Saturday, April 28, 2007

Seismic testing

A house in Japan isn't good for much if it can't stand a bit of shaking from a major earthquake. Considering that Japan is entering a 'seismically active period', having a house that doesn't wobble too much is desirable.

As if on cue, we were treated to a couple of decent jolts numbering 4 on the Japanese scale of intensity. This is not a killer quake by any means, but the house didn't sway about for minutes afterwards as our last one did after a tremblor, so I'm reasonably confident that we won't fare too badly in something bigger.

This earthquake struck a good distance to the east of Matsuyama, and was felt over a wide area of south western Japan.

Hedge and 'symbol tree'

I wanted every last tree and shrub in the garden to be productive in some way, and I hoped for a hedge of fruit bushes, or olives. But the trouble is, if you want to have privacy from your hedge, you have to keep it trimmed to encourage growth, and trimming cuts off the parts that produce fruit. (Did you know that the shrub privet takes its name from French for 'private'? No, I didn't either, but I suppose I might have guessed.) Our first candidate for gardener, Senba-san, let us (me) run away with our ideas of what might be nice, saying yes, yes, let's do that. When we got a second opinion from another gardener, Chiba-san, he told us, no, you can't do that because, a,b, and c. We chose Chiba-san to advise us on our plants, and put them in, and he and his crew did a very good job.

The city very kindly pays half the cost of trees planted alongside a road, so we'll be taking advantage of this particular subsidy (there are lots of these kinds of subsidies available, but you need somebody to tell you about them.) We chose Quercus myrsinifolia, or 'shirakashi' in Japanese.

The greenery wouldn't be complete without what is known as a 'symbol tree' in front of the house. Quite what it symbolizes I'd be hard put to say, but there it is. It is a Benthamidia japonica, or 'yamaboushi' in Japanese. The other trees that we plan to plant around the side of the house to hide the laundry won't be symbolic of anything, apparently.

As a sop to me (and to keep out neighbourhood dogs), there's a Prunus tomentosa, or 'yusura-ume' planted under the letter box. It's some sort of edible berry bush.

Monday, April 16, 2007


I like our stair lights, niche, and bronze cat from Bali. They go well with the super-bumpy walls.

Natural light

At night

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Party for the builders

On Saturday we held a party for the people involved in building our house. Unfortunately the carpenters who did a large part of the work were busy on yet another house and couldn't attend, but the architects and the earthworks people, and a neighbour who happens to know everybody else all were present. The highlight was a big, bloody bag of wild boar meat, which the missus turned into a tasty 'nabe' with miso.

As beer goes down hatches much as rainwater goes down drains, we learn about the features of our new neighbourhood. The extra-big mosquitoes, and the defeaning chorus of frogs on summer nights are something we will soon experience.

The kids also partied heavily, yea unto 12 o'clock when they really should have been in bed. Having children from six to eleven running around the new house playing tag tests one's sang froid when it comes to concern for the integrity of decor and furnishings.

A real antique

The living room looked rather bare and was cyring out for a sideboard. So we bought an English sideboard from the 30s, of oak. Considering how many antiques of this kind are available in Matsuyama alone, I wonder if there can be any left in England.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Car park and gate

Our car parking space and gateway was possibly the subject of more intense discussion and revision than the house itself, especially as there was an inclination to scrimp on it. Here is Hidaka-san of Hidaka Planning ... planning. The gateway looks quite nice, even if the people who actually built it didn't exactly follow Hidaka-san's plan to the letter.

The concrete was 'washed out' to make the little stones stand out for a 'natural' look.

The bricks that were left over from coating the house were broken and laid in cement as the path between the gate and the front door.

And apropos of nothing in particular, another beautiful sunset.

Moving house

So at last, on March 24, we moved into our new house.

The long-lasting pattern of fine weather on weekdays and miserable weather at the weekend held true, and Friday's sunshine gave way to squalls of rain and wind. We chose a cheap and cheerful mover who boasted a lot of experience at moving pianos, and everything went smoothly. Even the rain cooperated by not falling when the important things were being moved.

Moving house is a tiresome business, with frantic tidying and arranging at both ends, followed by days of not really knowing where anything is. I shoved my camera-PC cable into a running shoe for safe-keeping at the last minute, and couldn't find it again for two weeks.

But taking a bath in the evening made it all seem worthwhile. The water stayed warm right to the end, rather than palpably losing a degree of heat every minute in the old house. And when we got out, there was no running in a desperate naked crouch to get in front of the smelly kitchen stove. Instead, we could stroll about in comfort, remarking on how pleasant it all seemed.