Cicadas in Japan 日本のセミ

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Jul 31, 2011 15:20
One of the remarkable differences between the English summer and Japanese summer is absence/abundance of cicadas セミ(蝉), noisy flying insects.

In Japan, cicadas start screaming around the middle of July and they disappear around the beginning of September. During this period, you can't really escape from the deafening chorus of their love songs. As long as there are some trees, you can find them on the trunks of the trees.

It said they spend several years underground as larvae and they pop out from the earth in a relatively dry summer evening. You can find their larvae slowly climbing the trunks of nearby trees. Once they have found a nice and stable position, they start the metamorphosis. Their wings are soft, thick and opaque at first, but becomes harder, thinner and clearer as they are dried overnight. Next morning they fly somewhere. However, they are allowed to live their life as a mature form only for a week or so. Therefore, they shout and scream their love songs as aloud as possible.

Normally, cicadas only sing during daylight. However, these days busy cities are brightly illuminated even at night, so that some confused cicadas scream at night as well.

There are a number of cicada species in Japan. Each has a different song. But it seems that kumazemi, a semitropical large species, is increasing their population and threatening the niche of aburazemi these years, possibly reflecting the global warming.



Min-min-zemi is called as such because they sing, "Min-min-min-min-min". Among common cicadas their voices are kind of beautiful. They are my favourite cicada species.


From the middle of August, a species called tsuku-tsuku-boshi appears. They sing, "Tsuku-tsuku-boshi, tsuku-tsuku-boshi!" Their song tells you your summer vacation is going to end soon, and you have to finish your homework now. Sometimes their song can be heard, "つくづく惜しい" (It's really pity!).


Another impressive species is higurashi. They also sing their song in humid and otherwise silent summer evening. Their lyrics are simply, "Kanakanakanakanakana...." Their clear voice somehow makes me feel lonesome very much every time. Indeed, they are often mentioned in haiku poems.


Listening their voices on YouTube really brings me to the Japanese summer. Cicada hunting is one of the greatest things to do in summer for Japanese kids. Also, I used to collect the cast-off shells of cicada larvae in my garden. One day, my mother tried to use a watering pot, and was scared to find it full of cicada shells!