Summertime Blues….er, Browns?

Summer in Tokyo this year was just how I like it: boiling hot and dry, probably the driest I have experienced in 35 years of living in the Japanese capital. But while I loved the heat, my garden in Kangaeroo Corner had mixed feelings, especially the lawn that went from vibrant green to burned brown.

Trees thrived! Most delightedly, the jacaranda we had written off as dead in the spring powered back into life and is now one of the tallest growths on the block. The “branch” silver wattle goes from strength to strength and the golden wattle beside it is flourishing. All the grevilleas, bottle brush and myrtles grew in the dry heat like crazy. Even the eucalypt given the imposing task of trying to survive in what I’d termed the Corner of Death has prospered.

Although death proved to be the outcome for the vast quantity of seeds I brought back from Australia this year, the summer was kind to some. The kangaroo paws thrived and I was able to give many out to neighbors. Next spring should give our neighborhood a real Aussie taste. Hardenbergia, often called the Australian native wisteria, also thrived and we have have it climbing up the fence and around a trellis.

Even the dicksonia, planted in direct heat in a boiling summer that should make it struggle, did as expected for a while, but after we placed it under a makeshift shade, the tree fern has plugged away steadily.

Unfortunately, the spectacular summer didn’t leave all feeling well. My cherished lawn virtually died overnight through, I suspect, fertilizer burn. Anticipating the rainy season, I covered the lawn in fertilizer in early June before we were to hit 30-degree temperatures daily and hoping that the rain would work its wonders on the grass.

Armed with a new lawnmower, I then gave the lawn a crew cut. Well, the rains never arrived. The searing heat and over-mowed lawn proved fatal to the grass roots and within days what had been a verdant strip of land had turned into a dustbowl.

I’ve tried everything since to revive the lawn including aeration, raking, re-seeding, over-seeding, using a sprinkler, watering, not watering, shading, exposing, organic fertilizing and more. Nothing worked. Voracious pigeons didn’t help, either. Finally, this week, after almost two months of an ever-growing patch of brown began to sprout the odd shoot here and there. We’re still gonna have 30-degree or more temperatures daily for the next week or so, which is prompting me to hold back on planting new lawn seed. But it does give me a lot of hope.

Gardening is right up there with cycling for me now. I have had my confidence sapped by an inability to step up to the plate with what life has pitched at me over the past few years. The garden gave me back a bit of a boost last year when I saw it do so well. As summer passed and the lawn deteriorated, it has a terrible effect on my state of mind. Too fragile, for sure, but I was already struggling. While the garden on the whole has done spectacularly well considering the difficult conditions, as always my mind is drawn back to the negative and downbeat, which has been the struggling lawn, a metaphor of myself. Mind you, I got to learn a lot about lawns (most of which I have already forgotten) as a result of what went on this summer and hope that I might be able to revive it. Same goes for myself!

Oops, I Did It Again!

After having repeatedly vowed to myself that I would post content with substance that may be interesting for anybody who ever stumbled across it, I’ve gone ahead and posted more sunrise cycling pics because Mother Nature just keeps turning on the stunning starts to the day.

After another near-sleepless night I was sorely tempted to take a real camera out with me on the morning’s ride, but I eventually talked myself out of it again as sweat began pouring out of me the more coffee I drank.

Hurtling down the Kamakura Kaido and noticing the sky was bereft of the clouds that give the sunrise photos their dramatic flair, I felt vindicated. Reaching the halfway point of the ride at Tama Ohashi Bridge, I was ruing my decision. Still worked out all right, though!

Simply Spectacular Cycling Sunrise

I’ve got nothing to write about, other than being extraordinarily lucky to get consecutive days of glorious sunrises over the Tama River.

I’d take a decent camera to get better photos except it’s still hot and the sweat would destroy the DSLR’s parts as happened with my other cameras.

So I have to be satisfied with just the mobile phone, which doesn’t take good shots, so what’s visible here is not a patch on what I get to see with my own eyes.

Glimpses of Gloriousness

For a few seconds this morning, I got to have a couple of glimpses of gloriousness.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed Tokyo’s outer suburbs have had some amazing sunrises and sunsets.

The old sayings about red skies in the morning and night seem to have been put to bed as we’ve had many days with both and rain either turning up or not falling in contrast to the conventional wisdom.

Due to timing, I’m lucky enough to be out on my bike on most days now as the sun appears in the sky.

This morning I was rewarded big time.

I noticed that we were getting something pretty special as I reached a point in the Tamagawa Cycling Road where the track disappears for a while and needs to be rejoined following passage through a tree-lined neighborhood.

I rejoined the track to be greeted by a flaming sky full of yellow, pink, orange red and purple, the clouds doing their best to complement the colors.

I stopped and took some photos, got a couple more a few hundred meters down the track, and by the time I had reached the halfway mark of the ride and headed toward the sun, it had already climbed into the sky and was beating down on my furiously rather than beautifully.

It made for better luck than the weekend. Twice I had headed out on the Death Machine as sunset approached, but was unable to get decent photos or footage on either day.

Hopefully, the little luck to start this Monday will bode well for what’s shaping to be a challenging week.

Waltzing Matildas In The Land Of The Rising Sun

Waltzing Matilda is probably Australia’s most famous song and it’s certainly a tune that remains powerfully iconic of Down Under, but has not had the impact in Japan of other Aussie tunes, like say, Click Go the Shears.

That’s not to say that Matilda hasn’t made it’s mark.

However, like many things Japan, it’s legacy lies not quite in the way you’d expect.

My understanding is that Waltzing Matilda is probably best known in Japan for being the jingle used to open Japanese language shortwave radio broadcasts on Radio Australia, which ended in 1990, so there’s a fair chance that my guess is well out of date.

Three-piece rock band The50kaitenz used the tune and undoubted influence of Waltzing Matilda on their song, Machiruda to Tabi wo, released on their 4th album in 2018. It didn’t chart.

But a much deeper influence was made upon performer Naohiro Tsurube, who used the stage name Odorou Machiruda (a translation of waltzing Matilda) with quite a degree of success in the 2010s before going on hiatus in 2019 (and performing under his real name since, apparently).

One of Odorou Machiruda’s songs is even called Odorou Machiruda, and though it’s not a Japanese version of the song symbolic of Australia, the influence is apparent.

Sheer Nonsense? No, Shear Delight!

Australia hasn’t really had much of an impact on Japanese culture over the years, but there is one case that inspires sheer delight….or perhaps that should be “shear?”

For Japanese of a certain age, 調子をそろえて、クリック、クリック、クリック (Choshi wo soroete kurikku, kurikku, kurikku, is a highly familiar song picked up in an early season of Minna no Uta, a radio and TV program broadcast by NHK since 1961 to introduce new tunes to the Japanese public.

The song is known in English as Click Go the Shears and Peggy Hayama, who sang the Japanese version of the song with lyrics written by Takashi Otowa, would retain a lifelong connection with Australia because of it.

Ironically, her version of the song was originally a B-side to a 1962 release, but became a hit after NHK picked it up for Minna no Uta. It became a roaring success after being re-released as an A-side in 1963, and resurfaced in 2022 when broadcast to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the program being on air.

Hayama had a series of hits in the 1950s and 1960s, many being Japanese language covers of English songs, perhaps most notably being the Japanese version of Do-Re-Mi from The Sound of Music and Que, Sera, Sera, the lyrics in the latter also penned by Otowa.

Hayama made considerable contributions to the fine arts, receiving honors from the Ministry of Education and an Order of the Rising Sun medal. She died aged 83 in Tokyo in 2017. Her legacy lives on with a touch of Australia.











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