asazuke

Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

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 19th September 2010 22 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)
 

Farmlog 29th August 2010 31 August, 2010

Filed under: countryside,incidents — johnraff @ 2:24 pm
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  • This heat is getting to people. Tempers are getting short. We stopped off at the bank again on the way out because it’s a handy location and saves making a special trip. While I was inside there was an angry car horn – I looked out to see a car pulling out of the sideroad that ours was partially blocking. This guy had smashed our door mirror and snatched the ignition key. Found the key on the pavement but T was a bit upset as you can imagine. No, she shouldn’t have parked like that, and if the radio had been turned down a bit she’d have heard the horn, but still… It was a middle-aged guy apparently, not the young idiot you’d imagine. Maybe that bank just has bad karma, for our mirror anyway.
  • It’s starting to look like Autumn. The angle of the sun is getting longer, and the insect chorus is getting more and more colourful. Different crickets and grasshoppers join in as the day moves from afternoon to evening. There’s a bit of a breeze sometimes, and at night it was almost cool. That doesn’t stop the daytime from being swelteringly hot though.
  • Drove back on Monday on a beautiful late Summer afternoon, with hordes of little red dragonflies flying over the ricefields where the harvest is just starting to be taken in.
  • min temp 19°C max 32°C
 

Farmlog 20th June ~ 23rd August 2010 27 August, 2010

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:55 pm
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Whew – a monster update to try and get back in line with the real date, so I can post other stuff without feeling guilty about not doing the farm stuff. Just for the record anyway:

20th June

  • HUMIDITY is the theme now. Dark clouds hang overhead and water just seems to exude from the air in big drops every so often. In fact when it’s like this a bit of rain can be quite a relief.
  • It’s the Longest Day and even in Japan, with no Summer Time, the evening is light till after 7:00. I wonder when they’ll get it about the electricity savings, to name just one thing…
  • There’s a Toyota subcontractor’s factory we drive past, and usually even though it’s Sunday a bunch of guys are gathered round the forklifts having some kind of Important Meeting. Meaningless ritual, unpaid overtime, or an important social bonding?
  • No police at their favourite speed trap when the weather’s as bad as this.
  • Planted out the last of the chilli seedlings – some habaneros. Too late really, but we’ll see how they get on in the Summer. Habaneros like heat…
  • Weeds just grow and grow, and managed to get in a bit of cutting, sweat filling my eyes, before heading back to Nagoya to meet a friend at a favourite izakaya.
  • Min temp 15°C max 29°C

27th June

  • This is the kind of day that gives the Rainy Season a bad name. Even just after taking a shower your eyelids are stuck together with sweat. A bit of rain would be nice…
  • Stopped off in Kimble on the way out. A fascinating place with second-hand goods, factory surplus stock and the like where you can pick up a china candlestick or Christmas tree decorations for 10 yen… Sometimes they have imported Korean beer-surrogate at 70yen a can which isn’t too bad.
  • The house out in Gifu was still quite cool inside as the hot sticky air hadn’t yet got in. Opening a cupboard door was like opening the fridge!
  • Monday was even hotter, with some big drops of rain for 10 min or so.
  • The first dragonflies showed up – several different kinds. Maybe we’ll see some fireflies next week?
  • Min temp 12°C max 28°C

4th July

  • Funny weather. Half-cloudy, slightly less humid at first, slightly cool breeze, scorching hot sun later…
  • Swollen rivers from the recent rain.
  • The lady at the ¥100 stand heard monkeys nearby, and said the fruit harvest wasn’t looking good this year.
  • Stars and a few fireflies.
  • Unexpected blue skies on Monday.
  • Mostly weed-cutting. Who was it that said about sculpture the secret was to remove the undesirable part, and leave the desirable part? That’s my weeding policy. If you just cut down everything it’ll all just grow back, so I try to leave some plants that I think are preferable in the hope that they’ll prosper and suppress the baddies. Well it sort of works to some limited extent. There are so many kinds of grass growing out here, including “susuki” the pampas grass that people grow in parks and gardens in Europe. Here it’s a virulent weed – a member of the bamboo family so it’s really tough.
  • Min temp 18°C max 31°C

12th July

  • Drizzley start to the day, torrential rain later.
  • Tiny field mice are trying to take over the house.
  • No fireflies… 😦
  • Min temp 18°C max 29°C

18th July

The Rainy Season is officially over!

  • Beautiful cotton-wool summer clouds.
  • When we opened the door there was a pool of water in the entrance. Not a roof leak, but condensation! The floor surface is kept cold by groundwater a couple of metres below.
  • A nice cool Sunday evening – Monday was hot though with an occasional cool breeze.
  • We drove back to Nagoya in the golden light of a late summer afternoon. There were anglers in the river – after ayu maybe.
  • min temp 18°C max 30°C

25th July

  • ATSU~I! must be the first word foreign summer visitors to Japan learn. It means hot. Sometimes being outside in the sun feels just like standing a few centimetres away from one of those heat lamps.
  • The mint growing outside always seems to get a kind of disease in the summer – the leaves turn black and wither away. It recovers in the autumn fortunately, and meanwhile we can use the stuff growing on the veranda in Nagoya, which is OK for some reason.
  • A cool evening – almost cold in fact! Nearly full moon.
  • A clear Monday morning: the kind of day which gets hot later, and this one did.
  • The 15th July is a special day on the old calendar (doyou no ushi) when you’re supposed to eat eel to maintain your strength to cope with the heat. Maybe it would work… grilled eel tastes good anyway, a bit rich perhaps.
  • min temp 20°C max 33°C

1st August

  • Hot and humid again. 😐
  • This hot weather has been hitting the vegetables, especially leafy things like lettuce and cabbage which have been going up in the supermarkets. At the 100 yen stand too there aren’t the huge piles of cucumbers and eggplants we usually find at this time of year. What there is, though, is good. Tomatoes, chillies, eggplants, cucumber and the mysterious myoga have been soaking up all this sun and have a wonderful Summer fragrance!
  • An amazing bumper crop of mini tomatoes. They’re really easy to grow – just put a couple of plants in the ground and they’ll spread out all over the place. The skin can be a little tough, but they taste good – the crows and various small rodents enjoy them too, but so far don’t seem to have found these, maybe because they’re almost hidden among the weeds.
  • Some beautiful big black butterflies visiting the nozenkazura flowers.
  • I’ve learnt the purpose of eyebrows. They’re to keep the sweat from dripping down into your eyes. Not quite up to the sort of sweat generated by this heat though…
  • min temp 20°C max 32°C

8th August

This was just a quick drop in with our friends visiting from the Netherlands, before going on to Shirakawa village.

The plants seem to be doing OK, but I forgot to check the temperature. Sorry.


15th August

  • Drove out in the continuing intolerable sticky heat past an undertakers advertising discounts for advance bookings…
  • There’s something wrong with the Pacific high pressure area this year. Usually it sits right on top of the country and brings a month or so of hot, but clear and somewhat less humid weather. This year it’s more off to the east, and moist, no wet air is coming round the edge from the south. Something to do with a La Niña effect in Peru apparently, but the humidity is extreme – the floors are wet with condensation, we get attacked by leeches each week…
  • This week some small animal found the mini tomatoes and ate the red ones. Just made a hole in the side and ate the contents, so it was quite a small animal.
  • A bumper crop of myoga this year – maybe it likes the rain.
  • min temp 22°C max 30°C

22nd August

  • Yes, more heat and humidity, even at this altitude of some 430m.
  • Sato imo (taro) plants growing everywhere on the way here, looking well in spite of the heat. I wonder why they’re so expensive in the shops?
  • Maybe we can live on myoga instead?
  • A mysterious hole just in front of the house, started a couple of centimetres across but seems to have got bigger this year. I wonder what lives there?
  • First red chillies of the season!
  • min temp 20°C max 33°C

The first red chillies of the season.

 

It’s started 7 August, 2010

Filed under: customs — johnraff @ 2:58 pm
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Along with the cicadas, baseball from a radio somewhere is one of the sounds of Summer here; it started today and there’s nothing else on the TV or radio all afternoon, for the next couple of weeks. I really don’t remember anyone paying the slightest attention to a rugby or cricket match between a couple of schools back in the UK (maybe you could compare the University Boat Race?) but here it’s a big event with elimination rounds all round the country and everyone avidly follows the later matches and gets quite emotional. The losing team (and sometimes the winners too) usually burst into tears at the end. T loves it.

 

Farmlog 2nd~5th May 2010 (“Golden Week”) 15 June, 2010

Just like UK bank holidays, a few days off come up in the same week and there are 45 Km traffic jams all over the country. The weather’s often beautiful at this time too, though, so we joined the rush to get out to our place in Gifu for a long weekend – everyone else must have been going somewhere else and we got there in the same 2 hours or so as usual. 🙂

  • The second day we went for a walk on the narrow road that leads on to a couple of tiny villages above our house. Very nice day out in perfect weather. (More here.)
  • For some reason the wild boar don’t seem to have been round this year, and lots of bamboo shoots have been coming up in the woods behind the house. Freshly-dug shoots have a special aroma which you can keep by boiling them as soon as possible after digging them up. I suppose it stops the cells’ conversion of sugars to starch or something. You need a big pot to boil them whole with the skin still on, for about an hour, with some rice bran to take away a certain astringency. A handful of rice will do instead, and some people put in a couple of dried chillies. Then you can cook them with soy sauce and dried fish flakes, or make a nice spicy Thai salad or Indonesian curry…
  • Fantastic weather – scorching hot in the daytime, but a cool breeze, and cold evenings so you want to light a fire to eat outside, which we did, listening to music from Cape Verde and some old Laotian pop.
  • The wind brought down a snowstorm of cherry blossom from the wild tree behind the house.
  • An old guy from the houses down the road passes by in the early evening. He goes for a daily walk to keep fit, and looks as if his health regime is working OK.
  • Flowers everywhere!
  • Getting the chilli field ready – digging up a row, mixing in some compost and fertilizer then covering it with black plastic mulch to warm up the soil and keep the weeds down a bit. Four rows should do it this year – 16 big red chilli plants from Malaysia, 16 little hot “Ishigaki” chillies from Okinawa (not the usual “island pepper” but something more aromatic that a Thai friend recognized as “prik kariang”), and half a dozen Habaneros, just for yuks…
  • The birds and frogs are getting going, but the evenings are still fairly quiet, compared with the insects’ samba orchestra that will keep us entertained through the Summer. Those insects have a dark side though, and we both got mysterious itchy bites that stayed with us for days. Hmm.
  • Min temp 2°C, max 27°C
 

Farmlog 19th April 2010 1 June, 2010

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:19 pm
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(A major effort here to catch up on a month’s missed posts, while I can still find the envelopes with notes on the back…)

This time of year can be like a corner of paradise outside the city, and Sunday was a perfect sunny day with flowers coming out everywhere. People are getting worried about invasions of alien plant species, but the variety of plant life out in Gifu always surprises me. I’m not a botanist, so I don’t know the names of them all, but keep finding something I haven’t noticed before.

It’s “sansai” time – wild edible shoots and leaves coming up everywhere, and people coming out from the cities to pick them. There doesn’t seem to be much concept of private property among these peole and they quite casually walk into your garden and pick what they can find – sometimes even if you’re sitting outside the house watching! T. can get a bit ratty at this time of year…

On our way back to Nagoya on Monday the frogs’ evening chorus was already starting up in newly-flooded rice paddies by the side of the road.

Min temp 1°C, max 19°C

 

Farmlog 4th April 2010 7 April, 2010

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:43 pm
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  • This time the sakura were out in force. Every year it’s a surprise to see just how many cherry trees there are hiding around the country – both in gardens and growing wild in the mountains – waiting for their few days of glory. Everywhere you look it’s sakura, sakura, most of them in full bloom!
  • We stopped off in our usual supermarket and picked up a bottle of their house wine – a white made from the Chardonnay grape (imported juice I think) so might not be too bad, though you can get a fair Chilean white for the same price of ¥498. It turned out to be awful. Just not nice to drink at all. Even at this low price you can do much better with a something from Chile, Spain or Italy. I’m amazed they expect people to buy that stuff.
  • Spent an hour or so taking down the barbed wire round the chilli field. It wasn’t doing any good at all – just getting in my way, and tangling up in the net that turned out to be the only thing that would keep the deer out.
  • On the way back to Nagoya we took a different route, and saw even more sakura…
  • Coming into Nagoya at dusk, a lone bat flying around a crossroads. In the summer there’ll be lots of them – small creatures about the size of sparrows, picking up the insects drawn to the traffic lights.

Min temp -2°C. max 15°C

Cherry blossom in the Japanese countryside.

Riverbanks seem to be a popular place to plant cherries.

 

Spring 4 April, 2010

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…

 

Farmlog 21st February 2010 1 March, 2010

Filed under: countryside,food & drink — johnraff @ 4:29 pm
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  • When Spring comes the air will get hazy, but although it’s warmed up nicely, it’s still clear and we had more beautiful views of snowy mountains on the way out from Nagoya.
  • In the Summer the farmers’ stalls will be full of fresh vegetables, all for ¥100 a bag. Maybe the cucumbers aren’t of the regulation shape the supermarket buyers demand, but everything’s been picked that morning. Right now, however, there’s not all that much on offer – some dried “shiitake” mushrooms, and some greens called “wasabina” because they’re a little bit hot, like wasabi, or Japanese Horseradish. They can be stir-fried, but are also good in a salad, especially with beef.
  • That evening there was a sudden sort of thump, as if someone had hit the house from below, just once. An earthquake? Usually a bump is followed by some kind of shaking, but not this time…
  • Digging can be a kind of meditation maybe.
  • Next week we stay in Nagoya because there’s a Daihachi Ryodan concert, so maybe next time we come it’ll be Spring…

Min temp-3°C, max 8.5°C

 

 
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