I've spent the last few days hanging out at home holding down the fort while Mizuka has been busy with other stuff. I'm still adjusting to the local time zone. It is primarily an agricultural area so everyone goes to bed at 8 pm and wakes up at 5 or 6 am. Yesterday, the a few of the women from the village came by at 7:30 am to tell me it was my turn to help clean the assembly hall. "When?" "Um... Now." "Sorry, I've got to take my friend to the station and take care of a few things." "Oh... Well, you can do it with the next group." "What day?" "It's not decided. They'll come by to pick you up on that day though." "Uhh.. Oh. OK."

Later, I visited the woman and apologized for not being able to help out with the assembly hall clean up. Then I wandered over to the mayor's house to say hi and told him that I'd be seeing the governor the next day. The mayor gave me a bunch of stewed takenoko (bamboo shoots). (Guess what we'll be having for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next few days...) I mumbled to him about how I had hit a rock and broke my tiller.

A few minutes after I was home, a farmer wandered over to my house. "Do you have a hammer? How about a crowbar?" Smack, crank, bang. The tiller was fixed. The farmer stayed for a chat and I grilled him about what I should be doing in the yard. "It always takes city folks two or three years before they figure out how to manage their yard." The climate in Japan causes it to be perfect for bugs and vegetation including weeds and trying to deal with the onslaught of bugs and weeds without chemicals is a challenge. When I told the farmer our organic aspirations, he smiled, shrugged and gave me that, "You won't last" look. He explained that he had worked on the construction of our house and told me some of the history and even pointed out which of the planks of pine came from the village.

This morning at 7:30 am, the mayor called to tell me that he had picked some takenoko this morning and prepared them for me to take to the governor's house and that I should pick them up around noon. "Uh.. OK."

A little jingle plays across the village PA at 11 am to tell everyone it's time for lunch and at 5 pm to tell everyone it's time to call it a day. On the one hand it's quite relaxing working in my yard with my puppies, bugs, birds and the occasional visitor as my only input source of information, on the other hand I realized that taking care of a yard and managing our relationship in the village is a full time job.

20 Comments

Hilarious!

Can't wait to visit with the kids. Inba standard time is the same as 3 and 6 year old standard time!

Your description of your new community reminds me of growing up in country Australia. My dad was a quiet shy dairy farmer who always grew many more vegetables than we could use. Friends and relatives received bucket loads of the surplus.

This was his way of showing friendship and love.

I think you are very lucky.

I can also see the funny side but mainly I just think it's very sweet.

Oh, the Spring takenoko season just started. I'll bet you could grow them at your place too. Generally, they just sprout out of the ground and need little tending. I wonder what your neighbors do to protect against the bugs though. Have fun!

Helen, yes. I joke around, but it's really great getting fresh vegetables from the neighbors. We also have tons of takenoko growning in our yard, but digging them up and preparing them is really hard work.

Sounds like a script for a Hollywood movie...

One of the royal princes of Denmark is a farmer and took over a big place some years ago. Is looks like it takes dedication and innovation to succeed in it. He is very ambisious, invented a new bread and new ways for farmers to organize. And uses IT to its fullest.

Terrific post Joi - great glimpse into another life. Intimate! And funny. So glad you're updating the web on the tiller and takenoko!

beans...shock them with beans to energize the soil (you also can't screw that up)...then if you're shrewd, plant clover for somebodies sheep or cow...that will help someone and then borrow the manure from the animal...next year you will be king...plant rye grass (now this is an italian secret,) for the winter...

Dear Joi,
I saw on the site that you are using Shure in-ear monitors! Just to let you know that Sensaphonics (who make custom ear molds for Shure products, as well as our own line of custom in-ear monitors (used by Janet Jackson, Prince, Dave Matthews Band and hundreds of other acts, as well as NASA, F1 etc), will open an office in Tokyo later in the year. You can check out the products, client-list etc at sensaphonics.com. (The Japanese web site is not yet up.)

If you are interested in getting your ears molded, Michael Santucci (president and renowned audiolgist), will be in Japan late May. The difference is....amazing.

Best wishes, Duncan (Sensaphonics.jp)

Dear Joi,
I saw on the site that you are using Shure in-ear monitors! Just to let you know that Sensaphonics (who make custom ear molds for Shure products, as well as our own line of custom in-ear monitors (used by Janet Jackson, Prince, Dave Matthews Band and hundreds of other acts, as well as NASA, F1 etc), will open an office in Tokyo later in the year. You can check out the products, client-list etc at sensaphonics.com. (The Japanese web site is not yet up.)

If you are interested in getting your ears molded, Michael Santucci (president and renowned audiolgist), will be in Japan late May. The difference is....amazing.

Best wishes, Duncan (Sensaphonics.jp)

I think small villages are the same everywhere. We have a house in rural France. The church bells ring on the quarter hour, but they ring again 5 minutes later, because people really do tell time by them, and if you missed it the first time all you have to do is wait five minutes. Our neighbors drop off eggs, a leg of smoked ham once, fish they've caught, etc. On the other hand, we know that a number of people in the village find our presence (from Tokyo, New York, and elsewhere) suspicious and scary, and the police have investigated us after it was reported that we might be a cult. . .

Overall, though, the balance is great. Wouldn't want to live there year-round though!

For me, this was one of the most enjoyable posts I've read on your blog. More please!

Joi, after nearly twenty years of commuting between cyberspace, airspace, and my garden, I firmly believe that staying in touch with your local soil for a long time is a strong antidote to all that virtuality. When the weather permits, I recommend gardening barefoot. I think a large percentage of the world's ills have to do with the intercession of asphalt and shoeleather between feet and earth. And you are young enough to plant fruit trees. Do it! It's a vote for the future.

If you follow that advice, Joi, you might come out looking like this:

The "Neighborhood Association(Tonarigumi)" which was used to see across Japan once everywhere-now in urban area completely -- it is hard to see, so that you may say, and we can see only in country area. It also seems that are and it is humane so that it may be meddlesome, and each other is protected as each other is supervised. I think that high economic growth was brought about from the strong ties of the community with such [ once ] Japan's union. A child's education is also because not only a parent cares but also the neighbors had not neglected cautions always once. Parents have not so still changed a long time ago, either it is although -since surrounding environment has changed, it may be having also influenced the child.

howard, that red spot on your left side, is it new or festering?

ifs its persistant, have someone look at it...how is that for medbloging and hippa...got some heat today in nj about allowing families to use camera phones images of medical chart...it seems natural to me...I think I'm in a little bit of trouble...but what did zorba say...trouble...I go out looking for trouble...

stef

my wife, the hopkins person, agrees...

Joi, your post reminds me of when I first went to Japan, living in rural Toyama-ken. The takenoko story brings back memories showered in gifts of food I wasn't used to, which sadly often rotted in my refridgerator while I foolishly went from store to store looking for canned tomatoes to make spaghetti. (Now I comb the aisles of the asian markets here in Vancouver looking for nagaimo for my okonomiyaki and tororo soba binges...)
Having people wander over and fix something or help me get the propane back on, getting fresh vegetables from co-workers, the smell of new tatamis, and just the general newness of going from a city of a million people to a town of 10,000 is something I'll always remember fondly, despite how stressful it was at the time.

Joi, your post reminds me of when I first went to Japan, living in rural Toyama-ken. The takenoko story brings back memories showered in gifts of food I wasn't used to, which sadly often rotted in my refrigerator while I foolishly went from store to store looking for canned tomatoes to make spaghetti. (Now I comb the aisles of the asian markets here in Vancouver looking for nagaimo for my okonomiyaki and tororo soba binges...)

It is primarily an agricultural area so everyone goes to bed at 8 pm and wakes up at 5 or 6 am.

Tokyo’s longitude is about 139° East, and the GMT+9 timezone might be “in theory” correct if we vacuously insist that the mean sun — excluding equation of time effects, thus — should be at its zenith at noon.

With Japan’s current GMT+9 timezone, during summer, the sun would already shine brightly at around 5 AM, and it would already be dark at about 7 PM. Methinks Japan should really move from that timezone to something more adapated to a post-agrarian society.

I have a very strong dislike for the bi-annual clock to-and-fro-ing induced by daylight saving time. If the idea is to use sunlight more effectively, a much simpler solution would be to move Japan permanently, once and for all to the GMT+11 timezone. The sun in early summer would rise at about 7 AM then, and in the evenings when the kids come home from juku/cram schools, there might still be some daylight left, which would be beneficial from a security point of view.

Having an official time that is offset from mean sun time by more than two hours is nothing unheard of: Brest and the Bretagne region in France, or Madrid in Spain, for example, are several degrees WEST of Greenwich, yet are in the GMT+2 timezone during about 7 months per year, when European daylight summer time is in effect. In fact, in the western parts of Spain like the Asturias, there might be an offset of about 160 minutes -- i.e. nearly three hours -- in late July between official time and real sun time: the sun would reach its zenith at about 02:40 PM official time, with no ill effects whatsoever on the local population or agriculture.

In the far East, one can’t help but notice that Vladivostok at about 132° East is in the GMT+10 timezone, while Japanese cities like Sendai or Sapporo at about 142° East — i.e. about ten degrees to the EAST of Vladivostok — are still at GMT+9 !

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