After nearly 20 years in big Tokyo I was feeling burned out in my not-so-successful "career" in the service industry, knocking on several after a chance discovery of cheap old farmhouses we set out towards the countryside - but still close enough for my wife to further pursue her working live, commuting by Shinkansen while I would take care of the house and kids and build my own little cafe at home...
Our first bump came when we realized that the bank wasn't willing to give a loan for an old rundown house on some worthless property in the "Hinterland". So, we changed plans and will be building a new house. We already bought the plot last year, with about 400 square meters size, and I have started the vegetable garden beforehand, next project will be the garden house.

31 May, 2011

Hannah's Hiking Trip

Two months ago I had bought a baby-carrier backpack from Mont Bell to be able to enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings of Karuizawa with the whole family and we had tried it on one occasion. I was quite satisfied with it: Hannah looked comfortable riding in it, the buckled harness would keep her safely even when I would do a total flip-over and the load was not too heavy on my shoulders, plus it had good storage space beneath the seat. So I decided it was time for her hiking-debut "Yama-girl" as they are called in Japanese, to describe young gals going into the woods in proper yet fashionable outfit adapted from the old saying "fashion follows function". We have a small hill very close by by the form of a bowler hat, rather steep sides, but more or less flat on the top, and with only about 600 meters in hight it would mean a hike through the woods with a splendid look-out at the top. I had hiked it once before from the east side which turned out to be an asphalted road zig-zagging up the side to be used by the forest workers. This time I chose the south-west path which would go through the forest on a more gentle slope. In winter this area seems to be the "hang-out" for the local monkey group (and I had actually spotted them before) but we didn't see any bigger species including bears that also make some rare appearances. There actually was a notice at the entrance of the trail with warning about bears and an updated notice about the "appearance" of one only one week earlier. This seemed to be the strongest alert over "sighting" and "foot prints". So I was rather happy that we didn't  set out in too early time and had a bell to make some noise since our baby proved "noisy" only for small part of the trip.
The Yama-girl all dressed up at home

Ready to "hit" the trail, a bit nervously chewing on her toy

The one who is really "hitting" the trail with a load of about 13 kg on the back

Nice forest trail, fresh green and even fresher air after a few days of heavy rain because of a Taifun

All this was too much for our fresh Yama-girl; after less than 30 min, she felt asleep swinging on my  back

A few flowers still blooming

As well as some trees

The rather uneasy part of the trail, planks with non-slip surfaces and slats across them above the ground, but some parts rotten and sunken away, where we had to tip-toe forward.
After a bit more than an hour we had finally reached the top, covering about 600 meter in height difference. Hannah was finally waking up from the fresh breeze at the top

My two Yama-girls, one very seasoned and one just doing her first steps experiences regarding Nature

We had some Bento lunch, stretching our strained legs and relaxing for a while before starting the descent

Where we again met some delicate flowers

And again someone felt asleep

Deep in Dreams

On our way home we had a well-earned coffee-break with cake, 3 pieces for the 3 of us:
I had half a piece from Hannah for carrying her
My wife had half a piece to pass on to her later as Cassis-Latte

And Hanna had her usual energy drink: Oolong tea

Hannah's Joy Ride

Hannah ist schon viel besser mit ihrem Auto geworden

Sie kann sich sehr schnell vorwärts seitwärts fortbewegen

Auch wenn manchmal eine Socke auf der Strecke bleibt

Und neue glitzernde Sachen sind sehr verlockend

Gut das die Mama da ganz ruhig und gelassen bleibt

Ich geb dir mein Glitzerspielzeug nicht!

Setz sofort wieder meine Kapuze auf, ich hab heute meinen "Haar-Tag"!

Wer kann solchen großen süßen Augen schon widerstehen?

28 May, 2011

The Garden house

Following is the graphical development ( as the real-live one is hindered by bad weather and lots of work) of the garden house I have been drawing up during the winter using Google's free soft "Sketchup". For this posting I exported them as jpg and cropped them to an appropriate size.
Im Folgenden ist die grafische Entwicklung (da die tatsächliche sich hinzuziehen droht aufgrund von anhaltendem schlechten Wetter und viel Arbeit) des Gartenhäuschens, welches ich während des Winters mittels Google's freier Software "Sketchup" entworfen hatte. Für diesen Beitrag habe ich die entsprechenden Graphiken als jpg exportiert und mittels Fotosoftware auf eine uniforme Größe geschnitten.
First there were six neat and square concrete blocks, laid out evenly and leveled.
Am Anfang waren sechs kleine, eckige Betonklötze, ordentlich gesetzt und nivelliert

On this there comes a frame of 2x4 wood, with a strong 4x4 at the front end
Auf diese kommt ein Rahmen aus 2x4 Holz, mit einem stärkeren 4x4 Balken vornean

After putting some under-floor insulation in the spaces, floor plates are attached to the whole frame
Next, the walls are constructed, front wall with 4x4 as-is with some planking attached to support them (not shown). Back wall is than constructed on the floor, wall panels are attached and the wall is uprighted, supported by planking. Then the side walls are constructed in between these two and the panels are attached.
Nach dem Isolieren des Bodens werden die Bodenplatten auf dem Rahmen befestigt. Anschließend wird die Vorderwand als Rahmen erstellt mit 4x4 Balken und durch Latten gestützt. Als nächstes wird die Rückwand liegend auf dem Boden konstruiert, die Platten werden befestigt, und die Konstruktion aufrecht gestellt und gesichert. In die Lücken werden schließlich die zwei Seitenwände erstellt und die Platten von außen befestigt

Than, the roof is constructed in a similar manner with the 2x4 wood frame first and the plates on top.
After the  asphalt sheet is put in place, the side woods are attached.
Anschließend wird das Dach in ähnlicher Weise erstellt mit dem Rahmen aus 2x4 Holz, welches mit Platten belegt wird. Darauf kommt die Asphalt-bahn und zum Abschluß die seitliche Bergrenzung

The outer siding is attached on spacers to let air circulate (better to put some wire-mesh in top and bottom against bugs) on the side and back walls.
The front wall is more in a North German style with red bricks in the bottom field and the timber painted white. For the two top fields I am still undecided whether to plaster them, or use white painted wood. The latter one is easier, but the first one would lend itself to some colored layers with a Japanese motive.
An die Seiten- und Rückwand wird die Außenverkleidung angebracht auf Leisten damit Luft zirkulieren kann (es ist angebracht diesen oben und unten mit feinem Maschendraht abzudichten um Käfer etc fernzuhalten)
Die Vorderseite erfolgt in einem typisch norddeutschem Design mit roten Ziegeln und weiß gestrichenem Holz. Bei den oberen Feldern schwanke ich noch zwischen Putz oder einer Konstruktion aus weißen Brettern. Letztere wäre einfacher, aber Putz birgt die Möglichkeit durch mehrschichtiges farbiges Auftragen ein gewisses japanisches Design mit einzuargbeiten.

The door is separated, same hight as the working table to be used as a support for long wood as well as for some fresh air in the summer without letting the kid(s) inside this dangerous environment! Top windows and far-side window will be made from acryl. The porch roof will provide some shadow and rain protection and the wood deck provides just enough space for a chair to enjoy a nice beer while overlooking the garden.
Die Tür ist zweigeteilt, selbe Höhe wie die Werkbank, um als Stütze für längeres Holz zu dienen, sowie um frische Luft im Sommer hereinzulassen ohne das unser Kind(er) diesen Gefahrenbereich so einfach betreten könnte! Obere und Seitenfenster sind aus Acryl, das Vordach bietet Schutz gegen allzuviel Sonne und Regen und das Holzdeck hat genug Platz für eine gemütliche Sitzgelegenheit um das Feierabendbier zu geniessen, während ich den Garten überblicken kann.

19 May, 2011

Our Sakura

Last year in August we purchased our property, and as a kind of memorial to it, and because I was eager to plant something on "our" earth, we purchased a little Sakura - cherry tree. My wife, remembering a tree from her own family home, insisted to plant it a bit farther away from the house, because of the strong roots this tree can develop, which suited me as well as the house itself is not built yet, and thus the farther end has more flexibility to its layout.
Now, in the greater Tokyo area the cherry blossom is usually at the end of March to starting of April. But up here in Karuizawa everything takes a bit more time to awake from the cold winter.
This was 11th of April. No snow around anymore, it was actually rather low this year, the weeds are starting.

And the buds have appeared, but thats about it

On the 15th, some tiny green is looking out from under the shell, still fearing the cold nights

On the 27th, the green is slowly making progress, but no sight of blossoms yet. I was starting to get a bit nervous thinking that Japanese cherry usually blossoms before the green appears, but than remembered that this was a different kind of Sakura.

And right, after finally finishing the holiday week that left me no time to even dash out on the road to snap a picture of all the people suddenly making their way to Karuizawa (and our Restaurant&Cafe), much less to take the drive to our property, on the 10th of May I could finally view our Sakura blossoming, albeit in rather cloudy conditions

A fine tree she shall be, growing and blossoming and let us view her beauty

Another visit on the 17th showed her with even more blossoms and bigger leafs

11 May, 2011

Wiedersehen mit Hannah

Nach knapp zwei Wochen Trennung war endlich das Wiedersehen mit Hannah bei den Schwiegereltern in Toyama angesagt. Sie erkannte mich auch gleich, freute sich übermässig und war den Rest des Tages auch sehr guter Stimmung. Wir hatten ja etwas Zweifel vorher, wie solche eine lange Trennung sich auswirken würde, aber es zeigte sich schnell, das alle Sorgen umsonst gewesen waren.

Hannah hat wieder "Fleisch" angesetzt, und setzt es hier gut ins Bild, die Arme könnten Popeye direkt Konkurrenz machen...!

 I'm cool!

 Mit dem Rutscherauto ist schon inzwischen so gut geworden, das sie dorthin gelangt, wo sie hin will
 Auch wenn es nicht direkt "vorwärts" ist

 Nach einigem Manövrieren und viel Schweiß Gesabber ist sie dann doch am Ziel

Hannah am Morgen
 Morgens ist Hannah immer sehr gut gelaunt, und wer kann solch einem süssen Lächeln es übelnehmen, das sie während der Nacht einige Male aufgewacht ist?!

 Erstmal die aktuellen Neuigkeiten im Fernsehen angucken
 Dann eine kleine Spazierfahrt
Und dann Frühstück

 Noch ein wenig am Fenster mit Oma schauen wie die Zeit vergeht
 Die drei Damen in meiner Obhut
 Hannah glücklich und zufrieden wieder Zuhause
 Entspanntes Spielen mit den altvertrauten Spielzeugen in der altvertrauten Umgebung