asazuke

Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

The Rainy Season 3 June, 2011

Filed under: seasons — johnraff @ 2:38 pm
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It was officially announced last week – Thursday or so – that the Rainy Season had begun in the Nagoya area. The end of May is very early, usually it’s the around second week of June, but that doesn’t mean it will end early apparently, just be longer than usual. I may have mentioned it before, but this is not my favourite season here by any means. The summer can be incredibly hot and sweaty, but I still prefer it to the six weeks of humidity we now are heading for…

…that said, it’s actually quite pleasant today. You do get breaks – it’s not rain from beginning to end.

 

Here it comes 6 May, 2011

Filed under: city,customs,seasons — johnraff @ 1:47 pm
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Last Friday it was officially announced that Okinawa had “entered the Rainy Season”. They’re about a month ahead of us, so the monsoon which comes up from India via SE Asia will reach us in early June. Although it’s quintessentially Japanese somehow, the “tsuyu” is the season I find hardest to cope with: humid, mouldy, sticky, damp… sure the new leaves hit new heights of green lushness but for me if it’s going to be humid and tropical I’d rather have some heat with it, and do it properly. Of course, that will come in due course, late July or so.

Meanwhile, here in Nagoya over the last few days the weather has been fantastic. Sunny skies with a fresh breeze – the kind of day when you want to eat an ice cream in the park. Lucky for all the people who have this week off: it’s Golden Week, something like a British bank holiday weekend when public holidays line up so if you take a couple of extra days off you can have a week’s break, so everybody piles into their cars, a train or plane and goes somewhere. Here at Raffles, though, we’re working through as normal. At least we don’t have to deal with the 75Km traffic jams.

 

for 2011 16 January, 2011

Filed under: countryside,seasons — johnraff @ 8:08 pm
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We collected some favourite pictures, mostly from round our country house, over the past few years and got a calendar made. It turned out quite nice, so I thought I’d share them with you (click the image for a full-sized version):

 

Calendar shortage 15 December, 2010

Filed under: customs,seasons — johnraff @ 1:17 pm
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Calendars aren’t something you go out and buy – you get given them, usually by companies you have some dealing with and who’d like to have their name on your wall through the next year. Unfortunately, along with cutting “entertainment” expenses, calendar budgets have been trimmed too and there’s a nationwide calendar deficit apparently.

 

Farmlog 15th November 2010 10 December, 2010

Filed under: countryside,seasons — johnraff @ 1:15 am
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A cricket in November.

An overcast but mild Sunday; groups of migrating birds getting ready to head out of here somewhere warmer. Later on the sun started to come out – you need a bit of blue sky to show off the red Autumn leaves that are reaching their peak around now. When we arrived at the house a pheasant was standing in front of the garage. It strolled off into the bushes in its own time… A cricket outside the house: the last one of the year?

Wild boar dropping.

Wild boar dropping.

There were big holes under the tea bushes where the wild boar had been digging for fern roots or something. They left a memento on our drive too. They’re big strong animals and can toss quite large rocks around in their search for something succulent in the ground.

deer droppings

Deer droppings.

T saw a mother and a couple of young a few years ago, but they hadn’t been around much until recently, having pretty much got everything that was going. The deer, on the other hand, have been regular visitors, as you’ll know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, and this week there were plenty of fresh droppings around. Touch wood – they haven’t got inside the net round the chilli patch this year, except for one brief break-in, and now the season’s over. Fingers crossed for next year.

half-eaten chillies

Left by our furry friend.

Monday was much colder, and later on turned into drizzle. Last week didn’t freeze after all, though it came close, and there were still a lot of chillies intact on the bushes. We won’t be here next week, so a final picking session got another kilo or so of the hot, hot little “ishigaki” chillies. A small furry animal, probably a fieldmouse, had got some of the larger, milder ones and chomped on them in a corner of the field, leaving the seeds, and some half-eaten pods. Maybe they were a bit too hot after all. Anyway, he didn’t even touch the little hot ones.

Won’t be back for two weeks, and had a last look at the red maple leaves, which will be gone next time we’re here.

Min temp. 1°C, max. 13°C

 

maple leaves in November

A maple in front of the house.

 

 

 

Summer 22 September, 2010

Filed under: customs,seasons — johnraff @ 2:14 pm
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Finally it’s over – sort of. That sultry sticky sweltering sweaty squishy soggy humidity has dropped way down as the dry Autumn air from the continent takes over. Although we’re going over 30°C today and you wouldn’t call it cool exactly, the mornings and evenings are really pleasant and there’s a nice breeze even now, at 2 in the afternoon. It’s been a record-breaking long hot Summer this year – more than 500 people are reported to have died from heatstroke and the electricity companies are expecting to make record profits from all the carbon they burnt to keep our air conditioners running. (How are we going to escape this situation where the only way to make life tolerable is to contribute to making it worse? I’m reminded of the old, old Kevin Ayers song “Why are we sleeping?“) A lot of my friends teach at universities, get long Summer vacations and head right out of here for the month of August. Conversely, for old friends in Europe, August is the obvious holiday season and that is when they want to come over here to visit. I try to talk them out of it, explaining that they’ll likely find the heat intolerable, but they don’t really get it …till they arrive.

Even so, Summer in Japan is a special time. For a month or two we share the same air mass as Southeast Asia (apparently Hong Kong has Japan beaten for humidity) and it’s as if the whole country has taken off southwards. You don’t need more clothes than a T-shirt and pair of shorts, and even when working there’s a sort of holiday atmosphere. (I guess the suit-wearing salarymen might see it a bit differently…) The kids are all off school and along with the cicadas the heavy air carries the sounds of High School Baseball from a thousand open windows. And the evenings can be magical. The warmth just envelops you so that there’s no distinction between indoors and outdoors. Just take a walk around your neighbourhood, follow the smoke pouring out of a local yakitoriya for an ice-cold beer and some grilled chicken, or maybe even head to a beer garden… These are a different story really – while eating outside, maybe on the roof of a tall building, has an appeal, you’re usually obliged to go along with some kind of “all you can eat and drink” sort of deal, usually with a time limit. The foods not that great, there are hundreds of people and the effect is a bit like feeding time at the zoo.

Much better are the Summer festivals, especially out in the countryside. There’s dancing, more of that indispensible ice-cold beer and young people come back from the cities to revisit relatives. The young girls look really cute in their Summer kimonos and there are quite often fireworks too. Japanese fireworks are some of the best in the world, and the big displays draw millions of people. All this is really based on the “Obon” festival, when the spirits of dead ancestors return to their families and have to be entertained with Bon odori – traditional dancing. Fires are lit to help them find their way home, and later to send them off again. ( Could that be where the fireworks come from? )

This is also the time for ghost stories – some say it’s because they give you a delicious chill, but maybe it’s just that Obon connection again. There are some real ghosts too. Among the spirits who return for consolation are the nearly three million who died in World War 2. The anniversaries of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the end of the Pacific war come in quick succession at the beginning of August, and the ringing of temple bells joins the cicadas and baseball.

So it’s not all festivals and fun, and the Autumn just coming can be really beautiful, as can Spring, but I’d still say Summer is my favourite season.

 

Farmlog 19th September 2010

Filed under: countryside,seasons — johnraff @ 1:41 pm
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  • Almost full moon. “Jugoya”, the 15th night of the whatever month in the old lunar calendar is the harvest moon – it seems to be early this year.
  • Those pigeons back again eating the sansho – they were here last week too. Usually just two of them, but three this time. We never see them any other time of year.
  • The hydrangea plant behind the house gave us a lot of flowers this year, but this week the deer came and ate all the leaves off.
  • On the way back to Nagoya – some little kids kicking a ball around in a bit of empty ground. So what? Well, you never seem to see that in the city now. No kids? No parks? No footballs? No time? Or parent paranoia?
  • Min temp 15°C max 27°C (note the sudden drop)
 

 
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