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Life in Japan - Beating Mosquitoes and Biting Midges

I live on the second floor of a central Tokyo apartment building.  The advantage of this?  I enjoy a brief daily elevator ride (or welcome stair climb) and can escape the building quickly in case of an emergency--I can literally jump off my balcony if necessary.  The disadvantage of this?  Mosquitoes and biting midges host wild vampire parties at my place during the scorching Japan summer months.  Despite my fine-meshed screens and personal policy of only opening the windows when absolutely necessary, they still get in.  Dammit.  Given how aggressively I'm targeted, my American blood must be the finest, first-class epicurean indulgence for a suckling mosquito muzzle.  Here is my series of mitigating measures for dealing with Japan's biting pests.

Electric Mosquito Repellant Device
Of all my various measures, this has been the single most effective one.  It's not 100% of course (nothing is), but of all the products I've tried, it makes the most noticeable difference in keeping biting pests out of my apartment.  What is an "electric mosquito repellant device?"  It's a small electric-powered box housing a replaceable bottle of liquid mosquito repellant.  Turn it on, and a low-powered heating element heats a wick that evenly releases the repellant as an invisible vapor.  They're easy to find at any Japanese store (or online store) selling anti-mosquito goods (especially in summer).

Example - I got this one simply because it looks pretty cool.  Mosquitoes are intimidated by its stylish looks.
Vitantonio × KINCHO リキッド式電気蚊取り器 モスキートバスター ブラック VMB-3000-K

Tips
* Get the plug-in kind.  The battery-powered ones eat batteries like cookies.
* Get 60-day liquid.  They sell 90-day liquid, but it's actually the same amount of liquid in there.  The wick just releases less repellant!
* Put one in every room with a window you ever hope to open during summer.  I got 3 of them.
* Don't get the kind with a fan blowing over solid repellant.  In my experience they don't work nearly as well as the liquid vapor type.

Hanging Repellant
You'll see these all over the place in Japanese stores during the summer.  I get a bunch of these to complement the electric devices.  I hang them by the windows and outside on the veranda laundry poles.  My windows and veranda are adorned with anti-mosquito voodoo necromancy.

Example
虫 コナーズ お部屋用 250日 1コ

Tips
* Mix and match brands.  I find that no sole maker's repellant is clearly superior to any other maker's, so mix it up a bit and confuse the hell out of the mosquitoes.

Screen Door Repellant Spray
This is a can of what appears to be bug spray, but it will say 「網戸」(あみど)on it.  Spray it on your screen doors and window screens to prevent little biters from sneaking through your screens.

Example
虫 こないアース あみ戸・窓ガラスに 450mL 【HTRC2.1】

Tips
* Test the breeze before going spray-crazy.  Trust me--you don't want this stuff blowing back into your face.  Better yet--wear a gas mask or something hard-core.
* I also spray it on my balcony railing.  It couldn't hurt, right?  In fact, spray it all over the f**kin' place!  Get 2 cans and go all double-barreled on their asses.

Fans
Don't underestimate Japanese biting bugs--especially the tiny no-see-um midges.  They will climb through air vents into your living space.  They will squeeze through the finest of mesh screens.  These Spartan green-beret navy-seal blood-sucking bastards will stop at nothing.

But a simple fan messes with them big time.

Example
東 芝 ACモータータイプ ACリビング扇風機 ホワイト F-LR5(W)

Tips
* I keep my apartment's small vent fan running 24/7 during the summer months.  This was surprisingly effective at keeping bugs out of my place.
* I place a fan blowing air out of any open window.  I try to avoid opening windows at all during summer, but sometimes I just have to open it.  Blowing air out the window keeps bugs from flying in, particularly the weak-flying midges.

Mosquito Coils
Japan must love these because I see them everywhere.  Oh, and they also work pretty well.  Mosquito coils are basically mosquito repellant in incense form.  Light them up and they release aromatic smoke that mosquitoes hate.  The only problem is that I'm not the biggest fan of the smoky smell either.  I have experimented with burning them on my balcony a meter or two from an open window.  Some of the smoke makes it into my living space and does prevent insects from coming in; however, the campfire-like fumes just aren't very pleasant indoors--even in mild amounts.  Manufacturers do offer more pleasant scents (like rose), but at the end of the day it's still smoke.

Example
紀 陽除虫菊 夕顔 天然 蚊とり線香 50巻

Tips
* For fairly obvious reasons, these are best for outdoor use only.  You don't want to burn them indoors unless you enjoy breathing chemical smoke.

Other Tips
I include these for the sake of comprehensiveness.
* Get rid of any standing water.  Do you keep a bucket of nasty stagnant rainwater on your balcony for good luck?  Dump it!  That's a mosquito nursery you've got there.  I take this tip to the next level and don't even bother keeping plants on my balcony anymore.  I sucked at gardening anyway.
* Take out your trash.  Trash bags of rancid cheese and foul bananas are an insect magnet.
* Get the finest mesh window screens and screen doors you can possibly find.  The smaller the holes, the less likely biting buggers will sneak through.
* Keep lights low.  Among other things bugs are attracted to light and heat.  Keep the lights low and--maybe, just maybe--you'll be spared.
* Shower yourself with mosquito repellent.  Incorporate this into your daily summer routine.  I once met someone that sleeps wearing repellant.  Now that's dedication.

What's Next?
I'm seriously pondering boosting my "kill every mosquito in Japan" campaign to level 500 next season.  Those diehard American-made mosquito traps that time-release CO2 and various other mosquito attractants are really looking tempting to itchy-legged me.

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  • Guest - Nihon Scope

    OMG!!! These little tiger mushi are driving me crazy. I think my wife and I got bit so much at a local park near school that are legs are slightly swelling up....

    Ugh!