Gokiburi hoi hoi/Roach Hotel (Credit: JP41.com)

My Japanese Kitchen and Its Inhabitants

Wherein I get down with the creepy and the crawly

The kitchen is rarely the heart of my house, no matter where in the world I’m living. Food is prepared and doled out, but there’s not a lot of bustle or congregation happening, except for one apartment where the kitchen was also a main hallway/thoroughfare.

I lived in Japan for two years, in a standard-issue two floor townhouse. I mostly spent time on the top floor, either to catch a breeze in the stifling summers, or to crowd around my kerosene space heater in the winters. The main floor of the house had an unused sitting room, bathroom, toilet room (the toilet is separate from the bathing space in Japanese homes), and the kitchen.

Since I was at a latitude equal to Atlanta, I had to get familiar with some climate-standard bugs that were not common in my more-northerly home state of Minnesota. Specifically, the cockroach. Roaches are just a fact of life in warmer places, and after I jumped 1000 feet in the air after spotting one in the kitchen, I bought and set a roach hotel. Having never owned nor operated a roach hotel, however, I didn’t know you were supposed to stomp on it to put the trapped roaches out of their misery. To the roaches who starved to death stuck in the middle of a roach hotel in my Japanese kitchen, I ask your forgiveness.

Side note: “roach hotel” in Japanese is ごきぶりホイホイ (gokiburi hoihoi) and is one of my favorite word-phrases.

One evening, I decided to cook up one of the few foods I could reliably make and not burn: scrambled eggs on toast. I cracked the eggs and vaguely remembered that the kitchen was outfitted with a whisk, but said whisk was missing from its whisk-holding hook. A quick search revealed the whisk had fallen to the ground and rolled partway under a small shelving unit.

Retrieving the whisk for washing turned into a multi-tiered experience of shock and freaking out.

  1. I picked up the whisk.
  2. Tangled in the whisk was a dead snake.
  3. Attached to the head of the dead snake was a roach hotel.

The foundation of my house could be described as “charmingly crumbling” and “not at all impervious to being invaded by nature” — there was a hole in my kitchen floor leading straight to the foundation base; since my landlord was not really feeling the repair, I “solved” this problem by covering the hole with a small rug and ignoring it. Given this, it was a bit understandable that a snake had made its way indoors. My best guess is that the snake had come up through the “patched” floor, spotted a roach trapped in the roach hotel, gone after a convenient meal (via the whisk on the floor), and died with its head stuck in the trap.

All of this rational theorizing happened after I screamed and hurled the snake-whisk-roach hotel combo out the back door and into a bamboo grove, where I’m fairly sure it remains to this day. To the snake who became entangled in the fallen whisk, tried to eat a roach, and gave your life, I ask your forgiveness.