Fighting Samurai Spiders of Kagoshima

Once I was driving when I noticed a huge brown widow spider walking from one side of the steering wheel to the next.  In those few seconds when I was debating what I should do, I had to dig deep to not panic and cause an accident!  Of course as a lover of Ecology, I could not bring myself to kill it!  So despite my fears I reached over, grabbed it very gently in a napkin, then kept it in my cup holder!  No lies though, after I parked to let it go, I noticed that the spider was gone from the napkin!… To this date, I never found that spider!  Everyday I drive my car, I think about my friend (little Brownie, the name of the spider) and am reminded about the possible friendships that can form between human and spider.  When I think about that relationship (kind of like Pokemon) I am reminded of the Samurai Spiders of Kagoshima, Japan.  I am reminded that despite the innate fear towards spiders that some (or most) people have, such a beautiful and friendly co-existence can still be possible!

If you haven’t seen the video yet, these spider fights are officiated by referees and deaths rarely (if never) occur.  It’s not the typical “bug vs. bug” videos found online where two insects gruesomely kill and eat each other for no apparent reason than for human entertainment.  This is an OFFICIAL annual competition where Pokemon Trainers, I mean spider trainers, gather to compete to see who is number one.  Due to being an official competition, there are three ways in which a spider can achieve victory over another spider.

The first method to win is to deliver a bite first.  The referee will stop the fight between two spiders as soon as one bites another.  The first to bite wins and progresses to the next round.

The second method is for one spider to cover another spider with its web.  To prevent deaths, once a spider is covered and fairly immobilized by the opponent’s webs, the referee will stop to fight mainly to stop the winning spider from delivering a fatal bite.

The third method and the most common way to win is to cut the opponent’s web so the opponent falls to its death (I mean ground or hands of the owner).  Typically, these spiders are live organisms with some ability to measure risk.  As in they won’t over exert themselves for something that’s not food because that’s a typical behavior of animals in the wild.  This is also why the spiders, when fighting, rarely bite each other fatally.  Thus, during the tussling, the spiders will eventually loose their footholds!  They will both (or just one) hang from their web as they try to climb back up.  However, in the meanwhile, the one with the advantage will cut off the web of the dangling spider to prevent it from climbing back on to the fighting stage (a large stick).

Most competitors are children, however the champions come from reputable spider breeders.  In this small town of Kajiki located in Aira city, Kagoshima Japan, the community is really fearless when it comes to the handling and breeding of these spiders.  In fact, this same annual spider competition actually can be traced back to nearly 400 years ago!

It’s truly amazing to see the intricate and loving relationships that have formed between spiders and humans.  In a world where spiders are usually out right killed just for being scary looking, this unique cooperation between spiders and humans serves as a symbol that transcends beyond just spider fighting, and as a symbol of harmony with nature (even with once enemies).