Season of the Crickets

Detail from a painted Japanese screen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Do you see the cricket hanging upside down on the stem?

Now is the time, according to Japanese connaiseurs, when the suzumushi cricket sings at its sweetest, in the autumn, just before it dies. I write about these insect musicians in the Encyclopedia of the Exquisite, but I couldn’t give you audio on the page. Now you can hear the song of these revered creatures via the link, here.

‘Suzu’ is sleighbell in Japanese, and ‘mushi’ is bug. These crickets are prized for their chiming song, which starts at dusk and can continue through the night. While Chinese courtiers in centuries past used to keep their beloved crickets in tiny gold cages next to their beds, in Modern Japan you can still order for home delivery a small terrarium stocked with suzumushi, and proper cricket food, to sing you to sleep.

I’m still following the fashion swirl for another few weeks, but I’ll be dreaming of suzumushi.