Cockroach. In Japanese gokiburi.
Everyone hates them, yet they are probably the most resilient species ever. Did you know cockroaches can survive a nuclear war and they have virtually stayed the same for the past millions of years? Thrilling, is it not, that such dirty, disgusting pests should eventually outlive all other life forces. Sounds like a proper beginning for a horror movie. And indeed it can be horrid.
A country such as Japan, which is clean, highly modern and safe in so many ways is none the less home for many, many cockroaches. It simply is the price to pay if one desires to live in this beautiful country: becoming used to the roaches. And, as it happens, they battle for their existence like a horrifying monster in a horror movie.
As this is my second summer living in Japan I knew there very well might be cockroach issues – and so I prepared by making preventive, organic cockroach repellent sprays and I sprayed every single crack and cavity in my apartment with them to make sure those beastly gokiburis would not want to enter my domain. I was happy as a chappy since I had made no sightings of cockroaches. I was free of them and clearly my anti-cockroach sprays had worked!
Until… Last month I discovered a cockroach in my beautiful, clean apartment. This is not completely surprising because as the weather has warmed up considerably that means flocks of cockroaches emerge from wherever it is that stay stay over winter and head towards food – a.k.a. peoples houses. As a curiosity I found out that in Japan there apparently is an official website telling people when cockroaches are forecasted to appear during the year in different parts of the country!
But now back to my night of horrors when I discovered the cockroach making sweet love to my kitchen sponge – honestly that is what I imagine it was doing (though I have no proof of this). So I did what anyone would have done: let out a little scream, panicked, looked for anything I could kill the thing with and then spent the rest of the night hunting for it – only to lose sight of it as it probably slipped into a crack somewhere in my kitchen area.
I also did a rookie mistake thinking that the cockroach had appeared because my apartment was not clean enough. Wrong. After thoroughly (and in near hysterics) cleaning everything with tea tree oil and vinegar I asked my dear friend Google about this and found out cleanliness has extremely little to do with cockroaches wandering into innocent people’s living quarters. Big disappointment there.
So I could not clean my cockroach problem away. With a heavy heart I asked Google a few more questions about these disgusting creatures in hopes of finding a way to protect myself from getting any more acquainted with these pests. I learned a few disturbing details about cockroaches as I went on with my quest, such as cockroaches can regrow their feet or that when you smash one they automatically release their eggs. Gross.
I did find out many DIY traps for cockroaches which I was desperate enough to try. One which seemed ingenious(ly simply) was to cut open a soft drink bottle, turn the top so it was facing the bottom, add some sweet food to the bottom of the bottle and lather the inside with something oily so when the cockroaches smelled the food and approached to investigate, they would fall in. I regret to say I did not manage to trap any cockroaches with the method. I do not want to think how many free meals I provided to some lucky roaches…
After the panic mode withered down a notch I was able to find out more information about cockroaches, most importantly why they come in my household and how to prevent that from happening. Talking to my Japanese and non-Japanese friends I heard a lot of contradicting information.
For example some people told me that it is unusual that cockroaches would come to my apartment as I live on the 5th floor whereas others told me that the 5th floor is too close to ground level and I should move up beyond the 10th floor to avoid roaches. I was told that old buildings are more prone to have cockroaches live in them than modern buildings – but then again if my neighbors are untidy they might be the reason why cockroaches appear in my apartment, too.
None the less everyone told me that if I have seen one cockroach it means there are 30 to 100 individuals that I have not seen.
But I decided to ignore the cockroaches, pretend I did not have a problem. A week had gone by without any sight of them so I lied to myself that it was a lost individual and that I was safe. But then I saw another one and my serene existence was turned around again. I was able to catch the second roach: I trapped him under a lunchbox – it was the best thing I could think of at the time. Too afraid to open the lid in an attempt to kill it, I merely let the thing stay trapped under the lunchbox until I mustered the courage to do something about it.
This incident inspired me to go out and buy cockroach traps and poison. I found a sticky trap which looks like a little house and where cockroaches are lured into with a bait. I also purchased a poison which the cockroaches will eat and then carry it into their nest killing the rest of the roach family.
I have not invested in cockroach sprays: they are toxic and I prefer not to breathe them in even if they would efficiently kill the critters.
I still quite religiously spray my walls, curtains, kitchen shelves and any cracks with natural repellents I have made: apparently cockroaches hate the smell of tea tree oil, peppermint and lavender, so I figure it does not do any harm and as a bonus my apartment smells nicer.
The horrors of cockroaches are indeed the kind that have left me sleepless for nights, but I find some slight comfort in the fact that I know I have done everything I can to fight them. I have managed to toughen up and as a result a week ago when I met the third cockroach in my apartment I was able to quite coolly reach for a book, hunt it down and smash it to death. This also inspired me to kill the second cockroach which was still under the lunchbox waiting for me to do something about it.
The battle of the six-legged beast versus the human has just begun for this summer. I will keep spraying my apartment with the homemade repellent, washing my floors with vinegar and checking the cockroach traps.
Hit the road, gokiburi and don’t you come back no more!