People commonly look forward to fireflies, barbecue parties, picnics, fireworks, festivals and yukata in summer. But what people don’t look forward to is an uninvited house guest: the cockroach. While Japan is generally a clean country, it also happens to be home to some species of roaches, and they just happen to be the ones that are disgustingly big and dark, and the ones that can fly. Typically, these nasty buggers come out during summer months (June-September), when the weather is warm, but some come out as early as April. In any case, some genius created a cockroach forecast (sadly no longer online) for you to check how likely it is to see roaches on a given day.

In my country, we have a saying that there’s no such thing as “macho” in the face of a flying cockroach—not even the toughest and biggest people want to deal with them! As for Japan… well, I’ve heard apocryphal tales of people taking up residence in nearby hotels when they see roaches in their apartment. That sounds like a tall tale, but in any case, it just goes to show that no one is happy to see even a single roach.

If you want to roach-proof your home, the first step is to make sure that your home is clean. Don’t leave litter scattered around, take out the trash regularly, don’t leave food waste in sinks, seal the cracks in your home, and spray your kitchen with one of those kitchen sprays that aren’t harmful to humans but make food waste less attractive to roaches and other pests. However, no matter how clean your home is, that’s still not a guarantee that your home will be roach-free, unfortunately! Neither is living in a higher floor of a building (although it does reduce the likelihood of a roach infestation). If you’re living in an apartment block, just hope that your neighbors also observe a decent standard of cleanliness; otherwise, roaches can still creep into your home. A restaurant below or next to your apartment might also make a roach infestation more likely, as the food waste will attract pests.

And even if your neighbors keep clean and you don’t live near a restaurant, you’re still not guaranteed to be safe from the roaches! No matter how clean an apartment building appears to be, if it’s poorly insulated and its piping is old, roaches can still get in through drain pipes and such. Just thinking about the ways roaches can get into your apartment can make you really paranoid!



Fortunately, because the Japanese hate roaches as much as you do, there’s an array of products you can use to get rid of cockroaches. Here are some of them:

1. Gokijet, other insecticides, and barrier sprays

tatami mite pesticides tokyo japan
Photo by Mareike Dornhege

This handy spray is going to be your best friend. “Goki” is short for “gokiburi,” the Japanese term for a roach, and is specifically meant for roaches. It’s very effective at killing roaches instantly, but the smell can be overpowering. If you don’t want to get close to those pesky roaches, some types of Gokijet have a long nozzle so you can eliminate them from a distance. If you can’t read Japanese, look for green spray cans with illustrations of roaches and these characters: “ゴキジェット” (the katakana for Gokijet). Gokijet helped me the most, but the fumes made me feel slightly dizzy.

There are, of course, other brands in the market as well, but Gokijet seems to be the best-known. There are even freeze sprays for maximum effect. If the fumes are a problem, there are also sprays made of essential oils and other natural ingredients, one example being Mushi-san Bye Bye.

If prevention is better than cure, there are also some barrier sprays that can supposedly keep roaches out just by spraying them around the house. The maker of Gokijet has one called Goki Barrier.

2. Poisoned bait

Fellow cheapo Greg finds this method the most effective, as they’re not much trouble – the only ones they cause trouble to are roaches! Made of boric acid and/or other ingredients, these ball-shaped things can be left around the house and outside for roaches to chew on. It’s that simple!

3. Roach traps

cockroach trap roach motel gokiburi hoi hoi japan tokyo
Stick this gokiburi hoi hoi trap to the cockroaches infesting your home! | Photo by Mareike Dornhege

These are sticky traps with bait that you lay out to capture roaches. Greg doesn’t find them effective, but they work for some people. Some of them just look like sticky mats that you lay out, while others can be best described as a roach motel, as they’re box-like and have cutesy designs. You don’t even have to see the roaches when disposing of the traps. One popular brand is Gokiburi Hoihoi, which means, “Roaches, shoo!”

4. Other

  • Here’s a tip from Adriana: “You can also vacuum them and dispose of the bag instead of chasing them around the house.”
  • If you want to kill roaches the old-fashioned way, slippers or a thick book you no longer want to use (a phone book, perhaps, if they still exist) will do the trick! Just be prepared for a possible mess when the roach goes splat (which is also not a pleasant sight).
  • Roaches also supposedly dislike lavender and citronella oils.
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