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Japanese Summer – Of Cicadas and Ghosts 1

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/13 Animal , ,

Ahhhh.. summer in Japan is here. Long vacation from school. Fireworks. Obon. Dance festivals. And its official background music: the sound of cicadas. Wait, what was that? Summer in Japan is also also the time where the environment becomes noisy due to cicadas.

The Sound of Summer: Cicada

The emergence of Cicadas or Semi (蝉, セミ), as what they are called in Japan, from the ground signifies the start of summer. Imagine the sound of cicadas along with the scorching heat of the sun – this is what a normal summer day in Japan is.

Cicada Lifecycle

cicada lifecycle

The process the cicada follows when it emerges from its nymph skin. (Image by Roland311 on Wikimedia Commons)

Most of their lifetime, cicadas live as nymphs underground. They live at about 30 cm to 2.5 m underground. During that time, they feed on saps from roots and their front legs are strongly develop for digging. In their last days as nymphs, they emerge from the ground and cling to a tree. They then began to shed their skin, the exoskeleton will be abandoned in the tree as if the cicada is still alive. After the mating period, the female cicada deposits her eggs in a bark of a twig which she cut beforehand. When the eggs hatch, the nymphs drop to the ground and dig. Most types of cicadas live two to five years.

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An adult cicada emerges from the nymph. The abandoned exoskeleton is left clinging on the tree. (Photo by takato marul on Flickr)

A twitter user had fun on abandoned cicada exoskeletons. The caption says Cicada’s Bon Odori. If you don’t have any idea of what’s a Bon Odori is, read this post.

Types of Cicada

There are many types of cicada in Japan and each type has a different sound. The Japanese has a name for each type based on its sound. Though, I don’t get it how they hear it as what they name it.

  • Higurashi (Tanna japonensis)

This type of cicadas are also known as evening cicada for it sings at dawn and nightfall or sometimes in dark weather. It starts its singing in mid-July, thus when they start their singing, summer is coming. The sound they make is “kanakana”.

  • Minmin zemi (Oncotympana maculaticollis)

They are the most loved type of cicada. Many people likes this type of cicada for its soothing “minmin” sound. Their sound (ミンミン,minmin) is usually seen in mangas and indicates a very hot day.

  • Kumazemi (Cryptotympana facialis)

Kumazemis are large and noisy cicadas. In Japanese, kuma means bear and I think that is why they are named as such. Recently, they are increasing around Tokyo and is thought that it is because of global warming.

  • Aburazemi (Graptopsaltria nigrofuscata)

They are large brown cicadas. They sing until the middle of September and together with Tsukutsuku boushi, their song indicates the end of summer.

  • Tsukutsuku boushi (Meimuna opalifera)

They usually appear in mid-August. For the Japanese school children, hearing their song symbolizes that summer is about to end and homework should be done already.

If you are not in Japan and still want to experience what it feels like during a hot Japanese summer day, go outside and listen to this 2-hr audio:

Sources:

1. Youtube.com

2. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cicada

3. Four Seasons in Japan. http://ichinen-fourseasonsinjapan.blogspot.com/2010/07/cicada.html

4. Lang-8. http://lang-8.com/odon/journals/1034412/

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