Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Gotta Catch 'em All

Pokemon are real! 
They exist here in Japan in the most amazing phenomenon.

For those of you who don’t know what pokemon are, they are little monsters that are kept in little balls (called Pokeballs). Pokemon are traded and collected. The monsters are then pitted against each other in battle to see which pokemon/pokemon trainer is the strongest.

It is the most amazing thing, Pokemon really do exist…sort of. Children in Japan, catch, trade, and battle insects (and the small lizards and crabs that live here). Usually they keep them in bug cages, which are large and have food and water in them, but students that want to bring their bugs to school to trade or battle bring them in the little vending machine balls that children get key chains and other small toys from, aka Pokeballs.
Bug supplies at grocery store
Here is a run down of the bugs, lizards, and crabs that are real world pokemon, with their stats.

Type: Insect
Class: Singing
Strengths: Has a loud call, which delights children, they love hunting cicada
Weakness: Students cannot bring them to school because they are too loud.
Cicada is synonymous with summer. The cry of the cicada is loud, and children love using their ears as their main tool for hunting cicada.

Type: Insect
Class: Singing
Strengths: The song is lovely, and most people really enjoy it.
Weakness: It will drool horrible brown stuff on you that is impossible to get off your hands.
Children love bugs that have a song. Crickets are also fun to capture because they have such speedy jumps, children can feel like a cat hunting their prey. Patient bug catchers can capture a cricket with just their hands by tiring the bug.

Dragon Fly
Type: Flying
Class: Catch and Release
Strengths: Really fun to catch.
Weakness: These are not good to keep in cages, they don’t do well.
Dragon Flies are mesmerizing. They seem to hover like a helicopter, and sometimes students pretend that they are spies (they often seem like they are watching you). They need a lot of space to fly so they are not often kept. They are fun to capture, but generally they are released almost immediately.

Type: Worm
Class: Scary, Dangerous
Strengths: None!
Weakness: Centipedes are one of the only poisonous bugs in Japan, they are scary and should not be caught.
Bugs in Japan in general are very safe; centipedes however are poisonous. Centipedes pack a nasty bite, and should not be caught.

Kabutomushi (Japanese Rhinoceros Beetle)
Type: Beetle
Class: Battle and Breeding
Strength: This bug is just so cool, these beetles are great pets, and do not die particularly easily.
Weakness: These bugs can be bought in stores, so they do not count towards your bug catching skills, and can be quite expensive.
This is the beetle of all beetles and it does it all. Children collect, breed, and battle them and are a must for any insect enthusiast. Food and supplies are sold in every store during the summer. There are many gambling rings in Japan where people bet on a beetle pitted in battle, the two beetles are placed on a log, which ever one can knock the other beetle off is the victor.

Type: Worm
Class: Scary, evolution
Strengths: These scare the pants off most Japanese people, especially the hairy ones. Only the bravest children will have a caterpillar in their collection. They also evolve, releasing your evolved butterfly/moth feels magical.
Weakness: Really scary.
Although there is nothing dangerous about caterpillars in Japan, most people are scared of them. Most people say that it is because it reminds them of centipedes. Students will sometimes bravely capture caterpillars so that they can watch them evolve.

River Crabs
Type: Water type
Class: Habitat
Strengths: These little crabs are resilient. They often are caught by fishermen. Having a water type gives you more bragging rights. These crabs can also be extremely fun to battle.
Weakness: Their habitats need to be carefully developed and maintained. A leaky cage will not work, and the cage cannot be carried around. Sometimes they lose a claw during a battle, this reflects badly on the collector who should try their hardest to not harm their creatures.
River crabs love to sneak into town during the night and on rainy days, they are also a great gift from fishermen to young children in town (I have seen some fishermen keep the little vending machine balls so that if they find a little crab they can make a child very happy). These creatures have very interesting territorial battles, though sometimes they lose a claw.

Type: Beetle
Class: Beauty
Strength: These bugs are not very common, and they are very beautiful. It is a great point of pride to catch one of these bugs
Weakness: They are hard to find, and die easily.
This is the jewel of any bug collection. Students can show off even if they have killed the insect. 

Type: Lizard
Class: Battle Type
Strengths: Resilient, easily kept in a ball or cage and will not die
Weakness: Very good at escaping!
Students love to battle Kanehebi, and Kanehebi are often found fighting, or breeding on sidewalks and in gardens all over town.

Stag Beetles
Type: Beetle/Pet
Class: Battle and Breeding
Strength: These beetles have large mandible like protrusions that make their battles fascinating to watch.
Weakness: They are sold in stores, but they can be very expensive.
These are one of the most popular Pet Store insects. They are highly prized for battling. Insects bred for battling can cost more than $1000. These are often kept by adult bug catchers. One massive stag beetle sold for $89,000.

Most of what I’ve learned about bug catching has been from my students. My students are so enthusiastic about their bug catching. They love teaching me about the different bugs, the different techniques, and teaching me the different words for the different things they catch. It is so fun to learn from them, and it is so fun to participate. Last week, one of my schools had a big bug catching show-and-tell. It was amazing. The students all brought in the bug they were most proud of, and they told everyone why it was so special to them. Some of the students brought in extra bugs in Pokeballs so that they could trade. The bug catching season will be over when it gets cold, so this show and tell was a last hurrah for my students.

I think the practice of bug catching is an amazing part of Japanese culture. It gives children an enjoyable way to spend time outside. Students learn the value of patience, and learn to be gentle with living creatures. I think it really connects children with the world around them.

Further Reading:


  1. Katie you once again thoroughly intrigued me on a topic that I should have absolutely NO interest.. I mean bugs really?? Creepy crawly things that I scream and run from… I think it was the fascination that people actively patiently stalk and hunt and catch these things. I sent Braden the link as I think he will find this very interesting as well. Thanks for keeping us updated!!

    1. I'm so glad to hear that you liked it. I had very little interest in bug catching before my students showed me how exciting it can be. I think the complete lack of dangerous bugs is really helpful. If Branden is a Pokemon fan, I will have another post on Pokemon soon!