asazuke

Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Farmlog April 2013 9 November, 2013

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 3:10 am
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As we head into Winter, a moment to remember what Spring was like…

7th~8th

Spring storm! Elsewhere in the country there is serious damage being done by the wind and rain, but we’re being let off lightly and the cherry blossom round Nagoya still looks beautiful. Let’s look forward to the blue skies promised for tomorrow. Our own ume trees out in Gifu are starting to bloom and the weeping cherry’s buds are swelling. Next week should be nice, but I won’t be here because Daihachi Ryodan have a gig in Kyoto.

Monday is sunny but cold – at midday it’s only 10°C and the wind’s chill wipes off most of the sun’s warmth. The ume and forsythia are pretty though. If the weather’s good next week it should be fantastic. (drat! I won’t be here.) T’s bringing a couple of friends out for san sai soba and the Takemi Zakura should be in full bloom. (Ah well, Kyoto should be fun too.) The first warabi of the season are coming up.

On the way home we take an alternative back road and see Spring flowers everywhere. On the radio: “Northern Bar” by Shigeru Kajiwara. This is a truly awful English rendition of a famous Enka song. The original is OK but this makes your toes curl. Really.

Min. temp. 1.5°C, max. 20°C


14th~15th

I’m in Kyoto.


21st~22ndThe mysterious hole

The cold rain that started on Saturday evening has cleared up by Sunday afternoon and the sky that shows between the clouds is a beautiful washed pastel blue. There are new green leaves but the wind is icy cold, more like March. They’re having snow in Takayama! There’s already water in a lot of the rice fields on our way out. The mysterious hole in the ground in front of our house has got bigger – what could be living there?

Monday is a beautiful clear day, but still cold. The weeping cherry is in full bloom, as are quinces, forsythia, azaelias and yuki-yanagi
Min. temp. -1°C, max. 22°C


28th~29th

We leave Nagoya late on Sunday because Daihachi Ryodan were at an Earth Day event in the afternoon. It’s beautifully sunny with a fresh breeze that turns to cold as we get out to the hills, which look good in the late afternoon sunshine, today coming from a different angle from usual. The wild cherries at the house are in full bloom. (Sunday evening is cold.)

On Monday the weather is fantastic, sunny but fresh, and there are flowers everywhere. We feel like charging admission. On the way back to Nagoya the hills are covered in wysteria.

Min. temp. 0°C, max. 19°C

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Farmlog April 2012 3 September, 2012

Filed under: countryside,seasons — johnraff @ 7:16 pm
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1st~2nd

  • Sunday starts sunny, then it rains, then it’s sunny again, then it goes cold…
  • Mugi-to-Hoppu Black is back in the shops, to great rejoicing (link). One of the best happoshu.
  • Monday’s weather is much better – the air is still chilly but at last it still feels something like Spring. Fukinoto shoots are coming up, along with wasabi leaves. Our friend the uguisu is back! Crows and tits are joining the party too.
  • Min. temp. -2°C, max. 15°C

8th~9th

  • A beautiful sunny day! Cherry in full bloom! Sunday! The perfect day for hanami – maybe the only Sunday this year. Millions of people are probably in the parks of cities from Hiroshima to Tokyo, but we hit route 41 out to Gifu instead. Cherry blossom is visible from the road, and Mount Ontake is also pink in the spring haze.
  • As we get into the hills cherry is replaced by plum (ume actually) and at our house even the ume is barely out – just one or two flowers..
  • We stop off at the “TakemiZakura” to take a photo of Mt. Ontake and a bunch of local ojisans, including Yamada-san, are clearing up for the matsuri, due in in a couple of weeks.
  • That evening Yamada san brings over an iwana fish to grill and drop in a pot of sake. Iwana-sake might be an acquired taste…
  • Monday is forecast sunny, but just after mid-day it rains. Later it’s warm again. Such is Spring weather.
  • Min. temp. -3°C, max. 13°C

15th~16th

  • A Beautiful Sunday. The cherry leaves are coming out in Nagoya, but a bit out of town it’s in full bloom everywhere.
  • At the house we’re greeted by the sweet smell of ume blossom, but the cherry buds are still hard.
  • Birds are bustling noisily about, getting ready for nest-building. Bumblebees too. Flowers too – including the somewhat unusual “katakuri“.
  • A local policeman drops in to say hello. Newly arrived from Gifu, he seems friendly enough. (You know you’re getting older when policemen are young enough to be your own children.)
  • Min. temp. 2°C, max. 18°C

22nd~23rd

  • Rain. The forecast says rain all weekend but we drive out anyway.
  • This week the TakemiZakura is expected to be in full bloom, accompanied by the local matsuri that’s been on since 2006. Sure enough, the 300 year old tree looks magnificent, and a handful of people are bravely defying the rain. We sit under a tent munching yakitori (the regular kind!), sipping sake and soaking up the Spring feeling. Yamada-san shows up, buys me more sake (T’s driving) and we chat for a while about the future of this event – the cost of promotion, limits on parking space, whether to encourage coach tours – how to balance size and enjoyability, it’s tricky. Eat some excellent shishinabe. This was all quite pleasant at the time but we get to the house at about 5PM and the rest of the evening is a bit fuzzy. No major harm done though…
  • More ume and forsythia in blossom, and yet more birds this week flying about the place. Many bird calls, including the uguisu.
  • Warabi coming up, and the wasabi plant beside the house is starting to flower.
  • There’s an ojisan from down the road who sometimes walks past in the evening – even with the active country life he feels the need for daily exercise. We were talking the other week about the deer that come and eat everything, and he said he’d put in some traps. Deer are a nationwide problem lately and some effort is being made to get their numbers under control. Anyway, he’s now put in a trap. We’ll see if he gets any.
  • Min. temp. 5°C, max. 20°C

29th~30th

  • Sunday’s a bit hazy, but this goes beyond spring to summer heat at 28°C in Nagoya. The cherry’s finished but other flowers are out – the hanamizuki is quite pretty.
  • Pass a couple in Town-Ojisan-Going-For-A-Walk-In-The-Country uniform – check shirts, waistcoats, khaki trousers and shapeless khaki hats. You can see dozens of them on local train lines on Sundays.
  • We take the other road up, past a local onsen where there’s a vegetable stand, and buy a bamboo shoot and some wasabina. That’s a kind of mustard green I suppose – it tastes like wasabi and is good in beef salad, for example. The lady there knows our village and knows we get a lot of deer. Their main problem seems to be monkeys.
  • Our place is looking nice – the ume is finished but our weeping cherry and a couple of wild cherries are out, along with forsythia, quince, azalea, yamabuki, yukiyanagi…
  • Looking for bamboo shoot (no luck) I turn a corner to be suddenly surrounded by a chorus of invisible frogs.
  • We have dinner outside for the first time this year, burning some of the old wood left over from our floor change last autumn. Sansai tempura – warabi, udo, wasabi, yomogi, onion… Later I was dozing off to be woken by a loud voice – not pleasant. A deer?
  • Monday is cloudy with rain coming tonight but it’s still fairly warm. The birds are incredibly busy.
  • Min. temp. 8°C, max. 23°C
 

Eiheiji and Ichirino hot spring 11 February, 2012

Filed under: countryside,places — johnraff @ 3:12 pm
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This was a weekend trip at the end of last October – up to Fukui prefecture on the Sea of Japan side of the country. We had bad luck with the weather, it’s usually beautiful at that time of year, and indeed was just before and after, but on our two days we had cloud and drizzle… ah well, it didn’t really spoil things that much.

First, to Eiheiji. This is a huge Zen temple in the hills, and a major tourist attraction which even used to have its own railway station. The souvenir shops sell Zen T-shirts. I suppose Lourdes might be like this, maybe even more so. Even so, this is still a functioning temple and all over the sprawling complex of buildings there are young monks, polishing the floor, weeding the gardens or cooking in the refectory. Is tending an immaculate little garden inside a temple in the mountains where only monks and visitors will see it a waste of time? OK so what exactly isn’t a waste of time? Spending an hour or so walking around – didn’t take any photos – on the way out we passed through a hall hung with some inspiring messages from the founder, in English as well as Japanese. Buy a T-shirt on the way back to the car. Here are some nice photos, and two other peoples’ descriptions of the place.


On to Ichirino hot spring resort. Not a historic spot really, but a collection of buildings at the foot of a ski slope. There’s no snow yet, and anyway the ski boom is over, so the place is empty. When I first came to Japan, “minshukus” were houses, usually in the country, where people lived but had been adapted to take guests – something like Bed and Breakfast (though usually dinner is included too). These days they tend more often to be purpose-built, with a bit less atmosphere and “at home” friendliness than in the Good Old Days. Our place, chosen almost at random after a web search, turned out to be good (Yukiguni-so if you’re in the area). A bit scruffy but clean and run by friendly people.

The obasan who runs the place with her husband and daughter was really friendly, and an incredible hard worker. She’s up to all kinds of stuff: in the woods behind the place she picks “nameko” mushrooms, walnuts, “tochi” nuts and “warabi” fern shoots. They also grow “zenmai” ferns, “shimeji” mushrooms, beans… The food is good, but sadly the cafe at the front is empty.

The next day we’re given some walnuts and set off to take in Mount Hakusan on our way back to familiar Gifu prefecture. In spite of the gloomy weather the scenery is stunning. The autumn colours are just right and waterfalls in the narrow valley the road takes up the mountain are beautiful. Crossing through all this scenery, when we come down on the other side, somehow it all has a more familiar look. Fukui was a foreign country compared with our usual Gifu. What was it? The plants? The shape of the hills? And of course the houses are different too, once you get down to human inhabited zones.

Our own house is still intact, and we drop in to pick some more chillies on our way back to Nagoya.

 

Farmlog 24th April 2011 1 May, 2011

Filed under: countryside,food & drink — johnraff @ 1:37 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Well my spell back in Britain meant a month since the last trip up to our place in Gifu, and Spring has well and truly arrived. Paddy fields in the area are already filled with water ready for the rice seedlings to be planted. This really has to be my favourite season out here. From late March to early May all kinds of flowers come out one after another and on a warm sunny afternoon it feels like a yet undiscovered corner of paradise. This time, unfortunately, the weather wasn’t with us – wet, cloudy and chilly. Ah well. Maybe better luck next week.

The first warabi (fern shoots) of the season are up, and they’re delicious, although possibly poisonous and carcinogenic… You put wood ash on them, pour on boiling water and leave them overnight. This gets out some of the bitterness. Then just rinse and eat them with a drop of soy sauce, some dried fish flakes and a dab of wasabi. Good. T likes to stew them with chunks of fried tofu, which is OK too. Someone else shares our appreciation for these wild vegetables, and had already picked quite a few before we arrived on Sunday. This annoys T no end, and she put up some notices warning tresspassers and warabi-thieves away. We’ll see if they do any good.

Min. temp. -4°C, max. 20°C (over the last four weeks, remember).

 

 
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