Directed by Jessica Oreck • 2009 • United States, Japan
Working backward through history, BEETLE QUEEN CONQUERS TOKYO explores the mystery of the development of Japan’s love affair with insects. It opens in modern-day Tokyo—where bugs are sold live in vending machines and a single beetle recently fetched $90,000—then slips back to the early 1800s, to the first cricket-selling business and the development of haiku and other forms of insect literature and art. Along the way, director Jessica Oreck takes side trips to Zen temples and Buddhist shrines, nature preserves and art museums, in a quest to understand what inspired the country’s enduring fascination with bugs, even as other cultures developed an almost universal and profound fear of insects. The result is a captivating work of ethnobiology that challenges not only the way we think about bugs, but the way we think about life.