asazuke

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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.)

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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

 

Farmlog July 2012 2 November, 2012

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:09 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

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

 

Farmlog June 2012 16 October, 2012

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 1:35 am
Tags: , , , ,

(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 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
 

Farmlog March 2012 20 June, 2012

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 2:24 pm
Tags: , , , ,

4th~5th

  • Rain all the weekend – cloudy and depressing just like back in Britain but… it’s getting warmer. Spring is coming.
  • While the plumber is round fixing those burst pipes we discover that our boiler is leaking. It’s 26 years old so it’s not all that surprising, but the new eco-boiler will set us back some ¥250,000…
  • Yamada san drops in. You might have an image of the Japanese as incredibly smartly dressed at all times, but he’s an exception to that stereotype. Today’s attire is a pair of nondescript slacks, what look like old carpet slippers and a down jacket that’s stuck all over with little bits of black insulating tape. (Presumably there were holes underneath.) He’s a great guy.
  • Min. temp. -4°C, max. 11°C

11th~12th

  • The Japanese like marathons! To me running is something you do if being pursued by a large dangerous animal, and not otherwise, but amazingly there seem to be people who actually enjoy it, and there are many events here involving this kind of self-torture. Apparently the pain causes the body to release endorphins, which give you a high… Anyway, Sunday this week is the date of yet another Nagoya Marathon of some kind and to avoid the traffic jams we head out of town on Saturday evening after Raffles closes. As we leave at 11:00PM the temperature is 9°C but while we’re driving through Nagoya it soon drops to 6.5. The town looks different from its usual Sunday midday mode of course, and there are long queues in front of the ramen shops. Only the ramen shops though. We arrive at our place in the hills at 1:00AM and -2°C. While sleeping, try to stay in the warm zone of the futon.
  • Sunday is beautiful with a clear blue sky but a cold, going on icy, wind. Spring starts suddenly here and though all we have so far are a few daffodil and tulip shoots (will the deer eat them?) it’s as if it’s taking a deep breath before bursting into full bloom. Later in the afternoon it clouds over as the weather forecast promised, and at 3:30PM it starts snowing. We wrote off the Winter too soon.
  • Of course Sunday is 3/11, one year after the Tohoku disaster which killed nearly 20,000 people and disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands. There are still more than 300,000 people in temporary accommodation, many without work and unemployment benefit running out. (It’s only paid for a limited period here.) There are some 23 million tons of debris still to be disposed of, although some of it floated out to sea and is now reaching Hawaii.
  • The emperor is barely out of hospital for a cancer operation, but went up to Tohoku to give a speech. I’m sure it was appreciated. Now, records show that the showa emperor (the current emperor’s father) shared some responsibility for the conduct of the last war, but basically since the Meiji era the emperor has been a figurehead, living relatively simply on a public budget, and still quite popular.
  • It snowed again on Sunday night and Monday morning is white. A bit less cold though.
  • The new boiler came with a 38 page instruction manual.
  • I’m busy clipping our tea bushes – not so much because we plan to pick and sell tea, but because if you leave tea bushes alone they grow into trees several metres high. If we ever wanted to sell the property it might possibly be better to have the tea bushes in working order, so to speak.
  • Min. temp. -2°C, max. 12°C

18th~19th

  • A gloomy wet Sunday, but at least it’s warm. It’s been a long cold winter but this seems to be Spring at last.
  • Nakagawa-san the plumber calls and has time for a chat. It seems local businesses are even off than in Nagoya, if anything. A beautiful thatch-roofed building on the main road is due to be demolished. It was a drive-in restaurant, but the new motorway to Takayama has drained off all the business. (Minshukus in Shirakawa are feeling the pinch too, because the new highway means there’s no longer any need to stop overnight.) Nakagawa-san gives us our key back, and his bill. It’s 300,000 yen. This isn’t great news, to be honest…
  • Do some more tea-clipping. The shears need oiling and the squeak seems to be getting responses from a nearby bird.
  • Monday is cold again and I’m getting numb fingers – spring’s like this – but the cherry blossom will be out in two weeks or so!
  • There are flags out in front of the shrine at the bottom of the hill, ready for the matsuri tomorrow. It’s usually on a nice spring day, but this year’s might be chilly. We’ll miss this one, but sometimes it’s on a Sunday so we can catch it.
  • Min. temp. -5°C, max. 10°C

25th~26th

  • Yet another unpleasant Sunday! The Winter’s back and the wind in Nagoya is biting. Rain and sun alternate all day and as we get near the house there’s snow on the ground in places! Inside, and it starts snowing again. This is very late – usually the cherry blossom is coming out in Nagaoya around this time.
  • No fukinoto? Too cold? Taken by someone/something?
  • A little bit of tea clipping before leaving early to see “The Iron Lady” back in town.
  • A van drives past selling laundry poles – two for ¥1000 – the same price as 20 years ago. The fact is, everything is the same price as 20 years ago. Or cheaper.
  • Min. temp. -2°C, max. 10°C

 

Eiheiji and Ichirino hot spring 11 February, 2012

Filed under: countryside,places — johnraff @ 3:12 pm
Tags: , , ,

This was a weekend trip at the end of last October – up to Fukui prefecture on the Sea of Japan side of the country. We had bad luck with the weather, it’s usually beautiful at that time of year, and indeed was just before and after, but on our two days we had cloud and drizzle… ah well, it didn’t really spoil things that much.

First, to Eiheiji. This is a huge Zen temple in the hills, and a major tourist attraction which even used to have its own railway station. The souvenir shops sell Zen T-shirts. I suppose Lourdes might be like this, maybe even more so. Even so, this is still a functioning temple and all over the sprawling complex of buildings there are young monks, polishing the floor, weeding the gardens or cooking in the refectory. Is tending an immaculate little garden inside a temple in the mountains where only monks and visitors will see it a waste of time? OK so what exactly isn’t a waste of time? Spending an hour or so walking around – didn’t take any photos – on the way out we passed through a hall hung with some inspiring messages from the founder, in English as well as Japanese. Buy a T-shirt on the way back to the car. Here are some nice photos, and two other peoples’ descriptions of the place.


On to Ichirino hot spring resort. Not a historic spot really, but a collection of buildings at the foot of a ski slope. There’s no snow yet, and anyway the ski boom is over, so the place is empty. When I first came to Japan, “minshukus” were houses, usually in the country, where people lived but had been adapted to take guests – something like Bed and Breakfast (though usually dinner is included too). These days they tend more often to be purpose-built, with a bit less atmosphere and “at home” friendliness than in the Good Old Days. Our place, chosen almost at random after a web search, turned out to be good (Yukiguni-so if you’re in the area). A bit scruffy but clean and run by friendly people.

The obasan who runs the place with her husband and daughter was really friendly, and an incredible hard worker. She’s up to all kinds of stuff: in the woods behind the place she picks “nameko” mushrooms, walnuts, “tochi” nuts and “warabi” fern shoots. They also grow “zenmai” ferns, “shimeji” mushrooms, beans… The food is good, but sadly the cafe at the front is empty.

The next day we’re given some walnuts and set off to take in Mount Hakusan on our way back to familiar Gifu prefecture. In spite of the gloomy weather the scenery is stunning. The autumn colours are just right and waterfalls in the narrow valley the road takes up the mountain are beautiful. Crossing through all this scenery, when we come down on the other side, somehow it all has a more familiar look. Fukui was a foreign country compared with our usual Gifu. What was it? The plants? The shape of the hills? And of course the houses are different too, once you get down to human inhabited zones.

Our own house is still intact, and we drop in to pick some more chillies on our way back to Nagoya.

 

 
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