Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Farmlog May 2013 25 November, 2013

Filed under: countryside,Uncategorized — johnraff @ 7:32 pm
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  • A four-day break as it’s Golden Week.
  • Fantastic weather! Cold wind! There’s a winter-grade cold air mass passing over or something.
  • Outside town, more rice fields are being planted.
  • The uguisu welcomes us! The first of the season.
  • The sun already has a kick to it. In fact, despite that cool breeze there is as much ultra-violet coming down as in August.
  • Every day is a scorcher! We’re lucky this time.
  • Small black long-legged flies – mayflies?
  • Repair the big net round this year’s chilli field and plant some zucchinis. Fingers crossed…
  • Write notes for an Abe diatribe.
  • Frog voices starting up.
  • Yamada san and three others come over and we grill iwana fish. A big fire just manages to hold back the evening chill.
  • We leave early on Monday – the last day of Golden Week – expecting traffic jams, but it’s not that bad. (Another gorgeous day, and we hate to have to get back to Nagoya.)
  • Min. temp. 2°C, max. 20°C


peony in the garden

It rained on Saturday, but now a high pressure area is back with more fantastic weather – not a cloud. The village down the road looks beautiful in the late afternoon sun. The rice planting is finished here and the frogs are in voice.

At the house we get another welcome from uguisu and friends. That evening is a bit cold but we light a fire and barbecue some beef and vegetables. Shiitake mushrooms are good with butter and soy sauce. That odd-sounding combination of seasonings is quite good in fact. The Japanese are quite inventive with food – the other day on the radio someone was talking about coriander leaves + olive oil + udon noodles!

T goes to bed early leaving me to enjoy the spring night. Sipping awamori under the stars I have a few moments of alcoholic bliss. Have you ever felt so happy you could die right there? Sorry if it sounds silly, but it left enough of an impression that I made a note of it next day.

On Monday we enjoy yet more gorgeous weather. That chilly wind of last week is now just deliciously refreshing. This won’t last – another month and we’ll be in the rainy season. The weeds have flourished after Saturday’s rain – I must get the weed cutter out before they get tough and fibrous. Bamboo shoots are coming up too – I can make a bamboo shoot curry for Raffles.

Meanwhile, I completely wilt from working under this hot sun.

Min. temp. 3°C, max. 24°C


Of course that gorgeous weather couldn’t last, and now we’re getting a foretaste of the rainy season, our annual monsoon. The rain front has already engulfed Okinawa, and a corner of it licked round here bringing a day’s rain. By the time we get to the house it’s decidedly chilly too.

Vegetables in the supermarkets have got cheaper – cucumbers, eggplants and big early onions which are delicious in salads.

Monday is sunny again, but some clouds remain and it’s starting to get a bit sticky – more like the summer to come than the beautiful fresh weather we had the last two weeks. Sunday’s rain brought up a load more bamboo shoots so we dig up a couple – I can make a jar of crunchy spicy bamboo pickle. See a leech in the moist backwoods. The weeds have also put on good growth – some 1/2m in the last week – time to have a first go with the weed-cutter.

On our way back to Nagoya the sun is now going down well to the right of its winter path.

Min. temp. 10°C, max. 27°C


What a difference a week makes. Last week we still had the kotatsu switched on, but now we’re sweating. Sunday is sultry – even the breeze as we arrive doesn’t really take the edge off it, though it’s definitely nicer than Nagoya.

There’s been no rain all week and though the weeds are totally unfazed and have grown another 1/2m, the pumpkins, zucchini and goya don’t look much bigger than last week. I’ve brought out the first four chilli seedlings to plant, so have to fix the deer net and dig and plastic-mulch the first row of the field.

On Monday morning I’m woken by the uguisu just outside. It’s cloudy and cooler – actually quite pleasant. We’ve rain due tomorrow; Kyushu has already “entered tsuyu“. Plant the chillies, arrange the net (fingers crossed), cut more weeds and get my first leech bite.

Min. temp. 9°C, max. 27°C

sunset on the way back to town


Transcript of Interview With Ichiro Ozawa – 1 June, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — johnraff @ 2:55 pm
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OK I’ve had a pretty dim view of Ozawa, regarding him as a power-hungry old-school politician who only left the LDP to further his own career and doesn’t care if he destroys the current DPJ government. Well, let’s give him a chance – have a look at this recent interview:

Transcript of Interview With Ichiro Ozawa –

Is there hope for Japan? We’ll see…


Break 26 March, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — johnraff @ 11:05 am

I’ll be deserting my post for a bit. Hope to get some more rivetting stuff here at the end of April sometime. See you…


Farmlog 26th September 2010 and 3rd October 2010 8 October, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — johnraff @ 2:21 pm

Two posts together to try and catch up.

26th September

  • The 3m high net that’s kept attackers off our chilli plants so far this year was down in a couple of places. This wasn’t wind and rain – some animal had discovered it was possible to knock it down and get in, and had eaten a few leaves here and there. This isn’t good news – the chilli plants are OK at the moment, but if this goes on it will only be a matter of time before the leaves get eaten off them. That means deer, but the half-eaten pumpkin husk on the ground suggests monkeys. Could it have been a joint effort? Anyway, put it back up with extra guyropes on some of the poles.
  • Some small rodent has discovered a taste for our medium-hot red chillies. A few of them were lying on the ground with the inside parts chewed out. My guess is that it’s the fieldmouse I saw running away last week. Monkeys aren’t supposed to like chillies, and deer mainly go for the leaves.
  • Looked down on Monday afternoon to see my ankle caked with dried blood. A leech must have been there – you don’t feel a thing while they’re sucking your blood, only afterwards when it swells up and gets itchy. Actually, this time it wasn’t too bad, maybe because I didn’t pull the leech off by force – that’s supposed to squeeze out its stomach contents into the wound and cause all kinds of infection…
  • Min temp. 10°C max 28°C

3rd October

  • The deer net was down again. Definitely deer this time – there were fresh droppings on the ground. The chillies were still intact, so far… Wearily tried to repair things a bit better than last week.
  • That small rodent had been eating chillies again – more this time. They’re quite hot this year, but that doesn’t seem to be bothering him. It’s only the ones near the ground, though, so the situation’s just about acceptable.
  • Rain most of the day on Monday, and cold enough to need a sweater – quite a novel experience.
  • Drove back to Nagoya through a bit of Autumnal mist
  • Min temp. 12°C max 23°C

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.


A new box 2 December, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johnraff @ 1:44 am
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There was no farmlog for the 16th of November because we had to stay in Nagoya. I took the chance to have a look round Osu, which is our local version of Akihabara, the famous computer and anime district of Tokyo – the centre of “otaku” culture. I came home with a “new” second-hand computer I found: an IBM desktop with a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 processor, 512MB of memory, 80GB hard disk and a DVD/CD drive that can write too, so I can make CDs. It’s quite an improvement on the present box, and was going for the almost “junk” price of 7300 yen (about $80). I thought it was a bargain, and so far it seems to be working OK, though checking it out has taken most of my “computer time” this past week. Fingers crossed…


Kyoto 4 November, 2009

Filed under: music,places,Uncategorized — johnraff @ 2:57 pm
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Last week there was no farm report because the band went to Kyoto for a gig. We left early but didn’t hit the traffic jams expected on a 1000yen highway Sunday and arrived with several hours in hand, so walked around a bit. I don’t need to tell you about all Kyoto’s fantastically beautiful temples and shrines, but most of the town itself is somewhat unremarkable; the central shopping streets could be anywhere in Japan – not a patch on Paris, for example. The joke runs that while the Americans refrained from obliterating Kyoto in the war, the Japanese did the job for them afterwards.

Even so it’s not an unpleasant town; the North, where our lodging house was, has some fairly quiet tree-lined streets – and lots of bicycles. Every corner seemed to have a bicycle shop of some kind. They must be the best way to get around – Kyoto’s narrow streets, like Tokyo’s, make for some grim traffic jams. Here in Nagoya they made a fresh start after the war with a new grid layout of /wide/ streets, appropriate for an economy heavily dependent on Toyota Motors…

The “live house” where we played, Taku Taku, is a really nice place in a big old wooden building with beautiful warm accoustics. (They do have noise problems though, being right in the middle of a residential area, so it all has to stop at 9:00 on the dot.) Our previous gig there was nearly 30 (yes thirty) years ago! It took them that long to get over it, but finally we were allowed to play again, and this time it went OK I think. During the intervening period they seem to have had some quite famous people playing, so I really wondered what we were doing there, but the audience were great. Sometimes it seems as if Daihachi Ryodan might be more suited to Kansai than Nagoya!


Where’s our Summer? 27 July, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johnraff @ 8:26 pm
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Hey, come on, the Rainy Season should have ended around the 20th, and by rights we’d now be basking in day after day of blistering sunshine, with temperatures peaking in the high 30’s (°C). Hmm… well there’s been another outbreak of devastating floods in Kyushu, with people killed, houses destroyed and over 20,000 taking refuge in school halls. Meanwhile, yesterday we gave up trying to drive out to the farm as the road had been washed away in one place, and here in Nagoya it’s been rain every day, as the humidity goes up and up.

According to the weather forecast we’re in for another straight week of cloud and rain, and no particular guarantee of Summer starting even after that! There’s an “El Nino” phenomenon going on apparently, so the usual Pacific high pressure area is not doing it’s stuff.



Season of the Itch 19 June, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johnraff @ 1:48 pm
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“There’s a mosquito in the room” says T, throwing me an accusing look. (If she gets bitten it’s generally my fault in some way.) It’s true that the humid Japanese Spring and Summer seems ideal for insects, and there are some biters and stingers among them. For example:

  • mosquitoes The city ones come out at the end of May or so and they’re small, fast and hard to squash. The itch only lasts an hour or so, but they can certainly get to you, and our lush jungly garden in front of Raffles has a fair supply. Mosquito coils help, and there’s some stuff in a spray can which doesn’t do a bad job of keeping them away for a while.
  • buyo These are a small black fly – looks almost like a tiny beetle – and are nasty. They hang about in the grass by a stream in the countryside on a muggy , overcast day and draw blood. Really. Much worse than mosquitoes in spite of their tiny size, and the bite stays with you for a week or so. Fortunately I’ve never seen one in Nagoya.
  • dani or mites, live in the tatami mats and bite you when you’re asleep. Just have to fumigate the tatami sometimes, or lift it out of the room to dry in the hot Summer sun. (This is such a pain no-one does it these days.)
  • nasty green caterpillars I don’t know the proper name for these, but you see them on trees sometimes. (One year they chewed all the leaves off our persimmon tree.) They’re a nasty yellow-green colour, have no legs and move about like slugs, and are covered with hairy spines. If you touch one the microscopic spine will stick in your skin, which will swell up for days and itch horribly. Imagine a poisonous cactus…
  • centipedes: fortunately not so common – they live in rotting wood and the like – but the big ones can give you a very nasty bite indeed.
  • There’s more – jellyfish, adders, poisonous lacquer plants, the deadly Okinawan “habu” …

but I’ve probably put you right off ever coming here. If you actually live here of course you know it’s not really that bad. Still the insecticide and itch ointment makers probably do OK at this time of year.


…er, as I was saying… 3 June, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johnraff @ 1:50 pm
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There are millions of blogs out there on the Wonderful World Wide Web; every day a few thousand of them presumably just quietly fade away so you couldn’t be blamed for thinking the same thing had happened to this one. Not so much laziness, or lack of things I wanted to mention, but the fact that every time I switched on the computer there seemed to be something else I wanted to do first, and in a flash it was time to switch off and do some work in the so-called Real World. Anyway, what’s happened in the two months since the last posting?

  • Spring arrived! It always seems to take you by surprise, but comes as if someone had turned a switch and suddenly, starting with the justly famous Japanese cherry blossom, there are flowers everywhere. Our country place, on a sunny April afternoon, can be like a corner of paradise.
  • I upgraded my computer’s operating system – Ubuntu Linux if you’re interested. Still an ongoing process – this isn’t a Linux Blog and I won’t bore you with the details – but the Perfect Computer is one of those never-attained goals I suppose. Still, anyone who feels like escaping from Microsoft and would like to try Linux, Ubuntu’s not a bad place to start.
  • The band went to Osaka to play at the Haru Ichi Ban festival again. This is a really nice friendly event and apart from the rain that hit the last two days (not us, luckily) everyone seemed to be having a great time. There were maybe fewer big names than last year ( except Daihachi Ryodan of course ) – actually this seems to be something of a Kansai event; Tokyo people know nothing about it…

Well, a bit of a catchup. The next post will be sooner – promise!


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