Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of The Asahi Shimbun.
July 12, 2021 at 12:41 JST
An Asian tiger mosquito (Provided by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases)
When I started weeding at my parents’ home in the countryside for the first time in a while, I was immediately bothered by a buzzing sound.
I was bitten in rapid succession on the face, the hand and the neck. I felt itchy all over.
The season of mosquitoes has come around again.
A sentence from an essay written by Yakumo Koizumi (1850-1904), the writer born Patrick Lafcadio Hearn, came to mind.
“I am being persecuted by mosquitoes.”
Five to six species of mosquitoes were found in the neighborhood of his home in Tokyo.
Koizumi hatefully singled out a “tiny, needly type, silver-speckled and streaked all over” as a “serious torment.”
Wondering what it was, I asked Chizu Sanjoba, an assistant professor at the University of Tokyo, to make an educated guess.
The researcher said it was most likely the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), the most common type.
The Asian tiger mosquito is a “dyed-in-the-wool city kid,” according to a book about mosquitoes she co-authored.
More than 100 mosquito species are found in Japan and some 3,600 around the world.
Some prefer nectar more than anything else, while others eat other mosquitoes.
Sanjoba says she has researched mosquitoes with such a passion that she even feels they are “beautiful.”
She told me many eye-opening stories about mosquitoes, and I learned how little I knew about them.
Globally, mosquitoes are known as “humanity’s greatest enemy.”
Malaria, a mosquito-borne infectious disease, claims more than 400,000 lives annually. To make matters worse, habitats of mosquitoes are constantly expanding due to global warming.
However, Koizumi wrote against trying to exterminate mosquitoes.
He even quipped that he wishes to be reborn as a mosquito one day and fly “to bite people I know, singing a thin and pungent song.”
Perhaps all we can hope is to safely coexist with mosquitoes, no matter how itchy their bites may be.
--The Asahi Shimbun, July 11
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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.
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