asazuke

Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Farmlog 17th October 2010 21 October, 2010

Filed under: city,countryside — johnraff @ 2:22 am
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  • A late start out of Nagoya because I took in a tap dance (!) performance in the afternoon. Came out into the last red glow of a city twilight – quite poetic with run-down showa-era bars and noodle shops, acres of neon lights taking over and lots of small bats harvesting the insects attracted to the street lights.
  • Sushi for dinner. Mackeral pickled in vinegar is good just now – in the Autumn as the sea gets colder the fish get oilier, and tastier. They used to be a real bargain at ¥100 each or so for a big fish; these days it’s more like ¥400 but still one is enough for two people.
  • Final trip out to the outhouse at 2am and the crickets are still going strong – a last fling before the cold sets in…
  • Next morning a nervous inspection of the deer net round our chillies, and this week it’s OK 🙂 Have they finally given up?
  • Picked a basketful of the hot “Ishigaki” chillies. They’ve done quite well in this year’s hot Summer although I should have planted them earlier. Growing’s not so hard, but it takes an hour or so to pick a kilo because they’re so small. Hardly a commercial proposition.
  • An endless procession of concrete mixers pass the house on their way to connect two small villages up the road with an 8-lane highway.
  • There’s something about the air on Autumn evenings that carries smells long distances so there always seems to be a hint of woodsmoke. The other day closing up Raffles I was sure I could smell the yeast of a brewery, though the local one closed up several years ago…
  • Min temp. 8°C max 23°C
 

Fast Booze 29 August, 2010

Filed under: city,food & drink — johnraff @ 1:55 am
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In contrast with the binge-drinking youth of Britain I’ve been reading about, young Japanese have been leaving beer and cars behind lately, much to the dispair of Kirin and Toyota among others. I don’t know what they’re spending their money on – the fact is they haven’t really got any money these days, with only crummy dead-end type jobs on offer when they graduate… When Japanese youngsters do go out for a drink these days it’s often sweet alco-pop things they drink, not the bitter ice-cold golden nectar that goes so well with the Summer heat here, and they’ll be drinking it in the cheapest places they can find.

Just lately there’s been an outbreak of chain establishments where everything is ¥280. Food, drinks, everything. Maybe with the yen at the ridiculous current rate of 85 or so to the US dollar that doesn’t sound too cheap to you but usually a beer is around ¥500 ( ¥550 at Raffles’ ) so ¥280 for a jug of draught beer (not happoshu ) is pretty good for a start. The food’s not disgusting either – food processing technology has been got down to a fine art – though nothing to write home about and not huge portions. With profit margins cut right down, they have to sell a lot of stuff to make the business viable so need to keep people coming in at a fast rate. The branch near us is usually pretty full, and pretty noisy.

More recently a rival has started up where everything is ¥250 – they cut their costs even further by having customers come to the counter to collect everything. The overall effect is pretty much like McDonalds, but if that’s your idea of an evening out…

Fast Booze – you saw it here first OK?

 

Bulbuls 22 July, 2010

Filed under: city — johnraff @ 2:58 pm
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Yesterday was a big day in our Nagoya garden, excited bulbuls flying around chirping, or screeching, at some bemused chicks. Yes, it was Nest Leaving Day. I think they’re bulbuls of some kind – a kind of scraggly-looking bird that reminds me of the starlings that used to hang around our garden in England, with a long tail and sort of curved beak, and a somewhat untuneful call. T says they’re called “hiyodori” which translates as “Brown-eared Bulbul”.

The garden in front of Raffles isn’t that big, but there’s a tree just in front of our second-floor living room window that’s grown almost as high as the house. A couple of years ago the same – well, maybe not the exact same birds, but the same kind of birds – did it the honour of building a nest just outside our window where we had a view of the construction process. They made good use of locally-available materials: twigs, leaves, discarded plastic twine, shopping bags… laid some eggs but maybe they finally decided the position was just too overlooked or something and abandoned the nest. Later that Autumn it fell out of the tree with three eggs still inside.

This year’s bulbuls had a bigger tree to work on though, and the nest they built was above the window, not below, and things seemed to go better. We tried not to be too obtrusive and the birds ( did they take turns? ) spent several weeks incubating the eggs till an excited mother bird told us they’d hatched a week or two ago. Then the hardest part must have been scouring the neighbourhood for insects to keep them fed, but suddenly yesterday the nest was empty, and the birds were being really noisy.

I wondered if they’d been got by a crow, but that night when I collected the blackboard from outside Raffles to close up, there was a dazed-looking chick clinging to it! Not knowing what to do I just left it at the bottom of the tree, but the next morning it had made its way out to the road. This was no good, so using a plastic bowl a stick and some sticky tape I made a sort of scoop and managed to drop it off back in the nest from our 2nd floor window. No, in an hour or so it was gone again, and the parent birds were flying around this creature on the ground below, trying to persuade it to fly. Didn’t seem to be working, but today that chick is gone. The bulbuls still come back to the garden, and the parents are still feeding insects to the other two, bigger, chicks, but I don’t know what happened to the little one. Hope the cats didn’t get it…

 

Queuing for Doughnuts 4 April, 2010

Filed under: city,news — johnraff @ 2:23 am
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If you live in the US you presumably know all about Krispy Kreme doughnuts, but here in Japan they’re an exotic import, like sushi over there perhaps. I’ve never tried one but apparently it’s the crispy sugar glaze over the soft doughnut inside that does it. When KK opened a shop in Tokyo they had some 500 people queued up for 5 hours on the opening day to be among the first to sample this delicacy, so when the first Nagoya branch opened the other week they were well prepared for something almost as big here (Nagoya is about a fifth the size of Tokyo).

As it turned out, they had some 900 people waiting for eight hours for their first taste of a Krispy Kreme Doughnut.

Nagoyans like to queue apparently.

 

Spring

Filed under: city,customs — johnraff @ 2:11 am
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A weeping cherry on a street corner in Nagoya, Japan.This is a weeping cherry on the big crossroads near us, about two weeks ago, already in full bloom. It was a beautiful day, but freezing cold actually with a fierce wind blowing round the buildings. The much-heralded early blooming of the “proper” cherries – the “somei yoshino” – was stopped in its tracks by a cold wave that at last seems to be coming to an end and finally the cherries in the park down the road are completely out. I expect it was full of revellers enjoying hana-mi, but we had to work. Maybe we’ll take a look on Monday if it’s not raining…

Hanami is a sort of Rite of Spring I suppose, and can be a Bacchanale at times. There are people who claim flower-viewing should be accompanied with writing haiku and sipping green tea or something but I have no problem with people getting paralytic under cherry blossom…

 

Our Mayor 20 March, 2010

Filed under: city,news,politics — johnraff @ 2:27 pm
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Takashi Kawamura‘s a bit of a character. He first crossed the radar when he was running as Diet member for a constituency round here – his trademarks were riding around on a bicycle and speaking with a broad Nagoya accent, the kind nobody except him actually uses these days. He got elected and bicycle canvassing caught on, but nobody else tries that Nagoya accent… It’s OK for a bit, but he does lay it on a bit thick. It’s all about the Common Touch no doubt, and he’s doing something right because now he’s the Mayor of Nagoya.

There are other reasons for that, though, a big one being his promise to cut Nagoya city tax by 10%. Of course 20% would have been even better, but you can see the appeal of that idea – for those on low incomes (like us) city tax can be quite heavy as it doesn’t have as many allowances as national income tax. Of course for those whose incomes are too low to be taxed at all the 10% reduction has no meaning. For them, more important might be the social services that would have to be cut to pay for that tax reduction.

Kawamura has laid on a distraction though – his plan to halve the number of city councillors from 75 to 38 or so, and halve their salaries too, as well as stopping their expense allowances! Here he has rather more support among the general Nagoya population than in the city council, where the overpaid leeches are fighting him tooth and nail, understandably. Even at half, they’d still get much more than I do so I’m with Kawamura on this one, and it has to be admitted he’s already halved his own salary. He’s going to try to dissolve the council if they don’t pass his motion, and I’m sure they won’t, but needs to collect a huge number of signatures in order to do a “recall”. He’ll probably succeed, but it will take some time, during which the councillors can continue drawing their inflated salaries and collecting their expenses…

So is he a genuine man of the people or a right-wing demagogue in disguise? We’ll see eventually…

 

Crows nests 18 March, 2010

Filed under: city,Uncategorized — johnraff @ 2:18 am
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It’s nesting time for crows again, and the power-cut warnings have gone out. This time of year they’re caused by urban crows building their nests on top of electricity poles, using metal coat-hangers to supplement the meagre supply of twigs they’d otherwise use. You know, those hangers that come back from the dry-cleaners and people use to dry shirts on the balcony. Turn your back for a moment and the crows are off with them, and they make short-circuits on the power lines. The electricity company are kept busy clearing them out, and meanwhile we’re warned not to leave unused coat-hangers lying about.

The city crow population has been going up and up, so in Tokyo they’re becoming a major problem, but they’re fascinating birds actually – one of the few species to have free time after making a living just to play. Putting golf balls on railway lines just to see what happens, dropping things on people they don’t like… last year I saw a crow funeral for one who had maybe been electrocuted – lying on the ground under a pole anyway. I wish I could speak their language.

 

 
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