Satoshi Watanabe


In recent years, Haemadipsa zeylanica japonica, a land-dwelling leech referred to as a “yamabiru” in Japanese, has proliferated in the countryside of Japan, because wild animals are a vector of the yamabiru. In some areas, the yamabiru suck the blood of people even in houses. This paper explores how residents living in a yamabiru “hot spot,” where the number of yamabiru is large, have coexisted with the creature which, though troublesome, is almost impossible to avoid. Z City in Kanagawa Prefecture attempted to maintain a long fence to prevent wild animals from entering the “human domain,” although this did not work as expected. Instead, the daily contact between people and the yamabiru generated various relationships other than a simple, hostile relationship: kill-or-be-killed. The trouble caused by the yamabiru encourages the interviewees to rethink their society and history, though coexistence with the yamabiru can never do away with the dream of extermination. Coexistence with yamabiru, in this context, means not living separately, but living with trouble in the contact zone, without making clear-cut borders between human and non-human domains. This paper attempts to demonstrate that people can make efforts to create various relationships even with “real,” not metaphorical, parasites. Insights from this research may bring to light new information that will be of value to contemporary society, where numerous borders that divide people and social groups are being drawn.


Coexistence; Yamabiru (Land-dwelling leech); Extermination; Parasite; Japan

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