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Monday, February 24, 2014

The World's Largest Grapefruit

Erika was walking the dogs in Hasama and a farmer gave her three soccer ball sized fruit. The fruit is called, “Banpeiyu”. I’m assuming that translates into “the world’s largest grapefruit”. How big is it? The picture doesn’t accurately depict the size of this fruit. The diameter is 12 inches. Banpeiyu smells like grapefruit. It weighs several pounds. The flesh is yellow, but the texture is dry. I don’t know why anyone would buy this, but I do know it costs around 500 yen…each. I wish I had taken a picture of the Banpeiyu tree. It was odd to see a tree filled with yellow soccer ball sized fruit. It reminded me of a tree decked out in huge yellow Christmas ornaments.     George


YUMMMMMY! This fruit tastes a little sweeter than a grapefruit. If you like grapefruit, you'll love this! The cool thing is that there is so much to eat...about two or three large servings. Would I spend 500 yen? Absolutely!
The seeds are large and easy to remove.

The flesh is not dry at all.

Monday, February 17, 2014


When we moved to Tsukahara, we were told that February was the coldest month. This is our third winter and the results are in. Yes, February is the coldest month. We haven’t seen a temperature above 5 degrees Celsius. About 12 inches of snow has accumulated. That’s just enough snow to make driving to work a challenge. One thing that Erika and I have learned. It doesn’t matter how prepared you are to drive in the snow and ice. The accidents occur when the other guy isn’t prepared. We live in a tourist area. Tourists acting like tourists love to stop in the middle of the road and take pictures, play in the snow and/or put chains on. Did I say the “middle” of the road? This fairly dangerous maneuver stops traffic in both directions. The narrow roads are hard enough to navigate during good weather. The unsuspecting tourist, Erika likes to call them “stupid”, can turn a 30 minute commute into an all day event. One of the benefits of being surrounded by tourists that lack common sense is that they provide endless hours of conversation topics. Erika shares her nightmarish commute stories with me every night and I usually have a few stories of my own.

There is a stretch of road, Eco-line, that climbs between two volcanoes. It’s part of Erika’s daily commute. The road is narrow and steep. The lack of traffic invites the deer to hang out on the road. Eco-line is not very well maintained and it’s riddled with potholes. At night, the pitch blackness makes it a strain to see past the headlights. Couple this with snow, ice, deer, and tourists…well, it's dangerous. Did I mention that cell phones don’t work on Eco-line. Lately, Erika calls me just before and after she attempts this treacherous road so that I know where to find her if something happened.


The heavy snow curling down from the metal roof. I removed this hazard right after photographing it.

After writing this blog, Tsukahara experienced its worst snowfall in recent history. A neighbor who has lived here for 19 years told us that she has never seen this much snow. The snow around our home comes up to our knees. We spent the weekend trying to dig ourselves out of the snow. Eco-line is closed. The road to Yufuin has been closed to Beppu. The problem is that the tall snow laiden bamboo tends to lean into the road. This creates tunnels of bamboo which makes the road almost impassable. The road crews are working around the clock to clear these obstacles, but Oita is not prepared for a snow event of this magnitude. In order for Erika to get to Hasama, she must drive 1.5 hours around the volcano. Since some of the roads are closed, the main roads are clogged with traffic. More snow is expected over the week. This could be a very difficult late winter for everyone.       George
We managed to dig the truck out after a weekend of hard work
Kiley and Lucky know how to get around in the snow!

Lucky wouldn't give up even in the deep snow.
Our firewood is under there somewhere.



Wednesday, February 12, 2014

New girlfriend. Her name is...

Aside from both of us being sick over the past two weekends…I found a new girlfriend. Well, Erika calls “her” that. “She” is a wonderful thing. She cooks my meals when Erika is busy or sick. Who is she? Her name is CO-OP. I’m not sure if “she” is a she, but it’s fun to think she is. I’m assuming that CO-OP is short for cooperation. CO-OP is a collection of local farmers and vendors that provide home delivery of their goods. A truck comes by with whatever I ordered from the previous week and picks up my order for the following week. The service costs about 200 yen a week whether or not I place an order. It amazingly reasonable considering that I live out in the middle of nowhere. Each order comes with a mountain of advertisements. The ads cover a wide gamut of goods ranging from desserts/snacks to clothing/cosmetics to appliances/ furniture to plants/flowers to complete meals. It's a department store delivered to your front door. The meals are packaged and frozen just like a TV dinner. Just pop it in the microwave and "ding" you're done! Did I mention that they sell beer? Not that I would indulge in that sort of thing. The complete meals are about 400 yen. Not bad considering how healthy they are. The meals would be considered small for an American appetite, but add some steamed rice and you're good to go. Oh, the meals that feature fish as the main entree have the bones removed. That's important for people like me who don't like to worry about stuff like that. The packaging is all recyclable plastic so dish washing is not required. That's also a good thing for people like me.

What's the real reason for the new girlfriend, George? Good question! Erika is planning for her...umm...let me put this mildly...death. What!? Don't get excited. She's not going to die or anything. She's just worried about me surviving in Japan if something terrible happened to her. She is a very responsible person. neh? That's why I married her. Everyone that knows me knows that I don't cook. I can boil water and I can pour a bowl of cereal, and most important...I can use a microwave. I think it's easy to see why she is so worried. Well, the problem is solved, sort of. I don't need to write anything in Japanese to order food. The order forms have the address already filled out. I just need to look at the pretty pictures in the advertisements and write the item number down in the appropriate box. Walla! Food delivered to my doorstep every week. I love CO-OP.

Monday, February 3, 2014


I almost forgot to mention that one of our Tsukahara neighbors, Mu-chan, did a fabulous job of taking care of the dogs while we were busy with the Christmas party. During her visit, she created a few haikus. We were so impressed that we asked her to copy her thoughts onto the first page of our guestbook. She happily agreed.     George