Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Usurper, the King's Revenge, and the Gold Spider

It was lovely this morning. After the nasty heat, mugginess and on-and-off rainshowers and thunderstorms of the past several days, it was nice to have a bit of sunlight with the temperature and humidity right at a comfortable level. It was actually pleasant to be out there helping my wife hang up the laundry.

It was even better to have a bit of entertainment. His Royal Redness, Aka (the in-laws' old grandpa cat) was waiting by the in-laws' back door hoping to be let in (or, in lieu of that, to get his back scratched). Meanwhile, Tora (our kitten) was trying and failing to get him to play.

I remembered Agus suggesting that I post a picture of the two cats after my talking about them a couple of posts ago, so I ran and got my digicamera. Unfortunately, although Aka did his best to stand aloof and still as a statue, Tora did not. Trilling his invitation constantly, the little black-striped upstart did a sort of bow and then scooted around on the ground like a dog does when it is displaying submission. When Aka completely ignored him, he jumped up and began dancing around the larger cat, occasionally batting at his tail, but if Aka so much as turned his gaze on him, he dashed away like a shot before coming back and repeating the performance. On one occasion a nearby bird distracted Tora, causing him to pause and stare at the culprit. I raised my camera, but then Aka quietly put up a paw and gave the young whipper-snapper a casual cuff on the back of the head, sending him zipping away into the bushes like he'd been shot.

Time was running out, and I had already given up and was heading back to the house when something interesting happened. Tora had jumped up on a chunk of wood, basically a cross section of a tree, that Aka often uses as his perch. That was more than His Royal Redness' ego could bear. With a low "MRAAAGGHHHHRRR", Aka trotted over to the wood, jumped up on it, and jostled the insolent upstart off. As Tora ducked into the bushes once again, Aka struck a regal pose atop his reconquered throne, pointedly refusing to look at me no matter what I did or where I moved, and remained there until he was finally let in:

Tora, meanwhile, laid low in the bushes of the little garden (which seems like a jungle to him) looking rather annoyed:

Then, not to be outdone by the old fart, he scampered up into the little, well-pruned tree at the edge of the garden and then looked down upon the world from a higher position than Aka's:

Except for a single rotating ear, Aka didn't pay any attention to the youngster whatsoever. Neither did the impressive-looking witness that was caught directly between His Royal Redness' throne and Tora the Brave's tree:

It's a kogane-gumo (lit. "gold spider", the Australian variety of which is known as the "St. Andrews cross spider"), a common summertime visitor. They weave large, impressive-looking orb webs that are supported in the middle by stripes of white cross-bracing.

Here's a closeup of the spider showing those unique web crossbraces. Usually they are laid out in an X pattern, but the upper half appears to be missing. It's hard to tell from this picture, but this spider is pretty big. Its abdomen is about the size of the tip of my little finger, which is on the large side for this type of spider. It was amazing the way it was able to stay so still and so stable even while its web was being blown by the wind. This image also doesn't quite show how vividly colored this spider is. The stripes on its abdomen are bright yellow, and the surrounding spots as well as the bands on its legs are yellow-white. The large, orange circle is its spinnerets.

Yes, it all made for a good morning's entertainment...and then it was off to ye olde academy.


  • Yay! I finally see Aka and Tora. Thanks moody! Hehe... his royal redness does have a huge ego. And tora is darn cute! A morning amusement indeed.

    By Blogger agus, at 6:48 PM  

  • You're welcome! That was sure fast! This post wasn't up more than a few minutes!

    About an hour ago (the sun is now setting), while I was working on this post, I went out to double-check the size of the spider, which was still there. I immediately heard a "MRAAAAAWR" from nearby, and Aka came over and sat down on my feet so I couldn't leave without giving him a good scratch. No sooner did I touch him than Tora appeared out of the bushes looking annoyed (jealous?). I gave both cats a good scratching, but Tora lost his balance and tumbled right under Aka's nose! All Aka did was sniff Tora a little, but the little upstart panicked, swatted Aka's nose, and dove back into the brush as fast as he could go. Aka just stared after him looking confused. Tora stayed hidden until I left Aka. Then he started following me mewing for attention.

    Ah, the joys of feline companionship...

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 6:58 PM  

  • His Royal Redness looks so regal and poor little Tora is so intimidated. Cool cats, both of them. And that spider is interesting and huge for a spider. Colourful too. Nice.

    By Blogger Happysurfer, at 8:11 PM  

  • Nice post. You really captured the personalities of those two characters. Aka really does look like the King, and acts the part.

    Hawaii has spiders (genus Argiope) related to the kogane-gumo. They really are quite spectacular. Those crosses reflect infrared light and are believed to be there to attract insects.

    Oops. Forgot my catcher mitt. Steerrrrike!

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 7:59 AM  

  • Aka is just like Tosca, my Queen of the house.. none of the dogs can get near her and she wont be bother if they bark the H+ll out of their breath, she just sits there and look pretty.

    Tora is just like Metta, trying to get everyone else to play but never succeeded. In the end, Metta learn to play by himself, with the balls and stick.. he will throw the stick and fetch it himself.

    AND I hate spiders.. Yaks

    By Blogger Robin, at 11:40 AM  

  • Feline and canine companionship; they're the best. But I can't own any... yet... I think. The small living space, the care and wellfare responsibilities and the days away from home. I can't even think of setting up an aquarium, let alone having cute roaming fur creatures around the house. Heck, even my potted palm plant died recently. That was the only living companion I had... and I'm only half sad.

    By Blogger agus, at 12:58 PM  

  • I love the photos. Aka is beautiful. A couple of my kitties refuse to look at me when I take a pic... they just can't be bothered by all the fuss. He does indeed have a regalness to him. Tora is adorable! Oh you can tell he has a little attitude... so cute! I'd bet that Aka likes him altho he'd never admit it! ;)

    The spider.... eeeekkkk... that's one big spider! I hate spiders, but it is beautiful. Thankfully we dont get big ones like that here. Are they dangerous?

    By the way, I'm fascinated w/ Japanese culture.... do you guys ever see Geisha? What does your wife think about Geisha?

    By Blogger tooners, at 5:06 PM  

  • Thanks for your comments, everybody!

    Actually, kogane-gumo aren't dangerous at all. The females (like the one pictured) can get pretty big and scary-looking, but they are actually very mild-mannered spiders. They rarely bite even if handled, and even if they do their venom is generally harmless to humans. Their webs can be a bit of a nuisance, though, because they are big, sticky, and usually built at stomach level across some kind of opening or path. You can't miss them during the day, but it's easy to blunder into them at night, and they're pretty nasty.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 11:24 PM  

  • Tooners, geisha aren't quite as common as they used to be, but they do exist, they are part of the culture, and they've actually been seeing something of a comeback recently. They are perhaps most famous...and most widely Kyoto, where they are known as "geiko". The younger ones, who are still in training, are known as "maiko", and they are perhaps even more famous than the geiko themselves.

    Every time I've been to Kyoto on a school trip we've hired a maiko to perform for us, answer questions from our students, and pose for photographs with us. They are very beautiful and impressive to watch. Unlike geiko, who are often self-employed, maiko always have a handler (or "pimp" depending on how respectful you want to be) who is usually a retired geiko.

    Contrary to popular belief, though many if not most geisha, geiko, or maiko no doubt turn tricks on the side (like they did in ancient times), geisha are not really prostitutes in the conventional sense. They are perhaps best described as "companion entertainers". They are trained in a wide variety of traditional dances and arts, and their ettiquette is perfectly refined. They are often hired to attend official banquets and high-brow parties, and their job is basically to make sure everyone is having a good time. This usually means just going around chatting in a pleasant manner, filling drinks, and occasionally getting people to sing.

    It is a actually a very honorable and generally honored profession, though its reputation is mixed. Many people dismiss geisha as nothing more than expensive prostitutes, but such individuals basically are working from hearsay rather than real-life experience. After having met actual geisha and maiko, spoken with them, watched them perform, and been entertained by them at banquets, I can say that the term "prostitute" no more fits them than the term "geological zit" would fit Mauna Kea.

    I don't think my wife has much respect for them, but she has a sort of allergy to expensive "relics".

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 11:48 PM  

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