It was July.
The night air was filled with dust and heat. The warm scent of the mountain breezes filled me with excitement. I was in Uda-shi, Japan.
Even though my yukata was wrapped around my ribs entirely too tight, I still managed to squeeze myself through a plastic tunnel and climbed to the highest portion of the playground’s wooden platforms. I hoisted myself up and balanced on a creaky wooden beam. There, I had the perfect vantage point of the summer festival and, any minute, the fireworks would begin.
It was so hot that night. My host mother had pulled my hair into a bun hours earlier, but now little whispies that had fallen loose clung to the back of my neck.
I intentionally had snuck away from the festival and the group of students also on this cultural immersion with me to come to this very spot. I mentally staked claim on my wooden throne eight hours before as we climbed and played during our lunch break. We were volunteering with elderly that day when we first heard about the fireworks. Immediately, I was entranced with the idea of summer fireworks in Japan.
Exploding and popping and releasing their colors into the sky, the whole night lit up and the outlines of the mountains glowed. From where I sat, I could see the mass of children, adults, and animals alike each time a firework cracked light onto the dusty field. Drums blaring, it was the most spectacular moment of the summer. It was flawless. I was in Japan and nothing could go wrong.
Until it did.
Stupefied by the beauty and glamor of the moment. I ignored a persistent tickle on my arm. It was probably just my obi sash flowing majestically in the wind. But finally, the tickle overpowered my fixed gaze of the fireworks and I glared into the darkness at my arm. Between the bursts of fireworks, the night was pitch black. Uda is a rural village void of abundant neon lights like the neighboring massive city of Osaka.
With the next eruption of a firework, light flashed providing me with a half a second glimpse of the horror which sat upon my arm. The most massive spider than I have EVER seen stared right back at me. Thinking back to it still takes my breath away. I later image searched Japanese spiders and decided this horrendous creature most similarly resembles the creature that crawled upon me that night.
What happened next was an out-of-body experience. I could heard myself shriek with fear, but I could not feel the noises escape my throat. I thrashed so violently that I lost balance from my wooden perch and tumbled backwards off of the playground set. The fall must’ve been nearly fifteen feet, because in the distance from the beam to the steep mountain ground, I flipped over backwards a full time in the air.
I landed flat on my ass. Hard.
Still panicking and disoriented I continue to yelp and stumbled to my feet, only to find that the mountain side was at a near 50 degree angle and impossible to balance on. In the next flash from a firework, I saw the disgusting, crumbled, and crushed body of the spider. I killed it with my own ass.
I stumbled backwards, twisted and proceeded to blow chunks. Everywhere.
After I was done heaving and gagging. I shamefully wandered my way back to the festival with vomit on my sleeve and spider guts caked on my ass. I snuck past adoring Japanese locals with my vomit arm behind my back and the other one waving awkwardly as I scooted sideways around them so they would not catch a glimpse of my butt. I jogged into the gym where they had us foreigners change into the yukatas and quickly removed mine, wrapped it in a plastic Seven Eleven bag and stuffed it at the very, very bottom of a nearby trash can.
I never, ever told anyone that I ruined that yukata. But I’ll laugh about it forever.