asazuke

Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Kongoshoji 28 February, 2013

Filed under: places — johnraff @ 2:44 am
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A day trip we took last September – drove down from Nagoya to Morozaki at the end of the Chita peninsula, then took the car ferry to Irago on the Atsumi peninsula, and another one from there to Toba in Mie. The sea was OK (weather semi-clouded), Toba was OK (we found a nice cheap sushi place for lunch) and from there we drove to Ise Shrine, but somehow what made the greatest impression was the temple, Kongoshoji, about half way along the Ise Skyline road, near the top of Mount Asama.

It had a very special atmosphere, a wonderful collection of Jizo statues, beautiful buildings and a forest of wooden posts… T said there was a belief that the spirits of those who had passed away returned to the woods around the temple and the posts were erected to comfort them. Some of these posts were very new, so this is still a living tradition. Somehow, I felt as if I was in South America. Anyway, some pictures:

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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.)

 

Asian war nobody wants? 15 January, 2013

Filed under: politics — johnraff @ 1:44 pm
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Of course it’s probably grossly exaggerated. There’s no way that China, Japan and America could go to war, is there? It would be a disaster for everyone that no-one wants. So how to avoid it? It needs some careful thinking all round, which we can only hope is already going on.

Meanwhile this article in the Sydney Morning Herald at the end of December:

Caught in a bind that threatens an Asian war nobody wants.

 

Farmlog September 2012 28 December, 2012

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 3:04 pm
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Freezing here in late December, summer is just a vague memory, but notes from the farm in September still remained to be written up. Here goes…

9th~10thakebi - an interesting wild fruit

  • Last week we were in Nagoya for a Daihachi Ryodan gig, so a 2-week break, which always has us wondering how things are down on the farm. Have the deer broken in and eaten all the chilli plants?
  • Although heavy with swollen grains, the rice near town is still green, but as we get further into the hills most of it is yellow, and some fields have already been harvested. There must be different varieties planted in different places.
  • We get this procession of huge black clouds interspersed at 1hr intervals with patches of clear blue sky. Some of those clouds drop some water on us, but the torrential downpours the forecast talked about must be falling elsewhere. By evening it clears up and we eat under a starry sky with an insect accompaniment.
  • In the two weeks since we were here the insect voices have changed quite a bit – we’ve got a nice autumn chorus now.
  • Monday brings more of that unsettled weather, but no rain anyway.
  • The chillies seem to be doing well. One of the big red “Malay” variety has obviously picked up some odd genes somewhere and grows these extra-large, firm-fleshed chillies that would be delicious if they weren’t really hot! The seed that grew from must have got a bit of Habanero pollen last year…
  • Min. temp. 10°C, max. 31°C

16th~17th

habaneros!

  • Weather just like last week. A strangely unrefreshing wind blows greasily up from the south, where another typhoon is going over Okinawa. Again, it clears up beautifully in the evening.
  • Pick some chillies and a volunteer pumpkin that grew out of last year’s compost, then get into some weedcutting. At this time of year I always worry if I’m depriving our cricket singers of a home – we won’t be here next week (another Daihachi Ryodan gig) so we’ll see in two weeks if the chorus is still going.
  • Most of the rice on our route back, though hanging heavily, is still standing. In two weeks the fields will probably be bare.
  • Min. temp. 17°C, max. 28°C

Sept. 30th~Oct. 1st

  • Sunday is Chu Shu no Mei Getsu (link), commemorated this year with a typhoon! We move the plant pots on the balcony into the living room, batten down a bit and then flee to the countryside, hoping things will be alright. Out in Gifu it rains, there’s a bit of wind, but it clears up and by 10PM you can see a full moon beaming down on us like a searchlight.
  • Autumn has set in – chilli harvesting can start, there are akebi and mukago in the hedges, and the higanbana come up right on time as usual. It’s nice and cool – what a luxury!
  • I come across a snake warming itself on the asphalt path that leads to this year’s chilli field.
  • The deer-snaring ojisan puts in some more traps. Meanwhile a baby deer has made a small hole in the corner of the net round the chilli field, broken in and eaten most of the leaves off a paprika plant. The chillies are still OK so far. I fix the hole in the net and hope for the best.
  • There are wisps of pretty pink clouds in the sky as we leave.
  • Min. temp. 12°C, max. 28°C

red chillies

 

Asia Sentinel – Japan’s Opposition Self-destructs 23 December, 2012

Filed under: politics — johnraff @ 2:49 am
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Good summary of the disaster:

Asia Sentinel – Japan’s Opposition Self-destructs.

 

Abe, again. 19 December, 2012

Filed under: news,politics — johnraff @ 3:10 pm
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This is just too depressing. Even the LDP didn’t expect this landslide win. They’ve now got a 2/3 majority in the Lower House, if combined with their Komeito allies, enough to force through bills blocked by the Upper house. Enough also, if they can get a similar majority in the Upper house next year, to change the Japanese Constitution…

You can read analyses of the results all over the web, so I won’t (today) go into the possibly unpleasant results of having a right-winger in power and the even more right-wing Renewal Party of Ishihara and Hashimoto standing by to lend a hand, but what possessed the voters to choose this lot? No-one seems to have any expectation that the tired old LDP, still less the recycled Abe, will be able to fix Japan’s problems. There are many such problems, some of them shared with the rest of the world and some uniquely Japanese. Some possibly amenable to a solution, and some basically insoluble. There’s no escaping death and taxes, right?

Part of the reason for this extreme result is the mess of new little parties that sprang up, and the lack of time for them to establish some kind of identity. Many voters just chose a candidate at random. The other big one is that people are just as Fed Up now as they were at the last election, and it’s the turn of the ruling DPJ to get the blame. The economy just gets worse and worse, and the 24% of people who voted for the LDP just hoped they might be able to do something about it.

It remains to be seen if the LDP can actually bring back the Good Old Days. I’m not an economist, and opinions vary as to whether browbeating the Bank of Japan into triggering inflation will improve things or not. What the LDP are more likely to deliver on is some distraction like changing the Self Defence Force into a Self Defence Army, changing the constitution to allow Japanese soldiers to fight on behalf of an ally (the US likes this idea), “doing something” about education (nationalistic indoctrination?), and, last but not least, continuing the use of Nuclear energy. The LDP are the only party not to have promised to phase out nuclear power. The great majority of Japanese don’t want nuclear reactors around (or any of the other things on that list), but the business community want cheap (for now) electricity and of course the power companies who have invested huge sums in nuclear energy want to be able to go on using it.

Even the much-maligned American electorate aren’t so stupid as to elect the party that promises to do the opposite of what they want. Are the LDP as loopy as the current US Republican party? Maybe not quite, but the difference is that they are in power, or will be very soon.

 

Japan’s Electoral Right Turn 6 December, 2012

Filed under: politics — johnraff @ 1:04 pm
Tags: , , ,

Worth a read. The only good news is that people here aren’t really behind any of Abe’s nationalistic nonsense. They just wish their lives would get a bit better. As usual, the incumbent government gets the blame, and the DPJ will probably be thrown out.

Asia Sentinel – Japan’s Electoral Right Turn.

 

Farmlog August 2012 29 November, 2012

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:17 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

5th~6th

  • At the farmer’s stall on the way out we get some wonderful tomatoes at ¥100 a bag!
  • Sunday starts sweltering but later clouds over just as the forecast said, and at about 5PM we get a thundershower which cools things down a bit and moistens the parched ground. It hasn’t rained for a week but still manages to be humid somehow. Anyway the mini-tomato and chilli plants seem to have been enjoying the heat.
  • A nice summer insect chorus builds up as afternoon slides into early evening.
  • On Monday the unsettled weather continues – it starts out sweltering but we get another vaguely refreshing thundershower at around 1PM. In Nagoya they’re getting torrential rain and tornado warnings! I hope our house is OK.
  • Pulling weeds among the wet tea bushes I finally encounter a leech, but escape being bitten.
  • Min. temp. 20°C, max. 33°C

12th~15th

Our Obon holiday.

A muggy start – we’re promised thunderstorms but in fact it clears up towards late afternoon in Gifu.
Yamada-san and his brother-in-law come over bringing those iwana he promised, from his pool. They’re too small to grill “shio-yaki” style so they get floured and fried instead. Really good. Later a distant cousin of Yamada’s (their grandmothers are sisters) shows up with a mamushi in a bottle! It seems he was called over to a neighbour’s because her garden was full of them. They caught five and he thought there might be more!

What you do with a mamushi:

  1. Put it in a bottle of water (alive!) for a couple of weeks, till it’s insides are clean. It will still be alive.
  2. Discard the water and pour in 40% “white liquor” (flavourless spirit for making fruit liqueurs etc).
  3. After a while you’ve got “mamushi-zake” – you can drink it as a tonic, but more often it’s rubbed onto sprained muscles etc – something like “snake oil” maybe?

One of the mamushi had got killed so Yamada decides it must be eaten. He skins it with his thumbnails(!), puts it on a grill and holds it over the fire till it’s crisp. We nervously nibble at it – it’s OK, a bit like a small dried fish. I avoid eating the head in case there’s still poison left in it.

Yamada drinks whisky these days because beer is full of purines which are bad for his gout. We thought his brother-in-law was a bit younger than us (I’m 62) but it turns out his 70th birthday is coming up in a week or two! Everybody round here looks about ten years younger than they are.

Yamada now refers to himself as the Snake Doctor.

Fireworks in the Rain.

Monday brings more of the unsettled weather. There’s a load of warm moist air coming up from the south, running into a cold air mass just about here, with the result of cloud, incredible humidity, intermittent sweltering sun and thunderstorms. Usually a Pacific high pressure area holds all this off in the summer but this year’s is a bit weak and they’re getting record rainfalls all over Japan. However, the rain sort of holds off in the afternoon, and we hear that the annual firework display down in town hasn’t been cancelled, so go down to check it out. By the main street there’s a concert with local rock bands, hula dancers and a bossa nova singer but after half an hour we go on down to the riverbank, put our mats down on the wet tarmac, open a can of happoshu and wait for the display to start at 8:00.

The fireworks are OK, though lightning on the other side of the mountain opposite is offering some competition, and there are fewer people watching than most years. Water slowly starts to come up through the mats. Around 8:30 it starts raining. The rain gets stronger, we give up and by the time we get back to the car it’s pouring. Drive back to the house in almost continual lightning, soaked. A bath and a change of clothes puts things more or less right. It was an experience, as they say.

Tuesday brings more of the same, weather-wise. In the breaks between rain there’s just time to go out and get bitten by two leeches.

Wednesday brings yet more of the same. We have to keep a can of flyspray by the kotatsu to keep the biting insects under control. (It doesn’t work though.) When the weather’s nice we hate to have to go back to Nagoya, but today will be OK. It’ll be hot back there but at least we’ll be dry and less itchy.

Min. temp. 17°C, max. 30°C


19th~20th

More of the sultry sweltering we’ve come to know and love… Intermittent cloud fails to take the edge off the heat. Rain looks imminent but we don’t actually get any, and things start to improve at the end of the day. At night there’s a skyfull of stars and it’s pleasantly cool – quite a novel feeling.

The chillies are coming on – they like the hot weather and respond in kind. I picked a couple of big green ones for a salad and even after roasting, peeling, deseeding and sitting in the dressing for half an hour they were still fiercely hot. T’s mini-tomatoes are doing well too – they’re quite easy to grow. A pumpkin seed sprouted from the compost heap and is growing huge leaves with all those nutrients – will the compost be totally depleted by the end of the season? Will there actually be some pumpkins? Will the monkeys come and steal them?

Monday morning is delightfully cool and fresh, with a few clouds dotted around the deep blue sky. As the day gets under way the sun stokes up the heat, but the humidity’s down and even at midday it’s quite comfortable if you’re in the shade. At last!! This is what summer out here is supposed to be like! (On the radio they’re saying we might have torrential thunderstorms this afternoon though.)

A bit after 12 I hear some distant thunder – odd because there aren’t that many clouds about. Five minutes later, the radio says there was a small earthquake. We felt no shaking here, but they say mountains rumble when there’s a quake…

A small wasp is building its nest in a hole in the aluminium sliding door – just by my left ear. It’s flying in and out without any concern for me, so I return the favour.

For a couple of hours in mid-afternoon the heat was becoming unpleasant… but by 4:00 it was nice and cool again. Perfect – insect voices – clear sky – this is when we hate to leave and drive back to Nagoya, but on the way home we pass rice fields golden in the late afternoon sunshine, topped with little red dragonflies. An early hint of autumn.

Min. temp. 20°C, max. 32°C


26th~27th

Sunday is somewhat cloudy but when the sun peeks through the gaps it’s hot. Meanwhile a huge typhoon is bearing down on Okinawa – I hope they’re OK.

Usually we get local vegetables at a ¥100 stand near the house, but the first supermarket we pass also has a corner for local produce, and today we buy a couple of “kiiuri”. These are small yellow gourds, slightly sweet and very nice in a salad – almost like a melon. They had some last week too – someone must be growing them in the area – not something you find in Nagoya.

Rice has been going up lately and the cunning merchants have started selling it in 8Kg bags instead of the 10Kg we’re used to, in order to hide the price rises. Do they really think people will be fooled? I suppose they must have done all the market research and come to that depressing conclusion.

Wild monkeys might sound all exotic, but along with the deer and wild boar they’re getting to be more and more of a problem to people trying to grow vegetables. According to the lady at the ¥100 stand the local council is now offering a bounty of ¥40,000 for each monkey killed by hunters. That will be hard-earned money – monkeys are clever.

Monday brings blue sky dotted with fluffy summer clouds along with a fierce heat occasionally relieved by a soothing breeze. It’s still a bit more humid than usual but things are improving, and inside the house it’s quite pleasant.

The chillies are looking good – I pick a few big green ones and a couple of the first red ones, for seeds.

Min. temp. 20°C, max. 31°C

 

Japan military expansion?

Filed under: politics — johnraff @ 12:46 pm
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Now, I don’t approve of any country having a huge military budget, or of unscrupulous businesses profiting from the sale of instruments of death, destruction and mutilation, but with the ever-growing Chinese presence in the region it’s not hard to understand why many people who feel threatened by their multiple territorial claims might not mind a somewhat stronger Japan these days. (Of course the US has long wanted Japan to help support its Asian power base.)

If you recall that the Japanese economic “miracle” was triggered by the Korean war then it also makes sense that some in the business community might be licking their lips at all these prospective sales to other Southeast Asian countries.

Anyway, an article in the New York Times:

Japan Expands Its Regional Military Role – NYTimes.com.

 

The cost of no-nukes? 28 November, 2012

Filed under: news,politics — johnraff @ 1:47 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

We’ve had a spate of announced price rises from electricity companies the last few days – first Tokyo, then Osaka and yesterday Kyushu. Not small either, in the region of 10%~20%, and most unwelcome to us consumers and industries alike. The word is that closing down nuclear reactors has meant more use of oil and gas which have to be bought on the increasingly tight world market.

These rises still have to be approved by the government, which will probably trim them down a bit, but there’s a strong message coming out that denuclearization will cost money. A lot of money. Of course this is coming just before an important general election of which the outcome is totally unclear, and in which abandoning nuclear energy is becoming a major issue. It has overwhelming public support and more and more polititians are jumping on this bandwagon in a desperate effort to get re-elected.

Electricity companies, and the business community in general, have invested a lot of money over the years in nuclear power and are strongly opposed to change. Of course burning oil and gas is not a long-term option either, and alternative renewable energy sources will be expensive, especially at first, but the timing of these price rise announcements is rather suspicious…

Kepco’s electricity bill increase has industries worried | The Japan Times Online.

 

 
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