Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Denizens of Japan #5: Karasu (Crows)

Ah, the crow. If the eagle is the king of the bird kingdom, then the crow must be the asshat. These things didn't bother me too much back in the States, but that may just be because I never really had to contend with them. They were just kind of there.

In Japanese, "crow" is からす (karasu). The kanji (烏) looks almost exactly like the one for bird (鳥; tori). Interestingly, the sound a crow makes is almost exactly the same in English and Japanese - "caw" or かあ (kaa). Anyway, in Japan people don't use trash cans or bins when we put out our trash. At least they haven't anywhere that I've been. Usually you bag your garbage and put it in a designated area outside - usually on a curb or in the street. If you're lucky, your trash area may be caged off or in a little shelter. Normally, though, you're putting your garbage under a little net. People will put rocks on top of these nets to make it more difficult for animals to get at the bags, but crows aren't stupid. These dingleberries have big, nasty-looking beaks, and they know how to use them. It's not uncommon to be walking down the street and see a torn garbage bag or two under a net, with orange peels and chopsticks and whatnot scattered all over the pavement. In those cases all you can do is curse silently and pump your fist at any crows you see nearby, and leave the mess for someone else to clean up.

The sounds these guys make also annoy or alarm some folk. When my friend from the States visited, he commented that "those bastard birds" kept waking him up every morning. They don't wake me up, but I can see how they would some people - they sound like shrieking infants.

Honestly, the size of these things has always freaked me out a little. While they're generally pretty cautious, bumming around power lines and high fences, occasionally they will come pretty close. And although I think I could take on a crow, those beaks could do some serious damage. And don't tell me I'm being paranoid. "They're birds, aren't they?"


  1. You are definitely not paranoid. Those things are freaky. I've never actually seen it, but I've heard of attacks on runners in Tokyo.

  2. Although I didn't react outward, on many occasions I inwardly lurched at the sound of them. They sound like human voices making crow noises - complete with tone variation from individual to individual. It's very disturbing. Little oni devils!

  3. Oh no. I am unable to edit my spelling errors. How embarrassing.

  4. It's ok - next time just make a new post with the correction and I will delete the old one for you.

    But yeah, glad to see I'm not the only one with an aversion for this these.

  5. One time I was walking down my street and one was pecking at a trash bag. I purposely walked near it to try to scare it away. I have to tell you, I had to psych myself up for that. I was ready to swing at that thing if it went for me. They're as big as cats with beaks like pointy staplers.