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Fly-swatter,fly swatter (haetataki)

***** Location: Japan, worldwide
***** Season: All Summer
***** Category: Humanity


Flies and mosquitoes, the ubiquitous companions of summer.
The haiku by Kawahigashi below prompted this research.

The fly-swatter can be made of a metal mesh, nowadays plastic mesh. In olden times, strong leaves of the hemp palm (shuro 棕櫚) had been used in Japanese farmhouses as a sort of home-made swatter. They were hung on the wall, ready to be used at any time.

The hemp palm has been used for other things used in a Japanese home. This kind of swatter is also called the Swatter of a Forest Goblin, Tengu no uchiwa 天狗のうちわ。

Have a look at more hemp palm items.
- source : www.wsk.or.jp/work/d/yamashita/01.html

. Tengu fan amulet from Kurama, Kyoto .

. Tengu no ha-uchiwa 天狗の羽団扇 "feather fan of a Tengu" .
- Introduction -


hae-tataki 蠅叩き(蠅叩)、 蝿叩き(蝿叩)
hae-uchi 蝿打
hae-tori 蝿とり、蝿取
haetataki, haeuchi, haetori



Another item is the fly-catching pot. I have one in my home, a present from an old farmer way in the North of Japan, and it works wonders.
It is a glass pot, where you add a bit of sweetened water to lure the flies, mosquitoes and other fiends.

Look at this page with old things from Japanese farmhouses.

fly catcher, haetori-ki 蝿取器
..... haetori bin 蝿取瓶
fly-catching can , haetori kan 蝿取缶

fly-catching paper, haetori gami 蝿取紙
haetori ribon 蠅取リボン(はえとりりぼん) fly-catching ribbon
.... the sticky one

kayaribi 蚊遣火 (かやりび) smokey fire to ward off mosquitoes
..... kayari 蚊遣(かやり)
..... kaibushi, ka-ibushi蚊いぶし(かいぶし)
Feuer zum Vertreiben von Mücken

kayarigusa 蚊遣草(かやりぐさ)plant to ward off mosquitoes
. . . CLICK here for Photos !

..... kayariko 蚊遣粉(かやりこ)powder to ward off mosquitoes

kayaribi o taku 蚊やり火をたく to make a fire (burn something) to ward off mosquitoes
... kayari taku
katori senkoo 蚊取り線香 mosquito coil

. . . CLICK here for Photos !

katori koosui 蚊取香水(かとりこうすい)
perfume to ward off mosquitoes


haechoo, hae-choo 蠅帳 ( はえちょう) "mosquito cabinet"
screened food cupboard; "meat safe"
..... hae irazu 蠅入らず(はえいらず)
In times before the refrigerator was invented, this was a most useful item in every kitchen.

. . . CLICK here for Photos !

haeyoke, hae-yoke 蠅除 (はえよけ) "warding off mosquitoes"
..... haeoi, hae-oi 蠅覆(はえおおい)
This is another kitchen item of old, a kind of folding net, placed over food to prevent the mosquitoes from reaching the food.

haeyokedama はえよけだま【蠅除け玉】
Sometimes a small bead of metal or glass was hung from the ceiling, its reflection would ward off the mosquitoes.

.mosquito net (kaya)  


humanity kigo for late summer

mushi kagari 虫篝 (むしかがり) bonfire to kill insects
It was lit at the paths along the fields, in orchards and vegetable patches, to kill insects, since many insects have the habit to be drawn to light and the flames and will then parish in them.

There is an old proverb reflecting this:

tonde hi ni iru natsu no mushi 飛んで火に入る夏の虫
Like bugs that fly into the fire in the summer

yuugatoo 誘蛾灯 (ゆうがとう) light trap
(for destroying insects)
Nowadays electrical methods are used, in the Edo period there were already contraptions to lure insects with light and kill them later.
. . . CLICK here for Photos !

. mushi okuri 虫送り (むしおくり) seing off the bugs
and more about Saito Sanemori
tamushi okuri 田虫送(たむしおくり)seeing off the bugs from the fields
inamushi okuri 稲虫送(いなむしおくり)seeing off the bugs from the rice plants
mushi oi 虫追い(むしおい)warding off the insects

mushi oi matsuri 虫追い祭り festival to ward off the insects
mushi kuyoo 虫供養(むしくよう)memorial service for the bugs
(which have been killed to protect the harvest)
Sanemori matsuri 実盛祭(さねもりまつり) Sanemori festival
. . . CLICK here for Photos !


... how long has the term fly swatter been around?
In the old days, didn't we just reach for anything... as Gabi mentioned, a newspaper? In the haiku by Hekigodo, 'this', seems to be a contemporary fly swatter.. a play on words. You buy something with a name that alludes to its intended us... but until you actually 'use' it, it's what.... nothing?
It's still a fly-swatter by design in my opinion.

Nowadays, we even have electronic, electric ones ...

Daruma san and many others are using a . fly whisk (flywhisk) 払子, hossu . to get rid of the flies in his sourroundings.


Flies can't eat solid food. When a fly lands on food, the fly vomits on it in order to soften the food. The fly grinds the vomit into the food until the food becomes a liquid. Germs can be introduced during this process. When the food becomes a liquid, the fly drinks the liquid. When the fly has finished eating, it is now your turn to eat.

Not only do you contend with flies, there's also the mosquitoes, moths, and spiders that enter your house as uninvited guests.

Light and portable, the Electric Fly Swatter zaps bugs instantly without smears & smudges on your walls, windows and furniture. Just press the button to activate and the grid quickly zaps mosquitoes, flies, and other pesky bugs.

Worldwide use



A visitor to a German farmhouse in the olden days complained to the mother about the many flies in the outhouse, when he was on his morning duty sit-in. She answered: "Best go shortly before lunchtime. Then the flies are all here with me in the kitchen!"

Click HERE to see more of the German versions of this instrument.

Things found on the way

The term fly-flap first was used in modern English in 1735 as a noun. There is a corresponding transitive verb, and a further noun, flyflapper, one who kills flys.
The term swat first appeared in 1615 as a verb. Fly-swatter may be more used in American English than British English, but I see no reason why the instrument and the person should not have the same name.
Hugh Bygott, a discussion

The History of the Fly Swatter, an American Story
As Published in Quilted Northern "100 Anniversary Bathroom Book"

Dr. Samuel J. Crumbine of the Kansas State Board of Health was watching a baseball game in Topeka in 1905. It was teh bottom of the eighth inning , the score was tied, and Topeka had a man on third. Fans were screaming "Sacrifice fly! Sacrifice fly!" to the batter, or "Swat the ball!" Crumbine, who'd spent much of the game mulling over how to reduce the spread of typhoid fever by flies during hot Kansas summers, suddenly got his inspiration: "Swat the fly!"
Crumbine didn't actually invent the fly swatter; he just popularized the idea in a front-page article titled "Swat the Fly", in the next of Fly Bulletin.
A schoolteacher named Frank Rose read the article and made the first fly swatter out of a yardstick and some wire screen.
Rose called his invention a "fly bat." Dr. Crumbine renamed it "fly swatter."

Advertisement for "The King Fly Swatter" from 1901, June, issue of Ladies Home Journal.

The above text reads:
The King Fly Killer - Kills Without Crushing - Soils Nothing
The wire being almost invisible the flies and mosquitos are quickly killed, thus clearing your house of them in only a few minutes. A prominent lady has said,
"It is the most prized article in my home."


Tengu, the long-nosed forest goblin
by Gabi Greve


Cartoon of the Japan Times about Swatting Roaches

© Japan Times, July 2, 2006


hae utsu made haetataki nakarishi

Kawahigashi Hekigodo

I was reminded of this haiku above just yesterday, June 28, 2006.
We had human visitors, sitting outside enjoying freshly baked bread. There were also a few visitors from the animal realm. As they grew more noisy, one human took the nearby newspaper, rolled it hard and ... SWAT ! thus ended the life of one fly. And then a few more.

My translation of the haiku, which seems pure shasei (sketching from reality) in this context, would thus be:

until I hit that fly,
this was not
a fly-swatter

Translation and discussion by Gabi Greve

Until I hit the fly, the fly-swatter did not exist.
(Tr. Ueda Makoto)

Discussion of this translation by Hugh Bygott


hae uchite kyô mo kiku nari yama no kane

while swatting a fly
today again...
the mountain temple bell

oi ushi mo hae harau o wa mochi [ni] keri

even the old cow
has a fly-whisking

utte utte to nogarete warau hae no koe

swat! swat!
the escaping fly buzzes
with laughter

More fly haiku by Issa, (Tr. David Lanoue)


> > > fly swatter
> > > Buddhist monks sure aim
> > > at nothing

> fly swatter
> a Zen monk's sure aim
> at nothing

"chibi" (pen-name for Dennis M. Holmes)


summer drizzle ~
the cow swirls the tail
swats the flies

© Narayanan Raghunathan , India, April 21, 2005


musasabi no kuru kamo shirezu kayari taku

a flying squirrel
might come by -
burning insect repellants

Saito Kafu / Saitoo Kafuu 斉藤夏風
Tr. Gabi Greve



Serbia National Day -
the things we learn
from commercials

Gabi Greve, February 2010

Serbia National Day and mosquito coils
from the Kincho company

Related words

***** haetorigusa, haetori gusa 蠅取草 (はえとりぐさ)
"fly catching plant" . Venus's-flytrap, Venus Flytrap
..... 蠅捕草(はえとりぐさ)
haetorisoo 蠅毒草(はえどくそう)
Dionaea muscipula


***** Mosquitoe (ka) 蚊

***** Fleas and lice (nomi, shirami) louse





Cow Lady said...

I never knew fly swatters were so interesting! I often wish I had a tail like that old cow so I could swat away with it. Mooooooooooo! Gabi. Thanks for the info.

Unknown said...

Very very interest!!
Gabi san, i like this swatting fly items.
The most favourit is fly catcher made from glass.
When I saw it ,my tears drop falling.


Gabi Greve said...

Fly-Ku :

"Fly-ku's most important accomplishment is demonstrating how translation into English must either ruin poems by stripping words of their meaning or anthropomorphize them."

. Fly Ku about Flies .


Gabi Greve, link to Fay said...

yûgatô zense watashi mo mushi deshita

a lamp luring moths
I was an insect, too
in my previous life

Kaneda Mizuho 金田みずほ

(Tr. Fay Aoyagi)


Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa - kayari

tsuyu oku ya ban no kayari no kusa no hana

evening's smudge pot smoke
over wildflowers

(Tr. David Lanoue)

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

shuro -
tawashi たわし / 束子 scrubbing brush, Scheuerbürste, Handschrubber
shuro hooki 棕櫚 ほうき broom made from shuro hemp palm