Photo/IllutrationMasaya Yago, entomologist and researcher at the University of Tokyo, shows a specimen of Bhutanitis ludlowi Gabriel, an extremely rare species that inhabits in the Himalayas. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

For all bug-loving kids, summer is the most eagerly anticipated season of the year. Now that it's here, they must be thinking about what bugs to catch, and where.

For those who want to dream really big, how about butterfly-hunting in a primeval forest in Cambodia?

That is what Masaya Yago, 47, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Tokyo, did 12 years ago.

Yago recalled that he entered the forest, being "seen off" by a cobra with its head reared up, and also feeling unnerved at the sight of a tiger's paw prints on the ground.

He pitched his tent in a place no butterfly researcher had ever set foot before.

His favorite oversized net had a diameter of 50 centimeters, big enough to fit a small child. The net's adjustable handle could be extended to 7 meters. The bait he used was a liquor-doused banana.

When he saw his prey, he would close in very carefully so as not to alert it. And aiming the net from below, he would swoop it up in one quick stroke.

If lucky, he would catch a species he had never seen before. His hands would shake with excitement and elation as he reached inside the net to remove the butterfly.

Yago was already a seasoned bug-catcher when he ventured into the Cambodian forest with his gigantic net.

As a child, he chased dragonflies and beetles in the Tanzawa mountains in Kanagawa Prefecture near his home, with a small net slung on his shoulder.

"Academically, I was practically at the bottom of my class at elementary school," Yago said. "But nobody knew as much about bugs as I did."

He continued to focus on what he loved best. And before he knew it, he had earned his doctorate and become a researcher at the prestigious University of Tokyo.

His current self-appointed mission is to save rare species of insects from extinction by researching their characteristics from DNA.

A poem by Kiyoko Uda goes to the effect, "Big trees/ Big bowers/ Summer holidays."

Summer holidays are for forgetting the time to revel in your favorite activity, which obviously doesn't have to be catching bugs. If you really devote yourself to what you love doing, your "little net" will be sure to catch a big dream.

So, what are you going to catch this summer?

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 4

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.