asazuke

Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Hatoyama gone? 23 November, 2012

Filed under: news,politics — johnraff @ 1:27 pm
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The first DPJ prime minister, who made a mess of pretty much everything, now announces his retirement. Maybe.

‘Alien’ Hatoyama left wacky legacy | The Japan Times Online.

 

Tanigumi via the Tarumi line 16 November, 2012

Filed under: places — johnraff @ 2:34 pm
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A great one-day outing last weekend – we took the Tarumi line from Ogaki and got off at Tanigumi Guchi. A 10-minute bus ride away is the Buddhist temple at Tanigumi. If you stay on the Tanigumi line it winds through some amazingly picturesque scenery to the historic Usuzumi cherry tree at Tarumi, according to T who went there last spring with some of her friends, but that trip will wait for another time… Today we’re headed for the autumn colours around Tanigumi, and it turns out to be a good choice.

From Ogaki you spend the first 30 min. or so going through a plain of persimmon trees – for which Ogaki is famous – then suddenly turn a corner, cross a bridge and you’re in a narrow gorge pushing through a forest, through a short tunnel and too soon you’re at Tanigumi Guchi. I was tempted to stay on the train for the scenery coming up, but T says no, today let’s see Tanigumi. OK out of the train and immediately you’re hit by the different smell – taste – of the fresh air. There’s a local bus waiting for us – the only passengers – and soon we’re at Tanigumi.

While T is looking around one of the dozens of shops on the street up to the temple’s main gate I’m standing outside in a sort of daze, just feeling happy to be there… This, apart from T’s wonderful existence, is why I’ve been in Japan all these years I feel, and that feeling is confirmed later in the temple itself. I’m not the only one to get these vibes from Tanigumi – this lady felt similarly in 2008, and a Japanese blog I happened upon today referred to it as a “power spot”. (Power Spots are another current boom that might be worth a mention one day.) Amazingly – to me anyway – is that I’d never heard of this place before today. Plenty of others have though – the big car parks with room for rows of tour buses tell of the crowds that must have come on Sunday. The “mon zen machi” street is lined with souvenir shops, cafes, restaurants, even a couple of “ryokan” hotels, and lots of stalls selling those Ogaki persimmons. Anyway, this Monday is nice and peaceful with just a handful of people.

The temple is gorgeous, even without the beautiful red maples and yellow ginkgo trees. Every direction you look you’re rewarded with beauty. There’s that special Japanese blurring of the boundary between the man-made structures and the natural world outside, so every fern and vine seems to be a part of the temple. We’re distracted by a sign that says “to the inner shrine”, so set out on a hike up to what looks like sunlit hillsides just above us. It turns out to be something like a one-hour trek, about 2Km at ~30° (it feels), and the inner sanctum isn’t that spectacular, nor are there any panoramic views. Ah well – it was good exercise. Get back around dusk, in time for almost the last bus back, pausing to buy some of those persimmons and a pile of mandarin oranges.

If you live in Nagoya this trip is still a good option for this weekend – the autumn colours should be even better if anything. Just watch the train timetable – the Tarumi line trains run only once an hour or so, so you want to time your arrival at Ogaki so you don’t have to wait over an hour as we did! Here’s the Tarumi line website and timetable. The JR service from Nagoya to Ogaki is pretty fast and frequent. Even if you miss the maples, the Tarumi line looks worth checking out some day. (Here’s the Tanigumi tourist website, in Japanese.)

Some pictures:

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More on Japan’s Politics 12 November, 2012

Filed under: politics — johnraff @ 12:50 am
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As I was saying

Asia Sentinel – As Election Nears, Japan’s Politics Turn Sour.

 

Farmlog July 2012 2 November, 2012

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:09 pm
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1st~2nd

  • On Sunday it rains all day – it is the Rainy Season after all. There are some compensations though, like bright blue hydrangeas and misty tree-covered hills.
  • Monday starts fresh but works up into sweltering heat. In late afternoon we have a blue sky again.
  • The rice fields are beautiful in the golden sun of a late summer afternoon.
  • Min. temp. 15°C, max. 26°C

8th~9th

  • The rain stops on saturday and Sunday is hot with a bit of sun between the clouds.
  • We pick some “ume”. Every year this job comes round in the middle of the wet season and it can be thoroughly unpleasant, but today it’s quite dry. Don’t speak too soon, but are there fewer leeches this year? I haven’t seen any since May – did that hail get them?
  • Mutton curry for dinner. The light Italian red we picked up in the supermarket goes surprisingly well with it.
  • Put some of the ume in bottles with rock sugar and 35% “white liquor” to make “umeshu”. Actually there’s still some that was made in 2004 so we’re fairly well stocked.
  • Dry maybe, but sultry is the word – no rain but really humid and hot, though by late afternoon it’s pleasant. Anyway the plants – chillies, goya and turmeric – all seem to be enjoying it.
  • T finds a new way of making tea – just using the microwave! It turns out quite drinkable.
  • Min. temp. 16°C, max. 28°C

15th~16th

  • The end of “Tsuyu” often brings heavy rain and they’re getting severe floods in Kyushu – 800mm in three days! That’s nearly a metre of water!
  • We set off from Nagoya in the usual humid heat with a bit of sun, but there’s a dark wall of cloud in front of us that can only mean rain ahead.
  • The rivers are full of water and decorated with mist, as the moist air meets the cold water.
  • The ¥100 stall has lots of cucumbers and eggplants – I’ll have to make some pickle.
  • We arrive to find a snakeskin hanging from the drain by the front door – 1.6m long! There were other visitors while we were away: the deer had eaten all the leaves off the “giboshi” (hosta) in front of the house. We had been looking forward to the pretty blue flowers that were due soon. Deer are becoming an increasing problem everywhere. They are even damaging fisheries in some areas! Stripping the vegetation from mountainsides they increase the run-off of mud into the rivers, and into coastal waters. An ojisan from down the road has been setting some snares – he gets a bounty from the local council but we’ll have to see how many deer he manages to get…
  • T goes to pick some more ume and comes across a faun in a snare! It looks at her with big sorrowful faun eyes that say “help me”… The ojisan says it’ll be dead tomorrow. He’ll say a prayer and bury it. He has to bury it deep so scavengers don’t dig it up, but he’s got a mechanical shovel.
  • It starts raining at about 6:00. Did I say something about “sultry” last week? I didn’t know what I was talking about. The humidity is incredible, the earth floors by the entrances are wet, and when you open a cupboard cold air comes out!
  • The ojisan comes over to pick up and bury the deer. He also, perhaps by way of thanks for letting him set traps on our land, cuts down this tree for us which had been blocking the sun and breeze from the front of the house. It was a big tree and I spend three hours clearing up all the branches and pieces of trunk afterwards.
  • Min. temp.18 °C, max. 28°C

22nd~23rd

  • Summer officially started on Tuesday but our succession of sweltering 35°C days was interrupted by a cold air mass let in by a weak high pressure area. It rained on Saturday and Sunday was still overcast and unusually cool – by the time we got to the house it was only 23° (still good and humid though).
  • We stock up on more vegetables on the way – we’re living on cucumbers, eggplants and tomatoes.
  • The drizzle holds off and allows us to eat outside, which is a major compensation for the daytime mugginess.
  • Lizards in abundance. Our local variety is a rather handsome creature with cream and dark brown stripes tapering off to a bright blue tail.
  • The clouds thin out on Monday, allowing the sun in to stew us in the humidity.
  • The chillies are coming on, though some now need staking up and some on the south side of the field have been bitten off at the base of their stem. slugs? insects?
  • It’s too hot to do much work – finish clearing up big chunks of that tree we had cut down last week, clear up last year’s chilli net and tie up some of this year’s drooping chilli plants.
  • At about 3:00PM a particularly loud insect chorus starts up with strange stroboscopic effect – a reminder that the peak heat of the day is past.
  • Min. temp. 19°C, max. 33°C

29th~30th

  • Hot!! Humid!! There was a heatstroke warning on the radio today – over 50 people have died already. Have to get enough water and salt. It’s peak Summer, but really it should be a bit dryer than this. Our farmhouse floor is still wet at the entrance.
  • By the stream at the back, a big snake is climbing up a plant stalk on the bank till it bends over towards the other side so he can get at this big fat-bodied spider. The spider notices just in time and seems to get away OK.
  • Finally get some of the rank weed growth cut down.
  • An unknown insect. Even after 25 years I still often see new ones – that snake’s spider for example. This place is full of life!
  • Yamada san drops in for the first time in a while. He’ll bring some //iwana// over at Obon and we’ll have a little barbecue. We try out T’s theory that the hail killed off the leeches, but Yamada says no, he’s seen plenty. We’ve just been lucky.
  • Monday morning starts out with a nice breeze, but soon gets stuck into the sweltering inferno we’ve come to know, even out here. What will it be like back in Nagoya? We’re leaving early today to hit a beer garden at the top of one of the tallest buildings in town.
  • On the way back, the rice is already starting to turn yellow in some fields.
  • Min. temp. 21°C, max. 33°C

 

Fed up 31 October, 2012

Filed under: politics — johnraff @ 2:55 pm
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If you remember the euphoria that surrounded the election of Obama four years ago, that’s a bit how it was here in Japan when the Democratic Party of Japan took power from the Liberal Democratic Party, who had had pretty much a monopoly since the war. The names might sound almost identical, but in fact the DPJ were supposed to stand for a complete break from the stale policies and embedded corruption of the LDP – a “Change Has Come To Japan” feeling. Hah. Now the current prime minister, Noda, has public support figures under 20%, as do the DPJ.

People are thoroughly fed up, with plenty of reason to be. The DPJ have kept hardly any of the promises they made before the last election:

  • Okinawa. Okinawans have got even more to be fed up about than the rest of the country, and a good bit of it relates to the American army bases that occupy 18% of the main island. Hatoyama, the current DPJ leader promised he would move the highly dangerous Futenma air base out of the centre of Ginowan City, off the island and out of Okinawa prefecture. Eventually, betrayed by civil servants in the Foreign Office, he was forced to accept the plan to move the base a bit north to Henoko, on the same island, just as the LDP had already arranged. Okinawans were furious, and still are, and local opposition in Henoko has meant the base is still in the middle of the city – the worst outcome.
  • Free motorways. This was always silly, and after a couple of weekend trials seems to have been quietly dropped.
  • Child allowance. This struck me as a good way of redistributing a bit of wealth down to the younger generation, who would spend it and stimulate the economy, but since the LDP won a mid-term Upper House election they’ve successfully blocked it, along with most of the other useful-sounding legislation the DPJ were trying to pass. (Americans, does this sound familiar?)
  • Free high school. Another good idea that may not have been actually dropped, but one you don’t hear much about these days.
  • Pensions. Another big one. Everyone knows the government has a huge deficit and the consensus of opinion among young Japanese seems to be that by the time they’re old enough to claim it the pension system will have collapsed. As a result more and more people are failing to pay their (compulsory) contributions, making the situation worse. This is compounded by the big companies which have made a massive shift from employing full-time staff to using part-timers from agencies, who are much harder to keep within the national insurance system. The DPJ promised a fullscale review of the tax and social welfare systems to make a pension at 65 a realistic proposition. All Noda has done so far is force a bill through parliament to raise consumption tax by 5%, losing many members of his party in the process. This tax raise wasn’t even in the DPJ manifesto, and hasn’t exactly proved a crowd-pleaser.
  • Bureaucrats. Unelected civil servants have long had too much power here, and it was often said that politicians just rubber-stamped their decisions. The DPJ promised to rein in the bureaucrats and take power back for the people. The bureaucrats were outraged, fought the inexperienced DPJ politicians tooth and nail, and seem to have beaten them.

Well, the DPJ do have some excuses, the biggest of course being the Fukushima earthquake and tidal wave. This punched a big hole in the economy, and radicalized public opinion on nuclear energy in the process. The government soon promised policies that would “make nuclear-free energy supply possible by 2030” and at the same time authorized the building of a new reactor…

This list is long, but finally we must remember the total mess the DPJ government has made of foreign policy. Former PM Hatoyama must have royally pissed of the Americans when he announced in a public speech that Japan intended to move away from them and closer to the Chinese. The Okinawan base negotiations were, and still are, a complete mess. Noda completed the circle by buying the Senkaku islands after goading by the idiot Tokyo governor Ishihara (more about him in a moment), and provoked the worst crisis in Japan-China relations for years. Meanwhile things are little better with South Korea or Russia.

So, yes, people are fed up. However, the LDP, the main opposition party, have nothing to be pleased about. Their public support might be a few percent higher than the government’s, but nobody expects too much of them, and there’s no guarantee at all that they’d be able to form a government after the election that’s coming up soon. The DPJ want to delay the election as long as possible in the hope that their support might pick up a bit, while the LDP are being as obstructive as possible in the Diet to try and force an early election while they’re a bit ahead. The general public are not stupid and see all this quite clearly. There’s more – Ozawa (remember him?) broke off from the DPJ to form his own party, Osaka mayor Hashimoto has started one up too, our Nagoya mayor Kawamura is hanging about trying to get involved, and just the other day Tokyo mayor Ishihara announced his resignation to form his own party too!

There’s talk of a “third force” in Japanese politics but it’s hard to be too optimistic about any of this. Ishihara is a raving right-winger who, like some other older LDP dropouts, seems to have inherited the outlook of the military era of the 30s. He hates communism (ie hates the Chinese), hates the Americans who defeated his country in 1945 and hates the “socialists” who he thinks have taken over the teachers’ union and are destroying Japan ( he fired some teachers for failing to stand up for the national anthem ). He also wants to completely re-write Japan’s pacifist constitution. Ishihara can be an entertaining speaker though, and joins the DPJ in lashing out at the civil servants. (Of course he isn’t in the position of having to actually do anything about them.) It was Ishihara’s plan for Tokyo to buy the Senkaku islands earlier this year that pushed Noda into buying them for the government. Ishihara would have put up anti-Chinese posters and who knows what, and Noda thought preempting him would keep things smooth with the Chinese. (He was wrong.)

Hashimoto is younger and a little more sane than Ishihara but still pretty much right-wing/authoritarian, as are most of the other politicians milling around looking for some of the action, except Ozawa who’s just a populist. Nobody has any particular expectations of any of them. People have had it with politicians in general. This all reminds me of nothing so much as inter-war Germany just before Hitler was elected. Exaggeration? Maybe. We can take hope from Marx – (roughly) “History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce”.

Get ready for a good laugh.

 

 

Sakushima Pictures 18 October, 2012

Filed under: places — johnraff @ 2:36 pm
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There were a lot of photos left over from our 2010 trip to Sakushima. Hope you like some of them!

 

The Last Carp

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 1:30 pm
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It was there again yesterday – the Last Carp.

We’ve got this pond in front of our house out in the country. I think the previous owner must have been keeping fish there, because there are some rusty poles left around it which look as if they once held netting, maybe to keep out hungry weasels. The fish, and nets, were gone when we bought the place 25 years ago, but the pond is fed by a pipe from the stream so the water has stayed fresh, and inhabited by a population of newts and smaller creatures. A few years ago they were joined by some fresh-water snails that must have arrived as eggs down that pipe. Now we had learned earlier that the larvae of the firefly could only grow in fresh clean water, because that was needed by the black shellfish they feed on. Sure enough, those were the same water snails that had settled in the pond and, sure enough, in another couple of years we had a settlement of fireflies there too. If we were lucky, we’d show up on a weekend in early July to be treated to a fantastic display in the bushes round that pond which lit them up like Christmas trees.

Anyway, you remember Ikemoto san the builder who changed our floor for us last year? We’ve been on friendly terms with him for years in fact, since he refurbished the house for us when we moved in, and he’s done a few things for us over the years. Maybe five or six years ago he fixed up the pipe that brought water to our pond, but kept getting blocked up, so now it hardly needs any attention at all. At that time he put a dozen or so small carp in the pond for us. Very kind, though we wondered what they’d live on. It used to be common in the countryside to keep carp as an extra source of protein, and people would give them left-over rice and the like, but we’re away in Nagoya for most of the week. As I had somewhat feared, they seemed to be doing OK without our help, living off those snails and firefly larvae, because the fireflies disappeared from that year. …sigh… Of course it was very kind of him to put those fish in the pond (without asking us) but we’d rather have kept the fireflies really…

However, we soon found that those nets that used to be round the pond had been necessary. One by one the carp just disappeared, presumably taken by animals or the kites that sometimes fly by. Over a year or so they went from 10 to 6 to 3… and then we didn’t see any at all. All gone – how long will it take for the fireflies to come back? But maybe six months after that I caught a glimpse of the Last Carp. Very timid, he’ll disappear under a rock or who-knows-where as soon as he sees you, but he’s still there. Every month or so I get a glimpse of this fish, quite a bit bigger than when he was put in, so he must be finding something to eat – we don’t give him anything. The Last Carp has been lurking in our pond a couple of years now, but after watching his friends being caught and eaten I suppose he’s got good reason to be timid…

 

Farmlog June 2012 16 October, 2012

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 1:35 am
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(btw added a few pics to March, April and May)

10th~11th

  • We missed a week because of a Daihachi Ryodan gig, but manage to get out of town on Saturday evening.
  • The Rainy Season officially started on Saturday and Sunday is typically cloudy with a HOT sun, though there’s still a bit of a fresh breeze and the house is still dry. Weeds are UP.
  • Voices: In the afternoon a strange yelp, a bit like a dog. I go to have a look and something jumps out of a tree. A monkey probably. That night I’m dozing in front of the fire and woken by a scream! Get a torch – can’t see anything but it continues a while. Deer probably. (Is this the original banshee? Do they have deer in Ireland?)
  • T discovers a small pink and black snake under some dead leaves. Don’t know what it is, but probably harmless.
  • Monday is busy: planting out the first “Malay” chillies, more digging and shopping on the way home.
  • Min. temp. 10°C, max. 26°C

17th~18th

  • It pours with rain on Saturday night and we expect more of the same at the weekend, but Sunday turns out merely cloudy, gradually clearing so by the time we get to the house the sun has come out and brought up all the moisture so it’s really humid. Our entrance floor is damp, but there’s none of that mouldy smell we used to get. It must have been coming from that old tatami we got rid of last autumn. Inside the house it’s cool and pleasant – that money we spent on re-doing the floor might not have been for nothing.
  • That evening there’s a clear sky and it cools right down. One firefly shows up, way too early – they usually come out in early July.
  • Monday is hot and humid too. A typhoon’s due on Wednesday though…
  • Gradually burning the leftover timber from last year’s work on Sunday evenings – last night I must have turned over some plank a bit suddenly because today there’s a squashed snake in the middle of the woodpile. It looks freshly killed, but its head is definitely too flat for survival.
  • I plant some “Ishigaki” small hot chilli plants, and some big mild paprikas, then get a little weedcutting done.
  • T is hard at work picking and drying tea for our consumption. It’s not bad at all actually.
  • Min. temp. 15°C, max. 25°C

24th~25th

  • A hot Sunday, and no rain.
  • The new green rice is beautiful.
  • There are a lot of anglers in the river on our way up – the “ayu” season has just opened.
  • The house is a pleasant 23° or so, and still dry!
  • At the entrance to the chilli field is a “mamushi” (kind of adder) – it moves away, twitching its tail threateningly. Are rattlesnakes related?
  • Another snake in the woodpile! This one’s probably a harmless “aodaisho” like last week’s, but not squashed at all, and makes its escape, along with a centipede and a couple of small crabs. Yes, there are small land-crabs out here, not really big enough to eat, unfortunately, unless maybe if you dipped them in flour and fried them crisp…
  • A big grey heron is joining in the ayu-fishing at the river on our way back.
  • Min. temp. 13°C, max. 26°C

 

Farmlog May 2012 4 September, 2012

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:32 pm
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5th~7th

  • Our last customer leaves a bit early so we set out at ~11PM Saturday night.
  • Coming up our road, a medium-sized animal jumps out and gets hit by the car. Tanuki? Arai-guma?
  • About 2AM there’s a thunder and tornado warning on the radio. Lightning nearby but no tornadoes.
  • On Sunday the unstable atmosphere continues, with rain till late afternoon. There’s been big tornado damage in Shizuoka prefecture.
  • Do some weed-slashing and get a big leech on my thigh. Ugh. Luckily it hadn’t started sucking blood, but still quite a job to get it off. Those things are really tough, as if they were made of rubber.
  • A bit too chilly to have dinner outside. A nice full moon though.
  • Monday is beautiful with hot sun and a fresh breeze. (lots of UV)
  • All through Golden Week we hear of mountain accidents on the radio, with numerous fatalities, mostly people over 60.
  • I get the weed-cutter out – first time of the year, and I have to clean the air filter to get it to start. Still, after 25 years it’s not doing too badly.The new growth is soft and lush and my boots get well spattered with green debris.
  • Bamboo shoots are coming up – I can make some pickle and curry.
  • Min. temp. 4°C, max. 24°C

13th~14th

  • Leave Nagoya late on a gorgeous day, spoilt somewhat for me by a stinking cold.
  • Only “new” onions in the supermarkets now. Delicious in salads, but too watery for making sauces.
  • Swallows’ numbers are decreasing apparently – modern buildings don’t have the shape they want for their nests – but there are a couple of families under the eaves of one of the shops we call at.
  • A big gang of aging bikers pass the other way. Once they retire they won’t be restricted to Sundays for their outings.
  • A perfect evening to eat outside, but with my cold I don’t want to inhale wood smoke so we pass. Ah well. It turns out to be quite chilly anyway, and the house is still nice and dry. When the Rainy Season hits it’ll be good and damp.
  • Monday morning is paradisiacal (except for my cold) with a clear sky,fresh breeze, new green leaves everywhere, the buzz of an occasional insect and the call of the uguisu.
  • Myoga shoots are coming up.
  • In this dry weather the leeches seem to be keeping a low profile and I can do some weed-slashing without loss of blood.
  • It’s nice weather for lizards – they’ve been around a while now already.
  • We dig out a couple more bamboo shoots.
  • Min. temp. 6°C, max. 21°C

20th~21st

  • A hazy warm day. I got up late so we leave Nagoya after 1 PM. At time like this you notice how long it takes to get out of town, even heading northwards which is the shortest way to the countryside. Finally after a good hour, passing Inuyama we are suddenly surrounded by greenery. The fresh pale spring leaves are already getting their full colour.
  • Even so, we get to the house in time to do a bit of digging before it gets dark. The chillies will start being planted in a couple of weeks.
  • I don’t get up at 6 AM to see the annular eclipse of the sun.
  • Monday is scorching hot, but the breeze is still fresh.
  • The remaining bamboo shoots have all been eaten – wild boar?
  • The ojisan from down the road has taken out his deer trap – no luck?
  • Min. temp. 6°C, max. 23°C

27th~28th

  • It’s hot!! Summer is on its way.
  • We stop at the “road station” and buy baby turnips (these are delicious), a bag of red radishes, 2 big white radishes and some bamboo shoots. The leaves are wilting but after an hour in cold water they plump up incredibly – even more the next day.
  • Rice planting is well under way in fields we pass.
  • Open the front door, and inside the house is nice and cool – not damp or mouldy at all. This will change soon enough…
  • There’s some thunder at the end of the day, but it clears and we have dinner under the stars. Thai squid salad, whole new potatoes deep-fried with soy dressing, crispy “age” tofu fried slowly in a little oil and eaten with grated ginger, and some of that bamboo shoot, stewed and topped with dried fish flakes. Accompanied by a cheap but enjoyable Chilean white wine. A feast. I feel lucky.
  • Monday starts out nice – shorts and T-shirt weather – but at 1:00 we’re visited by big clouds and thunder. We hurry to put away the futons which have been airing outside, and T quickly finishes planting out the goya seedlings she’d brough from Nagoya. At 1:30 it starts raining, there’s lightning, then heavy rain. The temperature suddenly drops some 10°C and my T-shirt feels ridiculously inadequate. The rain changes to hail, which gets bigger, maybe fingertip size. At 1:32 there’s a tornado warning on the radio! At 1:45 the hail stops, leaving our valley full of cold mist. At 1:55 the sun comes out, but it’s still quite a bit colder than before. T’s freshly planted goya seedlings have had all their leaves ripped off. Apparently in the USA they get hail the size of baseballs in some places, but this was a first for us.
  • Min. temp. 8°C, max. 25°C

 

 

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
 

 
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