The curious case of Japanese beetles

Written by Paper. Posted in Drive, Off The Wall

The curious case of Japanese beetles

Published on May 24, 2016 with No Comments

It’s unlikely to be coming soon to a theater near you due to limited screenings, none in Minnesota – so far. But as documentaries go, “Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo,” explores a truly fascinating subject. It turns out that beetle collecting is a huge Japanese pastime to the extent that one beetle hunter in the movie boasts about buying a Ferrari with his profits. In one notable case, a single beetle was sold for $90,000. It’s a “bustling” business there as department stores, pet shops, hardware stores and even vending machines trade in beetle food, cages, accessories and the like – though it isn’t known if they have beetle clothing.
While American children watch their hamsters on a wheel to nowhere, Japanese children spend their hours and money on beetles. One of these is the Stag beetle which may or may not hold stag parties. Among the most prized is the Rhinoceros beetle which happens to be the subject of the Sega video game, “Mushiking: King of the Beetles,” that started a craze with about 20,000 tournaments. The Rhino beetle is also involved in the beetle equivalent of cage fighting – without the cage. Two male beetles are placed on a log where they try to push each other off the log. People bet significant money on which one will be left standing. Who knew?
In an interesting twist, the movie, in Japanese with English subtitles, was not made by a Japanese filmmaker but by Jessica Oreck, an American. She is sort of the Robin Hood for the insect world, saving them from being squashed by shoes or folded up newspapers. In her non-film directing life, she is an animal keeper at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Rumors are that she is planning her next film – about mushrooms. All of which will eventually be on Blu-ray and DVD.

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