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
There are three critters of which Mrs. Kitchengardenjapan has a morbid phobia; cockroaches, geckos and frogs. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been called home to find her waiting outside because there was a cockroach menacing in the entrance vestibule.
Whenever she happens across one of the above creatures, she lets out a shriek that can be heard for a one kilometer radius. I’m sure the neighbours think I’m a wife-beater.
Unluckily for her (and perhaps our new neighbours), The Manor lies adjacent to a renkon (locus root) field – a veritable Paradise for frogs, and the lawn and field literally swarms underfoot with little hoppers.
Personally, I love the little buggers. They attest to the health of the property and munch away on pests. All good in my book. And how can you not love them? They’re adorable!
I suppose Mrs. Kitchengardenjapan and I will have to agree to disagree on this one. And perhaps I’d better apologize to the neigbours in advance.
There was a time when kitchengardenjapan believed in the “Work hard, party hard” ethic. That era, in recent times, seems to have passed. Now it’s just “Work hard”.
Personally, I’m not averse to hard work. For over ten years, I’ve slogged away six days a week, snatching time to tend to The Big Field, The Mountain and The Orchard, feet never touching the ground. Recent years have added two kids to the mix. Party time has dwindled to an exhausted, post bedtime-story couple of beers in the bath and mindless late-night TV before waking up to do it all over again. Day in, day out, day in, day out. Again and again. Very Japanese.
Add to the mix that a year ago, after a 15 minute viewing, I bought a property with sitting tenants (did I mention that I bought a property with sitting tenants after a FIFTEEN minute viewing?), and so the cash cash flow, both rent and mortgage, has been going in the wrong direction. Life became an endless, unrepentant slog. A dark tunnel.
Perhaps that’s why I was hospitalized (and un-diagnosed), and why kitchengardenjapan has been inactive.
But last week, the tenants moved out, and for the first time the kitchengardenjapan clan was finally able to see why Daddy works so hard. And what we saw was not just the light at the end of the tunnel, but salvation of a sort. The new place, bought after a 15 minute viewing (did I mention it was after a fifteen minute viewing?), really is that good.
By Japanese standards, it’s big, a 5LDK (five rooms plus a living room, dining room and a kitchen). It has a lawn, it has established fruit trees, it has not one but two sheds, and it has a small field – a kitchengarden, if you will.
Next week, on September 17 – a day that will live in infamy – we move in, move on, move up.
Let the good times roll (again)