A cold start to the year, with dire weather forecasts of blizzards that made us put off for a day our departure for a little New Year break in the country. The 1st of January was cold enought to be sure, but it didn’t snow so we made it out OK.
Arrived to find the deer had broken down the fence round our vegetable field again, and left droppings everywhere, though there’s nothing left there for them to eat. I didn’t bother fixing the fence this time.
A cute little field mouse had been caught in our trap. I hate using that, but we really don’t want these creatures running round our kitchen.
Didn’t see any rabbits though. Are they all away on official engagements? 2011 is their year.
Anyway we’ve been having a cold spell since Christmas, with clear starry nights when what little warmth you pick up in the daytime soon evaporates off. Time to sit in the kotatsu, eat mikan and watch TV – except that there’s no TV out here so it’s the radio instead, with reports of 40Km traffic jams everywhere. Chuckle and peel another mikan.
Managed to get in a bit of tree pruning – the tea bushes have to be clipped or they grow into big trees, taller than me. Spending a couple of hours in some repetitious physical work, the brain is left to its own devices, and tends to reel off some music from the past. This time it started with Sgt. Pepper, which wasn’t so bad, but Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds led into something called Judy in Disguise with Glasses by John Fred and his Playboy Band. Hmm… Remember that?
Min. temp. -4°C max. 10°C
23rd ~ 24th January
We missed last week because of the snow, which did come eventually and made it not really worth the effort of driving out. It’s now largely melted, but it’s still quite cold enough, thank you.
Still, Sunday was nice and sunny and the speed police were enjoying a day’s fine-gathering. We passed three different people who’d been caught.
That evening we had yose-nabe – “leftovers pot”? Nabe is always good on a cold winter evening anyway, and we also had one of my favourite salads – sashimi tuna with avocado, in a soy sauce and wasabi dressing.
Unfortunately I could hardly taste it because of a nasty cold. All January has been cold and dry – perfect for viruses apparently – and there’s a lot of influenza around so I should be glad to get off with a cold I suppose.
There were more fresh deer droppings on the snow, then on Monday afternoon more snow. We got out of there and headed back to the city.
Min. temp. -7°C max. 4°C
6th ~ 7th February
It’s milder this week, but cloudy, and the snow is half-melted. Sometimes a big chunk suddenly falls off the roof. Further north, where they get several metres of snow at a time, this is serious, and people have already been killed by snow falling off their roofs.
The well is almost empty – it hasn’t rained much lately – and after filling up the bath the taps start to make spluttering sounds as the pump gets air mixed in.
Nabe again – no complaints there, and this time it’s crab. “Watari gani” would be blue swimmer crabs I suppose? Anyway I think it’s one of the tastiest crabs – fiddly to eat with not all that much meat, but excellent crab flavour for stewpots and curries. Crab curry’s pretty good! Mackeral sashimi along with our nabe, also good. Mackeral’s not the first fish that springs to mind for sashimi but in the Autumn and Winter it’s oily and tasty. Often pickled in vinegar like pickled herring – that’s good too. The only thing to watch is the most expensive fresh-caught variety, which can have a nasty parasitic worm in it. Squid get them too. Freezing kills the worm, so the cheaper frozen fish is a better bet here. Raffles standard white wine (from Chilli) went well with all this.
No mice in the trap this week, but plenty of deer footprints and droppings, and a big hole which must have been dug by wild boar. Shouldn’t they be hibernating now?
Min. temp. -7°C max. 7°C
13th ~ 14th February
More Winter. Just cold.
No deer this week.
Sat in the kotatsu getting the papers ready for our yearly tax return. The tax man has no terror for us, as we aren’t making any money to tax…
More snow on Monday, but the days are getting longer – Spring won’t be long.
Min. temp. -4°C max. 7°C
20th ~ 21st February
Sunday is quite mild, but strangely hazy. It must be very high cloud because we could still see big distant snow-covered mountains in several directions from each bridge we crossed, including Mount Ontake.
In the supermarket on the way, everything is going up – vegetables especially.
Round the corner after the fish and meat sections is a whole shelf of different kinds of natto, then a kimchee area. I can eat, and enjoy, almost any food (had half a sheep’s head, including the eyeball, while waiting for a bus in Turkey) but natto is one of the few things I don’t relish. It’s soy beans which, after cooking, have been wrapped in straw and left to go all slimy and disgusting. Very good for you apparently. The other day on TV they were showing an Inuit delecacy of baby seagulls which had been left to rot (sorry, ferment) in a pit for a few months. I might pass on that too, in case you were planning to invite me for dinner. Also those big Witchety Grubs they eat in Australia. Leaving such things aside, I’ll enjoy any variety of raw sea creatures or whatever else turns up on a table in Japan. Except natto.
Kimchee on the other hand is great. This is a Korean import: Chinese Cabbage fermented with chilli powder, garlic, chives, carrot, apple, some kind of fishy flavour… It’s much better than it sounds.
A few years ago there was a little boom for tempe. That’s maybe Indonesia’s answer to natto, but much nicer. It’s also fermented by a mould, but it’s firm and dry – not slimy at all. Good fried with chillies and Indonesian sweet soy sauce. For a while you could buy it anywhere, but there’s no sign of it now.
After a coffee there was time for a little pottering around outside before it got dark at six. (The days are getting longer!) Finally fixed that deer net, and burnt some old papers.
Although there’s still a chilly wind, Monday was nice and sunny and I clipped some more tea bushes. There are still quite a few left though.