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Japanese Man Pays $90,000 for Bug

August 19, 1999 GMT

TOKYO (AP) _ A Japanese businessman has dished out $90,000 for a beetle _ a price believed to be a record even for this bug-crazy nation.

Giant stag beetles usually start at about $4.50 in Japan, where they are often called ``black diamonds″ _ a reference to their shiny black exoskeletons.

But the three-inch bug in question was unusually large, according to Mikako Takei of Wakuwaku Land, a Tokyo store specializing in insects.

The 36-year-old company president, who bought the bug Saturday for his collection, is refusing to be identified or interviewed for fear of being targeted by thieves, she said Thursday.

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Earlier this year, thieves intent on getting their hands on the crawling creatures knocked off a Tokyo beetle shop, making off with bugs worth $67,000.

Bugs hold a special place in the hearts of many Japanese, who often keep crickets, beetles and fireflies as pets. Their calls are considered soothing and remind the nature-loving Japanese of a simpler, less hectic age. Searching for grasshoppers and butterflies is also a favorite pastime for children.

But the giant stag beetle, with its impressive horn-like pinchers, is especially coveted. They’ve become so popular that they’re sold in pet shops, train stations and glitzy department stores. Earlier this year, one Tokyo company even began selling the bugs in vending machines.

But the bigger and pricier beetles are for serious adult collectors, who, in addition to size, look for beetles with no scars and a shell with a healthy sheen. A well-cared-for stag beetle can live in captivity for two or more years.

In Japan, the love affair with bugs goes back to the ancient poets who sang their praises. An often-quoted work by 17th century poet Basho, generally regarded as the ultimate master of haiku poetry, celebrated the entrancing cry of the cicada.