When Japanese start caring rhinoceros beetles?
As I described in “Stag beetles and rhinoceros beetles in Japanese culture”, caring rhinoceros beetles and stag beetles is common in Japan. Then a question arose in my mind: when these insects became popular? Was it originated in Edo or Meiji era, in which the insects were seen in Japanese paintings?
Much earlier than rhinoceros beetles and stag beetles become popular, Japanese people enjoyed singing of insects. The oldest evidence appears in the Man’yōshū, which is the oldest (compiled sometime after 759 AD) existing collection of Japanese poetry. Some of the poems describe crickets as insects with beautiful sounds. Singing insects continued to be popular in noble people in the Heian period (794-1185) and they appear in the representative literary works, the Pillow Book (10th-11th century) and the Tale of Genji(11th century).
Singing insects came to ordinary people’s life in the Edo period (1603-1868). “Insect sellers” sold bell crickets. Breeding of the insects was established and its pioneer made huge profit. “Insect seller” were seen until before World War II (Ref.1). In this period rhinoceros beetle and stag beetle were not seen in any literature.
Rhinoceros beetles became popular in 1960’s
Rhinoceros beetles became popular in 1960’s. The beetle appeared in a book that introduces how to care insects as teaching materials in 1960 (Ref.2). Then it appeared as one of pets in 1966 (Ref.3). It started to be sold in department stores until 1968 (Ref.4). The breeding of the insect started until 1971 (Ref.5). The beetle became overwhelmingly popular until 1974 (Ref.6).
“Butterflies, dragonflies and cicadas were popular in the past, but nowadays longicorn beetles, rhinoceros beetles and stag beetles are overwhelmingly popular because of monsters in TV programs. These insects are somewhat similar to the monsters in appearance.” (Ref.6, Translation by Suzukake)
Why rhinoceros beetles became popular in Japan?
Rhinoceros beetles became popular during the pet boom in 1960’s-1970’s. The boom arose probably because 1. Ordinary people got out of poverty in the period of high economic growth. 2. Rapid urbanization led to increased demand for nature. Although dogs and cats are the most popular ones in the pet boom, the term “pet” contained diverse species including insects. Rhinoceros beetles became popular in that social background and may be affected by monsters in TV program as the description in Ref.6 and easiness of breeding (much easier than stag beetles and longicorn beetles).
Pet boom may be come in other countries along with urbanization and economic growth, but I suppose the popularity of rhinoceros beetles are still unique. People’s attitude to singing insects from long time ago may affect the popularity of rhinoceros beetles.
Stag beetles became more popular later. I will wright this tipic in another post.
1. Lafcadio Hearn, “Exotics and retrospectives” (1898)
4. 牧野 信司、『ペットの話、上手な飼い方 』(1968)
5. 中川志郎、『ペットの捕り方飼い方馴らし方 』(1971)