyushu and Shikoku that get a lot of mukade. There are many stories circulating about how difficult it is to kill a mukade and about what way is best to kill them. But I have no personal experience with trying to kill mukade so I can’t offer any advice.

  3. Reading about your two experiences with Mukade (and the comments people made on your other post) gives me the chills and almost make me weary about going to Japan (until my rational self takes over and dismisses those feelings). I may, however, avoid mentioning them to my wife for the time being ;).

    1. Haha, not mentioning them to your wife sounds like a good plan to me 🙂 But if you stay in urban areas, it is quite likely that you will never even see a mukade. If you spend the night in a rural inn though, I suggest giving the bedding a ‘mukade sweep’ before getting under the covers. Especically in more southern parts of Japan like Shikoku and Kyushu. But if you consider the bigger picture, the Japan experience is well worth running into the occasional mukade. So don’t let it interfere with looking forward to going to Japan!

  4. Funny (so to speak), we just come back from Echizen city in Fukui-Ken. We saw one in a park but without knowing it was a poisonous bug. Hopefully I asked the children not to stay too close!

    1. Those bright orange legs probably mean: ‘Watch out for me, I’m poisonous’. Not a single mukade in ten years, wow! I guess I’m lucky to have seen two, and under favourable circumstances at that (i.e. not in my bed or my shoes) ^_^

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