Monday, 22 June 2015

Ready to Conquer Your Arachnophobia?

Kajiki Town, part of Aira City, Kagoshima Prefecture

Welcome to Kajiki!  It’s a town in southern Japan and holds some incredible sights to see.  There’s the old road that used to be the gateway to Edo (now Tokyo) and the beautiful Ryumon Waterfall.  There’s another little gem here, a festival that occurs every year in the midst of the rainy season.  But you might not want to go there unless you want to cure your arachnophobia.

Introducing the Kajiki Spider Fight festival, or Kajiki Kumo Gassen Taikai, a tradition that has been around for about 400 years.  When it first came about, spider fighting was a way to boost the morale of soldiers during the Bunroku-Keicho War in the Korean Peninsula.  Now, it’s a fun competition and broadcasted on local television.

Kogane spider (female), held by the  "spider lady"

Before we get into the spider fighting, here’s a little background on myself.  I’ve had a pretty awful case of arachnophobia since I was young.  And man, did it kill me.  Spiders were my worst enemies.  But recently, I’ve become so determined to beat my fear of them, and there is no place better to do that than at the annual spider fighting festival.  So last year, I went…

The "spider lady" with a Kogane spider on her face!

But I just couldn’t bring myself to hold one!  I may have warmed up to being around them, and grew a tolerance for them, but letting it crawl on my hands and arms was just too much.  I continued to maintain the policy that if they don’t bother me, I won’t bother them.  But this year proved different.  As the festival drew near, I told myself if I didn’t fight my fear and actually hold one with pictures for proof, I would live with that regret for the rest of my life.

So I went again.  I told all my foreigner friends to hold me accountable.  We sought out the woman whom we nicknamed the “spider lady,” a Japanese girl who helped us get used to the critters by giving us a chance to hold them.  I walked up, held out my hand, and on went the spider.

Just look at that face!  I was terrified!  But after holding them for a while, I soon warmed up to them.  Holding them wasn’t so bad.  In fact, it was quite fun.  Check out the pictures below.

They may look scary, but they're actually fun to hold!
You get a tingling feeling as the spider crawls up your arm.

This girl was all puckered out from fighting...and over-enthusiastic kids!

Now what did I learn from this experience?  For one, you never know you don’t like something until you try it.  For two, spiders can be docile creatures and they’re not out to eat your face.  They’re out to live, which kind of makes me feel guilty for all the spider livelihoods I’ve destroyed while out on my routine jogs.

Now that I’m good with holding the Kagone spiders, perhaps it’s time to take on the big huntsman spiders that ambush and chase their prey…

…On second thought, I might just let those ones be.

So, what do you think?  Is this something you’d like to try?  What’s your phobia and how would you go about conquering it?

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