asazuke

Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

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 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
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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
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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.

 

Farmlog November 2011 31 January, 2012

Filed under: countryside — johnraff @ 1:53 pm
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Please bear with me as I try and get up to date here. I suppose these records are as much for my own future reference as anything else really. December 2011 will follow soon.

6th~7th

  • It’s amazingly warm and humid for November, but looking like rain.
  • No speedcops out in this bad weather.
  • Ikemoto san’s floor needs the sawdust and general debris cleaning off before putting down the futon, but the vacuum cleaner leaves marks. The wax, or whatever it was, is still not completely dry. How long will it take?
  • A big caterpillar on the “nozenkazura” tree. The leaves are yellow and dropping off so there can’t be too much to eat up there.
  • T picks more and more persimmons – 300 this week! We’ve got this big book on traditional medicinal plants, and apparently the green frills at the base of the fruit are good for something – high blood pressure? You ferment them for five days, strain off the juice, put it in a bottle and bury it up to its neck in the ground for several months.
  • Pick the last chillies before the frost hits. Out in the field with just the background music playing in my head. It’s 60s stuff – Cilla Black’s “Anyone who had a heart” then Shocking Blue’s “Venus” finally a bit more recent with Steely Dan’s song about grapefruit wine. “No static at all”??
  • Min. temp. 7°C max. 19°C

20th~21st

  • Last week we stayed in Town, and it’s got quite chilly in the last two weeks, but sunny on Sunday.
  • In Kimble we buy some dishes, look at the incredibly cheap second hand furniture and pick up a free DVD of the film “Lost in Translation”.
  • The supermarket is running out of “Mugi to Hoppu Black”.
  • Is the Beaujolais Nouveau boom finally petering out? They used to fly it in so the Japanese could enjoy their easternmost position to be among the first people in the world to drink the new brew – at a price of ¥1800 a bottle or more. It’s not really worth that price, but now they’ve started using lightweight plastic bottles and we got one for ¥880. It turned out to be not so bad – immature, rough, funky… but enjoyable, from a producer I hadn’t heard of. (which isn’t saying that much)
  • The frost is late, and the chilli plants are still alive.
  • Monday brings a cold wind, fast-moving clouds and a bit of sun.
  • Pick a few last chillies. There are lots of those hot “Ishigakis” left, still alive though starting to look a bit sad. The frost will kill them soon, maybe tonight.
  • Lots of birds around, but all sensible creatures are bedding down for the Winter.  (or dead)
  • As we leave the house, the temperature’s down to 6°C, which is quite cold after the Japanese Summer and Autumn.
  • On the road home two dogs in front of us – no, monkeys! They soon get out of the way.
  • Min temp 3°C max 17°C

27th~28th

  • Autumn has come to Nagoya too, though at 16 it’s a bit warmer and very pleasant. The gingko trees on the sunny side of the street have turned bright yellow. Out in the country they can grow quite big and look very impressive.
  • “Vacant” and “To Let” signs on buildings everywhere.
  • A huge semi-nude poster advertising jeans (all she’s wearing) by a bridge on the road out. After a year or two it’s faded a bit but still sort of distracting.
  • A long queue outside McDonalds, like last week.They’re giving away free hamburgers or something.
  • The first strawberries of the season in the supermarket. To me, strawberries are a late Spring/early Summer thing but here they’re an essential of “Christmas Cake”, which for some reason is a strawberry sponge cake with whipped cream, not the rich dark fruit cake with icing and marzipan that I know.
  • By the time we get to the house it’s down to 5°C and cold. The pump that refills the oil heater’s tank is broken – an insect got in and built a nest. Manage to fill the tank somehow.
  • Yes, last week’s frost got the chilli plants. Season over.
  • A gloomy cold Monday and it’s hard to get  out of the kotatsu after breakfast. It turns out to be warmer outside.
  • min temp -1.5°C, max 10°C
 

2012! 4 January, 2012

Filed under: countryside,customs,food & drink — johnraff @ 7:15 pm
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Happy New Year everyone! There are still some things I wanted to post about in 2011, along with the farm records for November and December, but since it’s now 2011 let’s start off more or less in real time…

T’s nephew and his wife now live here in Nagoya; their new baby is still too small to make the shinkansen journey to Tokyo so T’s sister came here, along with her daughter. Not a bad family gathering, considering we have no kids of our own, and a table to match, with contributions from all concerned. New Year here is just like Christmas in that respect, though the traditional fare is a bit exotic for us Westerners maybe. Personally, a roasted bird with all the trimmings followed by Christmas pudding would be quite OK, but we had “kazunoko” (salted herring roe), “kamaboko” (fish cake) and “kobumaki” (seaweed rolls). The kobumaki’s not bad, but I can pass on the kazunoko and kamaboko to be honest. There wasn’t any “mochi” (pounded glutinous rice cakes, another New year favourite) but things get better after that: delicious tuna sashimi, and the super-rich “toro” as well, “ikura” salmon roe, tender grilled yellowtail, prawns simmered in a light stock, crab and mushrooms steamed in citrus peel, some Japanese style vegetables, thai style octopus salad, roast beef with horseradish, deep fried water chestnuts with parmesan cheese…  Wow, but when there was a bit of space on the table some sushi appeared, followed by something T made: “anago” eel, snapper, ginko nuts and lily roots covered with a foam of grated young turnips and egg white and steamed for 20 minutes or so. Excellent.

The next day after a slow breakfast we headed out to the country, loaded up with leftovers to see us through a couple of days. Yes, it’s pretty cold. Fire up the oil fan heater for a few hours and eventually the floor and walls are no longer ice-cold to the touch. On the third I got a certain amount of work done, disposing of compostable rubbish and pruning a maple tree just in front of the house which had grown much too big. Knowing nothing about it except to do it in the Winter I sawed off a number of big branches, and spent the next couple of hours burning them down to a little pile of ash. Now I’ve just done a google search and found out that maples don’t like having their branches cut too much… I hope it survives.

On the 4th T woke me up at 9:00. It had started snowing quite steadily and if we didn’t get out soon we might get stuck there, or at least have to put on the tyre chains, which is a horrible job. Quick breakfast, hurried packing and on the road by 10:30. It’s a cold 0°C in the hills, but back in tropical Nagoya a much more tolerable 7°C or so. Safe! (But back to work tomorrow.)

In the country, last week,
Min temp -6°C max 6°C

 

Farmlog October 2011 21 December, 2011

Filed under: countryside,seasons — johnraff @ 1:22 am
Tags: , , , ,

Ha! Already Christmas breathing down our necks, and you still haven’t been told about all the thrilling happenings out on the farm in October and November. Hmm… well, here’s a bit about October to be going on with.

2nd~3rd

  • “Japan has four seasons” I remember being told in numerous drinking places soon after arriving here. Everyone wanted you to know just how unique this place was. It got so annoying, you started to make a point of saying how similar Japan was to wherever you came from: “Yes, we also use polite language when talking to someone older”, “Yes, we also have pickles…”, you get the idea. They’d smile politely but you could tell they didn’t like this sort of talk at all. You could criticise the country as much as you wanted, as long as you reminded them how different they were from you. But, to tell the truth, Japan does have four seasons, well five if you put the detestable Rainy Season in between Spring and Summer. I remember returning to the UK once for Christmas to find it a warm 15°C or so, another time shivering at 5°C in May, but here Summer is hot and Winter is cold. Each season is quite distinct, and the other day we switched from Autumn to Winter. It’s cold. (is what all that was about)
  • The tatami replacement project is getting under way. Ikemoto san the builder has been round and will start the actual work next week or so, so we’ve got to clear all the stuff out of those rooms, moving it upstairs. It’s at times like this that you realize how many things you acquire over time. Half-read magazines, souvenirs from Guam or somewhere and wounded musical instruments that can’t really be played, but there’s no way you’re going to throw them away. Luckily we haven’t run out of space yet.
  • Min temp. 10°C max 24°C

9th~10th

  • A perfect Autumn day. The sky is that gorgeous translucent blue that the Japanese have the cheek to call “Nihon baré” (Japan clear) as if noone else had blue skies…
  • Not quite as cold in the evening as it was last week. We build a good fire and sip warm shochu. T drinks too much and wakes up in the morning with a hangover. This is unusual for her.
  • Monday morning is perfect too. There’s a noisy flock of birds in the trees opposite, till they move off further down the road. Immigrants from the Northern Winter somewhere?
  • Must clear the house up ready for the carpenters. All the dust sets off a sneezing fit.
  • The focus on weedcutting in the summer has left lots of other unwanted growth untouched: the “susuki” pampas grass and ferns growing between the tea bushes (this must be cut down before the snow comes), bushes round the entrance drive, wisteria vines trying to strangle everything, plum, camelia and maple trees to prune…
  • There’s pretentious “progressive” rock on the FM radio all day (Atom Heart Mother, Yes, Deep Purple with an orchestra…) it’s a special programme for the holiday. I like the early Pink Floyd, but clearly the Good Old Days weren’t always all that great. Turn it off.
  • The leeks in the supermarket are from China. They could have been grown in the empty fields around here, but it’s cheaper to import them.
  • Overall, a nice Autumn day, with gentle background music from the crickets.
  • Min temp. 6°C max 21°C

16th~17th

  • The ferns grow between our tea bushes. They die off in the winter but when it snows they flop over the tea to make a cover like a balaclava helmet. The tea bushes don’t like being kept in the dark like this, so those ferns have to be cut down now. Big black hornets are doing the rounds of the last tea blossoms. They’re OK as long as you don’t bother them. Whatever constitutes “bother” to a wasp…
  • The “goya” vine is finished.
  • Ikemoto san has almost finished the reflooring in the house. There’s a lot of scrap timber in front of the house so we can have a good fire and stay warm outside. Dinner al fresco won’t be possible much longer though.
  • Monday starts off with a chilly mist, but warms up.
  • Spent an hour picking a kilo or so of those hot little “Ishigaki” chillies. This would obviously not be a commercial proposition.
  • Min temp. 9°C max 20°C

23rd~24th

  • A strange return of the summer humidity after the rain. Sweating!
  • Every week without fail, when we pass their favourite spot the police are booking someone for speeding.
  • Burn more timber and eat outside – stars, insect voices and a heavy dew.
  • There are still leeches around!
  • Our friend Yamada san has heard about out reflooring and phones to offer advice – we should polish it with rice bran in a cloth bag. T used to do this as a child and says it’s incredible hard work, so we ask Ikemoto san to wax it instead.
  • There are smelly “kamemushi” insects everywhere.
  • T picks persimmons for drying.
  • The Habanero and Ishigaki chillies are still looking fit, as are the big mild peppers, but the “Malay” medium chillies haven’t done well this year for some reason.
  • Min temp. 7°C max20°C

31st

  • We drop in on the way back from a trip to Eiheiji and Fukui.
  • The chillies are still looking happy.
  • Our new floor looks nice, nails hidden and stained to match the rest of the room.
  • The weather has cleared after a rainy Sunday, but by 4:30PM it’s thoroughly chilly.
  • My favourite “3rd beer” Mugi to Hoppu now has a Black version which isn’t bad at all, but only a limited issue apparently.
  • Min temp. 5°C max 23°C
 

Persimmons 25 November, 2011

Filed under: countryside,food & drink,seasons — johnraff @ 2:03 pm
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Maybe this fruit’s not too well known outside the Far East – it’s about the size of a small apple, bright red-orange and a bit crunchy. (I’m not that crazy about them personally.) There are two kinds: sweet and bitter. The bitter ones are incredibly astringent (tannin) and quite inedible. It feels as if your mouth is being turned inside out. However, if you dry them they miraculously become sweet! The result is something like dried dates or figs. The tree behind our country house is the bitter variety but this year there’s been a huge crop (they produce heavily on alternate years) and Taeko’s been hanging up some of them to make dried persimmons, out on our Nagoya veranda where the washing usually goes. Last time she did that she was eating them every day (they are a bit too sweet for me) and put on 10Kg, so this time she’s giving most of them away to friends and relatives.

 

Farmlog 11th~26th September 2011 5 November, 2011

Filed under: countryside,food & drink — johnraff @ 3:23 pm
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It might still feel like Summer here in Nagoya on this warm November day, but this record is already going back two months, and Winter will be on us in no time. Anyway…

The first weekend (4th & 5th) we stayed in Nagoya because Daihachi Ryodan had one of our increasingly infrequent gigs, this time in a converted warehouse at a traditional sake brewery where they were putting on what turned out to be a pretty enjoyable event, with market stalls and lots of little kids running around, along with the music. People seemed to enjoy our stuff too, which is always encouraging.

The next day T and I went to a “beer garden” – a sort of Summer tradition here to hit these places, usually on the roof of a building so you get a bit of breeze, decorated with plastic lanterns and full of middle-aged ladies making sure they get their money’s worth of the all-you-can-eat deal usually on offer. It was OK, but run by the wholesale fish market and we expected better things in the food section. Of course beer is beer, and a few mugfulls of well-chilled lager always go down well in the Nagoya humidity.

11th~12th

  • A muggy Sunday, but there are already hints of the coming Autumn. The rice is yellow, many fields have already been cut and there is smoke in the air from the burnt leftovers.
  • Lots of picnickers by the river.
  • A gang of aging bikers – must all be over 50, maybe 60. You don’t hear the “bosozoku” urban bikers so much any more – the roar of dozens of unsilenced exhausts used to be a feature of Summer evenings – but these guys are different, on a tour of the countryside in a sort of Easy Rider thing. Quite quiet and completely unthreatening.
  • No typhoon damage out in Gifu, unlike Mie where number 12 hung about for days and dropped huge amounts of water. The hot chillies – habaneros and little “ishigakis” – are doing well this year, but the larger, less hot general-purpose red ones from Malaysia aren’t looking all that lively for some reason. Plenty of goya, and myoga too.
  • A nice cool evening with an insect chorus and an almost full moon (the “chu shu no meigetsu”) intermittently visible.
  • A beautiful fresh Monday morning gradually warms up as the day moves on.
  • Monday evening is equally beautiful – a magnificent harvest moon sees us home, accompanied by crickets.
  • Min temp 11°C max 30°C

18th~19th

  • Two typhoons bringing up the usual massive amounts of warm moist air from the South… with the usual result of sweaty sticky humidity up here.
  • In the supermarket car-park the sun hits you like a hammer. Lettuces are ¥298 each! (over $3) All vegetables are expensive in fact – could it be because of the rain?
  • Listening to wonderful Ghanaian Highlife music in the car, I suddenly realise what a privilege it is to be able to enjoy this, which was made by people in another continent, maybe more than 30 years ago.
  • Have an early night for once and get up at 8 am to be rewarded with a perfect clear morning. Later it clouded over with more of that humid heat we’ve long come to know and love.
  • A bumper habanero harvest. A small brown snake among the plants. There’s only one poisonous species here, and that wasn’t it.
  • A thunder shower about 3 pm.
  • On the way home the “higanbana” are out – right on time as usual.
  • Min temp 19°C max 28°C

25th~26th

  • Beautiful Sunday morning, although it clouded over a bit later. Typhoon 15 blew away the Summer and suddenly it’s cool. What a difference a week makes! From sweltering to shivering in a few days. Last Sunday evening a T-shirt was comfortable, but now outside with a long-sleeved shirt and pullover (sweater to you Americans) I was still huddling near the fire.
  • There are still a few goya left, but we’re coming to the end of the season. There are lots more habaneros – with any luck the chillies will hold out through October and give us some kind of harvest.
  • A visit from the local builder. We want our rotten tatami matting replaced with a wooden floor. Tatami’s very ethnic and cool, but ours was way too old, and full of mould and biting insects. They cost more than 10,000 yen each, and in this house which is only opened up for two days a week new ones would soon go mouldy again, so we figured wood would just be more pleasant. A lot of the supporting timbers under the floor are in bad shape too so a fair amount of work is involved.
  • The max. and min. thermometer is broken: the min. marker falls back to the mercury. I’ll try just laying it on its side.
  • Min temp ~15°C (guess) max 25°C

 

Farmlog 7th ~ 29th August 2011 28 September, 2011

Filed under: countryside,food & drink — johnraff @ 1:50 am
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7th~8th

  • A real Summer day for once: blue sky, summery clouds… and a blazing sun! It’s hot! The first supermarket car-park is scorching in the way only a supermarket car-park can be. The asphalt soaks up the sun so you get grilled from above and below simultaneously.
  • But by the time we get to the second supermarket – there are now two on our route – it’s already clouded over and extra humid. The cicadas are hitting a peak.
  • This week there are lots of nice fresh vegetables at the ¥100 stall so we stock up for Raffles and for ourselves: long shiny black eggplants and round green ones, various kinds of capsicums, perfect cucumbers and delicious tomatoes. Tomatoes show up less often these days so we’re lucky.
  • It’s cool when we leave the car at our house and there’s a chorus of welcome from the cicadas and uguisu. After a bit of work, though, the humidity gets you covered in moisture. Likewise the floor and tatami.
  • I had been a bit worried if the deer had got to the chillies, but they were OK. Not, however, the yams, which had had all their leaves eaten off by some animal. Saw a “mamushi” snake while fixing the hole in the netting the leaf-eater had probably come through.
  • On Monday there was more fierce hot sun and that humidity again, so it’s hot even in the shade. Half a dozen different insect voices fill in the background.
  • Bitten by leeches on wrist and toe. These creatures are affecting our quality of life here. Not in a positive way.
  • A baby rabbit appeared round the side of the house.
  • Min. temp. 19°C max. 32°C

13th~15th

  • We took an extra day off this week so we could take in the firework display at our local town on Saturday. This was our Summer Holiday but it was OK actually. Will post some pics of the fireworks soon. Anyway, we’re thinking of a trip somewhere at New Year maybe, when it’s easier to take time off.
  • A blazing hot Saturday, as it turned out. This is real summer heat – up to now was just a sort of extended Rainy Season – the humidity’s still too high though.
  • Traffic jams everywhere because this is the weekend just before “Obon“, but Nagoya is quiet. We catch some of the traffic on the road out, though.
  • The first supermarket car park is a furnace, unbelievable.
  • Unpack, a quick snack and it’s time to head down town for the fireworks, armed with fried chicken, “edamame”, beer and non-alcoholic “beer” for T who’s volunteered to drive.
  • Sunday is hot too; you can’t spend long in the sun, so do some general pottering about. Take the lid off the compost to try and dry it out a bit. If compost gets too wet, which ours always does, it doesn’t ferment properly and smells pretty bad.
  • The yam leaves have been eaten again but the net looks undamaged so it might have been some small animal – a rabbit? Maybe the parents of that baby we saw last week? The grass nearby has been nibbled too, so it could be.
  • Late afternoon we’re covered over by black clouds, followed by a good half hour of continuous thunder and lightning, some of it quite close by. It rains hard for a while, then it all goes away, the sky is clear and the temperature drops by an amazing 8°C: almost chilly!
  • Dinner under an almost full moon with a splendid insect chorus. Deliciously cool. Aah… having an extra day off makes quite a difference.
  • On the radio someone plays a 15 hour special of cover versions of all the beatles’ songs.
  • The insect voices are slightly different every day.
  • T dries this year’s umeboshi pickles in the sun, then they’ll keep. Perfect hand-made umeboshi sell for over a dollar each! T’s can compete easily for taste, but there might be a couple of spots here and there. Ah well.
  • A big black and yellow dragonfly flies into and out of the house.
  • Leave early to catch a film in Nagoya – “Tree of Life”, but I was pretty unimpressed.
  • Min. temp. 19°C max. 32°C

21st~22nd

  • Sunday is cold and rainy – is this the end of the summer?
  • The first “matsutake” mushrooms appear in the supermarket. Once plentiful, these are now an expensive treat, appreciated by Japanese (including T) for the supposedly wonderful aroma. To me, they’re just another mushroom. I like mushrooms for sure, but at 2000 yen each? Yes, that’s over 20 dollars for one mushroom! Anyway, these were from China.
  • That evening a long-sleeved shirt was called for, the first time since… May?
  • Monday was better with patchy clouds and a fresh breeze, but later slipped back into the familiar mugginess.
  • Visited by one red dragonfly. Masses of these will appear over the rice paddies in autumn. Two pigeons show up, probably to check out the sansho berries, but soon leave.
  • Regular stream of lorries on our usually quiet road, carrying gravel up and timber down. Are they building another road through the mountains, on some leftover budget?
  • Min. temp. 19°C max. 30°C

28th~29th

  • We set off in some trepidation – there was very heavy rain during the week and some people were evacuated in a nearby town. Are the chilli plants OK? Is the house OK?
  • The Valor (supermarket #1) car park is the usual oven. Inside, rice from Toyama is 40% more than from Miyagi, where they were affected by the nuclear accident. It’s silly really, because this is still last year’s rice…
  • The house and chillies are OK – the rain here wasn’t all that bad apparently. Two chilli plants are down and need some support, and there’s a wet patch on the floor in our entrance. You’d swear the roof was leaking, but the ceiling and floor upstairs are perfectly dry. Is it groundwater? No, there’s a two foot deep square pit near the front door – once used to store vegetables – which is dry. It must be condensation when the moist air from outside meets the cold floor surface, but there’s a lot of it!
  • Monday breakfast of exotic leftovers. T had made a salad of fried eggplant strips, cucumber, gouda cheese and a handful of “edamame” (fresh soy beans), with an oil and vinegar dressing. Simple colours of brown, green and yellow – no flashy tomatoes or red peppers – I should have taken a photo but I was too concerned with eating it. With a slice of brown bread: delicious. We also had some leftover Inari sushi. This is sushi rice – slightly sweetened and vinegared – in this case mixed with sesame seeds and chopped myoga and stuffed into skins of fried tofu which had been stewed with sweetened soy sauce. The taste is less complicated than it sounds, and also delicious.
  • A reconnaissance flight of two red dragonflies checking the place out for the hordes to follow soon. It’s still very hot, but the breeze is hinting of autumn.
  • T picks more myoga. I must make Myoga Chicken for Raffles – a seasonal treat!
  • Listening to the DPJ leadership elections on the radio. Maehara is the most popular candidate by far, but he doesn’t get on with Ozawa who still has plenty of strings to pull, so the job goes to the more boring Noda.
  • Min. temp. 20°C max. 29°C
 

 
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