It is summer. It is hot. It is wet and humid. And you are probably sharing your Japanese evenings with large, striped Tiger mosquitoes. The insects hatch and begin hunting for mammalian blood in April and continue until the first cold weather in fall.
Most of the time the bites cause nothing more than a short-term itch but these bloodsuckers can spread a disease known as Japanese encephalitis that can cause fever, headaches and vomiting for up to two weeks and in rare cases is fatal.
There are as many approaches to dealing with mosquitoes as there are sufferers. Some prefer repellents; others are not satisfied until the mosquitoes are eradicated. Some restrict their solutions to natural weapons and others will turn to anything that works.
The Japanese have actively battled their tormenters for decades. In 1895 an exporter of mandarin oranges named Ueyama Eiichiro was introduced to a crushed powder from chrysanthemum flower pedals that acted like kryptonite to biting insects. Ueyama blended the powder, whose active ingredient was called pyrethrin, with a starch base that burned as an incense stick and repelled insects. To prolong the effects of the incense he developed mosquito coils that took the name katori senkō. The green mosquito-slaying coils were a Japanese summer staple for decades.
In recent years more technologically advanced mosquito-fighters have joined the battle. These include:
The coils emit strong odors that many find unpleasant. Electric mosquito repellents, NoMat is a popular model, do the same job and are noiseless like coils and odorless. The liquid-filled gizmos heat up and dispense a vapor insects find repugnant. The devices, that can also be battery-powered for portability, can be refilled to easily last the entire mosquito season and can be placed in rooms throughout the house.
Vapor dispensers are mobile and can be carried to the backyard or outdoors. They are effective in doorways and other entry points into your house.
The mat is was a precursor to the vapor dispensers and can still be found in Japanese homes. It works on the same principle of heat-released pesticide into a room.
These low-tech solutions contain strips impregnated with pyrethrin and derivatives that are simply hung at windows and doorways where mosquitoes are prowling. More potent hangers are designed for outdoors use. When buying hanging insect vapes, the number of effective days are prominently displayed on the package.
Should biting mosquitoes penetrate your house’s defenses you can always turn to wearables like rubber bracelets that slip around the wrist. Make sure the rings are treated with naturally occurring repellents as these will be touching the skin.
Similar to wearable repellents, natural products containing eucalyptus oils or lavender oils that ward of insects can be applied directly to the body. These can also be applied by sprays and wipes.
A wide range of products are on Japanese shelves that will kill the winged intruders. These include insecticidal sprays, electronic zappers and even hand-held weapons that can impart a fatal electric shock when swatting mosquitoes.