asazuke

Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Farmlog January 2013 27 March, 2013

Filed under: countryside,seasons — johnraff @ 2:16 pm
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13th~14th

Our first visit of the year. The sun is hazy, but you can see the snowy mountains in the distance.

T’s nephew drives up for the day with his wife and extremely cute 1-year-old daughter. We have fun but don’t get much work done.

The next morning T wakes me with the news that it’s snowing, quite hard. The radio is talking about major snow, and those tyre chains are such a pain to put on that we gulp down breakfast, pack and get out of there before we get snowed in. Short weekend.

Min. temp. -4°C max. 8°C


20th~21st

It’s hazier than last week – brown hills are visible, but no white mountains. Leaving Nagoya it’s not too cold, but the house is definitely well chilled when we open the doors.

The deer-trapping ojisan drops in and we show him our Goto photos over a cup of tea.

Patches of snow on the ground turn crisp by late afternoon.

Tofu chiggae for dinner – easy but good.

Outside, everything is waiting for the spring. I need to do some pruning though.

Min. temp. -6°C max. 8°C


27th~28th

There’s too much snow again so we stay in Nagoya. On Monday we take the Tarumi line again and enjoy the snow from the train window.

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Farmlog October 2012 27 February, 2013

Filed under: countryside,seasons — johnraff @ 1:58 am
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7th~8th

higanbanaWe set out from town on a beautiful Autumn day – clear, fresh and a blue sky in which the sun is a bit lower, but still strong at mid-day. I get a bit of weed-cutting done before dark, which is now about 6:00.

Higanbana are still in bloom. The chillies seem OK and the net is still intact. The goya leaves are turning yellow and I pick the last three. The mini tomatoes have ripened slowly in the Autumn sun and are sweet and delicious.

Twilight now has that special autumn quality. I don’t want to say “sinister”, but maybe “mysterious” describes how the trees on the ridge opposite sway in the wind. Halloween is coming up after all. A deer cry echoes up the valley. The insect chorus is especially sweet and mellifluous but this isn’t  a balmy summer evening and we huddle near the fire. This might be our last dinner outside this year.

Monday is gorgeous and I pick lots of chillies.

Min. temp. 11°C, max. 24°C


14th~15th

Autumn came later this year but suddenly as usual. September was hot till the end, but the wind in Nagoya on Friday was a taste of the coming winter. By contrast, Sunday was overcast but mild. Arriving in late afternoon we drank a cup of tea in front of the house, enjoying the peace. There’s not a breath of wind, just the soft singing of crickets and the chirps of a few small birds.

On Monday all the clouds are gone and it’s another wonderful day with a nice combination of hot sun and cool air. The eerie voice of a deer echoes up the valley again. The place is swarming with them – the ojisan caught three last week! One was a big stag with a full set of horns.

Rice is still standing near Nagoya – I was a bit premature predicting the harvest.

Min. temp. 8°C, max. 22°C (note how the temperature goes down a couple of degrees each week)


21st~22nd

Perfect autumn weather – deep blue sky and fresh breeze.

The evening’s really a bit too cold to eat outside, but we’re promised meteors from 12:00 so so put on extra clothes, build up the last outside fire of the year and actually it’s tolerable. T gets sleepy and gives up around 10:00 but I put on a Grateful Dead record and wait it out to see a couple of shooting stars, but nothing spectacular, and am happy to finally get in a warm futon (first use of the electric blanket this year).

Monday is freezing and sweltering at the same time, depending on if you’re in the shade or not.

We don’t eat much jam – our breakfast times and menus during the week are quite different, but usually Monday morning breakfast ends with bread and marmalade. Today we’re out of marmalade. I find a jar of ume jam I made about 15 years ago. It’s mouldy (of course). No Jam Today.

Drive home in a haze of smoke. – everywhere people are burning the leftovers of summer.

Min. temp. 6°C, max. 20°C


28th~29th

It was beautiful on Saturday, and the forecast is good tomorrow too, but today a front or something is passing through and it’s a day of rain.

Driving up, an armoured car passes us going in the opposite direction.
…whaat…???

We pick up a couple of ¥25 croquettes at the supermarket for our afternoon snack.

It’s my turn to cook this evening: fish curry, squid with Thai sauce and habanero-mango salad. The mango is delicious.

By 1:00 am the clouds clear, a few brave insects are chirping and the moon is almost full.

Monday is beautifully clear as promised but there’s a chilly north wind blowing. Leaves are changing colour early this year.

(Forgot to read thermometer.)

 

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
 

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.

2nd~3rd

  • “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

9th~10th

  • 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

16th~17th

  • 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

23rd~24th

  • 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

31st

  • 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
 

Persimmons 25 November, 2011

Filed under: countryside,food & drink,seasons — johnraff @ 2:03 pm
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Maybe this fruit’s not too well known outside the Far East – it’s about the size of a small apple, bright red-orange and a bit crunchy. (I’m not that crazy about them personally.) There are two kinds: sweet and bitter. The bitter ones are incredibly astringent (tannin) and quite inedible. It feels as if your mouth is being turned inside out. However, if you dry them they miraculously become sweet! The result is something like dried dates or figs. The tree behind our country house is the bitter variety but this year there’s been a huge crop (they produce heavily on alternate years) and Taeko’s been hanging up some of them to make dried persimmons, out on our Nagoya veranda where the washing usually goes. Last time she did that she was eating them every day (they are a bit too sweet for me) and put on 10Kg, so this time she’s giving most of them away to friends and relatives.

 

…the heat goes on… 13 July, 2011

Filed under: city,news,seasons — johnraff @ 2:56 pm
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…and is likely to for quite a while. It’s still only the start of July, the peak will probably be around the end of the month and the first cool breeze of autumn doesn’t usually arrive till some time in September. Had to water the garden this morning for the first time this year.

The TV news was telling us that some three times as many people had died of heatstroke as at the same time last year. Meanwhile with several nuclear power stations either shut down or destroyed by tidal waves electric power supplies are on the edge. Here in the Nagoya area it’s not as bad as in Tokyo, but still every evening along with the weather forecast there’s a power forecast: whether the generators are likely to hold up or not. Today the percentage of available power likely to be used was 89% – considered “stable” apparently. They don’t want any more old people and children to die from the heat, so along with the appeals to economise on electricity are reminders not to overdo it. Quite tricky.

 

Heat 9 July, 2011

Filed under: city,food & drink,seasons — johnraff @ 2:18 pm
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Yes, it’s hot. We’re now out of the Rainy Season and into the summer a good week earlier than usual, and quite as hot and humid as you could want, thank you.

One small consolation, for us at Raffles anyway, is that the heat seems to increase peoples’ desire for a foaming mugfull of well chilled lager (quite understandable) and for some spicy Asian food. The spicy food goes with the beer, and also seems to suit the heat, somehow. The result has been that we’ve been a bit busy the last 2 or 3 weeks and I’ve been quite slack about posting up all the fascinating stuff that’s been going on.

I’ll try a bit harder to keep up but it’s not easy to focus on a sticky afternoon with the temperature approaching 35°C and 60% humidity…

 

 
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