Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Giant poisonous centipedes

For the past few weeks, my friends have been telling me horror stories about Japan’s giant poisonous centipedes (or “mukade” as the locals call them).

My friend Sachi was sleeping when a centipede crawled into bed with her and sunk its fangs into her arm, causing it to swell up to the size of a football. She showed me the wound and I almost passed out when I saw the two holes where the monster’s fangs had pierced her skin.

My friend Zoe slammed a book on top of a centipede only to watch in horror as it reared its head from beneath the book and struggled to escape. She blasted it with bug spray and it still kept violently twisting and rolling its body. The thing refused to die until she worked up the courage (sobbing and screaming the whole time) to crush its repulsive rearing head with a massive cookbook.

Almost everyone I’ve met here has a mukade story or two. I knew it was only a matter of time before I came face to face with one of these nasty creatures myself. I wanted to be prepared so I asked one of my coworkers, a seasoned mukade veteran, for advice on the best way to kill them.

“You must throw hot green tea on it,” he said. “That is the only way to kill them.”

“But what if I don’t have any hot green tea when I see one? What am I supposed to do then?” I asked. “Am I supposed to tell the mukade to wait for a few minutes while I put the kettle on, boil the water and then steep the tea?”

(His answer, by the way, was “Yes.”)

I was hoping that I would be able to leave Japan without having ever seen a mukade but luck was not on my side. I finally saw my first mukade last night.

I had been out at my town’s summer festival, drinking sake and listening to the locals belt out bad karaoke on a giant outdoor stage. As soon as I got home, I jumped in the shower. I was washing my hair when I felt something crawl across my foot.

I screamed and violently kicked my leg, sending the creature flying to the other end of the shower. I looked over to where it landed, expecting to see a cockroach, but was shocked and horrified to discover a giant centipede instead. It was about 15 centimetres long with a red head and countless yellow legs. It was writhing on the shower floor, making a whipping “S” motion with its body.

I ran screaming out of the shower. I wasn’t as terrified as I was when I was attacked by giant flying cockroaches because this time I was a little bit drunk (this must be what they mean by “liquid courage”).

I didn’t have any hot green tea on hand so I grabbed the vacuum cleaner and ran back into the bathroom, sucking the mukade up before it had a chance to run away. And then I stuffed a towel into the nozzle of the vacuum cleaner so it couldn’t crawl back out.

It took a while for my heart rate to come back down to normal and I don’t think I slept more than four hours last night. The bug situation in my apartment has gotten so bad that I’m constantly on edge. I’m not having a lot of fun right now . . .

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