30 September 2010

The first and last cockroach

So I think I got pretty lucky with my apartment. It's on the third floor of Jutaku, teachers' housing. I have the kitchen, a 4-tatami bedroom and 2 6-tatami living rooms, basically it's huge and really cheap cos it's subsidised.
Most importantly...it's pretty much insect free!

Before I came to Japan I'd been warned about so called hand-sized spiders, which I later learned were huntsmen:

Apparently, they've been in my apartment in the past so needless to say I was terrified about the possibility of that happening again. I saw my first one on the wall of a department store in Shimada, it was really far away but still looked massive! Scary stuff...apparently cleanliness was next to insect-less-ness, and once you get small ones, the bigger ones that eat them follow. I didn't take this super-seriously until I found the cockroach..

I first spotted it in my kitchen, crawling along the floor next to the presses, big, black and ugly. That said, I was on the other side of the room, from where it looked just like an over-sized beatle, not too horrible. I ran and returned with a shoe, during which time it disappeared. I remembered after that, that they spew their eggs everywhere if you squash them, and a whole nest springs up. That was a real lucky save!

Our next, and final encounter happened in the hallway. Paranoid, I'd covered the whole kitchen in roach-boxes, round black things have some mysterious negative effect on cockroaches...the photos on the box were less than obvious about it! Either they repelled it or it was going exploring because I found it making a beeline for my bedroom, oh no you don't! I hopped by it and it froze. Diving into the cubbard next to my front door I dug out a can of bug-spray and chased it around, spraying.
Unfortunately, it continued towards my bedroom. The bug-spray had a really limited effect on it..occasionally it fell over with its legs flailing all over the place, but it quickly righted itself and continued on. I had slid the screen door of the bedroom closed, but this was less than fool-proof as it slipped through the side of it. I uttered some profanities at that point..it was pretty late at night and I was planning to sleep in there soon!
Anyway, I reefed open the door to follow it and it sprang at me! Perched halfway up the door when I slid it, it had jumped and pelted me in the arm. I screamed, retreating! It had fallen onto the ground again and I began blasting it with bug-spray. It fell over and I managed to cover it with an upturned rubbish bin, trapping it. Emma 1, Cockroach 0.
Needless to say, I was fairly traumatised. I'd never seen a cockroach before and I had no idea they could climb walls! When I'd finished rocking back and forth and sobbing I realised that the bug-spray was just for killing flies. It wasn't the uber-strong cockroach-killer you can buy...which explained its uselessness!

I spent the next 2 days granting the upturned bin a wide berth whenever I passed it. The original plan was to wait long enough for it to starve to death, but I learned that they can actually live for ages without food. Eventually, armed with the proper spray, I decided to man-up and tackle it. I tilted the bin up slightly and emptied abou half the can under it, like throwing a gas bomb into a trench. No response. Tentatively, I picked up the bin, and there was the cockroach, no less terrifying in its death-huddle, but thankfully, dead all the same.

Since then I've become a complete hygiene freak. I keep all my bins on the balcony, bleach my drains, inject my tatami mats, cover all my plug-holes with wire-mesh and never open the windows.

It's amazing what Japan will do housekeeping skiltz!

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