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Japanese crickets (koorogi) are often kept for singing or fighting. This link shows all the names in both English and Japanese of all the singing and fighting crickets from Japan and China. Larget crickets between 3.5-6.5 cm are called katydids. Other koorogi, some crickets also go by other names like suzumushi (bell-insect) or matsumushi (pine-insect).

History

Japan has a long tradition of listening to the calls of various Orthoptera, both in the wild and as caged pets. The customs were popular with the Japanese Court, which probably introduced some of the customs from China, and with the common people. One of the seasonal pleasures was visiting places, known for the abundance and high quality of their singing insects, much like cherry blossom and autumn leaf viewing still in practice today. Although many of these customs have been lost with Japan’s modernization, Japanese families especially with boys are still fond of the “cries” of certain species of crickets (Gryllidae) and long-horned grasshoppers (Tettigonidae).

Raising singing insects is a popular past-time. Singing crickets are given as gifts to customers by some produce markets and to the friends of some cricket hobbyists. Cricket cage used to be made of twigs, wire and the sheath of a bamboo shoot, ca. 1950 (courtesy of Kyushu-Tokai Univ.) but now the finely crafted cages of the past are rarely made. Around my neighborhood, florists as well as pet shops sell modern cages (clear plastic terrariums with ventilated tops) with a few species of singing Orthoptera (mainly the bell insect/suzumushi, Homoeogryllus japonicus de Haan), sometimes with specially packaged bell insect food and soil in pet shops.

The cricket cage peddlar“, Kiyonaga, ca. late 1700s, (courtesy of The Art Institute of Chicago). Cricket sellers were members of an organized guild recognized by the checkerboard motif used on the cloth of their stands and kimonos. These mobile merchants sold diverse and beautifully crafted cages, including ones that resembled fans, boats and country cottages, to house the singing insects. The singing insects of commerce were both reared and collected from the wild.

A book “How to raise singing insects” written in 1983 by Kimio ONO and Hideaki OGASAWARA (New Science Co., Tokyo). This book, which shows the bell insect (suzumushi) on its cover, contains natural history, rearing information and even poetry on five of the most favored cricket species and one katydid, and briefer sections on fourteen other crickets and katydids. Program for Tama Zoo’s annual autumn show on singing Orthoptera. This very popular show started in 1958 and takes place in Tama Zoo’s Insectarium located in the Tokyo suburbs. At the 1993 show, forty three singing cricket and long-horned grasshopper species could be seen and heard by visitors. Each year, the Insectarium receives several thousand telephone calls from people wanting advice on how to raise singing insects.

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