asazuke

Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Ama-no-Hashi-date and Ine 4 December, 2017

Filed under: food & drink,places — johnraff @ 4:55 pm
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A winter trip we took at the start of 2014 – the pics have been here on the computer, so thought I might as well put some of them up.

This time I didn’t fancy driving in the snow so we took trains and buses – the Shinkansen and then local trains up to Amanohashidate, later buses to Ine and beyond. A-n-h-d is a somewhat well-known “scenic spot” with some vague associations with Lafcadio Hearn. Maybe it’s just because he was in Matsue, up the coast a bit. Anyway, basically it’s a pine-covered narrow peninsula, that almost completely blocks off a small bay.
amanohashidate-1401-0004
I rather like Kannon temples like this one, with their simultaneously exotic and at-home atmosphere. There’s always lots of incense being burnt, lots of wishes being made, and usually plenty of business going on in the area. At the same time, there is a rather dark, mysterious atmosphere… Yes, Kannon-sama is worshipped in China and many other Asian countries too.

amanohashidate-1401-0008The pine-covered spit of land is just a long sand-bank really, but I suppose it’s pretty enough, probably even nicer when the sun is out. Everybody seems to like it a lot, and the area is full of souvenir shops and soba restaurants, because it’s within fairly easy range of Kyoto. Since foreign tourist numbers must have pretty much doubled since 2014 it’s probably well supplied with tour buses now.

We buy some dried fish – it looks tasty and isn’t expensive – and some “heshiko” pickled mackeral. It’s quite strong flavoured, a bit like anchovy maybe, but good with sake or with rice, and I once made a Thai Tom Yam soup with some that also came out quite well.

That evening we don’t stay in a traditional Japanese Inn or homestay, but a sort of lodge run as an annex of a biggish hotel. The room is simple, but cheap at around 7000yen a head, and comes with a French dinner at the restaurant downstairs and a buffet breakfast. Dinner turned out actually not to be too bad at all, so we were quite pleased with the deal.

A few more photos from around Amanohashidate:

amanohashidate-1401-0012amanohashidate-1401-0014amanohashidate-1401-0016amanohashidate-1401-0025

The next day, on to Ine. This is Japan, and we get a little edgy when the bus is 5 minutes late because of the winter roads. Ine has interesting “funaya” houses with built-in garages for boats! The sea comes right into the back of the house.They can get away with this because the village is at the back of a sheltered bay with no waves, and no history of tsunami apparently. I presume the tides must be gentle too.

I’m just leaving a few shots of the place:

Later that afternoon, another bus to our minshuku, where crab is for dinner. The Sea of Japan is famous for crab in winter, but of course you get what you pay for, and while we eat mountains of beni-zuwai-gani (red snow crab) the taste isn’t all that special. According to a TV programme I saw around that time, that crab is caught in very deep waters and frozen on the boats, so “fresh” has no meaning really.

The last day we have a look at the local Urashima Taro shrine. There are shrines to him in a few places around Japan. Near this one is a hole in a bank which leads to the underworld:

Passage to the underworld.

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Farmlog January 2014 29 November, 2017

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 5:04 pm
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Dec.31st~Jan. 3rd

New Year’s Eve is surprisingly mild and pleasant, though by the time we get out to the house there are scraps of last week’s snow around, and it’s cold enough. We’re staying three nights this time, so the place might be able to warm up a bit. We sit in in the kotatsu and listen to “Kohaku” onthe radio over dinner.

The first is misty and drizzly. It rains all day so we sit in the kotatsu and get stiff legs.

The second is sunny and mild. Walk to the local shrine to pay our respects. Burn some old wood. By 4 it’s pretty cold again.

The morning of the third is white with frost and there’s a clear blue sky which lasts all day, though the air is cold. I clip a few of the tea bushes before we leave early – we’re off on a trip tomorrow to “Amano Hashidate”. See three big white egrets on the way home. There are several “for sale” signs – I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad.

Min. temp. -4°C, max. 7°C


12th~13th

The end of January to early February is usually the coldest part of winter, and this week has not disappointed us. Sunday starts out vaguely sunny but clouds over on our way into Gifu.

Chocolate is already appearing in the supermarkets, ready for February 14th!

See girls in kimono for “seijinshiki” – officially tomorrow.

A big grey heron flies over us in the village below the house. Is that the same one that visited us a couple of weeks ago? They’re not so common round here.

Around 5PM it starts to snow.

Monday is clear but cold with some of that snow still on the ground. A bit more blows in from the north.

I spend a couple of hours clipping the tea bushes – just to keep it in shape, T. only picks a little of it. There are still many more bushes to do, but it’s cold.

Min. temp. -5°C, max. 6°C


19th~20th

Of course this is winter and it’s supposed to be cold. Inhabitants of the U.S. Midwest or Eastern Siberia would laugh at our complaints, and at least there’s a bit of sun.

On the road out, everyone suddenly slows down – there’s one of those big white motorbikes in front of us. The police have switched their Sunday speed trapping to our side of the road. Must watch out in future.

At least at this time of year things don’t get mouldy. The kitchen sponge is frozen.

At last some of the persimmons left on the tree have been eaten. They’ve gone soggy and are probably now sweet. It was probably birds, though monkeys like them too.

I practice guitar a bit (Kyoto gig next week), dispose of the Raffles’ kitchen waste in the compost bin; it starts sprinkling snow at 4:00 and we head back to Nagoya, where it’s not quite as cold.

Min. temp. -5°C, max. 5°C

 

Farmlog December 2013

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 4:51 pm
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1st~2nd

We didn’t come last week because of a Daihachi Ryodan concert at Sorairo Magatama.

Winter is here, it’s been a cold two weeks with frost in Nagoya, but Sunday is surprisingly mild and clear. Autumn has been short again this year, but there are some bright yellow gingko trees near town.

Brought stuff for “miso nabe”: Chinese cabbage, leeks, belly pork; and buy more in supermarket #2: tofu, oysters and miso. There’s “slime flavour” chewing gum at the checkout counter (really!) but I don’t buy any.

The house is cold and it’s getting dark – at 2:50 the sun is already behind the hill.

Monday’s nice enough except for a bit of a chilly breeze. I let the water out if the system before we leave – first time this winter.

Min. temp. -1°C, max. 12°C


8th~9th

Stay in Nagoya for a private party at Raffles’.

 


15th~16th

Winter hits. This last week has been cold and although Sunday is deceptively sunny the wind is icy. (They’re getting major snowfalls further north.) There’s nothing exciting in the supermarkets or ¥100 stand except for “mikan” which are in season and cheap. They’re good too – seedless, easily peeled and a nice size.

A solitary bird peeps somewhere near the house, there are traces of snow around, and the oil stove has a hard time warming the place up. The kotatsu and a warm bath help though. (There’s absolutely no need to put beer in the fridge.)

Installing software on a computer with no internet is long and complicated. I want to use this old machine as a music player. A big grey heron lands on our roof for a few seconds, but I don’t have time to take a photo.

Monday brings more of the same. The little snow we had in the evening has mostly melted so the road is clear. But it’s cold.

Min. temp. -2.5°C, max. 10°C


22nd~23rd

Stay in Nagoya to prepare for Raffles’ Christmas party.

 

 

Farmlog November 2013

Filed under: countryside,seasons — johnraff @ 4:37 pm
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3rd~4th

We stay in Nagoya – there’s a private party at Raffles’.


10th~11th

Grey. Cloud that comes down to the ground and mixes with the misty rain. Damp. Just like the English autumn. It starts to look quite picturesque as we get into the hills though, with trails of mist draped artistically over the landscape, where the trees have turned all shades of red, brown, green, orange and yellow. The gingko trees look especially good. It soon gets dark.

The rain stops on Monday, sort of. A warm sun and chilly rain alternate, sometime simultaneous. In the two weeks we’ve been gone things have moved from the tail end of summer to autumn, going on winter. The maple trees are bright red. One or two insects are bravely chirping.

Persimmon picking begins. Our one tree carries a huge crop every other year, and this year’s another big one. In 2011 T. took around 1000, and neighbours asked why we didn’t pick our persimmon tree! Some 2/3 of the fruit were still left. These are bitter persimmons with enough tannin to turn your mouth inside out, but if you peel them and hang them up to dry for a couple of weeks they turn sweet, like dried dates.

Min. temp. 7°C, max. 15°C


17th~18th

It starts sunny, but Sunday soon clouds over and at the Gifu house it’s cold and grey. The frost last week has killed the chillies. The thermometer shows a minimum of 2° and chillies can usually survive down to 0° but this year (they have to be rotated) they’re on a slope, so might have got a frosty wind that the thermometer on the house wall missed. Leaves have fallen from the persimmon tree, better to show the huge load of fruit – T. picks some of them. There are lots of berries on the bushes – does this mean a cold winter is coming? We use the oil stove for the first time.

Around 3AM I’m woken by a dog (not a wolf, surely?) barking and howling. (It is a full moon.) Maybe it’s a lost hunting dog?

Monday is that autumn mixture of sun, cloud and rain.

Min. temp. 2°C, max. 12°C

 

Farmlog October 2013

Filed under: countryside,seasons — johnraff @ 4:25 pm
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6th~7thchilli harvest

It’s October, but midday temperatures are still sometimes passing 30°, and Sunday is hot and sticky enough to bring ut a sweat just from loading the bags in the car. Are we going to get autumn at all before winter sets in?

The rice was cut weeks ago in Gifu, but golden fields of it are still standing outside Nagoya. By late afternoon at the house the temperature is just right and the insects are singing softly – maybe a bit subdued compared with a month ago. A deer cries somewhere in the woods.

There’s been no rain for the last couple of weeks and everything’s dry. There are still more delicious mini-tomatoes to be picked. There have been no bird, animal or insect attacks this year – why? Maybe because the skin is a bit tough?

I pick more chillies. The big “Malay” type have done well, but the “Ishigaki” plants are a bit smaller than usual. (Lack of rain? Not enough fertilizer?) They’ve made up for it by being extra hot. The persimmon tree’s branches are hanging down heavily laden with still-green fruit.

We drive home in the twilight, surrounded by the song of the crickets, the smell of “kinmokusei” and of woodsmoke.

Min. temp. 12°C, max. 28°C


13th~14th

We stay in Nagoya for the local matsuri. I can’t remember a thing about it now, to be honest…

 


20th~21st

Early October was like summer, but now it’s more like November: cold and wet. Last week typhoon 26 hit Izu-oshima and next Thursday or so #27 might do the same. It might also pass right through Nagoya…

The 20th is a “zero day” so the police are on special alert for traffic offences, but it’s pouring with rain so there’s no sign of them at their usual spot near Nagoya. The rice is still uncut in the fields, though bending low in the rain.

There’s whalemeat in the supermarket. This is actually quite unusual. Contrary to what some people outside Japan seem to think, and what some Japanese politicians would like everyone to believe, whalemeat is by no means a normal part of the Japanese diet. Just after the war it was sometimes all there was to eat, but that was true in the UK too, I think.

Monday is clear, fresh and beautiful! I pick what will probably be the last goya. The chillies are still doing alright, although growth is slower. There are only a few Habanero plants, but they’re looking quite healthy.

Kamemushi! The stinky insects are everywhere, looking for their winter quarters.

Min. temp. 8°C, max. 24°C


27th~28th

We’ve had a wet week with two typhoons in the neighbourhood but they both passed on Friday and since Saturday it’s been clear, sunny, cool and dry.

Just outside Nagoya they’re finally taking advantage of the sunny weather to cut the last rice. This was done weeks ago out in Gifu.

The leaves are starting to change colour. Cherry trees by the roadside have already shed theirs – they are one of the first to do so says T.

At the house it’s quite cold and soon gets dark, but the insects are still whooping it up outside. We have coconut milk nabe for dinner.

Monday is the same – the sun is warm, but as soon as it goes behind a cloud it gets quite chilly.

There are small yellow butterflies and tiny powder-blue ones.

The persimmons on the lowest-hanging branches are gone. Animals? There’s no debris on the ground, so maybe humans? Locals wouldn’t do that, so probably town people…

The chillies are nearly over. The Malay plants still look OK, but the Habaneros and Ishigakis’ leaves are pale with cold.

Min. temp. 5°C, max. 19°C

 

 

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

 

 

Farmlog August 2013

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 4:47 pm
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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

 

 
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