Saturday, June 30, 2012

Any experts out there?

Sorry I haven't been updating lately... I promise to be better in the very near future!  But for now I have a question.  Does anyone know which country this very old kimono (?) is from?  Apparently it was bought in Japan, but my initial reaction was that it is perhaps Chinese... but then I thought maybe it is Korean... and all my searches on the internet have come up blank.  Perhaps it is actually Japanese - I'm stumped!  If anyone has any knowledge of this kind of kimono I would really appreciate some insight from you.... or at least Big Kev would be very grateful!  The bottom picture is of the box that it came in.  Thank you!
Mellybird - you can get the arm protectors here at all the hardware shops, 100 yen shops etc., but basically they are just a tube of material with elastic around both ends.  If they weren't so cheap here I would probably make my own....

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rainy day entertainment

 I have had enough of the rain.  I think we have had one fine day in the last week and today we had torrential rain ALL day.  The kids couldn't handle staying home all day again so we braved the weather and went bowling..... it was quite fun if you could ignore the excessive noise and the smoking zone which was conveniently just behind the seats where you sat when it wasn't your turn - ie most of the time.  My husband discussed the placement of these smoking zones with the manager, but apparently there is too much demand for smoking that the non-smokers just have to put up with it.  I can't see us going there again in the very near future.  And of course our washing machine is broken at the moment so we can't wash the smoke smell out of our clothes and even if it wasn't broken it is raining so hard we couldn't get the clothes dried even if we did manage to get them washed!  Perhaps I should just hang them outside and spray them with washing liquid!  
Here's hoping the forecast for the next week (basically rain every day) is wrong.  Bring back the sunshine!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Nan's arrival

The massive volumes of rain that have fallen over the last few days seem to have washed away all my blogging enthusiasm... clouds are forecast for the next few days so hopefully I may be a little more motivated!

Mum arrived on Saturday morning.... in the middle of a huge downpour.  My son and I made a snap decision on Friday night to drive to Fukuoka and stay the night so we didn't have to get up at 5am and drive in the pouring rain to get to the airport in time.  The correct decision as we ended up feeling very refreshed - especially after the dip in the nice onsen in the morning, just before the complimentary breakfast.
Since Mum has arrived I think we have had one day of reasonable weather - and we managed to make it to a lake which has beautiful irises.  A nice wander - even if only 25% of them were in full bloom.  Here's hoping the weather improves a bit in the next couple of weeks....... otherwise my dream of having my garden weeded for me will remain just a dream!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012




Unfortunately my wonderful raspberry patch has been taken over by horrible weeds this year and needs to be transplanted - another job on the "must do, but have no time to do" list.  Fortunately some of my other berries are starting to take off and although they'll never replace raspberries, they are better than nothing.  Ready for picking right now are boysenberries... not huge quantities, but a few each day.  Gooseberries will be next then the blueberries will probably just pip the blackberries at the post.  That is of course providing the rainy season doesn't come in force and make them all rot away......

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


When I first got married I can remember snickering when I watched my mother-in-law getting ready to go out into the garden with her funny hat, her arm protector thingies and her leg protector thingies.  I can remember thinking "if I ever look like that I have been here far too long....." and then... I realised that I now wear the funny hat and the arm protectors (sorry, the photo is out of focus...).  I still don't wear the leg protector thingies though so I guess I am not officially part of the old fogies in the fields group ...... yet! 
On a similar note, I think I have worked out what is causing all my itchiness - straw!  On Saturday I made sure I was completely covered up, but spent most of the morning carrying straw.  Almost immediately my legs started itching ... in exactly the areas where the trousers I was wearing were wearing very thin.  And then the next day I stupidly rushed out to cart the remaining straw into the tunnel house before the rain set in and... forgot to put proper gloves on.  The result - my hands are red and itchy all over.  I'm happy that I have worked out what it is, but not so happy that it doesn't give me an excuse to not pull weeds out anymore.....

Monday, June 11, 2012

Top three posts of all time

I'm always interested in the different ways people connect with different blogs.  Blogger provides pretty good basic statistics of how many people have been looking at which page, which country they are from etc.  My favorite statistic is which blog posts have been viewed the most.  Most of my posts are viewed by about the same number of people, but there are three posts which have been viewed more than 10 times more than any of the other posts.  They are:

No. 1: Thunder Thighs
No. 2: Goldfish Revisited
No. 3: Spiders

I'm presuming that the out of proportion number of views of these pages is due to people randomly searching for something on the Internet... interesting what people search for!  I would hate to think how many views I would get if the goldfish and the spiders got together and revisited the thunder thighs....   
(just to test the theory I just googled "goldfish, spiders, thunder thighs" and my blog came up number 4 out of 18.000... - on my search engine anyway!.)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Wheat harvest year 3

I started on my wheat growing journey 2 years ago - and have managed to slowly increase the volume I've grown each year.  For previous harvests see ....

A couple of days ago the predicted phone call came saying "wouldn't it be best if I harvested the wheat soon", but I dug in my toes and said that my mother was coming next week and it would be a great bonding activity.  And then today dawned hot and sticky and the threat of rain in a couple of days meant I decided that I would actually harvest the wheat today - but the kids would help me, so don't worry mother-in-law and father-in-law, I can do it without your help.   And then I started to harvest the wheat.... in the intense heat... my daughter stopped before she started, my son managed one row and slunk inside.  The parents-in-law arrived and I decided it was probably quite a good day to stop refusing just on the principal of it and invited them into my garden to help me (I am so kind!).  About an hour and a half later and the harvest was finished.. and then I went to bed for half an hour!  Kind of happy I wasn't in my really stubborn mood today!  
Just as the harvesting ended a neighbour wandered by, commenting that I should get on with harvesting my potatoes.... I smiled and nodded..... and went to bed.....

Rob - with regard to your question concerning braces... there has been quite a big change in my daughter's teeth already and they document it very well so we can actually see the progress in the photos etc.  The only thing I regret is that we couldn't get another quote from somewhere else - because there is no where else near us!  I think it depends a lot on what the problem is - for us it was more than just cosmetic so definitely worth it.  Just remember the price will probably go up A LOT when they hit junior high school.....   There is also a lot of commitment involved on the part of the child regarding cleaning and eventually wearing the retainer for another year or so when the braces come off so I think it is really important that the child is actually willing to commit to this... otherwise the teeth will end up going back to their original state and will require more attention in the future.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Rice field preparation

Preparations for rice planting are in full swing here now and it is another time of the year when the distinct male / female jobs come into play.  One of the biggest problems with rice fields is that they need to be water-tight.  They need to have a very hard clay base with mud on top.  They also have to have "walls" to prevent all the water from just draining out into the neighbouring fields.  There seem to be two basic ways to make these walls in our area and I've been watching my mother-in-law doing the more labour intensive version over the last few days.  Basically she goes around the edge of each rice field with a bit long strip of black plastic stuff and pokes it in the side of the rice field and then jabs thin bamboo sticks into the ground to keep it in place.  She has been doing this for at least two days now - probably longer... just going slowly around and around each field.  If it was me I would have lost concentration after the first side and gone to a shrine to pray that the gods would keep the water in for me.... but somehow she just keeps managing to smile and keep on going without a break.  I'm guessing she will be out there again tomorrow.
The other way of making these walls is for a man to get on a tractor which has a special "rice-field-wall-maker" attached and drive it along the side, making a very thick, very impressive wall in about 10 minutes.  I'm thinking I might need to get myself one of those if I am ever expected to make the rice fields water tight in the future....

Nancy - thanks for commenting.  It was definitely bust size they were measuring - no waist measurements needed.  I could almost understand waist (almost...), but bust.....????  Here's hoping they get around to changing the forms before next year - when I may not be in such a smile and nod mood!

Friday, June 08, 2012

Smile and Nod day

There are some days when I feel like protesting and trying to change some of the insane things that we are faced with here and other days when I just can't be bothered and stick with my "smile and nod" attitude and just let the strange things go flying by.  Fortunately yesterday I was in one of my "smile and nod" phases as I had to get a very basic health check completed so that a couple of schools could finish all their paperwork for the pitiful financial gesture they pay me each year.  
The first smile and nod moment was when they handed me the forms on June 6th and told me they needed to be filled in by May 31st.... so could I ask the doctor to just write May 31st on them.  Sure, why not... the doctor just smiled and nodded when I asked him, so perhaps the Venus movements of the previous day were having a positive effect on everyone.  The second nod and smile moment was when they told me that they really needed the forms either today or the next day...  again, sure, why not - it is not as if I work or anything (in reality I work at 8 different places at last count).
The final smile and nod moment was when I looked at the information that I had to supply.  Just to remind you - this check was to make sure I was healthy enough to teach at primary schools for a total of 17 hours... in the year!  
The categories (from memory):
Bust size
Eye sight test
Hearing test
Blood pressure
Quick check with the stethoscope on my chest and back

Can you guess which categories I may have questioned if I wasn't in my smile and nod phase?  To give the school credit they were also apologetic about the whole thing, but in order to get the funding they needed the specific form filled out.  I wonder if I could claim some kind of compensation if during the time I am teaching my bust size increased or decreased to a huge extent.... or maybe if I lost a few centimeters off my height.....

Thursday, June 07, 2012


A few months ago we started down the long (and expensive...) road of getting Emily's teeth sorted out.  They didn't look too bad, but after many nights of crying during dinner because it hurt to bite etc. I decided to go and get them checked out at the orthodontist and he confirmed that the current positioning of her teeth was such that she couldn't actually bite properly.  For the last few months she has had a brace on the inside of her teeth to push them all out and yesterday she got the top braces on to straighten them all.  Fortunately she was quite happy to get them and even opted to get the more visible, but less painful silver braces rather than the slightly less obvious, but often more painful white ones.  Another fortunate thing is that we got them before she started junior high school... a word of warning to anyone living here - the price of getting orthodontic services increases rapidly when they hit junior high school... which would probably put them completely out of our price range!
There is only one orthodontist in our vague area and he seems very nice.  I like going there for two reasons - the first is this nifty slipper dispenser which sterilises all the slippers before it plops them out the bottom (you can see a pair just coming out in the photo).  You may remember my experiences of hospital slippers at a skin disease clinic... after this sterilised slippers are the best!  The other reason I like this orthodontist is because there is free coffee in the waiting room.  And aromatherapy.  And quiet to read my book while Emily is having all her teeth dealt to.  Mind you for the amount we are paying I might ask if they want to hire a masseuse too....

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Venus Viewing

A few days/weeks/months ago (I've completely lost all concept of time lately) the whole of Japan (and half the world) was excited about the big "ring of fire" eclipse that was visible from here.  I was instructed to go and buy some special viewing glasses and we all sat around in the morning waiting for the big moment to occur.  Only we were glued to the TV rather than the skies as it was so cloudy we couldn't even work out where the sun was!  I almost threw the glasses out in frustration, but fortunately just threw them into a cupboard rather than the rubbish as they came in handy this morning when we got to view Venus making an appearance in front of the sun.  Compared to the eclipse, the tiny pimple on the moon wasn't overly impressive, but at least we could see it (not that you can in the photo!).  A nice way to start another long day....

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Apple of Grandparent's eyes!

I'm sure I've talked about this before, but I can't find the blog entry, so I'll just repeat myself a bit.. unless the blog entry I am thinking about was actually one of the zillions that I have written in my head, but not quite managed to get into cyberspace.  In which case I will only be repeating myself to me and not you!
We live in the Japanese countryside.  My husband is the eldest (and only) son in a farming family.  He works at the city office because farming for a living is no longer a viable option in this area.  He chose the job because it meant he could still fulfill his eldest son responsibilities by living in the same area as his parents and helping with the farming etc. in the weekends, with the unspoken assumption that he will take over all the responsibilities when he retires.  
My son is the eldest (and only) son in our family.  There is an unspoken assumption on the part of my parents-in-law that he will follow in the footsteps of his father, grandfather, great grandfather etc. and stay on the land.  Unfortunately there is a very vocal mother around though that has made it clear that he will not be expected to stay around this area if he chooses to go and pursue other dreams.  In fact I would be really disappointed if he didn't leave the area for at least a few years (or decades) to go and see what else there is in the world before deciding on where he wants to settle.  His latest dream is to become a police officer - he said he is sick of watching all the people being murdered etc. and he wants to try and catch the bad people so that others can feel safe.  I told him he should be a teacher and therefore try and educate people so that they don't do bad things in the first place... but I'm off on a tangent! 
Lately he has been asking to help out with the "men's" work around the place.  His latest entertainment is using the weed eater... supervised of course!  This is making his grandparents very, very happy..... I can already see them visualising the future farmer.... while I visualise the future wanderer... who eventually sees the light that this is the best place to be and comes home to roost just about the time I am needing help with my nappies!  It will be interesting to see which path his life eventually takes......

Monday, June 04, 2012

Tomato planting

I often make the mistake of thinking that I've got a spare hour so I'll just whip out and plant a few of the seedlings that I have ready in the tunnel house.  Of course the reality is that before I can actually plant them I need to remove all the weeds, do a bit of digging, fertilising and general ground preparation before I can even think about planting something.  Over the last two days I went a step further by 
1.  Plowing in all the clover that had managed to grow (despite my mother-in-law's efforts to remove it)
2.  Laying plastic mulch to try and reduce the number of weeds (not pretty, but my itchy arms will thank me in the future!)
3.  Putting on a roof to prevent the rain landing directly on the tomato plants
4.  Attaching strings from the roof pipe and hammering posts in to attach the strings at the bottom (of course I had to go and find the sledge hammer from the parents-in-law's shed first)
5.  Making holes in the plastic and watering the holes
6.  Finally planting the tomato plants! 

I think the actual planting took maybe 10 minutes... but the preparation took about 4 hours.  Tomorrow the zucchinis really need to be planted out..... I may need to get up early!

Sunday, June 03, 2012

6th Graders

Today I was given a bit of a forced break from the garden (my itchy arms were thanking me) and we went to school to participate in the 6th grade "recreation" - a chance for parents and children to all mingle while doing something that the class has decided.  Unfortunately Emily's class thinks the only activities that can be done are very active activities and therefore we played kick-base (I still couldn't really understand the rules even once the game was over!), cops and robbers then jump rope with the big rope.... for far too long!  My itchy arms may have been thanking me for the break, but my usually-not-so-active legs are telling me they need a sleep in tomorrow!
The top photo is the 11 children on their first day of school (well 10 of them are visible...).  The bottom is 6 years later (with a few extra siblings) - some have grown and others haven't!  My daughter is in the pink t-shirt on the end.  The girl next to her is her classmate...... at least I can always find her quickly in a group!

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Itchy, itchy, itchy!

I was under the impression that allergies were something that you had from birth and which you sometimes grew out of as you got older.  Unfortunately I was completely wrong and allergies in my case seem to be cropping up in different forms at some of the most stupid times.  My latest allergy seems to be to some kind of weed in my garden... not sure exactly which one it is, but I've been getting increasingly itchy every time I go into the garden lately and today it hit its peak.  I was stupid enough to go into the garden for just an hour before taking the kids to swimming and only putting on one thin long sleeved shirt... the result... itchy, itchy, itchy!  My stomach and boobies were also the same but I'll save you the horror of having to look at them!  I'm guessing it is some kind of hives and have discovered that my hay fever medicine does a reasonable job of getting it under control.  I guess it is a good excuse to not weed the garden and leave it all for when Mum arrives in a couple of weeks!

Friday, June 01, 2012

Rice seed planting the easy way

Every year my family here is involved in the labour intensive process of planting rice into trays, laying them out and then taking care of them until they are big enough to be planted out in the fields.  I say "my family"... but in effect it is really my father-in-law and mother-in-law who do the majority of the work.  This year my father-in-law's health hasn't been fantastic so there were suggestions made that we skip the seed planting and just order trays from the agricultural union which have already been planted and therefore only have to do the "taking care of them until they are big" phase of the process.  Unfortunately my father-in-law doesn't like to waste money and therefore to pay for someone to do a job that he could do (while keeling over backwards halfway through it) was a bit too much for him to handle.  The idea was therefore thrown out the window.  
And then mother-in-law came to the rescue.  All it took was for her to say "don't be so stupid, if you are that stubborn then I will pay for the trays of seeds so you don't have to kill yourself getting them ready"..... the next minute father-in-law was on the phone calling the agricultural union and putting in an order - making sure they knew to take the cost out of mother-in-law's account, not his!  Just in case she changed her mind....
The trays of seeds have now grown pretty well and I'm guessing in a couple of weeks the big planting season will start.  If anyone wants to see how we have done the planting of the seeds in the past (and why we didn't want to do it again....) here are a few links:
2009 (with video)