Christmas Decorations 2014
This being Japan, the day after Halloween marks the beginning of the Christmas mercantile push (must keep that economy moving). Already, the shops are full of tat, jingle bells are ringing in the supermarkets and nutters are lighting up their houses of an evening.
Wa no kokoro* (and all that), kitchengardenjapan has again got its baubles on display. Call us crazy, but there’s more this year than ever. Persimmons, lemons, mikan, hassaku and seville oranges, kumquats, hana yuzus and mini yuzus, not to mention pink bananas (!) are all taking on colour and lighting up The Orchard. Crisp, mosquito-less air, azure blue skies, a leisurely harvest, barbecue smoke, and when the day is done, celebratory sunsets makes this the season that brings out the best in this quiet corner of the world.
Ho. Ho. Ho.
* “In the spirit of harmony”. Which basically means smilingly going along with anything your “seniors” (at home or at work) might suggest. Towards the end of the year – bonenkai drinking season – this usually means pouring your supervisor drinks and listening to him croon karaoke long after you want to go home.
(Living Off) The Fat Of The Land
This little corner of the internet is predominantly about growing stuff in backwater Japan. Vegetables. Fruits. Kids. Living off the fat of the land. It’s not, to say the least, a blog designed to appeal to the heaving masses.
However, this may soon change. Wheels turn. Life moves on. Things happen. So instead of pictures of potatoes, this blog may soon be featuring pictures of paparazzi; instead of stories of bamboo shoots, there may be stories of fashion shoots. Pirate Bay may soon be just a memory as we settle in our condominium in Tokyo Bay, (Godzilla, hello!). Island-hopping The Seto Inland Sea might very well be upgraded to cruising the Caribbean. Fingers will henceforth be dirty from fingering filthy lucre, not dirt.
Fortune favours the brave. Opportunity knocks. A new chapter unfolds, a new adventure beckons. An unfurling future featuring fame, stardom, and unheard of wealth awaits. (I’d better keep the wheelbarrow).
The reasoning behind these extravagant predictions was writ large – very large recently, when Kitchengardenjapan’s eldest son made his debut in the sumo ring, taking on not one, but four professional wrestlers (including the hugely popular Endo). It was a fearsome fight, played in front of a circa 4,000 audience. TV cameras were there to catch his moment in the
Defying what can only be described as overwhelming odds, he very nearly won, too. It was only a piece of Endo trickery that forced him to step out the ring and so forfeit the game.
Yet surely stardom will come from this, his first taste of fame. Of course, I’ll be his hidari uchiwa, backing him, pushing him, promoting him all the way. I’ll have to give up the day job(s) of course, but for a 75% cut of all future earnings, it’s a burden I’ll gladly bear, ‘cos then we really will be…
Living off the fat of the land.
Boom, boom ;)
The Mikan Chronicles, Part 6: The Gimp
Longtime sufferers of Kitchengardenjapan may vaguely recall The Mikan Chronicles, an epic tale of gigantic proportions of a noble quest (fatally doomed) to acquire a tangerine orchard. Whilst thwarted, the never ending journey must yet still continue. So enters The Gimp.
In a very frog-in-the -well manner, the Japanese pride themselves on having four seasons, yet in reality they have many more. As well as the standards, they have (among others) the rainy season, typhoon season, cherry-blossom season, gift-giving season(s), swimming season, leaf-watching season, rice harvesting season, flower watching season(s), butterfly season, dragonfly season and finally, as pertains to this particular Saga, hornet season. Which in this part of the world, is now.
We upped sticks to The Manor House a month ago. One of the reasons we were sold on the place was the garden, the attached small field, and the established fruit trees, three of which are mikan, or tangerines. These, it turns out, are a different variety to the mikan in The Orchard, apparently being an early bearing variety. A Good Thing, an Early Treat. Huzzah!
Enter the hornets.
October and November (I now know) is when the big orange buggers are at their most aggressive, and a recent weed-pulling frolic down by the trees brought on an attack (if there was ever an excuse for not weeding, there’s one). Luckily for the ladies of the world, it was just a hand attack, one’s noble visage being spared. Discretion being the better part of valour, and refusing to be bested in battle again, this noble savage has decided it’s probably better to Gimp up for a while when harvesting October breakfasts.
Readers should note that I’m available for bookings, if a little bit pricey.
Kitchengardengimpinjapan. (Side business)
Roll up! Roll up! After a 13 year hiatus, the circus is coming back to town! Stables are being emptied, sand is being thrown down to soak up the mess. Costumes are being taken out of storage and the slow and somewhat ominous Thud! Thud! Thud! of approaching heavy beasts is increasingly shaking fillings and foundations.
The Sumo shall soon be here.
Although it’s an exhibition tournament, all the major players are being force (d fed) to come to this country backwater. The yokozuna, the ozeki, the sekiwake, the komusubi and the maegarisha* shall soon all be hurling each other around in their usual thonged, vicious, sweaty, salt-tossing, top-knotted abandon. Grrrrr! Just look at the beasts!
Unfortunately for them, little do they know what lies in wait, lurking and slavering in anticipation. A local Colossus so fierce, so fast, so cunning that they won’t know what’s hit them. Lords, Ladies and gentlemen, I give you our local Hero…
Yes. The eldest has been chosen to battle the beasts, and the outcome (though don’t let it be known) is already a foregone conclusion.
I can imagine the screaming headlines, the world famous commentary already: “Shinzo Abe, as they say in your language in the boxing bars round Madison Square Garden in New York: Your boys took a hell of a beating!”**
Watch this space.
* Sumo rankings, yokozuna being the top.
** Probably only English, Norwegian or football (soccer) enthusiasts will get this.
An age ago, in our giddy Double income no kidz days, Mrs. Kitchengardenjapan and I would need no excuses to pack our bags and head overseas in search of adventure. Asia was the continent of choice and barely an opportunity came by when we weren’t jetting off somewhere exotic, preferably somewhere with a nice white beach, sun recliners and fun drinks with fruit and umbrellas sticking out. We loved the life so much we even got married on an island beach in Indonesia.
Them were the days.
It was during one of these Asian frolics (in Thailand, if memory serves) that we first came across wing beans (in Japanese, shikakumame). Since then, we’ve grown them every year. It’s not just because they evoke memories of a different life that they’re one of our favourites, the list is much longer, and goes something like this;
- They’re good to eat, with a crunch and hint of bitterness, and very versatile in the kitchen
- They start cropping around September, just as the “summer vegetables” are waning, and last until just after the first frosts of November
- They’re prolific, giving a basketful of beans every couple of days. Butsu-butsu koukan kicks in big time in the neighbourhood
- The space-to-crop ratio is phenomenal. Grown up canes, what you get for the space used is nothing short of amazing
- Wing beans are visually pleasing; the flowers, lilac, are beautiful, and the exotic shape of the beans is a dinner table talking point
- Picking is easy. No bending over or secateurs necessary. Just grab and pull
- As they’re legumes, they improve the soil
- You won’t find them in the supermarket, making it an exclusive, unuzual vegetable
So there you have it. Wing beans. There’s probably more to add to this list, but there’s more than enough to throw them in the “Favourites” basket. Highly recommended.
Should any Japan-based peeps want some seeds, let me know via here or the usual back channels.
So Near, So ba
Folk unfamiliar with Japanese may be surprised to learn that there is a strong sense of punnery and word play hidden in plain view in the language. An example of this is the word soba, which has two distinct meanings; the first is “close to”, or “nearby”, and the second is “buckwheat”, or more commonly, “buckwheat noodles”.
Another feature of the Japanese is that they are inveterate gift-givers. The more cynical side of me says that well, one has to keep the economy rolling somehow, but the more appreciative side says that most Japanese are genuinely generous.
Anyway, moving into a new neighbourhood is one of those occasions that necessitates gift giving, and here, the traditional gift is hikoshii soba (moving-in noodles), delivered in person to all the nearby households. It’s a pun, and a chore, but it’s also an icebreaker and a getting-to-know-you exercise. Moreover it’s a demonstration of adherence to tradition and local community, something held in great esteem in the boondocks.
So the noodles have been delivered, both we and the surrounding households have had the opportunity to size each other up, and in this very small corner of the world, all has been done properly, and all is well. So ba…
Goodbye. (Sha na na na)
So it’s goodnight from me and it’s goodnight from them. Toyaguchi, farewell.
There are some things we’ll miss; the balcony, great for parties, the Iwais, the Kanekochis, but that’s about all. It’s a short list.
We shan’t miss The Blue House we’ve suffered in for three years; the poor construction, letting horseflies, mosquitos and geckos in; we shan’t miss the stingy Napoleon-complexed landlord turning up on whim, jabbering, finger-pointing. We certainly shan’t be sad to see the back of his 65,000 yen a month overpriced concrete built box that is an oven in the summer and a freezer in the winter.
The neighbors on the east – 4 generations living in the same house – we certainly won’t weep for. As if tying their yapping miniature dachshund to a pole under our bedroom at 5 am every day wasn’t trying enough, they choose to rid their excrement the kumitori (aka The Shit Truck) way. Once a month, the truck comes, with a toot! toot! to assault the senses, delivering a throat-chocking, eye-bleeding Hades, and the shit of ten people crammed together down your throat. Shan’t miss you, oh no, not at all.
Grumpy Old Man, another opposing neighbour, deserves the final mention, (no forget that, Internet Infamy). Grumpy Old Man is the Toyaguchi kunt that took an instant dislike to Kitchengardenjapan, Mrs. KGJ, and the kids (then 3 and 1, now 6 and 4). This is the kunt that would swear and shout in a disgusting, filthy Fukuoka dialect at KGP, Mrs. KGP and the kids every time his kuntish vision laid eyes on any one of us, purely because he’s a bigoted kunt . He’ll be happy now we’re out of there, but we’re happier still. Good. That’ll piss him off.
So, Toyaguchi, goodnight. This song is for you:
Sha na na na
Sha na na na
Hey Hey Hey