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The Summer Season Brings an Orchestra of Cicadas to Japan

Higurashi cicada

Higurashi cicada (Tanna japonensis). Image from Wikimedia.

Cicadas are the sound of Japanese summer. Whether it's out in the countryside or in the middle of the city, the insects are so much a part of everyday life in Japan that many Japanese people can identify different species just by their calls.

A variety of species of cicada appear at the beginning of each summer. As larvae, cicadas live underground, where they feed on tree roots, and in their adult, winged stage of life the harmless insects spend their days singing in hopes of attracting a mate.

Is there a reason why cicadas emerge in such high numbers each year? One Japanese scientist has solved the riddle of the the mass appearance of cicadas.

Cicadas typically emerge in huge numbers. Defenseless and unable to fly particularly fast, the insects are an easy target for predators. Safety in numbers means a small number of cicadas will survive long enough to mate before being eaten.

Cicadas, known in Japanese as “semi,” are such a part of summer in Japan that some people have uploaded videos of different varieties and their distinctive calls to Twitter.


Writing for English-language newspaper Japan Today, Philip Kendall notes:

There are some 30 different types of cicada in Japan, and each one’s song sounds that little bit different to the last. The cicada song most often used in TV and anime, though, has to be that of the “minmin-zemi.”

So here is the call of the minmin-zemi:

When I hear the minmin-zemi I feel cooler… (´∇`)


The abura-zemi is famed for its buzzing sound:

An abura-zemi. Yes, I released it right after this.


The kumza-zemis are back in our garden! First time this year I have heard them!


This small cicada with a long name is named after its own distinctive call: “tsuku-tsuku boushi, tsuku-tsuku boushi”:

A tsukutsukuboushi!! ( ^ω^ )


The plaintive call of the higurashi-zemi generally occurs in late August and early September, heralding the dying days of summer and the beginning of fall:

When I hear the baleful cry of the higurashi-zemi, with its hint of cooler temperatures, I know that summer is near over and fall is approaching.

A cacophony of cicadas

Of course, different species of cicada will appear together, resulting in a cacophony of different calls. Here's the minmin-zemi and the tsukutsukuboushi singing together:

Good morning everyone! It's nice weather today in Yokohama, a good day to pass by under the shade of a tree. Here's the minmin-zemi and the tsukutsukuboushi singing together. May we all enjoy another wonderful day!

  • GeorgeMokray


    Now how about some uguisu and hototogisu bird calls?

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