Mosquitoes: Japanese vs. Indonesian

I grew up in Indonesia, then moved to the U.S. (Louisiana, Tennessee, and California) and now am living in Japan. Those years of living in the U.S. were great; if not for anything else, then for the one reason that I did not ever have to deal with mosquitoes. Maybe it was the climate of where I used to live, or maybe it was the fact that I never lived in a lower level apartment, but my summers in the U.S. were pest-free (safe for those telemarketing calls.)

In Indonesia, there are only two seasons: the wet and the dry seasons, but mosquitoes thrive on both weathers. All year long, they are always around and doing their job. On the other hand,my many trips to Tokyo were never punctuated by any visit from a mosquito. Before my move here, times were passed in the hotels and those visits were hardly during the summer. When my partner and I moved here to our new place in Tokyo, we were delighted with the presence of a garden surrounding the building: it was a perfect playground for our two dachshunds. Spring passed with many evenings finding the patio door open to let the fresh air in.

Then, it all changed with the coming of the heat and the humidity of the summer: a Tokyo summer so notorious that my partner’s colleague who got reassigned back to the US skipped town so fast I did not even get to bid him “Sayōnara.” It was also then that we realized that our place was vacant for six months in the market before we snatched it: maybe people knew about the mosquitoes problem, the garden being a perfect place for them to hide. These days I refused to go out and play with the kids (the dogs) because no matter what covering I had, one or two mosquitoes always seemed to find an opening somewhere. My partner was attacked as well, but he did not seem to develop any allergic reaction to it: no bumps, no itches; with me, instant bumps and itches that necessitated me to rub Tiger Balm on them (believe me, that does the trick!)

I started thinking about the difference between the Indonesian and the Japanese mosquitoes, and here are some of them: An Indonesian mosquito’s stinger (what do we call that: beak, needle?) is usually sharp, and when it sucks your blood, you do not know it until it is already too late. It is like having your blood drawn or like getting a vaccination with a syringe: the sharper the needle, the less the pain: the duller the needle, the more you could feel it enter the skin. The only preventive method would be if it lands on the hairy part of your body, which can cause you to feel tickled and thus reach for that spot and inadvertently shoo the bug away.

Japanese mosquitoes surprisingly never seemed to hone their needles. Their needles are so dull that I could really feel it when the pesky vampiric bugs drew my blood. Kidding you, I am not: many times when I thought I felt a stinger on my body, I reached for the area and found a mosquito flying away, and within the next few seconds, a red bump was there. I thought Japanese culture fostered a very diligent society and things were supposed to be more perfect than their counterparts in Indonesia, but I was left disappointed with the mosquitoes’ laziness in sharpening their tools.

I have to admit, however, that Japanese mosquitoes are stealth-like: despite their dead give-away of when they commit their crime, once caught in the act, they fly so fast that one could hardly hunt any and kill them instantly. When I thought that I had killed one with a clap of my hands, I found out that it only fell down and tried to fly again as fast as they could. It was very difficult to kill them with bare hands. Indonesian mosquitoes, on the other hand, are a bit more sluggish. They also make the mistake of always making a sound (buzzing noise) when they are about to bite, which was like someone announcing that s/he is about to commit a crime and giving you enough time to get prepared for a defense.

Another difference that I have observed was that the Japanese mosquitoes work around the clock, non-stop, ad infinitum, day and night, night and day. In Indonesia, the pesky bugs only do their blood drawing at night time. During the day time, they take their siesta; maybe it is the unbearable heat and humidity all year long that cause them to be more laid back. They do work 24 hours a day, except that it is not continuous.

I went to Tokyu Hands (a kind of a mini Home Depot cum stationery store cum fabric store rolled into one) to purchase different repellants, and am trying hard to believe that the many ¥s (yens) spent on those items would actually work. There was even a hat net and a body net suit, much like those worn by bee-keepers, but come on, this is getting ridiculous. In my frustration, I asked my partner, “Where could they have gotten in except for the times we briskly opened the patio door to let the dogs in and out?” The answer came few days ago while I was pondering upon the Greek myth (this being the Olympic season) and thought about how Odysseus and his men had escaped detection from the Cyclops Polyphemus by clinging onto the belly of the rams. Right enough, when we were about to let the dogs in, we shook them, and guess what? Mosquitoes flew away from their bodies. Darn those literate Japanese mosquitoes! Where did they get a copy of The Odyssey?

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