I bumped them off by putting them in a hothouse on a boiling hot day, then giving too much fertilizer to the plants that survived.
A desert pea also looked promising, but I over-fertilized that, too.
I have a tray full of dwarf wattle ready for transplanting, a single honeysuckle banksia that can probably be nurtured under growth lights a little longer and a heath banksia that appears doom after being affected by mold.
Given the nature of my blog persona and the role of kangaroo decorations in the garden, though, it was the kangaroo paw that I most wanted to succeed.
It’s a pretty ominous role to be assigned, actually, because every plant in Kangaeroo Corner that I have most wanted to thrive–tree fern, jacaranda and mature versions of kangaroo paw planted when the garden was started–have all died or struggled.
Anyway, I started today by placing a layer of stones at the bottom of a pot, covering it with a layer or nutrient-rich potting mix bended with peat moss and then covering that with soil especially for Australian native plants.
I then gently removed the kangaroo paw seedlings from the growth pods where they had thrived over the past few weeks.
With customary clumsiness, I managed to kill off a couple of seedlings along the way, but eventually planted them all in the same pot.
I then gave the pot a good dose of water and left it in the sun with lots of prayers for success.
Last year, I killed the kangaroo paw in the garden through over-watering amid the summer humidity, only learning later that my treatment was almost the guaranteed method for ensuring the lovely flowers from Australia’s arid regions would wither and die. Oh, well. Live and learn and sorry to the adorable plants.
Potting the kangaroo paws topped off an absolutely outstanding day that would have been perfect had I been able to spend it with Mrs. Kangaeroo, but it still came bloody close to perfection anyway.
I woke early, cleaned and oiled my bike and headed off at a fierce pace, backed by a gentle tailwind.
I made it to Tokyo Tower where I met many old friends for the first time in years and had a wonderful surprise of having a packet of Iced VoVos waiting for me: a gift from a Melbourne friend who has since headed off to a separate part of the country.
Later, a group of us went off to the nearby ANA Intercontinental Hotel and had an enormous buffet breakky, where the interesting and enjoyable conversation continued.
We spent a couple of hours reminiscing, but then had to go our separate ways.
I wanted to get home quick as the dinosaur was in her cage and was probably itching to get out and about, and I was still a couple of hours away.
I rode back in the delightful spring sunshine.
Fortunately, there was almost no wind, which was a blessing as we have had strong winds daily for weeks now.
As I rode along Koshu Kaido, headed for home, I realized I was looking at a record unique for me.
My average speed for the ride was exceeding 30 km/h.
It’s not unheard of for me over short distances, but I was still over the 30 km/h mark with more than 50 km ridden.
I only had 20 km to go on terrain I knew well and felt confident I could maintain the speed.
I’ve never maintained such speed over such a distance, my most notable record of sustained pace being a 180 km-ride at about 28 km/h a few years ago.
But that was when my cycling was thriving.
The past couple of years, my cycling ability has declined thanks to injuries, illness, aging, priorities, weight gain and opportunities, to name a few factors.
So I felt chuffed to be presented with this chance.
And the glorious sunshine was making it even more appealing.
An amazing, unseasonably clear view of Mount Fuji threatened to thwart my attempt at this record, though.
There will be other chances to create cycling records.
Seeing Mount Fuji with the opportunity to take a photo is a rare blessing that demands addressing.
So, I stopped and took some shots.
It was totally worth it.
And when I got back on the bike, I got to maintain the speed I’d been looking for.
It was a delightful reward when I got home.
But not as delightful as the pleasure-filled greeting the dinosaur gave me when I got back and let her loose.
We spent the next few hours playing together, vegging out and eating.
I’ve even managed to save a couple of Iced VoVos for Mrs. Kangaeroo (but probably only because I managed to pick up some Choco-Chip GariGarikun, which I hope might be the seasonal flavor for the early summer).
She should be home any minute now and I am looking forward to seeing her.
Rain continued throughout the weekend, barely stopping from the time it began on Friday afternoon. This made me miserable at a time when I was in the mood to celebrate, but the weekend turned out to be a ripper one anyway as we hit the streets of Yokohama.
I’ve always had an affinity for Yokohama, as it’s a sister-port to Melbourne (my hometown), and I arrived in Japan at the same time as Aussie Bowl ’88, the last VFL footy game in the code’s Japan experiment, was played in the city in October 1988.
But the weather was bleak and cold and I didn’t want to go out.
Mrs. Kangaeroo loves Yokohama, though, and had arranged a weekend away for a celebration.
Rain, not getting my own way, and being unable to cycle had me sulking. It got worse when I had to catch a bust, then a train.
I despise public transport (even when it runs like clockwork as it generally does in Japan), but I shut up and made an effort to avoid spoiling the time for Mrs. Kanageroo.
We got to Yokohama, left our luggage at the hotel and headed into Chinatown for lunch.
My poor mood was worsened by an absolutely obnoxious group of 70-somethings seated beside us. Two of the group of eight had extraordinarily loud voices that resonated around the restaurant and made conversation for anybody else essentially impossible.
The sublime food soothed my irritation. The nine-dish course was filling, tasty and affordable, even if the other guests left a bitter after-taste.
Despite the lousy weather, the heavy meal convinced Mrs. Kangaeroo that we would be better off walking to our next destination, the Yokohama Air Cabin.
The ropeway crossing part of the port area was a fun, but quick ride lasting less than 10 minutes. It offered some wonderful views of the Minato Mirai district and was great in spite of the rain.
We had a quick saunter around the area and strolled back to the hotel along promenade forming Yamashita Park.
There is a flower display going on in the park and the cherry blossoms are blooming, so it was still nice.
We stayed at the gorgeous Hotel New Grand, a stately old dame dating back to 1927. The art décor hotel maintains much of its original flavor and is serviced in the manner that Japan is renowned for.
We dropped off our luggage in the room and got ready for dinner, Mrs. Kangaeroo looking absolutely gorgeous.
Not even the magnificent surroundings and sublime dinner were a match for her beauty….but they tried their hardest.
Dinner was Italian and exquisite. Despite the huge, late lunch and lack of exercise, there was no way that every morsel of this meal could not be enjoyed.
After the meal, we strolled through the exquisite garden, adorned with fairy lights and a beautiful fountain in its center.
By this time, I was exhausted. As I age, I find the low-pressure systems that bring rain have a debilitating effect and sap whatever energy I have. Riding often overcomes this, but no ride and eating all day knocked me out prematurely again.
Today started extremely early, as is often the case when I sleep at a preschooler’s bedtime. I woke way too early, as it turns out, as it would be several hours before Mrs. Kangaeroo would rouse herself.
In the meantime, there was cake to be eaten and coffee to be enjoyed, which I did fully. And just as well, too, as I decided to eat a continental breakfast, which to my horror, I discovered consisted of just two slices of toast and jam, albeit sublimely tasty orange and pineapple spreads.
They were filling, but not enough for my brain.
We got to eat with a glorious view of the port and could see the machinations from the Gundam Factory Yokohama across the water. But the weather was too unfriendly for any sightseeing, and we had a dinosaur waiting at home, so it was back to Kangaeroo Corner.
Nonetheless, the weekend was absolutely delightful. A nice, slow, easy time spent with my best friend in the whole world and gutsing ourselves almost incessantly in the most opulent surroundings conceivable.
It’s drizzling and miserable weather today, which provides a wonderful opportunity for an update as my customary lunchtime ride can be substituted.
Lots has happened since my last post, but there’s little time to write about it, so this is a bit of a summary of the past couple of weeks.
Perhaps most important is the passage of the first anniversary of my garden, Kangaeroo Corner, earlier this week. Amazing Alex, his mate, Mrs. Kangaeroo, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law built the garden as I was out with a broken leg at the time. It has since become one of the great joys of my life.
In some ways, Kangaeroo Corner is thriving. But I have to admit to a tad of disappointment. I have messed up every single one of the plants that I most cherished when we first put them in the ground: the kangaroo paw (because of the kangaroo connection), tree fern (because it is such an iconic presence in the Dandenong Ranges) and jacaranda (which Mrs. Kangaeroo specified because she strongly associates the tree with Australia) are all apparently dead. Might be a bit early, based on last spring’s late flourishes, but I’m not holding my hopes too high.
That leads to the next event: seeds. I planted a pile of seeds that I brought back from Australia last year in the hope of being able to grow them. I’ve had them in humidity pods with constant light (and heat in half of the pods) since mid-February, with the exception of some everlasting daisies that I took out after they germinated and transplanted into pots. (And subsequently killed more than half of by putting them in a hothouse in the middle of an unseasonable stinker).
Growing numbers of seeds are starting to germinate. The golden everlastings have sprung up, as have a couple of native wisteria, many dwarf wattle, a honeysuckle banksia and….hope beyond hope, lots of kangaroo paw! For the time being, I’m leaving all of the little seedlings in the pods. With the exception of the golden everlastings, none of them look particularly robust. And the transplanting process is messy and cumbersome, so I need more dexterous hands than I’ve got, so it will take a dual day off with Mrs. Kangaeroo to get this going properly.
Speaking of which, the Kangaeroos got to go into town together for the first time in ages earlier this month, and got to celebrate the occasion with a visit to an absolutely amazing gyoza restaurant, Kofuku Gyoza Sakaba in the central Tokyo district of Uguisudani. For just 1,180 yen we got all-you-can-eat dumplings served with side dishes of pickled cucumber, kimchee and salad. The dumplings were huge, juicy and utterly delicious. Despite having an appetite that is ravenous pretty much all the time and a gullet with seemingly endless capacity, I couldn’t get through the entire meal. Simply scrumptious!
Work has been an ongoing nightmare, more because we are so busy than anything else at the moment. I fear that the staff shortage we’re facing may be by design.
I got to take a long-awaited ride with some Strava mates last weekend. The people I met have been long-time associates and always highly supportive. I’ve always wanted to meet and finally got to do so. As just about everybody I have ever met through cycling has been, they were excellent people, indeed! We had a wonderful ride to Yokohama, a great feed at Yokohama Zebra and parted with promises to ride together again more often. I really felt blessed.
Finally, cherry blossom season is upon us. The blossoms have bloomed at a record speed this year. They’re not quite in full bloom in western suburban Tokyo yet, but with near-constant rain forecast for the next four days, I got out this morning to take some pics in anticipation of not being able to do so during this year’s season.
Australia doesn’t really occupy a prime place in the mind of most Japanese people’s eyes, and the same goes for Australian cuisine. But for a short while, meat pies here were, well, the flavor of the month.
They’ve been pretty hard to come by down through the years, though. My first memory of Aussie pies in Japan came from watching a World of Sport segment on Channel 7 in the 1980s which showed Four ‘N Twenty pies being sold at a stall in Ginza.
By the time I got here, though, there were no more Aussie pies around.
Then I made it to Tama Zoo, which a couple of years earlier had scored some koalas and opened an Australian animal section and featured Aussie critters heavily in its marketing. A kiosk outside the zoo sold Aussie Beef Pies, which were sort of like a meat pie, but good enough for the deprived. I also found the same pies at an expressway service area around the same area, but forget the details now.
About the time of the pandemic, though, the iconic Four ‘N Twenty suddenly assumed a more prominent role in Japanese retail than ever before.
しかし、コロナ感染拡大が起こった頃、日本の小売業では、「Four ‘N Twenty」のアイコンが以前にも増して重要な役割を担うようになりました。
You could go to your local 7-11 convenience store, which are almost ubiquitous in Tokyo, and get a meat pie for about 340 yen. They were on sale in about 3,300 stores in the Tokyo metropolitan area from June 2020.
I contacted Four ‘N Twenty Japan through their website to ask about the hats, and also figured I’d kill a couple of birds with one stone by asking how I could buy myself a pie on a regular basis again.
The company got back to me really quickly, letting me know that new packaging negotiations had postponed pies’ appearance on Costco shelves, but the Gyomu Super pies were also from the same company even if not under the same brand.
As a frequent Gyomu Super user, this was music to my ears. My local store, however, was not keen on carrying the pies. And though online sales were possible, they were only available by case, which is 12 boxes of 8 pieces apiece and we just don’t have the refrigeration storage space for that.
But I was onto something. And I found out the actual pies are made just down the road from me. Thinking I might be able to buy a packet directly from the producer, I contacted the company, Passport, which runs a number of Gyomu Super franchises.
Just a week after this post came out, the Australian Financial Review did a ripper story on how meat pies are making their mark in the Japanese market. From my experience, with the service that goes with their sales, it’s little wonder the humble Aussie pie is carving its own niche here.
The food was fantastic, featuring such menu items as smashed avo, baked whitehead, roast lamb with rosemary sauce, fish & chips, whitebait fritters and chicken parma, all available in unlimited quantities.
Desserts were also exquisite, highlighted by the appearance of lamingtons.
The lammies were delicious, but perhaps not quite the taste of Australia.
They were more like coconut-covered brownies than the sponge cake and jam filled Australian staples, but delicious nonetheless.
Ensemble was also wonderfully decked out in lots of Australian and New Zealand-themed decorations and flags, adding to the flavor.
There was also some facts and figures about kangaroos for the kids who visit.
Thoroughly good time and an absolute delight!
The next theme in the series will be Thailand and Vietnamese cuisine, starting from July 1, 2022.
Kangaroo meat is selling like hotcakes in Japanese convenience stores. Sales of protein-related products are skyrocketing against a backdrop of growing fascination for weight training.
All protein-related products grew 40% year on year at Natural Lawson convenience stores from fiscal 2018 to fiscal 2019.
And September 2019 sales increased 70% YoY, with kangaroo meat being a prime driver at the chain’s 143 stores in the Tokyo metropolitan area.
Tokyo-based Vasel Inc. sells kangaroo meat under the RooMeat and Paroo brands throughout Japan, including the roo jerky selling strongly at convenience stores.
“Kangaroo meat is the pinnacle of red meats. Its saturated fats are 20 times better for you than beef and kangaroo meat is really popular among women with a strong awareness of beauty,” a Vasel spokesman recently told the Japanese media.
Vasel’s targets are those seeking an athlete’s diet of high-protein, low calorie foods, and women with a strong awareness of beauty and maintaining a healthy weight.
Kangaroo meat is not produced by keeping roos as livestock, but by capturing wild kangaroos and processing the meat. Vasel has imported kangaroo meat into Japan from Australia since the 1980s. Demand has grown significantly in recent years and it now imports 50 tons annually.
“There’s growing interest in red meat. Game is becoming increasingly popular within the dining industry. Women and athletes who are concerned with their health are eating kangaroo. We have focused on branding the meat as RooMeat since 2014, and the robust sales we’re seeing now are probably reflecting that,” the Vasel spokesman said.