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Amparo Bertram

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07:14 pm: Bugging you, part II
I mentioned a while back that the Japanese are crazy about beetles. That is, the stag beetle type that are big and black and have horns. The day the otaku interview ran, the main news story of the hour was the president of a beetle pet shop company being arrested for importing smuggled, illegal beetles.

Point 1: Yes, it was a beetle pet shop. The reporters went into the shop, which was packed full of beetle cages, all labeled with species name. Some of the rare beetles were going for insane prices, in the hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Point 2: Yes, there are legal and illegal beetles for importing. Beetle pet shops are allowed to import and sell certain species. However, some beetles are illegal to import into Japan because they get loose and displace native beetles in the wild.

Point 3: Yes, they were smuggling beetles. The reporter went to one of the illegal beetle exporters in Laos and showed dozens of bottles containing beetles intended for export to Japan. The exporter showed how each beetle is wrapped in paper, making a small package that can be slipped into a suitcase pocket and is difficult for customs agents to find. Large beetle importers sometimes have shipments with thousands of beetles at a time, and they slip a couple rare, illegal beetles into this shipment.

Point 4: Yes, this was a major story. They were quite concerned. The reporters interviewed beetle experts, who lamented that it was difficult to locate illegal beetles smuggled in large shipments, particularly since the experts themselves had often never actually seen the rare beetles in question. They showed pictures of foreign beetles captured in Japan in the wild, where they should not exist, and raised serious questions about the future of Japan's delicate ecology.

I think I watched the whole news story--which was repeated in the "news scramble" later, because it was such a vital topic--with my mouth hanging open in disbelief.

So...if you're ever stumped for a character persona in an RPG, you may want to try Beetle Smuggler. Put all those regular weapon/drug/stolen merchandise smugglers to shame.

While I'm on the topic of news and Japanese culture, I thought I'd mention the passion for leaf viewing. Gazing at colorful leaves in the fall is a pastime second only to cherry blossom viewing in the spring. If you look at the website for the Yomiuri Newspaper, for example, they have an entire page dedicated to telling you what stage of color the leaves are at in various places. Here's my area. It's the beginning of the height of the leaf viewing season.

Kyoto is famous for its red leaves--more famous for the leaves than for cherry blossoms, in fact, which is saying something. And...right in the middle of what is far and away the busiest time of the year for Kyoto's tourist industry...some of the more popular tours have been canceled. A large part of the city is under security lockdown. Police officers are coming in from surrounding prefectures to help share the burden of responsibility. All of this is in preparation for President Bush arriving tomorrow.

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Comments

[User Picture]
From:nitasee
Date:November 14th, 2005 07:33 am (UTC)
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That leaf chart....just wow. I'm amazed at that much interest. I mean we in the states make some noise about the leaves changing colour and all, but nor like that.

As for the beetles...well, I kinda knew that was a big pastime or I guess more like a "pet" over there, but I don't get it. I guess that's mostly because I'm not fond of bugs in general.
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:November 15th, 2005 02:56 am (UTC)
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That leaf chart....just wow. I'm amazed at that much interest.

Don't forget--Japan has FOUR seasons! <g> They take this seasonal stuff seriously.

I kinda knew that was a big pastime or I guess more like a "pet" over there, but I don't get it.

I don't get it either. I guess it'll just have to be one of those big mysteries.
[User Picture]
From:mvrdrk
Date:November 14th, 2005 08:53 am (UTC)
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I agree that beetles getting loose is worrisome. As for keeping them as pets, not for me, no thanks.

Darn that man. I don't know what it is about politicians but they always turn up and inconvenience people at the worst times. And they seem to think people are glad to see them. Fat headed, is what I call it.
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:November 15th, 2005 02:57 am (UTC)
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I don't know what it is about politicians but they always turn up and inconvenience people at the worst times.

That sounds similar to what my students said when we talked about current events in class...
[User Picture]
From:sara_tanaquil
Date:November 14th, 2005 10:10 am (UTC)
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I'm not surprised at all that it was a big story. If you want to see what happens when an invasive species gets loose in a non-native habitat, just watch Cane Toads. (Which, BTW, is one of the funniest and strangest documentaries ever made, in spite of its quite serious subject matter.)

I'm jealous of your leaves... our leaf-peeping season is already basically over, and the colors were very muted this year because of all the freak weather (and having nothing but rain for most of October).
[User Picture]
From:mangaroo
Date:November 14th, 2005 04:03 pm (UTC)
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"Leaf peeping? Is that something we do now?"
[User Picture]
From:sara_tanaquil
Date:November 14th, 2005 05:21 pm (UTC)
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LOL! Apparently, since it's on the news all the time in New England. What, you don't peep at leaves out there? Oh, wait, no leaves to peep at in the Bay Area. :-P

(I always missed fall leaves when I lived out there.)
[User Picture]
From:mangaroo
Date:November 14th, 2005 03:56 pm (UTC)
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Alien beetles threatening Japan's ecosystem as a metaphor for Bush's visit = BEST political commentary ever. Okay, so maybe that bit was in my head. Just because I make it up doesn't mean it isn't true.
[User Picture]
From:spacealien_vamp
Date:November 15th, 2005 03:00 am (UTC)
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Alien beetles threatening Japan's ecosystem as a metaphor for Bush's visit = BEST political commentary ever.

<laugh> Should I mention that the story of Bush's landing in Osaka on the news tonight was followed up with the compelling drama of...a radish? ...And that the radish got more coverage?
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