Four Seasons in Japan: tiny things live and tiny things diess

Let me introduce you to the birds, the bugs, and the bees.


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I am surrounded by curious children. If they see anything small and alive: lizards, grasshoppers, tiny frogs, singing cicadas, fuzzy caterpillars, irritated chickens, then they feel like they need to catch them immediately. These small creatures are enormously attractive to children, but their relatively short lifespan as well as their vulnerability means that the children and I are just as likely to see a squashed frog, limping cricket, or rotting chicken just as often as we are to see them hopping about, fully alive and well. I’m often having to gently rebuke the kids for gleefully squashing bugs or holding frogs too tightly.

In the city, critters know to keep their distance from us. Here in the countryside, they come out more often to forage for food and live amongst us. It’s nice to be able to tear my face away from the fascinations of the internet world and be able to just fully immerse myself in the great outdoors here in the countryside. I literally live hours from any major city, and so that means I get to know the local flora and fauna on a neighbourly level.

Let me introduce you to a few of my favourite critters, as well as a few morbid snaps of their still lives, resigned.


Caterpillars / Nihon no imomushi

When one of the kids came to school with a red scratch on her face, I laughed when my coworker said it was because a caterpillar fell on her face. Immediately, she rebuked me, for many wooly caterpillars here are poisonous and pose a real threat to woodsmen and housewives alike. Then I felt pretty awful for laughing, and immediately apologised…but caterpillars in my childhood were always so harmless. They were also represented in popular media as such, like the dumb fat green caterpillar in the movie A Bug’s Life, or depicted as slothful cartoonish beasts like the opium-smoking bug in Alice in Wonderland.

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There is actually a bug here that is just as huge and rotund as the cartoon dude above. I must find it again!

Update: Found it:


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Ah ha my hand is mammoth, and you can see my poor little red mosquito bites.

As soon as the older children discovered my penchant for photographing bugs, they would always shout “Caterpillar!” and giggle as I ran over to snap a shot. Sometimes they were naughty and pretend there was a bug so I would come over and push them on the swing.

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This bright bug had summited the top of a monster-sized tire partially embedded in the backyard. I was a little worried the kids would jump onto the tire and squash the bug, getting unwanted prickles, so it got swept aside into the brambles.

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I’m not sure whether this is a caterpillar or some sort of autumn larva.

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An eensy weensy brown caterpillar moves, millimeter by millimeter, down my thumb. My stick-and-poke circle tattoo from Jade Novarino is fading. This gentle circle brings back fond memories of a dramatic Portland summer, and my inspirational apartment-mate in Florence whose tattoo inspired this one.

imageCaterpillars everywhere! Some, like this critter, are hard to spot.

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This little green guy is a Spotted Tiger Moth caterpillar (Lophocampa maculata) who sheds irritating little spikes and excretes a chemical defense, when it feels threatened. Here I am, blissfully ignorant, wondering why I’m being asked whether holding it hurt. It didn’t hurt me, but probably because I picked it up really gently?

Hmm… maybe I should thank Lady Luck.

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Amphibians

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Small geckoes scurry about the house. When they move their bodies contort in the oddest way, as if they were dancing the cha-cha. 

I’ve never been comfortable with the way humans will overreact to the odd bug or amphibian, as if this was our world and our world only. It is no wonder that we have pushed animal extinction and climate change to drink/the brink.

(^^^awful inappropriate pun…forgive me?)

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In the summer, this frog was a nice lime green. Now that chillier days approach, its skin has turned a mottled brown and it seeks refuge in the mud, wearing it like a warm winter coat.

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Poor wee little frogs. They are all too often squished flat by running children.


Farm Friends
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Sometimes the chickens lay yolkless eggs. Ah, nature’s folly.

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This lady is taking a well deserved dirt bath.

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The chickens ganged up on this poor hen and pecked it to death. The farmer is busy and has left it in the coop for days. Soon, it will rot amongst its fellows.

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I heard some rustling and found a tiny injured dormouse burrowing in my trashcan. Its rear legs were paralysed and it could barely crawl, so I made a little cardboard house for it on my desk, complete with rice and water. Evidently paralysation occurs quite often to ageing mice. The mouse died the next morning. Somehow it had fallen onto the ground.

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A backyard burial.

The autumn leaves covered the mound.

Winter fast approaches.

Dress warm.

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