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The Rain

June 6, 2014

The Rain

I grew up in The Grim North of England, where rain is the norm, winters are harsh, and summer can usually be counted on fingers and toes. As a kid, I didn’t really mind, and my childhood was pretty idyllic. Grouch comes with age, you know, as does fear.

Winters would be spent sledding down the preposterous slopes of the dairy farm adjoining our house, shrieking with fear as we defied death – then running up the slopes to do it all again. Spring was highlighted by daffodils, snowdrops and bluebells. Summers meant picking runner beans and harvesting spuds with Dad, the mainstay of any English family diet. Autumn was foxgloves, blackberrying (in the 80’s usage of the word) along country lanes, fingers and mouths guiltily purple. Bonfires, black peas, fireworks. Conkers, of course.

So there was always something going on. But there was something extra magical about digging up the spuds, for one never knew until they were out if the harvest was good or bad. Harvest was a Day of Reckoning. And deep-fried chips.

It’s the rainy season in Japan now and the gray skies remind me of England. So do the potatoes. So do the sleds.

Kitchengardenjapan is situated 5 meters above sea level (and 5 meters from the sea), and lies on the same latitude as the south of France (or to our North American readers, California). Summers roast, and winters are largely shrugged off as minor inconveniences, 3 cm of snow being the record in the decade I’ve been here. Spring and Autumn are glorious, absolutely glorious. Spring and Autumn also bring potatoes, for here, unlike wet, Grim England, one can harvest spuds not once, but twice a year.

“The joy!”, in this land of rice, is an understatement, for this past week, just before the rainy season hit, a circle came around, and I taught my eldest how to harvest potatoes. And for the first time in his life, he even got to use his sled.





Lucky bugger.




May 1, 2014


Life seems to slow down in the orchard. In The Big Field or up The Mountain, a faster, workmanly pace prevails, especially at this time of the year. But in the orchard, it’s a pottering. The trees demand no less. It’s so slow, in fact, that the eye often rests on the most miniscule of details. Here’s one:


Here’s looking at you, too. Take it easy now. Enjoy the view.



May 1, 2014


Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears! Unfurl the banners! Let trumpets sound and horns blow! Send messages to each corner of the Realm, for the asparagus season, ’tis upon us! Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!

{Climbs down ramparts}

If kitchengardenjapan were only able to plant one vegetable, then that vegetable would be, without a shadow of a doubt, asparagus. Freshly picked asparagus are by far the king of the crops; noble, elegant, decadent. Sweet.

So for the past few years, we’ve been planting – and harvesting – more, and more, and more. As an ongoing, waytogetyourkicksincountrysideJapan experiment, we’ve planted from seed, we’ve bought in seedlings, and we’ve also planted crowns. The results are in. Though by far the most expensive option, 2 yr. old crowns win, simply by producing thicker spears sooner. This may change in the future, of course, as the seedlings and seeds mature.

Kitchen-wise, results are similarly conclusive. Two minutes in boiling water (we are forced, alas, to use a frying pan, such are the size of them), then run under a cold tap, is not only the simplest method of preparation short of raw, but also the best.

The spears are here. Hail to the King! Huzzah!







Best Of

April 27, 2014

Best Of

My heart sank with the plane as it slowly descended through the PM 2.5 filled skies of Fukuoka, and with a bump of finality, it was back to earth, back to reality. Back to Japan. Home away from home. Sigh.

I’d spent the previous ten days squiring a couple of clients around England, showing them the best Britain has to offer – its glorious countryside, scintillating cities,  museums, galleries, churches, cathedrals and castles, musicals, football, Shakespeare, black puddings and fry-ups. Smoked bacon, legs of lamb, pork pies, pubs, pub lunches and beer gardens, cheeeeeeeese…


This is my church*

And then, it was all over. Back to Japan and back to the grind. One day in a vibrant, multicultural land that loves eccentricity and individuality, the next day in the confines of a homogenous country that celebrates conformity.

And after nearly a month, the hangover still lingers.

One takes solace where one can, and in kitchengardenjapan’s case, the hair of the dog has been mooching about in the orchard, stuffed with glorious daffs, harvesting fruit, checking trees. It’s a corner of a foreign field, a little slice of Paradise, that shall be forever England.

At least while I’m knockin’ about. Goddit?




Choons (recommended):



Spring Break

March 22, 2014

Spring Break

Parks, playgrounds and kindergartens in Japan are choc-a-bloc full of play equipment that back home in England would have long been consigned by Health & Safety heads to the scrapheap. Rusty, squeaky and dangerous, I quite like them, as they remind me of my own childhood, when rough and tumble was an accepted form of recreation. Incongruously, in a nation renowned for moddycoddling its children, these dinosaurs yet remain. And it was from one of these relics that our youngest son fell.

I’d just finished my last class before spring break, grinning inanely as one does at the chance of time off for good behaviour, when the message came through. Harry, our 3 year old, had broken his arm at kindergarten.

As I arrived at the local private hospital, he with Mrs. Kitchengardenjapan and two teachers were leaving. Apparently the break was too bad to fix there, and armed with X-rays, we were urged to the Prefectural hospital, and after requisite paperwork, were swiftly admitted to the ER, where the doctor on duty lost little time in telling us that the break was bad. Really bad. Surgery was needed. Metal pins had to be inserted. Harry was in for a rough ride.

After more X-rays and blood work, he was given a saline drip and admitted to a private room. For pain relief he was given a bag of ice – the only pain relief permitted.

Surgery was set for 6.20PM (7 hours after the break), on what the doctor told us was their busiest day in a year. A 30 minute operation stretched to 3 interminable hours as more and more complications were found. By this time, the supporting cast had grown to six teachers and the principle of the kindergarten, a standard operating procedure apparently, when an educational institution feels culpable for injury. Standard as it may be however, I do believe that behind the protocol bows and apologies, there was sincerity, contrition and concern.  The principle informed us that all hospital bills would be covered by the kindergarten. It was agreed that I should take our eldest son home and put him to bed. The importance of routine, and all that.

Harry was eventually wheeled out. The usually tough-as-nails Mrs Kitchengardenjapan, I’m told, passed out cold at the sight. As far as we know, the operation was a success, but more operations are needed, and it will be months before we know if he’ll make a full recovery. Welcome to spring break.

Heavy Metal

Heavy Metal

Were this the litigious West, we’d have been quids-in, on the phone to a solicitor, cashing in mindlessly on our one-armed bandit, sipping umbrella-laced cocktails and planning our retirement on the compensation money. But this is Japan, and Japan is not a litigious society bar the very foolish and the very rich. So instead we’ll get the medical bills paid and a token one-time commiseration payment.* No jackpot, no cocktails, no retirement, just more operations for him and more grey hair for us. Sigh…

Wrong time, wrong place, Harry.

Enjoy your spring break, and… Get Well Soon.


*Obviously a much fairer situation than back home.

School Of (Soft) Knocks

March 18, 2014

School Of (Soft) Knocks

As a worker in the Education sector, I know the value of good schoolin’. There are, however, some things that schoolin’ alone can’t offer, a case in point being the magic of a bamboo forest on an early spring day.

Monday morning was bright and beautiful. The Mountain called, and my eldest and I answered. A light wind blew, the bamboo softly knocked, and we were rewarded with the first bamboo shoots of the season. A nice morning of schoolin’, kitchengardenjapan style.






Rhapsody in White

March 7, 2014

Rhapsody in White

March may well be kitchengardenjapan’s favourite month. It’s a happy time when both the long claws of winter and the pressures of the day job* concurrently, coincidentally, recede. Moreover, it’s also when the orchard restarts its cycle. And it does it in spectacular fashion.

First comes the ume with its simple flush. Historically the focus of Japan’s famous hanami flower watching season before being elbowed aside for warmer months and showier cherry blossoms, ume is elegant in understatement. Simple and profound is the ume.


Flowering hot on ume’s heels comes our early cherry, the dominating, regal centrepiece of the orchard. Full of perfume and dripping with pollen, it is an unequivocal show-off and an irrepressible magnet for the eyes – and assorted wildlife.



And finally trails cherry number 2, a bridesmaid if ever there was. Young, elegant and modelled on classic lines, she’s also the most fruitful of the three.


So the stage is set, spring is here, and the canopy – a Rhapsody in White – hung. This can mean only one thing:

It’s BBQ time!!!! Hurrah!

Kitchengardenjapan ;)

*The day job(s), for anyone interested.


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