Life in Japan

How safe is your apartment from cockroaches in Japan?

I know that this is not a topic everybody wants to talk or read about, but if you consider living in Japan – or if you already live here – then you will have to deal with those disgusting little critters. Cockroaches in Japan can become a huge nuisance and you should learn how to get rid of them if they have invaded your Japanese domicile.

Just yesterday I encountered the first roach of this year in the middle of the night, but I was well prepared, so the “fight” didn’t take long. I was the happy and proud winner! :D

 

Cockroaches in Japan:

Before moving to Japan I already heard a few horror stories about roaches invading apartments. I was worried.
However, in my first year I never “met” any cockroach.
I felt safe enough and didn’t expect that it could ever become a problem for me!

But one day in autumn I came home late from work and I heard a scratching sound. It was a roach quickly hiding behind a paper box. At first, I wasn’t even sure if it was a cockroach or not. Until then I had never seen a roach in my life!!

Without confirming what exactly it is, I tried to chase it with a fly swatter, but it was way too fast for me! I couldn’t hit it.
Eventually it hid in a box and I just took the box with the roach in it and put it out on my balcony. The next day the box was empty.

After that I spent the whole weekend cleaning my apartment, trying to find more roaches, eggs or their nest.

As you can see, I had no idea how to deal with cockroaches!
In my home country Germany (and my German readers will confirm that) you’ll only find roaches in super dirty places.

I just thought that my apartment maybe wasn’t clean enough.
How wrong I was! There were so many things I had to learn!
And I think I should share them with you, so that you’re better prepared than me.

 

How to deal with cockroaches in Japan:

Japanese houses and apartments have generally a pretty bad insulation. That’s why Japanese houses are extremely hot in summer and freaking cold in winter! It also means that insects will be regular (unwanted) visitors to your domicile. Most of them aren’t dangerous, but disgusting!

Just keep in mind that you can’t prevent cockroaches from coming, but there are a few measures you can take to keep these “encounters” as rare and as short as possible:

 

Sticky Traps:

Very common are sticky traps. There’s no poison involved, so you can use it even when you have babies, little kids or pets around. They are very simple to set up and not too expensive.

One of the most popular brands is “Gokiburi HOI-HOI“, but other sticky traps will do the same job.


Cockroaches in Japan

As everything in Japan even gokiburi (ゴキブリ, Japanese for cockroach) are presented in a cute way!

The traps work in a simple way. A roach will smell the food bait and crawl inside the “house” with the sticky floor and then it’s game over. Personally I have never caught a roach with it, but I’ve seen them in traps at my workplace.

One good thing about these traps is that you’ll capture other critters with it as well. I’ve had mosquitoes, spiders and even a mouse in there once!

 

Poisonous “dango”:

Another item I use are so-called “gokiburi dango“. There are several different types (not all of them are called “dango”), but they all work pretty much in the same way.

Cockroaches in Japan

Photo Credit: Amazon Japan

Again it works as a food bait. Roaches will eat the poison and eventually die. As disgusting as it is, but other roaches will eat the excrements of their fellows and that’s how the poison will effectively spread. It also affects the eggs, so eventually you can get rid of a whole nest if necessary.

 

The best weapon:

All the previous measures are meant to get rid of roaches that you won’t meet.
Unless you have a real infestation, you won’t see them during daytime. We once had so many roaches at my workplace that they were walking around even during daytime and into the classrooms, far away from the kitchen. Very creepy!

If you encounter a cockroach the measures above won’t help you. You need to get rid of it and that as quickly as possible as those little bastards are fast!

  • Do NOT use normal insect spray as it won’t affect them – unless you use the whole thing.
  • Do NOT try to hit them with a swatter (like I did) as they’re too fast and they might spread eggs when being hit.

The best weapon you can use is this:

Cockroaches in Japan

It’s a spray called “Gokijetto” and it is made to kill cockroaches. It’s not meant to be used on other insects.

It’s very strong and will kill the roaches very fast. Just be careful not to use too much of it and to air your room afterwards or it might affect you as well.
When I used the spray for the first time, I overdid it and had a headache for many hours afterwards.

Especially for us girls it’s great as it has such a long “pipe”. We don’t have to get too close to the creepy crawlers!

 

Other measures:

There are a lot of different things you can do in order to fight gokiburi.

Apart from the products I introduced here, you can find a lot more. Every drug store and most supermarkets will have sprays, poisoned food baits and sticky traps. If you can’t find them, ask for “gokiburi kujozai ” (ゴキブリ駆除剤).

While it’s true that roaches will invade your home even if it’s clean, it’s always a good idea to keep everything neat, especially your kitchen! Cockroaches like water, so make sure that the area around your sink is dry and that there are no food leftovers anywhere!

You should make sure to seal your domicile as much as possible. Roaches might come in through the sink plug hole, the air-conditioner, even the front door – thanks to the bad insulation.

Some people say that gokiburi don’t like the smell of lavender, others say they despite the smell of hinoki (ヒノキ, Japanese cypress).
I personally use a lavender room spray, but mainly because I really like it! I can’t tell if it helps to keep cockroaches away or not.

 

Know when to expect them:

There are good news! In winter there are no cockroaches. Usually from November to March you won’t see them at all. In colder regions like Hokkaido the “cockroach-free” time is even longer! Although I fear in Okinawa you might have them all year round.

There’s even a “cockroach forecast” (gokiten.varsan.jp), so you can check out if it’s “gokiburi season” in Japan or not.

Cockroaches in Japan

There’s also a community, so you can whine about your most recent encounter and share it with millions of other “victims”.

 

How about you?

Do you mind cockroaches at all?
Have you ever encountered one? How did you deal with it?
Are roaches a problem where you live?

49 Comments

  • Yea, they’re so bad.
    i lived in 6th floor old apartment last year, and in summer it was horrible like i can’t describe!!! horrible!!
    now i moved to (also 6th floor), a new and nice apartment, and it’s winter but i found one-two gokkiburi in the first day i moved!!!!!
    kinda crazy. till now, i still found some gokkiburi, although i try to keep my room clean.
    maybe not clean enough to keep them away? *blush*

    • Ida, that sounds horrible! :(
      I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling with them.
      I doubt it has to do with how clean your place is here in Japan. Those creepy things are just everywhere!
      And even if you keep your own apartment super clean, your neighbor might not. Hello, roaches! (T___T) …

  • I’ve just killed my very first cockroach in two years in my 6th floor until now insect-free apartment (with a Gokijetto my predecessor cleverly left me).

    Should I be worried about a nest or comrades?

    • Nope. I was afraid about that, too, when I saw my first roach ever in Japan.
      Unless you keep seeing roaches on a daily basis and even during the day, I wouldn’t worry. ^__^

  • Just had the exact same experience as you :P Have also been living here for almost a year now and never seen a roach but just now when I went to the kitchen it ran over the floor hiding behind the kitchen door :O I come from Sweden and as u probably guess as with Germany there are no Cockroaches in Sweden :P But I’m so glad I found your post before trying anything :) now I will be able to do the right thing from the start :)

  • I’m probably going to go buy all the above this weekend. Since the weather has started to cool down (I live in Okinawa), those creatures are crawling under the front door. Between the typhoons, cooler weather and the brush being cleared around our houses – we’ve found them in the cars, the house, just about everywhere. The constant creepy crawlies are the worst. If anything touches me, I immediately jolt at this point.

    Gah. I hate bugs and this island is FULL of them.

    • Molly, I hear you!
      I just spent a few days in Okinawa this October and there were quite a few creepy crawlers, especially the ants were annoying.
      I hope you were able to get rid of them. (T_T)

  • I live in NC and never have roach problems..it’s because the ground freezes in winter here so unless the bugs have been inside in winter they will die. I have lived in Texas though and been afflicted with what I was told are called German cockroaches which are the small HORRIBLE kind that multiply like wildfire. The only way to really get rid of them is boric acid powder which you have to be careful with and not inhale the powder..spoon it into their hiding places and they walk over it and take it back to their nests and it wipes out whole colonies.

    • I lived in Tokyo and Yokohama for a year, never found a single cockroach in my apartments. I did have one hell of an ant infestation since my boyfriend had the bad habit on snacking on the couch and some food probably fell in…. I feel really lucky but I only ever saw cockroaches outside downtown and mainly at night, but they would run so quick and were so big, I always wondered if they weren’t mice before my brain processed what I had just seen >_< My American friend found one in her hair when she woke up once though….. barf!!!!

  • I hate insects, specially cockroaches and rats because I had a phobia from that. II had my last travel in Japan way back 2011 and stayed in an apartment. I was bite by rat and still has scars on my arm.I’ll be having a trip in Japan next year, I hope you can recommend a safe apartment. Thank you in advance.

    • I’m sorry to hear about your bad experience.
      And I’m sorry to spoil the fun, but there are no safe apartments. Roaches, rats etc. can pretty much appear anywhere.
      Maybe next time you should go to northern Hokkaido. They don’t have that many creepy crawlers and some parts have no roaches at all. :D

  • Thanks for the Info here.
    Been living in japan for 3 years now, first apartment never had a roach. 2nd, I saw one, once it was fucking big and black, kicked it outside while the door was open, was on second floor, and it feel down to the first floor.

    Moved in a new, old apart 1 week ago, keep seeing some smaller bug, everyday, so I goggled, and they kinda look like the “Yamato” roaches, though I’m not 100% sure they are… especially since it’s still super cold now, I’m surprised I’d get them so early.

    Anyway I’m going to put out some traps, since you said they work on other bugs, even if they are actually not roaches, maybe they’ll get them anyway.

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