Thursday, May 31, 2007

Kemushi, or my close call with certain death

As the weather has gotten warmer and warmer here in Gifu, I am constantly reminded that the spiders here are insanely crazy-huge. Everyday, I walk carefully up three flights of outdoor stairs to my apartment, avoiding the myriad cobwebs that lurk in the corners of the staircase (both at floor- and head-level. Each morning, I get down to my bicycle and brush it free of yet another set of cobwebs.

Spider! (4)
Beware of monstrously large spiders. At least they're not this big yet this year, and I will hopefully be gone before they get this size again.

However. It turns out spiders are not my only foe.

Today, after school, I walked down to the bike racks, unlocked my bike, threw my purse in the front basket, and wheeled the bike out to the parking lot. I was about to jump on, when suddenly, on the right-hand handlebar (the side I *wasn't* holding - thank god), I saw THIS:

monster looking for a free ride

I almost dropped the bike. But I managed to put the kickstand down and then just stood and stared. What was I going to do? How was I ever going to get home? I couldn't bicycle home with that thing on my handlebar??? Where else might such fierce monsters be hiding??????

After scratching my head for a minute or two, I did what any self-respecting, independent, modern woman would do - I called my boyfriend.

Randal: "Hello?"
Julie: "Hi sweetie."
Randal: "Where are you?"
Julie: "I'm in the school parking lot. Uh, I have a problem."
Randal: [sounding concerned] "What?"
Julie: "There's a caterpillar on my handlebar and he's HUGE."
[more silence]
Julie: "Hello? Sweetie? What should I do?"
Randal: [starts laughing] "Aww, caterpillars are so cute! Take lots of pictures! Is he big? Is he hairy? I bet he'll become a big, beautiful cicada."


Finally I managed to get Randal to stop laughing at me and explain the proper procedure for caterpillar removal from handlebars; namely, take a stick and a leaf, prod the hairy beast onto the leaf, and then deposit him in the garden.

But caterpillars don't always do what you want them to do, and I couldn't get him to move! Where oh where are the students when I need them???

Luckily, just then, our school caretaker came out of the main doors. I ran over in my best damsel-in-distress fashion (luckily, I was wearing a skirt today, so it was pretty easy), and then, despite any Japanese-language skills whatsoever, got him to come over to look at my bike (my communications consisted of "sumimasen ... jitensha ... caterpillar ... onegaishimasu" and a bunch of hand waving). He laughed when he saw the caterpillar just sitting there, as content as could be, then went to the nearby storage shed, pulled out a broom, and gently brushed the caterpillar onto the leaf I had been using and put him in the garden. He then went on to carefully brush off my handlebar, and taught me the word for caterpillar: kemushi.

It was a close call and I'm surprised I made it through in one piece. Phew.

look at the size of its fangs!
I tried to get a face shot of the caterpillar in all its fierceness, but was obviously too frightened by it to get close enough to get a decent shot (yes, even using my zoom). What can I say? I'm a city girl.


Mark Reynolds said...

Maybe it wouldn't move because you weren't calling it by the right name - it was probably thinking "Here I am, catching some rays on this conveniently padded black thingy, and here comes this crazy white lady out of nowhere and yelling at me? What the heck is a catepillar anyway?"

Waterlily said...

Excellent photos! This caterpillar will become a butterfly, what could be cuter? It's the quintessential Japanese school assignment. Try to identify it.