Inokuchi Rocks

When the men of the neighborhood finished cleaning out the drainage gutters on our street a few weeks ago, we scheduled a BBQ for this weekend.  Yesterday was the day.  When I imagined what our block party would look like, I shouldn’t have been so naive to not realize this would be a blue tarp, shoes off, tent-riddled affair.  The official kick off time was 6 p.m., but myself and several other neighbors were well fed and alcohol primed well before that.  

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It was really nice to spend the afternoon/evening with people that I see on a pretty regular basis, but still don’t really know.  We’re coming up on living here for a year and still don’t hang out too much with the neighbors.  Despite the presence of several mini dachshunds, the most useless and annoying animal to roam the earth.   If only I could get away with doing the things this cute little girl was doing to that horrible little dog.  Note the death grip she’s got on its head.

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Under the tent, it was all food, drink, and conversation that I couldn’t really understand.  Lots of beer, yakitori, some nice Japanese beef, tiny fish and giant scallops.  The general consensus was that I, being American, couldn’t eat anything other than beef.  I proved them wrong on several occasions but I have to say, I did enjoy the Wa-gyu most.

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This guy was pretty hilarious.  He lives a few houses down and of all the mini dachshunds roaming the streets I probably hate his the most, but the man himself was very amicable and quite hammered.  

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I hit it off pretty well with the neighborhood kids, of which there are many.  The boys enjoyed chasing my frisbee around and chucking their shoes at it, and the girls were pretty curious about speaking English, which was cool.  The evening ended with a romp through the rice paddies looking for fireflies.  I saw two, plus a giant frog which freaked everyone out.

It must have been all the happoshyu laced beer, but by 10 o’clock it was abundantly clear that I needed to be in bed.  Twelve hours of sleep and a bowl of greasy ramen later, I was back to my semi-chipper self.  And now it’s nearly time to get back in bed.  I’ll attempt to cram a few more Kanji into my tired brain though, since I’ve been slacking all weekend.

We have about a month of classes left until our summer vacation, and I’m starting to count the days.  Hope everyone is having a stellar weekend.

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Eat It With Your Face

Finally, are garden is producing things.  Tonight I clipped our first cucumber, and as soon as my wife gets home we shall consume it together.  We actually harvested a green pepper last weekend, but Japanese green peppers are tiny and not very delicious (why are we growing them?), so I didn’t deem that occasion blog-worthy.  But things are getting serious now.  This is a legit cuke:

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On tap for the weekend, I predict several mini-tomatoes will be ripe enough for eating as well.  Our corn is not behind.  

It’s been getting summery hot here this week, with lot of sun, so things are growing noticeably as well.  And since this is Kanazawa, it rains substantially every few days.  So the growing cycle is firing on all cylinders.  But I think it funny that in Japan, it is technically the ‘rainy season.’  I think the rest of the world refers to it as ‘spring,’ because we seem to get about as much rain here this time of year as anywhere else I’ve ever lived.   

But all this is beside the point really because the important thing here is that it’s Friday night once again.  Another week gone in the blink of an eye.  I hope life doesn’t go by this fast forever.  We’ve got some things on the agenda for the next two days but I’m not sure how it’s all going to unfold.  I’ll probably back here at some point over the weekend to document all the excitement.

Shoehorned

Before I get started, several announcements are in order.

First, happy father’s day to my badass father.

Second, happy birthday to my brother in law, Shinji.

And third, happy anniversary to my lovely wife and me.  We’ve been married for three years now, and they’ve been fabulous so far.  I continue to realize how lucky I am to have met and married Chieko -san.  From here on out, hopefully, we won’t be celebrating this day by ourselves.

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So, I’ve marveled for a while now at how Japanese people manage to cram a garden into whatever space is available.  In our old neighborhood, which was considerably more urban than the one we live in now, it was the norm to have a vacant plot of land between two houses where a communal garden was maintained.  I loved this green aspect to otherwise concrete neighborhoods.

Now that we’re living out in the countryside (relatively speaking), I’m interested in how the gardens differ.  Oddly, despite more space being available, the nature of the gardens isn’t all that different.  They may be a bit bigger (though not much), but the gardens out here are inevitably bound on one side or more by a rice paddy, a road, a canal, or all of the above.  

But I love the fact that agriculture is so ingrained in Japan.  Wherever they can stick a garden, Japanese people tend to do so.  I wish I could have taken more detailed pictures of these gardens, because there are a lot of unique little details.  Fodder for a future, followup post perhaps.  

Most of the gardens have a similar assortment of crops: soy beans, cucumber, onions, daikon radish, tomatoes, assorted herbs, lettuce, wild flowers, etc. 

Most of the gardens, from what I can tell, are kept up by old people who spend the majority of the day puttering around within the confines of their respective gardens.  Thus, these gardens are immaculate; nary a weed to be found, perfectly formed beds, precisely crafted trellises.  One can only hope for an old age devoted to such satisfying things.

We woke up to rain this morning but by the time I had finished my coffee and the Red Sox game was in the bag, it had turned into a beautiful summer day.  So I slung my camera over my shoulder and took the bike out in search of cool gardens. Judging by my mega farmer’s sunburn, sun screen would’ve been a good idea.

Hope you enjoy the pictures.

 

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A Boy and His Corn

Ah, I love Friday nights.  Actually, I love waking up on Friday morning and knowing that it’s the last day of the week.  Lately, the first thing I do in the morning after clicking on the coffee pot is go out and take a groggy lap around the garden and see what, if anything, has gone on during the night.  I have no idea how long it lasts, or what the hell I look like to the neighbors.  I’m certainly not nearly awake yet.  It would be interesting to see on video.  

And lately, the first thing I do when we get home in the evening is to take a lap around the garden.  Since I’ve got my wits about me by that time, relatively speaking, I’ll pull a few weeds or water something, or maybe tie up a tomato plant that’s getting it’s keel on.  A lot more seems to happen to those plants during the day than during the night, though chances are that it’s got something to do with my state of mind.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip through plants tonight.

 

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We’re starting to heat up here.  Japan’s rainy season has started, and temperatures are starting to inch up towards uncomfortable.  The good new is that that’ll probably set off the garden into production mode.  So far we’ve got a few clusters of unripe tomatoes and the beginnings of a bunch of other veggies just barely starting to show themselves.  Even our stunted eggplant is showing signs of catching up to the neighbor’s crop.  

Here’s to a weekend that’ll seem longer than it really is.  Cheers.

Who’da Thunk It?

EDIT:  I just re-read this post and it’s a mess.  Look at the pretty pictures!

When I moved to Kanazawa from the Tokyo vicinity three years ago, I rued the fact a bit that I hadn’t taken more advantage of the ample music scene there.  Kanazawa, while being a decent sized city, is very much off the beaten path that mainstream US musicians travel when touring Japan.

So I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of music I’ve been able to see here, as well as the relative frequency.  We don’t get many major artists coming through town.  In fact the most famous person to come in recent memory was Brain Setzer.  I skipped that one.  Most of the people I’ve seen here recently are not people I had listened to much, if at all, before seeing them live.  Neal Casal, Bruce Hughes, Matt the Electrician, The Resentments, Calexico, Iron & Wine — not the most jaw dropping names, but all very much worthy of the entry fee.

So last night, as I was sitting in our local ‘live house’ listening to Jim Bianco sing about cockroaches and stalkers, close enough to have to dodge his spittle, I realized that the shows I see here in po-dunk Kanazawa are the best I’ve ever seen.  What they lack in star power, they more than make up for in intimacy and atmosphere.  The best part though is the access to the musicians themselves allowed by such small venues.  When the show is done, or in between sets, the musicians generally amble through the crowd and up to the bar, or outside for a cigarette, all the while chatting it up with whoever wanders by in search of a picture or to say hello.

The musician in me eats up the opportunity to see what musicians do, especially guitar players, from mere feet away.  It’s also really cool to watch the interaction between band members while they play.  The fanboy in me digs the chance to mingle with semi-celebrities and shoot the shit.

I saw Jim Bianco twice this week, on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Tuesday night was a place downtown which was cool, but Wednesday night took the cake.  That show was smaller and on our home turf at Big Pink, which was celebrating it’s 20th year in operation.  Totally unplugged, 20 or so people crammed into the cafe with the lights dimmed, cozy to the point of being able to feel the floor shake as Jim stomped on the floor during songs.  Good stuff.

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If you get a chance to see Jim Bianco live, I highly recommend it.  He’s one of the most energetic performers I’ve seen, original tunes and generally entertaining dude.

So it’s been a great week so far, and tomorrow’s Friday.  The one downside to all this live music is that I’ve fallen off the Kanji wagon in my Japanese study.  So need to climb back on tonight while before the sleep gets me.  Catch up this weekend perhaps.