I would say I am pretty brave. Or at least I think I am. Also, I am not easily grossed out. I am pretty thick skinned even when it comes to ugly insects, and I actually love the creepy-crawly sections in zoos and museums. As thick-skinned as I am when it comes to insects, it is also my duty to catch insects which get lost inside the apartment.
Big and fast ones can be easily spotted, as they are normally accompanied by screams of a little girl, produced by a person living with me who does not want to be named here. You can therefore also say I am pretty experienced when it comes to hunt down wasps, mosquitos, bugs or spiders.
My last, big examination before becoming a certificated insect hunter (ok, I made this one up) took place by the end of September in Yokohama, Japan. I was having a fun evening with my Japanese friend in her room, we watched Star Wars Episode III and nibbled caramel popcorn. She got the popcorn as a souvenir from her friend who traveled to Canada, and she especially waited for me to come to Japan so we could eat it together. Needless to say we finished the whole red bowl of sweet and sugary caramel popcorn while we were all thrilled watching Episode III.
Around midnight, we finally finished the movie and decided to go to bed right away. I asked to go to the bathroom first, so she went to her bed on the opposite side of her big bedroom and sat down. As soon as she touched the blanket, the biggest spider I have ever seen outside a display cabinet shoot out behind her bed, crawled over the wall and disappeared behind the book shelf standing on the down side of her bed. I froze.
“A spider! A FREAKING HUGE SPIDER JUST CRAWLED BEHIND YOUR BOOKSHELF!”
My friend met me with disbelief. “What? Nooo.”
“Really, there is one!” I started to move the heaviest stuff from the shelf and slowly moved it away from the wall. And there it was, staring at me. A big spider, just as big as the palm of my hand. My friend and I gazed at it.
My friend was irritated. “How did it come inside? My house has fly screens on every window!”
“Do you know which spider this is?” I moved a little closer so I could see it more clearly.
How could she not know? An insect so big existing in her home country!
I did the most reasonable thing to do in such a moment. I took my smartphone and googled. I googled if it was poisonous or not. The first query, “Big insects Japan”, already answered my question (and rose nine new ones, but anyway). I opened the first displayed website: ‘10 Horrifying Insects That Will Make You Reconsider Ever Visiting Japan’.
After freaking huge stink bug, an electric beetle, a giant house centipede, I finally found it. On rank 3. The Huntsman spider, not poisonous, all clear! Then of course I did the next most rational thing to do. I took a photo. Because I was sure that no one would actually belief us if we told them about the palm of hand-big spider in our bedroom.
My friend was all relaxed, waiting for further instructions on how to handle the current situation. “Are you going to catch it?”
I looked at her. “Why did I not know that there are so big spiders here?”
“I saw even bigger ones at my grandfather’s house in Yamanashi. This one is small.”
I stared at her, dumbfounded. “Well, thank you for cheering me up! We have to get rid of it!”
“You must not kill it! Remember the story my dad told you last year?”
“Uhh.” Yes I did. Last year, her father told me a story about why you should not kill a spider. There is a story in Japan, about a criminal who did not kill a spider in his arrest cell. When he died and was in hell, the spider let its silk down and tried to get him out of hell. Therefore, killing it was a no-go. We had to catch it alive, so we needed a bowl. I asked, and she handed me the red bowl we used to eat popcorn just before, but it was barely bigger than the spider. “This is the biggest one we have.”
With a far too small bowl in my hand, I began the hunt. I took a few deep breaths. My heartbeat was at least 150 beats per minute. I could not remember when I was feeling so scared the last time. My plan was to put the bowl over the spider, and then trap it with a piece of cardboard from underneath. So far so good.
I slowly approached it with the bowl in my hands, my friend took a piece of cardboard and stood close behind me. When I was only a few more centimeters away, the spider probably sensed my fear, and jumped into my direction and then fled behind the shelf again. I screamed.
Alarmed by my screaming, my friend’s mom hurried into our room. “What happened?”
We looked at her with our eyes full of fear and disgust. My friend explained the situation to her and asked for advice. “If you just turn off the light, it will not move in the darkness. You can then catch it tomorrow morning.”, she answered.
I stared at her, doubting her entire story. As if I would trust a wild spider that it would not move when it was dark. “I am not sleeping in this room as long as this thing is in here with us!” Even more than my friend I had a more serious reason to object to just go to sleep – my bed was a futon lying on the floor.
We just had to catch that thing. But where did it go now? It crawled away so fast, we could not follow where it went. We checked the bed. Nothing. So it still had to be behind the other side of the shelf. We slowly moved the whole shelf further into the room. Suddenly, two of her big heavy books who stood on the shelf slipped and fell down behind it. Silence.
“Did my precious guide book crush it?” My friend looked at me angrily.
“No it hasn’t. Probably. I think. Maybe not.” We looked at each other. “I’ll check.”
I, armed with the red bowl, slowly moved on the bed so I could look behind the shelf and pick up the books. Unfortunately, her fear was confirmed. Two of the spider’s feed stood out from the book’s pages showing beautiful sights of Middle Europe. “Oops!”
I slowly picked up the first book and gave it to her. Then I moved the second book to check out the chaos underneath. I lifted it, and just in the very same moment, the spider crawled away and up the wall again, it just moved much slower than it did before. Without hesitation I put the red bowl on it.
“Did you catch it!?” My friend was stoked.
She came close to see my victory over nature in her normally nature-free room. “Good!” She handed me the cardboard and I slowly moved it under the bowl. While I balanced it to the window, she opened it as well as the fly screen, and I put the bowl outside on the small ledge in front of the window. I put the bowl down, removed the cardboard really fast and my friend closed fly screen and window. We watched Mr. Huntsman spider which scurried away as fast as it did before it got almost battered to death. We were relieved. Relieved that we somehow could handle the situation well, and that we did not kill it (by accident). The only thing left to do was to disinfected her guidebook afterwards.