Monday, July 30, 2001

An Itchy Souvenir

From Thursday through the weekend, our family went to the mountains in Northern Yamanashi Prefecture, but I brought home a souvenir we weren't very happy with. I have red swollen insect bites all over my hands and feet--and do they itch! My daughter is in an even worse predicament: She was bitten on her ankles and thighs and is all swollen and puffy. My wife, however, came out of it all unscathed, and she says things like, "I don't have any feelings of wanting to bite at or sting anyone-that's why I wasn't bitten! Hahahahaha?"" The people who live there told us that "You might get bitten by the gnats at first, but you'll be fine once you get used to it." Since we don't stay long enough to get used to things, I guess this "souvenir" is something we can't avoid.

I'm not even sure that gnats are actually the ones that "gave" us this "souvenir." That is, I haven't actually seen them. I did go outdoors, but I was outside of the woods, and it wasn't as if I went into any thick shrubbery, so I really think it's strange. I looked it up in an encyclopedia and found that adult gnats are small--about 1-5 mm.--long, so it's possible that I was bitten by a gnat from the woods nearby without realizing it. The male gnats are particularly active in the morning and evening. They apparently bite and pierce human skin and suck the blood from the cut. But it's not as though the blood comes gushing out of the bite, so it must be an appropriately small amount that the gnat can get with its small mouth.

I think it might have been on the morning of the 29th when I was outside sketching the mountain villa we had been staying at. The garden of this villa was not completed and looked shabby so I filled it in and sketched it as I pictured it. I was just outside the entrance of the forest for about 30 minutes, so I must've been "perfect prey" for the gnats. At our home in Tokyo, we get a large number of mosquitoes in the summer and I get bitten by them a lot. My wife wrote about this in her book, Hana no Tabidachi*, but those mosquito bites go away after about a day. However, the "souvenirs" from our trip to the mountains don't just get swollen, the bites are "weepy", and, even after two days, they are still "making a strong statement". I guess I'm stronger when it comes to the mosquitoes in the city, but not when it comes to the gnats in the mountains. I've learned that I "shouldn't underestimate Nature", so, next time, I think I'll take along some insect repellent.

(*Not yet available in English)

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