Winter is Here

Although it was a glorious morning with clear, starry skies and then a wonderful sunrise, it was bloody freezing, confirming that the long-dreaded winter has arrived.

Until now we have been blessed with unseasonal warmth: I wore shorts all weekend and the temperature topped 20 degrees on Saturday.

I still wore shorts this morning, but my head and extremities were cold, and more core chilled by the time I arrived home.

Time to rug up for the next few months.

Accidentally Delighted

It was Mrs. Kangaeroo’s birthday yesterday, and taking the day off to celebrate opened the door to an unexpected arvo of pleasantness.

With the morning occupied by what may prove to be fateful events (of which more may come at a later date), Mrs. Kangaeroo grabbed me by the scruff of my ear and dragged me to Shibuya Hikarie to see the Accidentally Wes Anderson exhibition.

Asked repeatedly about our intended destination, Mrs. Kangaeroo kept referring to a uesuandaason exhibition that didn’t really sink in for me. I had no idea what a uesuandaason is….until we got to the actual exhibition and I finally cottoned on to the fact that she had been referring to Wes Anderson. I immediately bit my lip, reminded myself that it was her birthday and a day for her to enjoy and followed obediently.

As can perhaps be assumed from the preceding paragraph, I’m not exactly a fan of Wes Anderson, the darling of movie critics globally for the whimsical, quirky worldview depicted in his movies. I once considered myself something of a movie buff and was always attracted by how much Anderson’s films had impressed armchair experts, but no matter how often I watched his movies and how hard I tried to have an open mind while viewing, they’ve never clicked. They’ve always felt insincere and overbearing in their attempts to pull at heartstrings, ironically through subtlety. I dunno. Just my feelings. The upshot is that I have never really developed a liking for the Wes Anderson worldview.

Well, didn’t that change yesterday! (Probably because the man himself was not directly involved, but saying that is nasty <and untrue, because he endorses and encourages the Accidentally Wes Anderson movement.>)

The exhibition was a smorgasbord of the quirky, delightful, colorful, entertaining and magical world that we live in, captured on camera by its sharp-eyed denizens. Rather than have me continue to blabber on about bullshit, though, view for yourself! The exhibition not only allowed, but freely encouraged photography….a first for me in Japan.

Images from the Exhibition

Accidentally Wes Anderson started in 2017 as an Instagram account belonging to a couple in New York and has spread around the world, also giving birth to a best-selling book and, of course, this exhibition. The movement is inspired by images of faded grandeur and pastel colors, which are both hallmarks of Anderson’s work. The exhibition has traveled all around the world and is back in Tokyo for the second time this year, running at Shibuya Hikarie until December 28. I initially balked at what I thought was a steep entrance fee of 2,200 yen, but it proved to be a minor charge for me once I saw the delights the exhibition held. Can’t recommend it enough.

Accidentally Wes Anderson in SHIBUYA tickets

Glowing

Mother Nature greeted me with a glorious sunrise yet again today as I biked the Tama River Cycling Road.

Most of the ride was in the dark, as is the case at this time of the year just before the winter solstice.

But just as I was leaving the path and preparing for the ride up Tama New Town-dori (avenue) and the way home, the skies turned on a huge smile for me.

Clouds and color made for a great shot.

And my ego got a boost, too, when I was able to casually run down another cyclist on a pricey bike who had clearly been out to outpace me.

The cyclist had been riding on the track atop the levee while I was riding on the road below and I had to give way to him when I left the road and re-entered the cycling path.

Physics was on my side as the inertia gained by hurtling heft pushed me past the other bloke, who looked every bit the wonderful cyclist without an ounce of fat and primed for climbing mountains.

Fortunately for my ego, we were on the flats and passing him was effortless, but extremely rewarding.

If only reality could be so easy.

Garden Shower Puts the Win Into Winter

It’s raining today, and while that would normally be grounds for disappointment, considering the dryness of the year, the precipitation is actually welcome.

Nowhere is that more obvious than in Kangaeroo Corner.

The sprinkle made the garden sparkle.

The yard always looks nicer after good rainfall, which makes the greenery glisten.

I’m still in pretty much full-time panic mode, so I woke before 3 a.m., had brekkie and readied myself to head out on my customary morning ride.

After I kitted up and readied, I looked outside in the dark and noticed raindrops falling into the bird bath. I opened the door and learned the rain was falling harder than expected, and too hard to go riding on rim brakes alone.

I had to go out later anyway, as I was supposed to have periodontal treatment. I got on my bike, headed out into the rain and rode just long enough to get drenched as a phone call came. It was from my dentist and they cancelled my appointment.

Ho hum. At least the consolation was to get to write a post and take some photos for posterity. And I could call Kangaeroo Mum!

Oz Everywhere!

Incredibly, just about everywhere I went, a little piece of Australia popped up in front of me.

I left home on my bike not long after 6 a.m. to head out on an errand before having a regular, quarterly hospital check-up.

I left the route up to my Wahoo Elemnt BOLT device, and next thing I knew, I was riding up a hill in Hachiojji where I could see eucalyptus trees. I had been looking up news about them only recently, so stopped off, took some photos and headed to the hospital.

The doctor visit went well. He is very supportive and understanding. But I didn’t need to receive help today, and was delighted to receive blood test results that show I am physically fitter now than at any other time in my life!

Getting home, I was surprised to hear from the delivery company. With my pay severely slashed, all frivolous spending has gotta go out the back door, so I had no idea what I’d done…or, thought I had. Fortunately, I hadn’t spent anything: it was a gift of an absolutely spectacular Christmas wreath, crafted by the astounding Alex Endo. It is just exquisite, made of gum leaves and dried flowers and now adorning our front door.

Last year, we also received a wreath. Following the festive season, we brought it inside where it became a favorite of the dinosaur. This year’s wreath is at least double the size, so she’ll have something to look forward to.

The Aussie didn’t end there, though. A quick shower and change and it was off to Komazawa Park for the day’s planned Australian event, the Japan AFL Grand Final of Australian Rules football.

Blessed with a balmy 17 degrees and sunny winter skies, the day was a fantastic one and the match itself a ripper as the Tokyo Goannas held off the valiant Senshu Powers, winning by 9 points. The Goannas have a majority of ex-pat Australian players and the innate skills bore out against the kids making up the Powers, a team comprised of university players, who only started playing in adulthood. All in all, it was a much more enjoyable match than Mrs. Kangaeroo and I had been expecting, and it proved to be a fun day. Being able to watch after getting stuck into some decent tucker, including a pretty tasty lamington, was the, well, icing on the cake?

Things weren’t to finish there, though.

We got on the Keio Line train to head home and I noticed something about the baseball cap being worn by the kid sitting opposite me. A quick Google search confirmed my suspicions: it was a West Coast Eagles cap. And then the kid confirmed it when he turned his head and I could read the club logo on his headgear. This is the first time I’d ever seen a member of the Japanese general public wearing Aussie Rules paraphernalia, so it was a bit of a thrill, especially in light of what had been happening throughout the day.

Finally, I got one last taste of Aus. Tomorrow I have to spend the day working for the community, so wanted to get a blog post done tonight. But the connection was as poor as anything that Aus famously fails to deliver, so I could use none of the really decent photos I got during the day.

Gallery of the Japan AFL Grand Final

Procrastination Propagation

Winter is probably the worst time of the year to try to grow plants from cuttings, except, like for me, you’re desperately trying to avoid doing something unpleasant and you’ve been handed unseasonably fine weather.

So, instead of taking a trial test for a potential new job as I could have done sitting in front of a computer for a couple of hours, I looked up how to propagate a grevillea.

It seems the process is pretty easy (at least from the standpoint of the pros giving the advice online), but a lot of the available information was for the southern hemisphere and Australian conditions.

And, then I found some information in Japanese that saved the day. And, lo and behold, it came from Alex, the amazing bloke who designed and built Kangaeroo Corner in the first place.

One of our three thriving grevilleas has been getting busy and taking the vitality from the main trunk despite flowering proficiently, so I wanted to cut off the branch causing this problem. But I decided to make some cuttings in the process.

Following the advice in Alex’s blog, I prepared two mixes of mostly kanuma pumice with a bit of potting mix and dead leaf. I then cut off about 20 grevillea cuttings, stripping the leaves down and dipping the ends in rooting hormone.

I planted these in the pots filled with kanuma pumice, thoroughly watered them and then placed the pots in plastic bags. I then moved the plastic bags into the small greenhouse we have on the north balcony of our flat. Now I just need to wait 6-8 weeks for the cuttings to take root – if they do. I must occasionally mist the leaves and will generally keep watch on them without expecting too much.

I was inspired to try this by the Stick, which has thrived despite literally appearing to be little more than a 30-centimeter-long stick this time two years ago. Even last year we needed to protect it with a cover to get it through the winter. Doesn’t look like it will be a problem this year.

So, why did I need to do all this? Why not just throw myself into the test? Well, last night, Mrs. Kangaeroo and I went to see Maneskin, a rocking Italian band that was sheer brilliance! I raced home alone first and had ample time to take the test. I’m scared. I don’t want to fail. I know the employer and that they are a decent company with decent people. But they are also extremely detailed-oriented, which I am not. I don’t want another failure, but I am psyching myself into one. I had built up resolve only to learn that while we were at the concert, the talented young woman hired at the start of last month has been fired by the psychotic boss. Not even five weeks into the job. I felt partly responsible because the first job I submitted to her came back untouched, which the psychotic later brutally abused me for doing, saying that my work was unfit for submission to the client. Her response was savage. And it was that brutality that prompted Mrs. Kangaeroo to urge me to seek greener pastures. Then, when that opportunity presented itself, I was too scared to take the action needed. I went for a quick ride and felt like I could understand a little while brutalized abuse victims don’t simply flee.

So, while the greener pastures are on hold for another few days at least, the prospect of an even greener garden continues (though I am probably going to have to give away any grevillea that may successfully grow as there is no more free space in Kangaeroo Corner. But I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it.)

はじめてのオージープランツ図鑑 (Alex’s book on Aussie plants <Japanese>).

Alex’s Garden Party <Alex’s blog in Japanese>. (And an explanation in English)

異彩を放つオージープランツの寄せ植え講座 (Alex’s lessons on Aussie gardens <Japanese>)

Welcoming In Winter

Like it or not, and I’m firmly in the “not” camp on this one, winter is here again, but I’ve been kind’ve happy to see how well Kangaeroo Corner has held up this year as the cold sets in.

This year is the second year of our garden and for the most part it has thrived.

That’s especially fantastic considering the harsh summer we went through, followed by an Indian summer that extended deeply into the autumn.

I’ve previously experienced summers in Japan as hot as those of 2023, but none as dry.

The lack of rain might have been welcome from a cycling point of view, which it was, but not for the garden.

The lawn became a dustbowl and it took large amounts of money, effort and worry to deal with.

Ultimately, it seems like patience would have been the best approach, but I’ve never had the time for patience.

The lawn I had been so immensely proud of, and which sparked such envy among the neighbors, was destroyed by the summer heat.

I’ve tried reviving it since in the cooler weather, and for the most part have done OK, but the lush turf created by the zoysia strain we initially used is gone.

I wasn’t a great fan by the spring of this year as zoysia goes dormant and leaves the lawn brown for half a year.

I’ve tried a blend of many different grasses this year and we’ll see how it goes.

I had some troubles getting the strains to germinate, but noticed the tall fescue that was unresponsive for nearly all of the autumn has not only finally taken root, it looks great.

Unfortunately, it’s only a tiny patch of less than 30 centimeters square.

But good food for thought.

Most of the Kangaeroo Corner trees thrived in the heat and even the tree fern that we had to shield from the sun for months has now bounced back with a vengeance.

The jacaranda assumed dead in the winter has soared skyward, as has the Stick, the name I give to a grevillea purchased through the Mercari online flea market site and apparently kaput by the time we planted in March 2022.

Plants grown from seeds, those that survived, have been amazing! We’ve got a dwarf wattle, several hardenbergia, including one that looks like it will form a wonderful display if it blooms, and loads of kangaroo paw, including several handed out to neighbors.

Our major failure has been the hairpin banksia, which I so desperately wanted to succeed, but it succumbed to the summer and poor care (overwatering?) once I’d transplanted it in the autumn.

I bought a new and cheap hairpin banksia from Mercari, hoping to replicate the success of the Stick. It has held on so far, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Anyway, in what has been a generally bleak year (but an improvement on 2022), the garden has been a bit of a godsend. And the birds have loved it, too!

Here’s hoping the winter won’t be too hard on it.