Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Farmlog October 2013 29 November, 2017

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


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



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


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 October 2011 21 December, 2011

Filed under: countryside,seasons — johnraff @ 1:22 am
Tags: , , , ,

Ha! Already Christmas breathing down our necks, and you still haven’t been told about all the thrilling happenings out on the farm in October and November. Hmm… well, here’s a bit about October to be going on with.


  • “Japan has four seasons” I remember being told in numerous drinking places soon after arriving here. Everyone wanted you to know just how unique this place was. It got so annoying, you started to make a point of saying how similar Japan was to wherever you came from: “Yes, we also use polite language when talking to someone older”, “Yes, we also have pickles…”, you get the idea. They’d smile politely but you could tell they didn’t like this sort of talk at all. You could criticise the country as much as you wanted, as long as you reminded them how different they were from you. But, to tell the truth, Japan does have four seasons, well five if you put the detestable Rainy Season in between Spring and Summer. I remember returning to the UK once for Christmas to find it a warm 15°C or so, another time shivering at 5°C in May, but here Summer is hot and Winter is cold. Each season is quite distinct, and the other day we switched from Autumn to Winter. It’s cold. (is what all that was about)
  • The tatami replacement project is getting under way. Ikemoto san the builder has been round and will start the actual work next week or so, so we’ve got to clear all the stuff out of those rooms, moving it upstairs. It’s at times like this that you realize how many things you acquire over time. Half-read magazines, souvenirs from Guam or somewhere and wounded musical instruments that can’t really be played, but there’s no way you’re going to throw them away. Luckily we haven’t run out of space yet.
  • Min temp. 10°C max 24°C


  • A perfect Autumn day. The sky is that gorgeous translucent blue that the Japanese have the cheek to call “Nihon baré” (Japan clear) as if noone else had blue skies…
  • Not quite as cold in the evening as it was last week. We build a good fire and sip warm shochu. T drinks too much and wakes up in the morning with a hangover. This is unusual for her.
  • Monday morning is perfect too. There’s a noisy flock of birds in the trees opposite, till they move off further down the road. Immigrants from the Northern Winter somewhere?
  • Must clear the house up ready for the carpenters. All the dust sets off a sneezing fit.
  • The focus on weedcutting in the summer has left lots of other unwanted growth untouched: the “susuki” pampas grass and ferns growing between the tea bushes (this must be cut down before the snow comes), bushes round the entrance drive, wisteria vines trying to strangle everything, plum, camelia and maple trees to prune…
  • There’s pretentious “progressive” rock on the FM radio all day (Atom Heart Mother, Yes, Deep Purple with an orchestra…) it’s a special programme for the holiday. I like the early Pink Floyd, but clearly the Good Old Days weren’t always all that great. Turn it off.
  • The leeks in the supermarket are from China. They could have been grown in the empty fields around here, but it’s cheaper to import them.
  • Overall, a nice Autumn day, with gentle background music from the crickets.
  • Min temp. 6°C max 21°C


  • The ferns grow between our tea bushes. They die off in the winter but when it snows they flop over the tea to make a cover like a balaclava helmet. The tea bushes don’t like being kept in the dark like this, so those ferns have to be cut down now. Big black hornets are doing the rounds of the last tea blossoms. They’re OK as long as you don’t bother them. Whatever constitutes “bother” to a wasp…
  • The “goya” vine is finished.
  • Ikemoto san has almost finished the reflooring in the house. There’s a lot of scrap timber in front of the house so we can have a good fire and stay warm outside. Dinner al fresco won’t be possible much longer though.
  • Monday starts off with a chilly mist, but warms up.
  • Spent an hour picking a kilo or so of those hot little “Ishigaki” chillies. This would obviously not be a commercial proposition.
  • Min temp. 9°C max 20°C


  • A strange return of the summer humidity after the rain. Sweating!
  • Every week without fail, when we pass their favourite spot the police are booking someone for speeding.
  • Burn more timber and eat outside – stars, insect voices and a heavy dew.
  • There are still leeches around!
  • Our friend Yamada san has heard about out reflooring and phones to offer advice – we should polish it with rice bran in a cloth bag. T used to do this as a child and says it’s incredible hard work, so we ask Ikemoto san to wax it instead.
  • There are smelly “kamemushi” insects everywhere.
  • T picks persimmons for drying.
  • The Habanero and Ishigaki chillies are still looking fit, as are the big mild peppers, but the “Malay” medium chillies haven’t done well this year for some reason.
  • Min temp. 7°C max20°C


  • We drop in on the way back from a trip to Eiheiji and Fukui.
  • The chillies are still looking happy.
  • Our new floor looks nice, nails hidden and stained to match the rest of the room.
  • The weather has cleared after a rainy Sunday, but by 4:30PM it’s thoroughly chilly.
  • My favourite “3rd beer” Mugi to Hoppu now has a Black version which isn’t bad at all, but only a limited issue apparently.
  • Min temp. 5°C max 23°C

Farmlog 26th April 2010 1 June, 2010

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:37 pm
Tags: , , , ,
  • Last week it snowed in Tokyo, but Sunday was hot and sunny here, only to get quite chilly as the sun went behind the mountains at 4:00.
  • The white police bikes were out. They like to do their speed-trapping in nice weather – you never see them when it’s raining. I suppose they have a monthly quota of fines to get in.
  • Swallows have showed up in the village just down the road, but for some reason they never make it the extra few metres of altitude up to our house. We’ve certainly got enough insects for them to eat, but perhaps they’re not the right kind?
  • Bamboo shoots coming up – ¥500 in the supermarkets, but in the ¥100 stand you could buy a big one for, yes, a hundred yen. Freshly dug bamboo shoots are a treat, with a special flavour that is soon lost. The trick is to boil them as soon as possible; I suppose it stops the natural conversion of sugars to starch or something.
  • Is this kamemushi year? The smelly insects are turning up everywhere.
  • Saw my first snake of the year – sunning itself on a grassy bank. Ten minutes later it was back in the same place, so it must have been a special spot.
  • Did a bit of tree pruning and weed slashing. Nothing compared with the work coming up in a month or two.
  • Min temp 2°C, max 21°C

Farmlog 19th October 2009 31 October, 2009

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:52 pm
Tags: , , , ,

On Sunday we drove up through ricefields bright yellow in the autumn sunshine, to be welcomed by the last movement of the insect symphony, along with some shrieking deer in the background. The deers’ mating call you hear at this time of year is not pretty at all – an unearthly banshee scream! That evening was clear and still; the stars wet and shimmering, draped across the sky like dewdrops on a spider’s web. A couple of little ones fell off in the ten minutes or so I was watching…

The next day was hot under the sun, but chilly as soon as it went behind a cloud. The kamemushi (“stink bug” maybe?) are all making a beeline for our house to find a winter home behind the curtains. OK till you find one and try to throw it out. They do stink. Oddly, the smell is not unlike coriander leaves, but if you dwell on that you could get put off Thai food. A dying wasp in front of the house. A few years ago, one got into my wellington boot and with its last gasp managed to sting me on my toe, somewhat to my discomfort… The show is slowly closing down for the Winter.

On the radio I heard that the Orion meteor shower was starting.

Min temp 7°C, max 18°C


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