Life in Japan, food, music, whatever…

Body chemistry or something 20 April, 2011

Filed under: food & drink,places — johnraff @ 1:54 am
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I’ve just got back from three weeks in the UK. It’s the place where I was born and grew up and I love it; the buildings that were intended – in contrast with earthquake-prone Japan – to last for years and years, the green green grass everywhere even in winter, the TV, the humour, the relaxed mixture of cultures you now enjoy, the warm beer, and, yes, even the food.

All that said, I’ve now been living in Japan for 35 years – more than half my life – and my body must have adapted in some way. Maybe it’s the air, maybe the water: I don’t know but this morning my breakfast – the same fruit + yogurt + muesli + pot of tea I was having while in Britain – just tasted so good.


It’s started 7 August, 2010

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


New Year at the farm 19 January, 2010

Filed under: countryside,customs — johnraff @ 2:23 pm
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The weather forecast said a cold front was on its way and sure enough just after midday on the outskirts of town the snow started sprinkling down. We were on our way out to Gifu so that didn’t bode too well for conditions further on, but we had decided to spend a couple of days out at “the farm” for the new year so pressed on… Of course by the time we’d got halfway the road was getting slippy and there was nothing for it but to put those cursed chains on the front tyres. Put on the brakes to pull into a parking area and the car just kept going… that’s how close to the edge things had been. These new-fangled plastic tyre chains are supposed to be easy to put on, but after half an hour of scrabbling about in the freezing slush I still hadn’t got the hook thing at the back properly attached – my fingers had no feeling and it was getting dark and things were looking somewhat hopeless… Finally a friendly passerby gave us a hand and the left chain was on. Back in the car with the heater on full for a few minutes of agony as the blood returned to my fingers, but then the other chain went on much more easily, as I’d sort of got the hang of it.

It’s now dark and an almost full moon is gazing balefully down through a gap in the clouds as we tiptoe gingerly down the road through 10cm or so of snow. Finally make it to the house, turn on the heater, sit in the kotatsu with a cup of tea and it’s all in the past…

New Years Day and it’s still snowing. The postman braves the elements to bring us our small bundle of nengajo – there’ll be more back in Nagoya. Unlike Christmas cards, which should arrive before Christmas, New Year cards are supposed to be read at New Year and the Post Office keep the ones posted in December and go to some trouble to deliver them on the first of January if at all possible.

New Year is really just like Christmas back home in many ways: everything’s closed, all day spent watching the box, eating, drinking… We’ve only got a radio on the farm, but still don’t miss NHK’s big song spectacular which they’ve been plugging for weeks. Something like the Royal Command Performance (do they still have that? ), it’s been slipping in the ratings in recent years. The newspaper is full of adverts for January sales – these used to be after a week or so but now many places start right in on the first, along with “lucky bags”, which can be OK and can be rubbish. Even the shrines are advertising – the best place to have your car blessed to protect it from accidents, the best place to pray for success in exams… They say some 80% of a shrine’s takings are in the first few days of new year, so this is peak time for them. The terrible economy is good for holy business, but the snow and cold probably hasn’t helped.

Throughout our stay we are visited by a huge flock of small birds, flying around in a swarm like migrating swallows. About the size of sparrows, with a crest on their heads – I’m not an ornithologist, but I suppose they’re winter visitors from somewhere further north.

A new beginning… and everything is “hatsu”whatever, ie hatsumode – first visit to a shrine and presumably hatsu-sake, hatsu-tabako…

Happy New Year!


Well, it’s a start 26 September, 2009

Filed under: politics — johnraff @ 2:16 pm
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Since Hatoyama became prime minister just over a week ago, every day’s TV news has been dominated by the latest actions of the new DPJ government: Hatoyama off to the USA for a gruelling series of meetings – climate change at the UN, finance in Pittsburg, summit meetings with Obama and the leaders of China, Korea …, Okada the new foreign minister also zipping around, and back here controversial dam projects cancelled, and, significantly, a start to investigations into various murky dealings involving bureaucrats and the former LDP government. Who knows what might come out there? Of course there’s a long list of expensive promises on the election manifesto that have to be paid for somehow, but they appear to be determined to carry them out, at the expense of the pork-barrel pour-more-concrete projects that have got Japan where it is today…

But image-wise the new DPJ government are looking good for the moment. They appear serious, dedicated people who really mean to clean up Japan’s act. How much of this is just media hype we will have to wait to see. Good luck to them anyway!


… again? 10 January, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johnraff @ 1:13 am
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Watching our usual news programme on the box today just before opening up the shop, and as usual there was a promotion where some company offers a free sample of their latest product for the first so many viewers to send in a postcard. I suppose it’s good market research or something, and occasionally I might have got a case of beer if I’d been quick enough to read the address off the screen. I keep meaning to get a postcard ready for such times…

Today the “present” was 20 packs of Toyota Museum Curry.

Er, … what?  As you know, Toyota is a huge car manufacturer based at Toyota City, just down the road, and they’ve got a museum just outside Nagoya, with cars, I suppose. “Oh yes”, says T, “the Toyota Museum cafeteria’s curry is famous.”  (!)

So, having gone into the red for the first time since the war on their car sales, I suppose Toyota have decided to diversify a bit.


Here we go… 9 August, 2008

Filed under: politics — johnraff @ 2:15 pm
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OK for the next two weeks or so you won’t be able to switch on the box without seeing some (mainly Japanese) athletes winning a medal, or failing valiantly. The Olympic circus is on. (Oddly, I still haven’t got the Theme Song branded into my brain yet. I think there is one, and I remember at the time of the Aichi Expo you heard it 10 times a day on the radio and TV.) The time difference with Beijing is only one hour here so we’ll get all this stuff in real time, replacing all our regular programmes so the NHK producers, actors and other staff can take a Summer holiday. At this time of the year the programmes are all repeats anyway, so it won’t make that much difference really…

It’s alright I suppose – last night I watched the opening ceremony for an hour and a half till I got Spectacle Overload and fell asleep. The Chinese are justifiably proud of their recent economic progress, and want to show off a bit, like Japan at the time of the Tokyo Olympics when the Bullet Train had just been built and the nightmare of the war and its aftermath seemed over. Of course China still has a lot of unfinished business, politically maybe most of all. The long post-war hold on power of the LDP in Japan might look a bit suspicious democratically, and certainly allowed a lot of corruption to creep into the system, but at least they could be thrown out of power in elections in principle, actually were on one occasion I remember, and might well be at the next one… No such chance in China. Control on access to information and freedom of expression make it easy for rulers to do whatever they want, and corruption, at least at the local level, seems to be rife. Add a devastated environment, huge inequality of income, no free education or free medical care any more, numerous riots and protests all over the country and the potential for some kind of explosion is certainly there. It wouldn’t be nice for anyone, inside or outside the country. (Still, we have the encouraging example of South Africa, which seemed to be headed for a bloodbath till the white minority peacefully handed over power.)

Anyway, the Olympics – Chinese tend to get very indignant at the idea that the Tibetans or Uighurs might take advantage of this opportunity to express their grievances, but they’ve certainly got plenty to be aggreaved about and I wouldn’t be that surprised if there were some incidents. Otherwise, good luck to the athletes who’ve prepared so long for the Big Event!

Fingers crossed.


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