Monday, 26 July 2010


17 - the number of years I've been in Japan - as of yesterday.
14 - the number of years I've been married - as of 2 weeks ago.
10 - the number of years I've lived in this house.
04 - the number of hours till I finish work this evening ;-)
64 - the number of hours till I start flying back to Europe.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Summer has set in

Well, the rainy season is finally over. But there have been thunderstorms practically every day because of the heat and humidity. We live on a hill so we get a bit of a breeze and it's a bit cooler than surrounding areas, but it still goes over 30, and has gotten up to 38C, though not this year so far - touch wood. If it weren't for the thunderstorms everything would be brown unless you watered the garden.

The first summer we lived in this house (or rather, I lived, as Y was still living in the previous city), you could see the thunderstorms coming in from the mountains to the south. The tops of the mountains would be covered with dark cloud and the lightning would flash left, right, left, centre, right. The sheet of cloud would move towards the house, rather like the huge UFO in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, taking up the whole sky. There'd be thunder and lightning and torrential rain - for about 30 minutes and then the whole thing would pass off north - until the next day. If the rain lasted longer than 20 minutes or so it would cool the place down, especially if the storm was late afternoon. However, the last couple of years most of the storms have been only in the mountains, with the occasional one dropping in. The lightning is amazing, but the rain isn't enough to cool anything down.

The image of summer in Japan, for people raised here anyway, includes things like 風鈴 (fuu-rin, or wind bells); トンボ(tom-bo, dragonflies); 祭り(matsu-ri, festivals) and 花火 (hana-bi, fireworks). Less romantic images are beer gardens, sweating away in a really hot kitchen and thereby losing your appetite altogether to eat whatever you sweated to make, typhoons, food poisoning and just getting really run-down because of the heat and the inclination to eat only cold foods that are quick to prepare and nice at the time, and I'm not talking only about icecream! Wow! Three of those mention food! No, I'm not obsessive about food, but I do get really tired in the summer and rarely want to stand in the kitchen without the a/c on and a floor fan standing in the entrance. Even then it's difficult!

In the summer months here, the dragonflies are so common that sometimes it seems you have to beat your way through in order to walk in the garden. The most common ones I've seen are red, but there are other colours and I found this guy/gal attached to a stick near the front door. Gorgeous colour.

Dragonfly images show up in summer interior goods - towels, curtains, dishes, hand-held fans, and many many more items, including the summer greeting postcards that some people send.

Summer is also a 'gift-giving' season with 中元 (chuu-gen, mid-year gifts) being sent to friends, acquaintances and people who you "are in debt to" for something or other. This tradition isn't as common as it used to be, but I get presents from some people, and in the past have been given such presents as olive oil sets (6 or so bottles of different grades of oil); packs of noodles (good summer food!); washing detergent sets (detergent and conditioner - 3 or 4 packs of each); cheese baskets (very nice present ;-) ). Winter has another gift-giving occasion with year-end gifts being called お歳暮 (o-sei-bo). I have one student who gives me both mid-year AND year-end gifts!

Monday, 12 July 2010

It is STILL raining!

We had a couple of reasonable days, reasonable being defined by the fact that we could open the windows and not get either blown out of it, or drenched by the rain. But overall, it has been raining for the better part of the last few weeks. ENOUGH already!
Today is no exception. Currently, it is pouring out of the heavens and is quite windy at the same time. It's dark, and humid and I really just want to curl up in bed and sleep it out. Preferably with the a/c unit on its dehumidifier setting, and the ceiling fan on, and a nice mug of coffee when I wake up. I know, I know, there is such a thing as ice coffee, but no matter how hot and muggy it gets, I want my coffee hot.

This picture is of the water runoff area across the road from our house. It's quite deep and the grasses are tall. You rarely actually see any water in it, but these past few weeks, after some of the really heavy rain, the water level rises. It's not too bad here, but at times you can't see the grass because of the water.

In summer, this place is a haven for frogs. They're especially noisy at night, and sometimes it makes it hard to sleep. The bull frog chorus isn't exactly a lullaby!

Because of all the rain and the heat, the garden looks like an untamed swamp. The weeds are practically knee-high, and while many of them can be taken out with a good pull, the weather is totally uncooperative when it comes to free time. You have time? It pours. No time? Only a drizzle. Don't forget, you need your wellies (so you don't sink) and practically full armour to protect yourself from all the mosquitoes and other biting insects.

However, this morning while I was vacuuming the room, I spotted two female pheasants wandering around the garden. I think they were happy because the weeds gave them some sort of protection. But, one of my cats spotted them, and started crying at them (window was open slightly) and the birds ran off. NOT however, before I got a couple of photos.

So, here they are, my Monday morning guests:

Please ignore the state of the garden - afterall, the pheasants like it ;-)