Friday, April 30, 2010

Monster Asparagus

One of the great things about writing a blog is that it becomes an instant reference point for checking when I did things in previous years etc. Today is a great example.... I have been picking some absolutely massive asparagus from my asparagus patch in the tunnel house. The biggest one I picked today was 4cm in diameter... it's worth getting a ruler out to see just how big this is, but if you don't have one just believe me that it is pretty big for a piece of asparagus! I had assumed that such huge asparagus would be far too tough to eat, but surprisingly it is tender... raw is absolutely divine.
I was trying to remember when I planted the asparagus and then I remembered that I had probably written about it on the blog and voila... end of April 2008. Reading back over the entry makes me appreciate even more the size and wonderful flavour of this asparagus that I raised from seed! If you want a reminder, click here... Asparagus Bed number 2 If you want a taste come and visit soon - definitely great to pick and munch on the way back to the house.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Japanese restaurants

Today was the first day in a string of public holidays here and I spent most of it in the garden. By 5:30pm my back was dying and I realised there was absolutely nothing in the house that I could whip up for tea in a short time (we had already had pasta for lunch...) so we decided to go out for tea as a special treat for me more than anyone. I have a love-hate relationship with Japanese restaurants. I love the fact that they are usually very child-friendly, but hate the way that the majority of Japanese children behave in restaurants. I love the speed at which most food comes after it is ordered, but hate the way that you don't feel like you can sit and chat for a couple of hours over your meal. I love picture menus and plastic food outside restaurants - it makes ordering so much easier when you can't read the menus. But, the one thing I hate the most about Japanese restaurants (apart from the smoking.... I won't even start on that!) is that the majority of the smaller restaurants have a television set that they have turned on very loud and in a position where every table in the restaurant can see it. We don't watch TV very much in our house (well not while the kids are awake) and it is ALWAYS turned off at mealtimes as that is one of the few times we all sit down and actually have time to talk together as a family. For me going out for a meal is another chance to all talk together, but in Japan the loud TV turns it into a very different experience. Tonight we continued to shock the locals by firstly turning the TV down and then shocked them even further by turning it off completely..... fortunately there were no other customers in the restaurant at the time to complain. I'm sure the locals will soon see us coming and hide the remote before we arrive!
Yesterday after I wrote the blog entry about the wild boars my husband informed me that he had actually taken a photo of them with his mobile phone. So, just to prove that there were actually wild boars in the trap here is a photo!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Coming out of hibernation

It has been a while since I have sat at the computer and done anything other than work. There are so many things that I have wanted to post about lately, but as I was commenting to my mother today - I seem to be only motivated by "deadlines" and recently have so many things that have to be done that I give up before I even try to get them done and go and sit on the deck and read my book instead! I promise I'll post about my overseas visitors and other events here very soon, but in the meantime..... here are a couple of photos from Sunday. I have no idea why, but I decided on Saturday night that I really wanted to take the kids up our mountain again so the three of us (my husband wasn't so keen...) set off and somehow managed to be at the top of the mountain eating our lunch by 9:30am! It was one of those absolutely amazing days with no clouds and after the recent days and days of rain it was an amazing feeling to be standing on top of the world and looking out over our little valley.
We almost didn't make it though as when we were walking up the road to the mountain track we heard the sound of wild boars screeching and chains rattling. After a quick phone call home to check that it was actually safe to keep going we discovered that not one, but three wild boars had been caught in a trap right beside the road and were doing their best to bash their way out of it. Wild boars are a big problem around here - they get into the rice fields and roll around in the mud destroying all the crops. They eat every single pumpkin, chestnut, potato and basically any other vegetable they can get their snouts on. As I keep trying to explain to my children - the boars are not bad, it is the people who have taken away their natural environment and food supplies. Most people in our area put up big fences to stop them getting in, but they are not usually very successful. The city we live in gives 10,000 yen to people for every wild boar they can catch and there are now businesses which are trying to utilize the meat. The neighbour who had caught 3 boars in one trap was therefore pretty happy with his haul for the morning. We were even happier that they had been "disposed" of before we came back down the mountain! Unfortunately I was too scared to take photos.... this is what they looked like though... only there were three of them in a small space... okay so maybe they were a little smaller than this, but not much!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Getting ready

Tomorrow I am going to Fukuoka to spend a day doing "kids" things before beginning a 10-day logistical nightmare! My father is bringing another group of 6 people from New Zealand for a tour of rural Japan so I will be showing them around here for 6 days then taking them to Hiroshima and Kyoto for 4 nights. I am really looking forward to it. My step-Mum is coming this time too and it will be great to see her back here in Japan after far too long an absence. If it was just the tour I would be in my element - I like organising places to eat, places to go, places to stay, little envelopes of money etc. The biggest problem is going to be working out where my children need to be and when (school starts again on Thursday), who is g0ing to pick them up, who is going to make their lunches for the school outings while I am away etc. Fortunately I have a great husband and parents-in-law who are used to me asking many favours!
Anyway, I need to do a zillion things before we leave tomorrow, but one of them was to clear out the photos on the camera. In doing so I discovered so many blog entries that I took photos for, but never quite had time to write about. I won't guarantee that I will ever get around to doing them all, but here is one... a little late, but better than never!
This is a photo of my husband trying to work out which teachers have changed at our children's school. The whole system at the end of the school year frustrates me intensely! For anyone who doesn't know here is a brief rundown of what happened here this year.
The children finished school on Friday March 26th at 11:30am. It is the end of the school year so next year they will become 2nd and 4th graders. The same afternoon the teachers were told by the board of education who would be staying and who would be shifting to other schools.
The following day the newspaper printed which teachers would be changing - only in such a stupid way it was impossible to actually work out who was leaving and who was coming. Eventually enough ringing around among the parents confirmed that 6 of the 11 staff would be changing this year.
On Tuesday the 30th all the children were expected to go back to school to farewell the teachers who were leaving - the parents were expected to have prepared flowers, messages etc. before then too. This was the last day for those teachers at that school. That's right folks - they were told on the afternoon of the 26th that they would be changing and their final day before moving to a completely new school was the 30th - nothing like time to clear out your desk and prepare yourself mentally for moving from a school of 50 children to one of 600 children an hour drive away! The new school term starts on the 8th so the teachers basically have just over one week to find their new school, get acquainted with it, decide which grade they will be teaching (no real specialist teachers here so this year they may be teaching 1st grade and next year 6th grade) and then get prepared for the kids to come back. No wonder they need to use textbooks for every subject...
I really don't understand the logic of all this. Why can't they tell them earlier and give them time to prepare etc.? This would also mean on the final day of school the children could say goodbye properly and not have to go back to school in the spring holidays to say goodbye. Some things I will never understand....