a triptych by Toyokuni Utagawa depicting an excursion to gather bamboo shoots (early 1800s)

According to Japan’s ancient calendar of 72 microseasons, right now is microseason 21: the time of year when “Bamboo Shoots Sprout.” Known as takenoko in Japan, these voracious plants have numerous uses in Japan, both as building materials but also edible vegetables. They can be store-bought but in ancient Japan they were delicacies that had to be picked and eaten right away or they would harden. The image above from the 1800s is part of a series depicting seasonal activities around the year. This one, from May, is a beautiful triptych that depicts noblewomen out on an excursion to gather bamboo shoots.

However, their incredible vitality and speed at which they grow—sometimes as much as 1 ft per day—can also wreak unexpected havoc on homes, particularly in the countryside.

“A community center vandalized.” “The gang entered from beneath the floor.” “The suspects remain at the scene of the crime.” That’s a tongue-in-cheek news report from May of last year after a bamboo shoot was found to have protruded through the floor of a community center in the city of Izumo (Shimane prefecture).

Although a relatively rare occurrence, this is the time of year when social media users will post photos of their “intruders.” Some are caught early, often when residents notice their tatami mats seemingly buckling up. But other times, especially if the homes or community centers are seldom used, owners can come home to find some shocking home invasions.

photo by Twitter user @komo_neko posted in late April 2024

photo by Twitter user @ogura898 posted in late April 2022

photo by Twitter user @ma_estate posted in early July 2020

If you live in rural areas with bamboo forests, this might be a good time to check under your floorboards.