AFTER A SOMEWHAT long  winter and feeling like living in an igloo, nothing wrong with igloos mind you we did manage to spend some time at the local school with the kids who are as eager as, to learn all things new  but I think it was myself who learned the most after watching their enthusiasm and determination and displaying their skills in the kitchen…

Todays menu, tarts and pizza












We had a game of putting the price on each tart as it came out of the oven and I think we finally reached $6.20 as the last one came out, it started at $2.50!


a few happy hungry faces




and to cap it all off,


THANK YOU kids for a special day!



img_3081A LOT HAS HAPPENED  since the last post, but mainly in the form of snow so apologies now if I have overdosed with too many pics of the white stuff !

First up we toasted in the New Year with a traditional brekkie ( O-sechi ryori ) consisting of, among other things, dried cod’s roe, black sweet beans and toasted whitebait, and downed with Otoso which is like a very sweet dessert wine. These are said to bring you good health and prosperity for the coming year. Funny that, in Scotland we we are given a lump of coal , some shortbread and a bottle of whisky!



We visited the local shrine to pay our first respects….




Interesting to see all the houses adorn their festive offerings outside their front doors




this is part of the roof and although it may look pretty, 1sq metre of 60cm snow equals 120kg and the roof on the main house is 50 sq metres (6 tons)  thats a lot of weight for the old beams to hold up. You hear so often , particularly with old people, so many deaths either they fall off the roof cleaning or are caught underneath the snow.


img_3368img_3330uninhabitated dog house….



good to see the builder make it in….img_3428




shit, lost the keys


oooops, not ours.



Kyoto bus



A bit of night skiingimg_3276




a quick before and after shot

and finally a quick salute from BOSS


TAKUAN – Japanese pickled daikon





Pickled daikon or white radish, commonly known as Takuan, so named after a young Rinzai sect Zen priest called Takuan Soho in the 16th century is a popular accompaniment served with rice dishes. The daikon are grown all over rural Japan, seeded in late summer and harvested in the beginning of winter, then hung to dry in the late sun before being buried  in seasoned rice bran for 2 -3 months. They are then washed and sliced and are crisp yet moist to the mouth and cheer up any dinner table. Certainly a great example of food preservation over the lean winter months and can last the whole year out.


hung out to dry


THE INGREDIENTS for the pickle are as follows:

rice bran, salt, dried kombu seaweed. persimmon peel and sliced chilli.img_3041


The daikon are then laid into a watertight cask and covered liberally with the seasoned bran, then the leaves, then repeated with another layer and so on.




once complete, a lid is placed over and a  hefty stone weight thrown on top for good measure.



then sealed and stored in a cool dark place.img_3052

See you in March sometime!!



SINCE THE LAST BLOG, the year end is fast approaching and with the  temperature gauge dropping dramatically everyone is running around gettind ready for the long winter ahead.

WE went from this


to this in 6 weeks



We have had 4 mountain bear sightings ( and I’m not talking about the ones you see at closing time on a Saturday night in Glasgow coming out of the Market Bar!) ; img_2729one even in our back yard stocking up on the persimmons before hibernation.

We also had the primary school kids marathon where we had to cheer them on with our flags



img_2406 It was also the time to reap the late autumn harvest and our resident grumpy farmer was busy preparing the daikon for pickling and pick some mushrooms


and stock up the woodpile




and time to light the irori hearth


WITH XMAS NOT TOO FAR AWAY with the help of our neighbours decided to put on a festive party for the local community and invited the school kids to come and dress the xmas tree. Boy that was fun. These kids really had the Christmas spirit, far from the commercial hype that saturates everything these days.






BOSS was having a ball too!


Our Xmas party was a hoot and even a visit fron Santa!

Honey roast ham on the menu




Tree waiting to be lit up.





The kids got to meet Sanata


and toast some marshmallows!


So its a very Merry Christmas to all and now its time for bed!



HAPPY 2017 !!

cooler days

IT HAS CERTAINLY BEEN A WHILE since I have managed to put pen to paper so to speak and a lot of things have happened here in Hanase, so I will try not to write too much and let the pics do the talking.

First of all. builder #1, Mr Happy Mountain aka Fukuyama-san finished up and builder #2 starts next week. In the previous blog I started growing my Daikon to compete with the builder’s progress, needless to say the daikon is still going strong!



Garlic, onions, carrots and kikuna; sadly rhubarb failed.

The end of summertime signalled the start of the local school’s carnival. all parents and friends were invited and us 3 big foreigners won the tug o’ war which caused a bit of a stir. But a lovely day out.



We were the red/pink team!

Our old kitchen was ripped out and re-installed finally.






and in between!

Autumn also heralds the new season shiitake and wild mushrooms.


and hungry dogs


My good friend and neighbour Stuart ran his annual Haunted house event, this year up at Hanase; last year he set a precedent of 1200 visitors around his house down in Kyoto but this time he was determined to get the people to jump in their cars and head up the mountain to his house in the hills. img_2084

All  the locals got involved and we ran food stalls outside and although with temperatures plummeting we had 3 great days of scaring the shit out of the young kids. I can’t give too much away but inside really was very scary and thanks to the Kyoto news press and Osaka TV he reached out to a broader audience.


The local school kids came round and made Jack o’ Lanterns, proudly wearing their own handmade animal caps!





Our good friend Goro-san the plumber is still around too….


and a lovely shot of Sadie and Boss


Our combustion stove is being delivered next week, not before time. This week-end its already down to 2 degrees C.



so had the chance to bring out my chainsaw.

Lovely walks in the morning with the dog and a chance to see what the country would have been like many years ago




All the rice has been harvested and hung to dry in the fields.

On the 10th day of each month all the local community gather ( at 8 am ) to clean around the shrine. October was our first appearance since arriving but already feeling “more local”

The Persimmon trees are abound with fruit now and jams and chutneys are on the go


Our next project is already on the board and we are looking to make a winter wonderland with Santa’s Grotto. Should be fun.

On a final note, a local cafe owner in Osaka is appealing to the good nature of smorkers?



AFTER MUCH FRUSTRATING DAYS SPENT watching the minimum progress spent on the renovations to our house, I decided to play a game: plant some vegies and see which is quicker: my daikon or the builder!!

I go and talk to my neighbour Stuart almost everyday and we compare notes on the work progress and life in Hanase in general and I must say his builders are amazing. They rock up on a Sunday morning and stay for 10 hours without so much as a peep and Stuart can now see the finishing touches being put to his lovely old house. On the other hand we had the outside dunnie demolished and the impratical country kitchen demolished ( all by Goro-san the plumber and his son) and our builder then realises, hey, we might need to organise a tiler or plasterer now to continue the process. Of course his reluctance to suggest someone or maybe he wanting to see how long we can survive living at Base Camp with a huge frickin hole in the side of the house is his game plan I don’t really know. He is about to get the red card from me, but all things Japanese lets live with the flow. Goro-san suggested his cousin, who is a plasterer, come to have a look-see and boy, we love him already! Tomorrow he starts.

Anyway, my daikon , so far, is winning.

After taking 3 days to cut and fire all the posts and fencing, then digging all the holes and laying the posts in concrete,  I finally managed to create a paddock with a fence! All the seeds have been sown ; baby spinach, kikuna, daikon, hakusai, negi, garlic, leeks and my prize rhubarb all the way from Oz.

During this time  our hapless builder did redeem himself quite a bit and ripped out all the sub-flooring in the irori room and replaced all the rotten beams which have supported the house for 120 years or so, and laid new timbers and insulation then our newly acquired old floorboards from another century. the room now looks the part!

At the end of the day we can still sit down and enjoy a cuppa!


And don’t fpr get those lovely balmy evenings in Hanase.

End of summer



THE MARK OF the HANASE MATSUAGE ( 300 year old fire festival ) followed by the more intimate HIROGAWA MATSUAGE heralds the last few weeks of the hot summer days to be enjoyed in the mountains. As temperatures soar down in the city, we were able to appreciate the cooler 7 degree difference  and putting us  in the mood for the wonderful autumn colours that promise to come.

A little explanation on the fire festival: the torches are fuelled by the flame kept burning from the local shrine, which then ignite the 1000 or so free standing hand crafted torches . Once lit, a synomonous drum beat signifies the torch carriers to gather around the 30metre tree trunk which has been raised onto a platform and at it’s top is surrounded by a large nest of brush, straw and hinoki. The idea is for the torch-men to swing their torch and hurl it upwards and try to get a hole-in-one. Not an easy task. After 6 attempts the first torch landed into the nest and started to ignite. A much frenzied 12 minutes later , egged on by the happy onlookers, it was all over and they dropped the burning tree to the ground and the sacred rites were said and everyone went home!

This video doesn’t exist

Last week also saw the remnants of Typhoon #15 which blew over the top half of the mainland and on to Hokkaido. The much needed rain filled up the water tanks and with the river swollen decided to press on with the veg garden, Holes need to be dug, land needs to be tilled and beds need to be prepared and seeds need to be sowed!!

Because of the problem with wild deer eating everything in sight, all vegetation must be netted in some form or other. Our plan is to surround the garden with fencing: and to keep it in with the image of the house and walls,the idea is to singe all the fence posts and slats over a fire pit to give it that Edo look?



First a path with local river bed rocks has to be layed. then 24 fencepost holes to be dug.

WITH THE WET WEATHER and the workers at bay I went down to Kyoto to pick up the timber we had purchased to use for flooring around our irori hearth. Keiko found a re-cycled timber shop ( http://www.kozai-ichiba.co.jp) which collects and sells  dismantled houses that date back from yesteryear. The timber we chose was taken from an old farmhouse at least 130 years ago.


Very Japanese, two young petite girls attired in flight attendant uniforms and high heels man-handled all the wood on display to find what we were looking for and fed us with copious amounts of cold tea. Well worth a visit if you need recycled wood!

A RATHER DISTURBING discovery we found was the swarm of yellow hornets nesting on the side of our Hanare, adjoining house. There are different ranks of  hornets and “ours” comes in at number 2 on the most deadly scale. But get this, and don’t laugh, but apparently, they recognise the house owners’ faces and don’t touch us!!!!… only the visitors!!

A quick call to the city council and they sent a professional up to fix the problem. With baited rag soaked in honey and poison, the honeytrap was dropped in to the nest. within 3-5 days all will die. We are told to keep the nest because it is in the best location and as long as there is a nest there no other invading  hornets, wasps / killer bees will try to move in. Also apparently these yellow hornets enlisted the help of the lower rank hornets to help build their nest and once the job was done. they would all be “executed”by the bad guys! ( reminds me of the grim tale of the clan Macdonald and Campbells of Glencoe )

Job done.

Finally, on a more pleasant note, a nice neighbourly visit fro Stuart, Yukiyo-san and Sadie-chan




The morning meeting; someone’s bored already!

FATHER AND SON TEAM like so many trades and craftsmen in Japan keep the jobs in ” the family” and I think Mr Nakamura senior is 11th generation, albeit, not all plumbers, but certainly very skillful. He also makes his own  large gauge drill bits in his furnace at the back of his house, AND, wood fired pizza ovens !! He, like Mr Happy Mountain, hail from the same village 45 mins away and is of the same age group and very fit. Puts me to shame.

One time we had a game of “Kill the Gaijin” and we were all shovelling soil with rocks and boulders in amongst all the debris, in 35C heat. I lasted 20 mins and had to pretend I received a phone call or something, to get away!

The first task in hand was to instal a  1100 LTR septic tank in the patch in front of the building, then dig up a trench starting from 60 cm depth to 120cm around the building, connecting all the different waste outlets

All done very methodically and tidy. Durind the summer heat and invasion of the mozzies it is obligatory for the house-owner to supply mosquito coils all around the house and in the working areas for the tradesmen but they also supply their own too. I laughed at first but they WORK!

Finally the ” Don’t touch the soil” period is over on the calendar they are all back again ready to work again.



The final finish to the sceptic tank


The guys inspired yours truly to get stuck in. Looks like “Farmer Ted”!

Anyone for cake?


Did I tell you we had a dog?


We had a lovely visit from our new friends Leanne and Pat who decided to drive down on a whim { about a 3 hour drive ) to meet us and neighbours Stuart, Yukiyo-san and Sadie and look at our projects. They have recently bought an old farmhouse up in Noto Hanto, Ishikawa ken. The Hokuriku style of architecture differs quite a lot from our neck of the woods due to the large amounts of snowfall they receive.

We shared a few stories and a lot of laughs! Great day.


To finish off, some refreshing green tea mochi



Day Off

WE OFTEN PASS  this lovely temple going through the centre of Kyoto and when we heard that they hold a massive flea market on the 21st of every month we wanted to go look.

The  temple is called TOJI temple  and the actual market is known as  KOBO-san market and artisans and stall holders from all over gather to sell there wares. Kitano Tenmangu is also another famous shrine doing similar monthly markets. ( probably the same stall holders). Starts at sunrise and finishes around 4.30pm and is only a brisk 10 min walk from Kyoto station.

The 5 tiered pagoda itself is amazing with no nails in the construction and is surrounded by lovely gardens. There is an entrance fee I think of 500yen for the temple; the market is free.


Kokeshi dolls, bric a brac, kimonos, silk and linen materials, food stalls,  bonsai plants, pickled vegetables, swords, NOH masks, tools of all kinds etc; all at bargain prices with room to negotiate”

WE ARE STILL very much in the infancy stage of refurbishing but we discovered by living longer term at the house we notice things differently, the way the sun shines through or just the actual flow of the rooms and what furniture works best etc. We have bestowed an immense pressure on our builder, Mr Happy Mountain ( his English pseudonym !) and maybe a great deal of faith too. He is in his 70s, although very fit, but I get the impression he doesn’t like to use power tools much, which hey, could be a good thing, and he likes to take his time ( I swear the weeds out front are moving faster!!) and what worries us is he actually up for the whole job? He seems very happy but the more work I see piling up I am already pondering at next years calendar and thinking O-Bon 2017 might be a more realistic opening date!

We originally planned to pull out our existing bath but after using it we discarded that notion very quickly. It is a beautiful old hinoki tub surrounded by hinoki tiled walls and it would be sacrilege to pull it apart.


Deeper than it looks

We are now going with the concept of changing the floor space of the outside barn and creating a bath-house, massage room and utility room. What does Mr Happy Mountain think?


our irori hearth

This rooms comes off the kitchen and at present is surrounded by tatami but our idea is to make the hearth sunken so we can huddle around more comfortably ( Gaijin legs!!) and replace the tatami with floor boards. we discovered a recycled timber shop in south Kyoto and managed to salvage 140 year old timber sheets, enough to cover the 6 tatami mat floor space.


just making sure

THE KITCHEN , inevitably, will all be pulled out and dropped to the doma level to work nicely with the Okudosan. The old plate cupboard will stay put. I hate to say but we will be installing some stainless steel shelving, sink and refridgeration behind but hopefully mainly out of sight!