Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo

Promo (:27)
Clip 1 (3:15)
Clip 2 (2:24)
Clip 3 (2:39)

About the Film

A young man holding a moth-collecting net hikes up a trail on Mount Fuji. A giant metal sculpture of a rhinoceros beetle along a roadside.

Imagine cramming 128 million people onto an island the size of Montana — that's the density of Japan. Not surprisingly, space is at a premium and ergonomic design is right up there next to godliness.

Yet even in Tokyo, the epicenter of this figurative "can of sardines," people of all ages still make room for a tiny bit of wilderness. It is only fitting that they have become captivated by nature's most efficient creatures in space, design, and function — insects.

Insects are sold live in vending machines and department stores, their plastic replicas included as prizes in the equivalent of a McDonald's Happy Meal, and are the subject of the No. 1 videogame in the country, MushiKing. From the smallest backyard to the top of Mt. Fuji, insects inspire an enthusiasm in Japan seen nowhere else in this world. Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo explores the reasons why Japan developed this extraordinary social relationship with insects.

The film opens in modern-day Tokyo where a single beetle recently sold for $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. Through history and adventure, Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo travels all the way back in time to stories of the fabled first emperor who named Japan the "Isle of the Dragonflies."

Along the way the film takes side trips to Zen temples and Buddhist shrines, nature preserves and art museums in its quest for the inspirations that moved Japan into this fascination while other cultures hurtled off towards an almost universal and profound fear of insects.

The Filmmaker

Filmmaker Jessica Oreck wearing audio headphones around her neck

Jessica Oreck works as an animal keeper and docent at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. When not at the museum, Jessica spends her time inventing new ways to create a sense of wonder in the world. Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo is Jessica's first feature film.