the early morning before breakfast, Fumika suddenly asks me urgently to
come and look at the calendar. It is December 4th  TAIAN,
good-luck-day, she explains. What I see is a Japanese character.
I suffer from a mean pain in my left calf, which I got yesterday during carrying the umpteenth load of stones. I collect bigger and smaller ones from all over our plot, which I store near our young fig trees, wanting to make something beautiful with them. This is going on for weeks already, behaving like a kind of fool-on-the-hill. Compelled by necessity I play truant and am not in Tosa Kamo, where just now at last the excavator starts to make the pre-conditions for the fundament.
Modifying I define my unwilling
and maybe protesting left lower leg as 'tennis-leg'. This
characterization is not so far to seek as it looks at first glance.
During last summer I had almost everywhere [blessing] muscle pain, also
mean pain in my right arm. Quite a time I endured the pain 'as a man'
until Fumika forced me to visit an acquainted physician in Ino.
His diagnosis relentless: tennis-arm. I never touched a
ball in my entire life let alone a tennis racket, but I manage the
proud ownership of a tennis-arm. I experienced a kind of pride! it
did sound pretty chic. The cause laid far from the tennis world. In
my unequal battle against kaya, that thrived
said-everywhere !, two meters high, also sharp like a razor, this had
to be taken out of the ground including their bunch of roots,
according to local connoisseurs. Already I broke several tools
with my intends to
do so until I bought a 2½ kg ponderous pickaxe. I learned
to swing the axe far behind my head and batter it in a powerful,
ruthless bow diagonally at the border where I assumed the beginning
of a clew of roots. The shock of each blow was mainly absorbed by my
right arm. The poor limb underwent this deed of torture numerous
times a day and chucked up after weeks of ill-treatment.
Kaya, also responsible for cuts all over my body. Unfair, of course, to blame the assertive plant and comfortably neglect my own clumsiness. Anyway, each evening coming back home from working on our land, only after the ofuro, dressed net weight, appeared how many cuts I caught and where.
"Fumika, what is it behind my left earlobe ?" Inspection brought into light that kaya also had struck there with an impressive, long-lasting cut. Thus an opponent of a large caliber. Neither kaya nor I throttled down.
For a while we went every Sunday to the open-air-market of Kochi city near the castle and always returned with arms full of young shrubs and [fruit]trees. My unmannerly zeal to negotiate about the price each time -rather unusual- spread fast. We were served all kind of hilarious jokes and comments about my notorious, but successful attitude from sales people we never met before. It ensured much mutual pleasant social interactions.
People from Tosa
me crazy, that I struck my ax each time at the border of a clew of
kaya-roots in short pants and with short sleeves or worse
naked upper part of my body. Much unrequested advice was given:
heavy machinery should be organized, I had to wear long trousers, a
hat and long sleeves were also strict necessary. As northerner
however I tried to catch as much sun as possible. Unwise, because her
[she ?] burnt my skin in no time. Unwise also, because I became an
open invitation for stings of various vermin. On one occasion my
chest showed slowly a deep red burning mark over my full breath
giving me more pain every following day, causing me to visit a
skin-doctor. Seeing my injury he enthusiastic guided me to a large
color poster with pictures of insects. He pointed triumphant at a
miniscule bastard. Truly an immense result compared with its size. I
suffered for about a month.
As headstrong, foreign city boy counts to my favor, that I -though only after months- adapted myself and followed the realistic advices in the end. It was my future neighbor Yamamoto-san who praised me exuberant.
Solely my personal feeling of honor and heavy machinery I could not combine. Did I act a version of Saint George and the dragon ?
Working at daytime in July and August, I believe, that won't happen again. What an immense heat!!
refusing [the price of] the first design, to maintain his form-idea.
We supported him, be it that several of our ideas were part of it.
The two layers were reduced to one and the position of the house was
shifted to south, basically economical measures. The change of
position caused that the fundament too became simpler, as part
of the house would not be constructed anymore in a 'floating' way.
New drawings were necessary.
Uchino-san deserves to be praised loudly for his
Consequently a new application had to be implemented moreover in order to change the [original] destination of the rice-fields for a [small] part once more. We were granted such a change in destination before, but by shifting of the house position, the new, second design became situated on land, which still had the former rice-field-destination.
We celebrated my birthday in the midst of July with a four-day-trip among others to the spot were Fumika and I met for the first time, as well to another one, Taino Hama, where I thoughtless stared at the sea the days after and listened to the never ending sound of the waves. The first spot was 'modernized',' it was shocking. Our table and the shelter were still present authentically. Taino Hama, was in the original state and also not. Two of the three beach-accommodations were ceased, but 'mine' was still present! We also stayed again in Umagi, where Fumika lived as a child, a mountain-village, famous for its Ifozu-products and, totally unexpected, internationally wellknown because of a local manufactured small wooden suitcase, selected for the MOMA-collection.
also had other
clients, but in the end everything was drawn and typed
on paper as it had to be. An intense
fight about the "pecunia" followed and at last the contract
was 'signed' at our
house. I write 'signed', but no signature was written
down, however 5 different hanko
[personal stamps], 2 of the senior- and junior contractor,
1 from the architect and 2 from our
side, were spread all over the pages. The stamping was done as
was it meat and drink
for our counterparts, even half of the backside of a page
including half of the
following bordering page, to prevent, that pages could
have been exchanged.
The act of stamping was trusted out of our hands.
Uchino-san claimed these deeds and stamped them carefully and with a certain dignity.
Beforehand short speeches were held with trust as main subject.
In the mean time
another type of
preparation began, which started around the beginning of June. It was
about, what I like to call 'water-management'. Our direct
south-neighbor possesses also terraced rice-fields in the whole
breath of our plots. Rice-fields need water. A lot of water. By holes
in a public gutter, running at the west-side along of both our
properties, flows incessant water on his higher situated fields.
Around the fields are walls, however there is a substantial hole in a
wall, which connects our ground, by which it is generously provided
with water. By consequence it's a pretty wet
affair at our site. I
pointed this out to him, but he is not doing anything. Higher
situated owners traditionally have the legal right to let their water
run over their fields towards lower fields of neighbors. Protesting
is not relevant, one taught us. Before I had dug some small canals to
lead superfluous water to the brooklet, which is our east-border.
But my approach was rather clumsy. A part of our area remained
slushy.A company which made measurements
and drawings became involved. They proposed the digging in of
hundreds of meters concrete U-shaped gutters. Doubts and questions
were downplayed and minimized by the clincher, this firm being a
specialist. Already from the very moment, that I saw the co-workers
researching out plot in a too relaxed and over-assured,
routine-style, I did not have a good feeling. Doubts kept gnawing.
Uchino-san referred to the firm's expertise out of
a lack of
experience. I didn’t get answers and became churlish. In the
stated provocative, that the only goal of this company was to sell as
many concrete gutters as possible.
A world-famous Dutch soccer-celebrity silenced everybody with the winged words "..each disadvantage 'hap' its advantage..." That's how I feel too. This occurrence stimulated my / our own analysis and simply was: the main source of the water input was just on 1 spot in the south-west corner at the south-neighbor's border. The second one came through a crack in the public water gutter, somewhat higher, but pretty close. Those 2 inlets came together around almost the same point at our terrain. I proposed to build a pond -just there- in the first instance as a water-collector. From this buffer the superfluous water could be guided afterwards in a controlled way and the pond would always have fresh water. Another company, specialized in ground-work, was recommended by our future temple-carpenter, Nakayama-san. Contact person became Mitani-san from Otoyo, another mountain-village where Fumika had lived as a child. The children from that time were now in middle life, but still lived there. Their memory was perfect and being faithful, everybody was exited that after a long time a line appeared, through which contact could be renewed.
Mitani-san turned out to be a darling, a shining example of patience and good care. His president proposed 2 overflows inside the pond, connected with a large underground pipe, parallel to the fields of our south neighbor, leading to the small stream at the other side. Furthermore they tendered to construct an S-form-road, Fumika's wish, to accomplish vigorous quarries in order to create a horizontal space for our future house, replace rocks or drill them into pieces and prepare one field for parking. Their offer was impressing detailed and utmost modest. The contract was 'signed'.
In September a number of navvies came with 2 Caterpillars to show their abilities. It was a daily enjoyment to see everything happen. Fumika provided me with a small digital camera and grabs it out of my hands, so to speak, in the evening in order to see the pictures on her computer. We 'signal' them to Uchino-san, who started a bilingual [Japanese and English] website (http://uchnet.seesaa.net/) with text about and photographs of our project after we gave the green light ['signed' the contract]. I am called "Mr. D." for privacy reasons. That title pleases me well.
After digging a huge hole for the pond, gigantic rocks were piled on each other. Those served as a 'wall' for the concrete finishing. More solid is not possible. Later other rocks were draped around and in the pond; it became a beauty, made with love. Some months later I bought small fishes . The woman of the animal shop gave us a 5 year old turtle for free, that had been staying all his life in a small aquarium together with goldfishes in a dark part of her shop. She had seen us a week before at the city swimming pool when we visited an acquaintance, temporary bath-superintendent, to have a short conversation with. He told her about our ecological spot in Tosa Kamo. That's why. Being put at the border of the water, the turtle rushed into it and dived directly one meter deep. May he enjoy our pond for a long time and refrain from wandering. Above all we wish him a happy and long life. At one side of the S-road, which I call Fumika-dori to tease her, massive rocks were put and piled next to and upon each other as a strengthening. From the very beginning one [rock] was appointed to 'glitter' in our living-room. Uchino-san called him / her 'heartstone'. Too late I suddenly observed the large Caterpillar -the much smaller one is called by inimitable Japanese reasons' 'Jumbo'....- involved in drilling the heartrock into pieces.
That evening I mailed an agitated message to Uchino-san, that he lacked control about appointments we made. During his next visit to the site, a rock, besides the one which was destroyed, looking inconsiderable in my eyes, was chosen as the new candidate. To be honest, my judgment was total negative.
Everybody ready ?
Steel cables. Uchino-san in the leading role. The colossal object had to be overturned 90 degrees first. But what turned over was the heavy Caterpillar, not the rock. Goal was the side, which we looked at, had to become bottom side. It was extraordinary thrilling to push the leviathan around. Praise for the groundworkers. Several times the caterpillar inclined frontal in a maximum way, stood so to speak on it's toes. But one moment it succeeded after having tried several angles and look: it proved to be a real beauty ! !
climbed on it
The contractor's co-worker started stroking earth of the massive stone lump [25 ton] tenderly and loving with a soft brush. Little by little it became clear for the navvies that this large stone's destination is in our living-room. They almost cannot express their uppermost surprise, their bewilderment and disbelief. Their conclusions are obvious: this olanda-gin is nuts. [Conversation: "He himself told me lately, that there cannot be found any rock in Holland! He gets lyrical when he sees one. Now I ask you. A normal man is interested in nude photographs, but not in naked rocks....ha...ha...ha....Are all Dutch so nuts or did they throw him out of his country for that reason ?"]
They stood there open mouthed. Until an hour after the notice one was tongue-tied and bewildering dominated.
Then it became main subject of conversation over and over again. Skepticism and astonishment were ongoing transformed stronger into enthusiasm. Whatever it may be, my image in Sakawa and surroundings is out of my control now.
It was in September that Fumika stated rather abrupt, that we better could [should] travel to the Netherlands in order to make our house in Ter Apel empty. More than a year ago some things already had been packed, far before our departure from the Netherlands, the end of July 2005. The international shipping-agent, Nippon Express, already had plentifully provided us in good faith with three sizes of boxes, roles of 'bubble-plastic' and kilometers tape.
We puzzled 2 hours in a travel-office and choose finally to leave October 11th with Alitalia: Kansai l Milan / Düsseldorf / train to Meppen / car from Gerrit, our faithful neighbor, to Ter Apel. When we contacted Nippon Express after our decision, to tell them, that we would be in the Netherlands on October 12th [at last] and that they consequently could load all our belongings , we were told, that their agenda in that period was overbooked already and therefore could not come to far Ter Apel. Panic at our side, specially at mine. Fumika was an example of balance and confidence! She stated that we should take this problem 'lightly'. 24 Hours later the manager, Kawai-san, announced that he overturned everything and even would come twice.
There we were back again. The house looked beautiful and the caring Tinus Jeurink proved to have maintained well. I did the shopping on my bike and the struggle against the clock started. There was all too much that had to be packed yet. After half a day I 'deserted'. I became hopelessly ill, partly probably by the jetlag which catches me always strongly and for the other part by something for which I still could not find a proper title. Loyal and realistic Fumika did send me to bed. My 'desertion' lasted 1½ day.
Several days later two large trucks arrived together with 8 men. Quiet and systematic the men skillfully packed the most quaint things. Every package was carefuly provided with a pre-printed sticker with my name in fat letters and became a number. Fumika was promoted as ad hoc secretary and kept up with a list of goods in Japanese. Shortly before our emigration I bought 2 pretty wheelbarrows, which I rather made dirty to avoid the chance to have to pay import duties in Japan. All of a sudden I was told to clean them totally, because of the Japanese custom's allergy for any grain of sand I also was instructed to scrub tens of shoe-soles tidy clean for the same reason. We prepared a standing, extensive lunch. That gave the crew a positive impulse. At around 15.00 p.m. 2 trucks departed direction Schiphol [with our remaining bottles of wine as token of appreciation] to return 3 days later. We were most relieved that this action also had gone off smoothly. I intended to praise the president of Nippon Express later on with such an excellent manager in the Netherlands. Honor to whom is due. Our neighbors were very dearest as usual. Buyers of our house get them for free altogether. Within a week we departed in reverse order.
We had an 'irregularity' in our planning: 2 weeks in Italy, one in Milan and the other in Venice. We enjoyed them much and ran our legs off. Fumika experienced among others her baptism of fire with some classical concerts at authentic locations. They did fit her well.
Beyond satisfaction we presented us after two weeks at Malpensa, a rather peculiar name for an international airport, being utmost surprised that we got a boarding card for the planned airplane. I would not dare to put my hand into a fire to prove the reliability of Alitalia.
Arrived in Japan on October 31st it proved that all our belonging [ 47 m³, 184 pieces of all sizes ] at the very same day were offshore, heading for Kobe.
I assume symbolism.
They will be stored in the apartment next to ours, while Ichikawa, the contractor, makes himself answerable for 58 colli and our future neighbor, Yamamoto-san, rose to the occasion, accepting to take care of 12 packages. Several individual things like wheelbarrows, garden tools and —benches we dare to put already on our terrain, assuming that Sakawa-inhabitants realize themselves and respect the difference between "mine and thine" well.
Motive for the early removal is Ichikawa's wish to have our Danish stove and double / isolated pipes for the passage through the roof as well as special roof-covering attached to the outside pipes under a specific angle, fast at the spot.
The 27th of November Kobe's Nippon Express informs us that our ship did not go down with all hands on board, but arrived. I only can comprehend this in abstraction. Days later Fumika gets a call from the shipping-agent, that she has to call the Japanese customs in Kobe right away. Her heart was in her mouth; actually quite some objects might be considered due to customs.
Coming back from a daylong carrying stones in Tosa Kamo in the early evening, I hear that customs came across 4 (totally forgotten) Indonesian knives. Decades ago I bought them in Nias after a two hours convivial negotiation with 4 males. A Japanese law is strict as for fire-arms and knives; kitchen-knives don't matter as it seemed, but any foreign knife longer then 15 cm. is forbidden. [Each day I can see an advertisement on the most expensive left corner of my daily the Japan Times front-page, promoting sharp (very long !) samurai swords, legal I suppose.]
The customs officer also asked Fumika through the telephone, if we had other knives in our sending and / or fire-arms and / or drugs. She denied of course.
I don't catch this. If we would have had bad intentions and had hidden a couple of fire-arms, together with kilos of profitable drugs, we would have answered NO (of course). We are honest people, so Fumika told the truth and answered with NO. So, what is the relevant information in both cases for the Japanese customs ? Or is it just an empty bureaucratic obligation ? By the way, all 4 knives were used as field knives; countryside people in Indonesia carry them always, walking around. Nevertheless there proved to be no space for any argument and none for negotiation. Fumika agreed that customs sends us a form, through which I'll confirm renouncing from my ownership. Beng ! After 1 week we report that the form did not arrive and customs sends it registered now. In full regalia it's called: "Customs Form C No. 5380"
Cute and / or
pedantic and /or over-careful I have to add my hanko
this being not enough, also my [western] signature
to the form and herewith confirm: " I herby swear that I have complete
and full authority and legal capacity to dispose of the article(s)
given below, and also declare that based on my authority I voluntarily
abandon the said articled). "
"Swearing" and realizing myself that I obviously possess much authority and furthermore "legal capacity", compensates in a large measure the reality that my knives will be destructed: so much honor, that's worth a good deal, namely the loss of my knives. Doing this "voluntary" is a matter of opinion; after all, refusing means probably, that everything will be turned over during weeks, us having to pay the Japanese custom's-storage costs. So, I have to catch the ball, knowing that we are lucky at the same time, because obviously this discovery is sufficient to clear everything without any more problems. A small sacrifice for a huge decision: this is the value of a good deal again. Our hypothesis is, that for every shipment customs have to be satisfied. Even a futility will do. So be it.
Ichikawa Sr. introduced a friend to us, who -to make a long story short- can deliver us young fruit trees through the wholesale trade. On a certain morning, 7.00 o'clock, he brought part of our order: 32 small fruit trees and blueberry shrubs. Earlier we bought azaleas through the internet. At present there are now 26 [16 different types] awaiting springtime, I suppose. On the same slope we already planted 12 different rhododendrons.
springtime  we designated one of the totally by kaya annexed
rice fields as citrus field. At first I just planted the tiny trees
almost just between the kaya', I could hardly
wait, enthusiastic by the image of a citrus orchard. I was able to
successively repel the usurper with small steps and vehement efforts.
At the end of the year the citrus field looks more like it and is full
with young trees. A short anthology:
Various types oimikan, like iyokan, zabon, setoka, tonatu, unshu, ponkari, further: kinkan, yuzu, Japanese lemon, yamamomo, kaki, pear, (edible) chestnut, rosemary, aloe vera, neburu, admitted not all citruses, but an excellent company, I would say.
Fumika has punctual registered everything on the drawing of our plots.
Through internet also and after some persevering insisting here and there, Fumika found a supplier of a type of eucalyptus-tree from which the rind 'peels off spontaneously.
We wanted to plant them, flanking the 'S-road', Fumika-dori. It turned out that it can become a liberal 2 meter in diameter, this being a good reason to resolutely re-adjust our life-expectancy. We obtained some pictures which made us ecstatic.
November 27th, four meager trees were delivered. We 'pray' in silence, that they may strike! it starts getting colder at night and they 'don't like that', as we read. The next day we discussed my idea with Mitani-san to construct 2 horizontal lines with tea-plants, on the slopes next to the west-wing. Functional to keep the ground firm, esthetically pretty also and after all: tea is healthy. Since I learnt that tea belongs to the camellia family, I pedantic call tea: camellia-juice.
The same day Uchino-san calls us, that at last the permission to start with the construction has been issued by the ken-cho.
Before our departure to the Netherlands I reacted sharply and agitated asking Uchino-san what for heavens sake the reason might be for the long not forthcoming of it, blaming him suggestive for this. Looking back the procedure proofs to be complicated. The ken-cho did send us the survey of the application scheme and there is nothing Uchino-san can be blamed for.
30th we received
his E-mail in an unclear gibberish English. It comprised a sentence,
which starts with "I strongly recommend" [with 1 'm'] and
we guessed it announced kind of that we are expected Saturday,
December 2nd, at 12.30 hours at the site and at 14.00 p.m. at the
contractor's office. Fumika makes a phone call and our presumption
proves to be right; not only will he visit our grounds with a group
of sub-contractors, but there is also a meeting with [all of] them.
We decide to visit 'the meeting' and to dress properly, however
without knowing our role and function. In short, obviously we are
expected and that's no problem at all.
Being amply on time we are waited for and conducted to an office. At 14.00 hours we are requested to come along to the outside, then climb a staircase to the first floor [in Japan the 1st floor invariably is called 2nd floor, etc.], then a door opens and we perceive a set of tables and chairs being lined up in an oblong rectangle. That's not all, good heavens, 24 persons in clean, ironed labor-uniforms are waiting for us. 24 pair examining eyes look at us -critically (?)- .The surprise is too big to feel anything. My reflex is the flight forward. Several persons are standing behind me; that escape-route has been blocked. Hide away under one of the tables is impossible as well- too many human- chair- and table-legs. Very far off some un-occupied chairs are visible, but jolly well at the head of the formation.
I act as if I do this three times a day, say half suave / half modest good-day while trying to put some weight in my voice. I turned out to be agenda-point number 4, the last one, being flanked by the senior contractor and the architect. Smart Fumika secured a seat at the side, keeping herself out of harm's way. Uchino-san starts to expound the goal of the meeting and to explain a number of issues concerning the construction. Everybody finds a set of paperwork in front of them and is introduced plenary. The person concerned rises, bows, mentions company and name, bows and sits down again. Reading a long list with strict rules follows; a part appears to come from my pen. Among the set of paperwork I discover the integral translation of a memo, which I wrote a year earlier.
that the whole country was startled by serious falsifications and
malversations by a Japanese architect whose name I will not mention
here because of deep contempt. He reduced the reinforcement of concrete,
used for high-priced appartment complexes and hotels until 20% of the legal
requirement. Checking authorities were indolent and failed miserably. Owners
turned out to have bought inhabitable, perilous apartments for many expensive
¥en's, their further lifelong
responsibility to redeem a towering mortgage. His bitter motive was:".............. I needed money..." Hotels had to shut down,
parties involved played their disgusting game of Old Maid. I nearly went paranoia and
spontaneously wrote a text through which I explicitly put the responsibility on the
plates of the contractor, as the case may be [casu quo] of the architect, in case... As told,
that one laid, nicely translated into Japanese, on everybody's table.
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