asazuke

Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Farmlog September 2013 17 November, 2017

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 5:20 pm
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1st~2nd

Kintora Matsuri (fun festival with music food and sake, sadly now over) in Ozone so we stay in Nagoya.


8th~9th

Autumn is here. A cold front brought that interminable hot summer to an abrupt end with a torrential downpour on Wednesday (something like the Guerilla Rain that hit us on 2000/9/11!) and temperatures back in the 20’s. Sunday is more rain most of the way up, and the rice is lying flattened, but by the time we arrive it’s starting to clear up, and we have a starry sky in the evening, along with an autumn insect chorus that has to compete with the stream, swollen with all that rain, and “Tokyo Jazz” live on the radio. (I’m not a major Chick Corea fan but his new band sounded incredible that night.)

Meanwhile, we had visitors in the last two weeks. The zucchini and pumpkins are all gone, even that half-eaten one. The net is down – could it have been a joint attack by the monkeys and deer? The goya are OK though – animals have more sense than to eat anything that bitter. Monkeys hate chillies too, apparently, but the deer love to eat the leaves if they get a chance.

Monday is a glorious autumn day. I fix the net and cross fingers – though there’s nothing left to attack – and pick some goyas. Just down the road yesterday’s rain-flattened rice has already been cut.

Min. temp. 15°C, max. 28°C


15th~16th


Typhoon weekend! No. 18 seems to be heading right this way, and the radio’s talking about torrential rain – total falls of 400~500mm! We think about abandoning our weekly trip, but in Nagoya there’s not a drop as yet so we set off just before noon. There are plenty of dark clouds overhead, and a greasy sort of typhoon wind is blowing fitfully around the supermarket carparks, but we arrive OK to find the temperature just right. I pick chillies and mini-tomatoes while I can. The higanbana are out a week early.

Eating outside seems foolhardy, so we have dinner in the kotatsu, listening to rain reports of flooding and landslides. It finally starts raining about 11PM and continues all night, though not outrageously heavy.

On Monday the rain stops about midday, but somehow out here we’ve missed all the damage done elsewhere as no.18 landed at Toyohashi and moved up through Tohoku. (They’re nervous about all that rainwater in Fukushima.) Meanwhile Monday afternoon is fresh and pleasant. I see the again. I pick some more goya , and see a tiny snake with a bright yellow collar. Aound 5:00 there’s a sudden cold wind.

Min. temp. 16°C, max. 29°C


22nd~23rd

The weather has settled and Sunday is a pleasant autumn day with blue sky and a bit of light cloud. The temperature is just right – finally the summer heat has broken. Shadows are longer and the days are shorter – Monday is the Equinox.

For some reason vegetables are expensive: cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants… but at the farmers’ stand there are 100yen pumpkins. It’s a good price and pumpkins keep so we buy one. Our mini-tomato plant has done well too. They’re delicious. I don’t prune them or train them up posts – just let them do their thing.

The evening temperature is also perfect for dinner outside, serenaded by the crickets. There’s not a breath of wind.

Monday morninng is perfect again! It’s cool in the shade with a bit of breeze today, though the sun has a bite. That summer humidity is all gone. A little lizard comes out to entertain us after breakfast.

We’re going back to town to see a film, so there isn’t a lot of time to pick chillies and bury compost…

Min. temp. 12°C, max. 25°C


29th~30th

The maximum and minimum temperatures don’t really reflect it, but this week it’s been a good bit cooler. Nagoya’s been very pleasant, and on Sunday it’s still pretty clear with just a sprinkling of autumn cloud.

The goya have slowed down – just a couple are of pickable size, and the little ones probably won’t grow much more. There are lots of red chillies though, and some more mini tomatoes. The little hot “ishigaki” chillies are very hot this year, but the plants haven’t grown as big as usual. Not enough fertiliser?

I do a bit of weed cutting – long neglected, like this blog – till it gets dark, which is now at 6:00, an hour earlier than summer.

The evening is pleasant – dinner under the stars is quite feasable with a fire.

There’s been no rain for a while so everything’s pretty dry, which is nice for us. The chillies seem to be coping OK too.

Spot another of those tiny snakes with a yellow collar.

Min. temp. 11°C, max. 27°C

 

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Farmlog August 2013

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 4:47 pm
Tags: ,

4th~5th

Another HOT summer oniyuri-130805-0002day. The car-park of the first supermarket on our way is a sea of baking asphalt, as usual.

Near the house there’s a flock of swallows gathered on on the phone lines, in the same place as last year. Are they getting ready to leave already? Have they had enough of the heat?

Arriving, welcomed by the call of the uguisu and a friendly bite from a local mosquito.

Outside the house we sit for a while, immobilized in a sort of gel composed of the sticky heat and the insidious sounds of the cicadas.

There’s a tiger-lily in bloom. A tiny baby snake, dark brown, the length of a big earthworm, but thinner, hides in the grass.

It starts raining on and off in the evening and continues on Monday. Humid. Unpleasant.

Min. temp. 22°C, max. 31°C


13th~15th

It’s too hot to work and everyone else is on summer holiday so we take three extra days off, driving up on Tuesday with a friend Linda in time to catch the Kanayama fireworks that evening, which turn out to be even better this year. Back to the house for dinner and a splendid insect chorus (which continues in the daytime too). Some autumn insects are starting to join in. The Perseid meteor shower peaked on Monday but we catch a few late that night. Stay up till 3:00.

Wednesday is a bit blurry and too hot as usual. I’m not so genki. Taking Linda back to the station we call in at the “yottsu no taki” waterfalls, which are beautiful and nice and cool. In a good year the autumn colours round there are magnificent. Back home it’s too hot to do anything. Have an early night.

Thursday morning is beautifully fresh at 9:00 but by 10:00 it’s sweltering hot. This is the daily pattern (evenings are pleasantly cool though). Myoga flowers are coming up. We see a few red dragonflies, which really belong to autumn. 15th August marks the end of WW2.

Min. temp. 20°C, max. 33°C


18th~19th

It’s only three days since our last visit; we’re happy to leave the Nagoya furnace but the heat doesn’t let up out of town. In the first supermarket carpark you can feel the sun burning your face like a heatlamp.

The rice is turning golden and bending over in many fields – harvest is not far away.

There’s a little tree frog on the outside of our window. I find a little lizard climbing around an azalea bush.

The evening stays hot, it’s that “warm humid air from the south” thing though the ground is dry – there’s been no actual rain for the last two weeks or so.

The insect chorus builds towards a jubilant climax. Sometimes the cicadas make the heat feel hotter, but today they sound so happy…

Min. temp. 21°C, max. 32°C


25th~26th

Rain. The Autumn Rain Front has arrived and there’s major flooding in the west of Japan. Here it’s hot, but wet too – the garden needs it though. We stop off at Kimble on the way out and hit lucky this time – real German beer at ¥95 a can! I haven’t tasted this brand but the reinheitsgebot more or less guarantees it won’t be disgusting. Maybe Germany doesn’t have the crazy variety of Belgian beer, but you can’t brew up a mixture of rice and treacle, add a bit of hop extract and call it beer. I buy three cases – no happoshu for a month or so!

Goya are having a good year – is it the heat? Anyway they’re cheap and plentiful everywhere. Bitter and sour tastes are refreshing in the summer heat for some reason.

Around the second supermarket it suddenly gets cool, and at the house even hints at chilly. Overhead the sky is clear blue with wispy scraps of cloud – we’ve passed through the rain front into the cool high-pressure area to the north. Autumn Rules, for now anyway, and the autumn insects are responding with a beautiful chorus.

Sunday evening is cold so we go inside. That German beer is OK, somewhat dry and hoppy. It’s not amazing but for ¥95 quite acceptable.

There’s a monster weed growing in front of the house. I haven’t seen this one before so let it grow to see what kind of flowers it will have.

Something has been chewing on one of our pumpkins – a weasel? – a raccoon? I pick the first batch of red chillies.

Min. temp. 20°C, max. 33°C

 

Farmlog July 2013

Filed under: countryside,seasons — johnraff @ 4:25 pm
Tags: ,

Yes, this was four years ago! I’m making another attempt to get caught up – there are still notes for all our trips out to Gifu…

7th ~ 8th

Tokyo has exited the Rainy Season already, while here it’s been extremely hot and humid since Friday, even under a somewhat summery-looking sky. For once even I appreciate the air conditioning in the car.

We buy some beautiful shiny eggplants and crisp cucumbers at the ¥100 stand. Tomatoes are delicious too.

Get to the house and it’s still hot and sultry. The entrance and kitchen floors are wet for the first time this year, from the air moisture meeting the cold ground. I must say, though, getting rid of the funky old tatami matting was a good move. The plain wood floor that replaced it is much less disgusting at this time of year.

Pick our first zucchini from the plants we put in in the spring.

In the evening, not a single firefly (disappointed!), but fine views of the Milky Way. It’s Tanabata, whn you’re supposed to look at the Milky Way but which is usually clouded over. At 10:30 a drop of water falls on my neck. 10 seconds later another one. Rain? While we’re moving the table under the front porch the sky opens. It pours down for 20 minutes, puts the fire out, then stops.

Monday morning is clear but not exactly fresh, though the weather people say the tsuyu is over for us too. We put the futons out to air. Suddenly it clouds over and rains – a mad dash to put the futons away before they get damp – but it’s over in 15 minutes. This is what they call “unstable weather”.

A hot day, anyway.

Min. temp. 17°C, max. 30°C


14th~15th

Cloud is forecast but there’s plenty of blue sky as we leave Nagoya. However… a bit down the road, right in front of us there’s a huge black cloud with a vague grey curtain underneath. It’s probably pouring with rain just where we’re going. Sure enough, at the first supermarket it’s right overhead, but still dry below. Perhaps it’s going to pass over and drop its load elsewhere? Done shopping, and on our way again the sky is clear, but there is water everywhere. The rain was here, and plenty of it, by the looks of it.

Maybe it’s because of the heat, but goya and tomatoes are more expensive in the shops than you’d expect at this time of year. Down the road, though, the farmers are selling delicious locally-grown tomatoes and other goodies so by the time we get to the house there’s a mountain of stuff in the back of the car – shiny black aubergines for pickling, thick-skinned white ones for roasting, zucchini for curry, crisp cucumbers, green and yellow peppers, hot green chillies, okra and myoga. Summer vegetables!

The insect chorus is starting up. Around 4:00 the heat eases off a bit and a certain cicada’s chirruping fills the valley. My favourite time of day in summer.

At dinner, along with fish and chips, T. fries some of those vegetables (peppers, aubergines, okra and celery) and drops them in a bath of dashi, sake, mirin, soy sauce and vinegar. It’s very good.

Monday morning starts strangely cold, and even during the midday heat there’s sometimes a cool breeze. Over breakfast T. discovers a leech between her fingers. Freak out! We sprinkle on salt to get the leech off, then more to draw out the poison. The latter is Yamada-san’s advice – we’ll see tomorrow if it works. Half an hour later I’ve got one between my toes! These things are a really unwelcome recent addition to the community.

Min. temp. 19°C, max. 33°C


21st~22nd

But for the stifling humidity it would be a perfect summer’s day; there’s a blue sky with wispy white clouds that only close in for 1/2 an hour or so in the late afternoon without raining. The nozenkazura is in orange bloom, along with nokanzo and another red flower I don’t know the name of. The big chillies are coming on, the zucchini and goya are also trying, but there’s not yet anything to pick.

The evening insect chorus is building up nicely.

They’re talking about ghost and horror stories on the radio – a traditional summer pastime. You’re supposed to enjoy the chills…

Monday is overcast. The heat continues…

We get another glimpse of The Last Carp.

It’s doyo no ushi no hi. There are two this year, a traditional occasion to eat eel. Brushed with soy sauce and grilled over charcoal “kabayaki” eel are delicious with rice and are supposed to give you the energy to cope with this debilitating heat. Unfortunately they’re about to become extinct. The wild elvers, caught to be raised in tanks in Japan, Taiwan or China, have taken a catastrophic fall in numbers over the last few years. If there are any eel on the market at all they’ll probably be a luxury item before long, unless the technique of fish-farming eels from eggs is quickly discovered.

Rain at 1:00. Luckily this time we noticed the dark clouds and suspiciously cool breeze in time to get everything inside before it got wet. It’s sweletering again by 2:00.

Min. temp. 18°C, max. 31°C


28th~29th

Sunday is another hot day, with a baking sun on top of the humidity. It does cool off a little in the evening though, and dinner outside is quite pleasant except for the mosquitos which close in as the fire dies down and bite our feet.

Monday morning is cold, and raining. I pick two nice goya, but find that some small animal has attacked the pumpkin and zucchini. The rain goes on all day and we head back to town early.

Min. temp. 19°C, max. 31°C

 

Trahison des clercs? 26 June, 2017

Filed under: politics — johnraff @ 2:43 pm
Tags: , ,

One interesting thing that’s come out of the Kake scandal is the warfare that’s breaking out between the Ministry of Education and the Cabinet Office. While Abe and Suga were talking about “phantom documents” (with incriminating references to pressure from Abe on civil servants to benefit his friends), the pictured Kihei Maekawa, ex MOE head, held a news conference to say that such documents definitely existed! Soon other MOE people were raising their hands to say “me too”. The Minister of Education was finally obliged to admit their existence.

The accepted wisdom about civil servants in Japan is that they are corrupt (think of “ama-kudari” with which, ironically, Maekawa was associated) and very conservative, holding up the modernization of the country with a forest of outdated regulations. During the Democratic Party’s brief spell in power one of their main targets was to reduce the power of the bureaucracy so that elected politicians could enact more progressive programmes. Unfortunately they were very clumsy about it, and merely succeeded in making enemies who impeded everything they tried to do. A high-placed official in the Foreign Office went so far as to give the Americans advice on how to resist PM Hatoyama’s attempts to move US military bases off Okinawa! (This, along with similar treasonous behaviour by the LDP resulted in the effective destruction of the DPJ.)

Abe, with his huge Diet majority, has continued the anti-bureaucracy crusade, this time to better advance his agenda of concentrating power around the Prime Minister, and away from everybody else. In that context, it’s refreshing to see people like Maekawa stand up to him, and condemn the corruption that his absolute power is causing.

OK now just a couple of days ago, NHK had a news feature about a group of young civil servants in the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and their recent white paper about social security. (They’ve got a Facebook page too.) Outspoken, quite critical of government policy, maybe controversial in places… Go bureaucrats!

 

Japan Times on the corruption thing:

Source: Probe Abe’s ties with the media, Maekawa urges | The Japan Times

 

The Abe School of Corruption 18 June, 2017

Filed under: politics — johnraff @ 5:05 pm
Tags: , , ,

A bit more background on yesterday’s post.

Source: The Abe School of Corruption – SNA Japan

 

This is how Abe operates. 17 June, 2017

Filed under: politics — johnraff @ 6:55 pm
Tags: , , ,

Hmm, no blog posts for… how long? Anyway, resolving to improve the situation, and eventually catch up on all the pencil-on-paper backed up “farmlog” reports, here’s a note on the way Abe seems to have the whole Japanese establishment under his Reign of Terror.

He hasn’t (yet) tortured or exterminated anyone, although Okinawan protest leader Hiroji Yamashiro was locked up in inhumane conditions for months on trumped-up charges, no, Abe works more subtly than that. Ruling party LDP dietmen owe him their seats and prefer to keep quiet. No faction leaders have spoken up to denounce his more idiotic policy initiatives. The press and media are more interested in company loyalty than doing their job as journalists and the once neutral NHK has become something close to a government mouthpiece (although slightly better since the horrible Momii left as director).

So, here’s a perfect example of why Abe doesn’t need the Kempeitai. In the recent Kake scandal, the government repeatedly claimed that documents suggesting Abe was giving tax money to a friend were “bogus”. After bureaucrats started putting their hands up and saying, yes, they had seen such documents, they were finally forced to admit their existence. So, now the Asahi reports:

Vice education minister Hiroyuki Yoshiie has threatened to take disciplinary action against the whistle-blower who divulged details of a document at the center of a scandal over the planned establishment of a veterinary medicine faculty.

Source: Vice education minister warns whistle-blower may be punished:The Asahi Shimbun

The thing is, they aren’t likely to actually fire the guy. If that happened he might well sue them for wrongful dismissal, and whatever way it went, it would stir up all kinds of unwelcome publicity. Easier, just suggest that he might be in trouble. Now whistle-blowers will think twice. That’s what the Secrets Act was for, and the new Conspiracy Law too. They’ll hardly ever have to use these things, just the fear is enough.

 

Belgian happoshu? 22 July, 2016

Filed under: food & drink — johnraff @ 5:47 pm
Tags: , ,

Breaking a long cyber silence here to celebrate Nagoya’s early exit from the “Tsuyu” rainy season with a post on one of my favourite topics – beer. “Happoshu” – a sort of imitation beer which uses low quantities of malt to get a lower tax rate – has been with us for some years now, followed by “third type” beers which get the tax bracket even lower. At first they were pretty disgusting with all kinds of weird aftertastes, but the clever brewing companies have been polishing their techniques and now some of these cheap “third beers” are actually sort-of OK. Some people who have been forced to switch from real beer by their falling incomes (even under Abenomics) have started to prefer them to beer! I wouldn’t go that far at all, but get it well chilled in the fridge and some of these “third beers” can be enjoyable enough on a hot summer evening.

crystalbelg

Sapporo beer have been working hard on this, with Suntory and Kirin close behind (I don’t like Asahi), and “Mugi to Hoppu” is still my favourite, but back in 2014 they came out with something called “White Belg”. Someone had obviously twigged that those delicious Belgian beers contain a lot of things other than malt and hops, and might not pass the Japanese malt percentage bar either. White Belg is a copy of the Belgian white beers, like Hoegaarden White, and along with added wheat is flavoured with orange peel and coriander seeds. It really isn’t too bad – a little bit sweet maybe, but quite refreshing. Since then they came out with “Gold Belg” and “Brown Belg” which were pretty good too, each in their own way, but limited issues which disappeared as soon as you found them.

The latest one is called “Crystal Belg”, which I found by chance in a supermarket last week. It’s inspired by the Belgian “saison” style – a summer brew, a little lower in alcohol and with a delicious hoppy aroma. This might be the best of all, and I liked it enough to go back to that supermarket to buy a case of it. No luck. Sold out, and no plans to get in any more, apparently. Hmm.

Anyway, this one’s got a great flowery start, light body and a clean finish that… Just a minute! We’re not talking about some special craft beer here, this is one-hundred-yen-a-can “third beer”. If you see one on a shelf please try it. If like me you have looked everywhere and still can’t find any, you might look on the internet. I was able to order a case via Amazon which came yesterday. Happy ending.

 

 
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