It does not matter how clean you keep your apartment; if you live in Japan, you will likely find a Japanese cockroach in your apartment once. I think this is more of a problem in the city, but even out here in the sticks they pop up sometimes. My apartment has been roach-free for the 14 months I’ve lived here.
Be that as it may, I have spiders a plenty, and I get the occasional grasshopper and nonpoisonous centipede in the summer. I’ve fought an epic battle with tatami bugs, or dani, the biting mites that live in tatami during the spring. (I had to bug-bomb my apartment; now I follow a very strict anti-dani cleaning regimen.) There was also that month when the summer birds that nest above my front door kept dropping the crickets they tried to feed their chicks; the crickets proceeded to hang out in my genkan until I swept them out. And don’t get me started on the slugs that crawl into my bathroom window to chill in the (empty) ofuro until I chuck them back out the window.
But roaches? Nope. I have roach traps in the kitchen area anyway, just in case. I hadn’t changed them in a long time, though, because I had never seen a roach. That changed this weekend, when I looked down while making tea near the gas range and saw a roach the size of my palm chilling out on the kitchen curtains.
The other thing about Japanese roaches is that, not only are they huge, they can and will fly. Possibly at you. I had to concoct a brilliant plan to kill the thing while simultaneously trying to remain calm in the face of my enemy. First, I decided to spray it with insecticide, thinking I could go for a long-distance kill. This didn’t phase the thing at all, though at least it didn’t run or fly at me.
I considered opening the kitchen window, which goes out to my patio, and knocking it outside to roam free with its brethren. The problems here were how to open the door without knocking the roach into the kitchen, and the potential for it flying away or reentering the apartment. Not going to work.
I decided to try something I had done with a sizable spider I found in my bedroom last year. It was too big to squish without making a huge mess, so I caught it in a bucket and sprayed it.
I approached the roach with an old magazine, my bucket, and a lot of trepidation. I caught it in the bucket, then slid the magazine underneath, praying it was not still on the curtains. Heart pounding, I lifted the magazine ever so slightly and sprayed in more insectide.
After I calmed down enough to execute the final part of the plan, I took the bucket and Schrodinger’s roach out to the side street. Because the initial round of insecticide seemed to have no effect on the bug, I wasn’t counting on it being dead. I set the contraption on the ground, magazine-side down, and snatched up up the bucket, intending to run. Luckily for me, the monster roach was dead. I took the bucket inside, cleaned the kitchen floor for good measure, and left for the gym.
The whole time this was going on–probably 15 minutes–I had a constant “oh, my god, this is not happening; oh, my god; oh, my god; this roach is a Godzilla villain” running through my head. I’m relieved I caught it and that have a new set of roach traps to protect me. But when I cook at night, I look at that spot and expect some kind of Pet Semetary-meets-Kafka roach of the living dead to be sitting on that curtain, asking me if I have any biscuits for my tea.