Dealing with Bugs

The hot weather brings out some monstrous bugs. There are some pretty big bees, cockroaches, and centipedes, as well as the usual annoying ants, spiders, mosquitoes, and small flies. The best way to avoid an encounter with insects is to keep your house clean. Try not to leave dirty dishes around and clean up food crumbs immediately. In addition, putting food trash in your freezer instead of your trash can is a good way to get rid of both the odor and the bugs.

Though they look like evil demons, almost all of the bugs in Japan are harmless. Just trap them in a cup and take them outside.


There is, however, one insect to look out for – the infamous Mukade (百足). Mukade are a poisonous type of centipede, with a bite somewhat like a bee sting. If you are bit, wash the bite with soap and warm water. If it becomes swollen, go the hospital immediately. Mukade don’t like the heat or the rain, so the hotter and wetter it is, the more likely they are to find their way into your cool, dry abode. To prevent this from happening, spray/dust insecticide around the base of your house, especially doors and other thresholds, every two weeks or so (more often if it rains.) Insecticide can be found at most hardware or grocery stores, and sells for ¥500-800/bottle. If you can’t read Japanese, just look for a picture of a Mukade on the bottle.


The gokiburi is a type of large cockroach. They move very fast and catching (or killing) them can be quite difficult. Pouring a pot of boiling water on them is the best way to kill them (put a cup or bucket over the demon while you go boil water.) Or, you can buy a spray at the drugstore that will kill them by freezing them. Look for the picture on the spray can.

If you want to do some prevention, you can buy roach motels and do-it-yourself fumigation kits. The latest fumigators work in a couple of hours, but be careful because they contain harmful agents. Do not step on the spray. Make sure that you store food and commonly used household items well away from the area that you’re fumigating. Also make sure that any cookware, utensils, clothes, or anything else that you use regularly, is thoroughly washed if it came into contact with chemicals. The instructions are quite complex, so always ask someone to help you if you don’t know what you are doing.

If you feel uncomfortable with chemical insecticides, you can find at large stores like Loft or Tokyu Hands a spray with a herbal scent that repels insects. Spray all around the windows and doors, under the refrigerator and behind other furniture, and all around the base of your house. I have found these sprays quite helpful.


The dani is a kind of small mite that likes to live in tatami mats. If you wake up with itchy bites on arms and legs that don’t quite seem to be mosquito bites, dani are probably the culprit. You can buy a spray at the drugstore that is safe to spray on your tatami, futon, couch, etc, and will eradicate the dani from your home.

One last recommendation – for those of you who have tried all of this and still feel haunted by bugs, one JET came up with a rather creative solution: she sleeps with a mosquito net. It gives you peace of mind when you sleep, and you can usually find them in camping stores and/or sports stores with camping sections.

Check out the Useful Items to Help You Live in Japan complete with photos!

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