Pork miso soup

It is getting cold here. When I was wandering around in a super market, an idea of recipe, pork miso soup, came up in mind. It seemed good enough to warm us for meal.

I had no smart phone and could not look up for the recipe at the supermarket. I have purchased burdock and carrot only. Sweet potato was the product in our garden farm. I asked my wife to get the other veggies for this dish on her way back home from her flute lesson.

The point was two fold. One was adding powdered small dried sardines for seasoning. The pork and the veggies were the source of soup stock themselves. This powder was just a secreat seasoning.

The other was preparing miso in divided doses. One was given halfway to season the materials while the other was given at the end of cooking for fresh flavor.

It has got a good valuation by my wife. Not so complicated that it may take a position for dinner throughout the winter.


A drive to a hilly area

We are living in an inland area of the northern part of Kanto Plain. It is 30 or 40 miles west of the coast of the Pacific Ocean. To simplify explanation, between this area and the Pacific Ocean, there are two mountains, that is, low mountain ranges, and a river. From west to east, these geographical structures are the Yamizo Mountains, the Kuji River and the Abukuma Mountains. We are pretty close to the skirt of the Yamizo Mountains, which becomes ranges of low hills in this area. I have least knowledge of geological structure in these areas but still suspect our place is geologically connected with the Abukuma Mountains north of here. An evidence is that our area had pretty big earthquake motion in 2011 while the area west of here was spared with it. It reminded me of the continuity of geological structure from here to Fukushima and the epicenter of the big earthquake in 2011 in the Pacific Ocean.

I have enjoed driving these areas with family since we started living here. Sometimes with my children and mother. It was a fine and cool day inviting me for another drive in that area. I just wanted to see fall scenaries and, if possible, to get some fresh apples harvested at farms along the Kuji River and some fresh fish at the coast, both of which I could not achieve due to tight schedule this time. Maybe, in next drive.

Driving on streets among rice paddies, I have extended right arm out and have had cool breeze into the car. Rice has been harvested everywhere. Leaves have not changed their colors not so much yet. Perssimon has got ripe but has always not harvested.

In a valley between ranges of hills, I have parked along a road. It was in the Yamizo Mountains. There were farm villages scattered in the valley. As told above, the rice has already been harvested and paddies were empty everywhere.

I have found a shrine on a hill. It was named as Hoshimiya shrine. Hoshimiya stands for stellar palace in Japanese. I thought it was a pretty romantic name. As I looked up this shrine or this group of shrine in the internet, I knew it was a common shrine group in this area. It worships a number of gods in Shinto. One of them is a god describen in Nihonshoki, that is, Chronicle of Japan, published the 8th century. It seems this shrine group goes back to the 18th century for foundation. The shrine building didn't seem to be so old. Maybe, it might be constructed a century or so ago. 

Anyway, it was a quiet place on top of a hill. The precincts, not large at all, was well cared for without weeds grown. It seemed the shrine parishoners still held festivals regularly.

The shrine building on the hill. Pretty neatly cleaned and cared for. On the back of this building, there was a small shrine, which must contain something ancient.

This shrine must have been the object for worship by the people in this area. It has been respected especially for ancestor worship. I admit that religious tradition should revered as a culture. But the nationalism Shinto, that was the traditional Shinto put together with the Emperor system, was formed by the political authority in Meiji Era in order to have the center among the people in the nation. The nationalism Shinto has become like a cult with eliticism which lead to the invading war into the Asian countries in WWII and to the catastroph in the end. The nationalism Shinto was supposed to be ceased at the end of the war. However, the emperor system has been alive with the ally but different thoughts between the Emperor and the GHQ. The Emperor was concerned only about persistence of the emperor system in our country while the US military would utilize it as a tool to govern our country. It should have been thoroughly abandoned at the end of the war. The ghost of nationalism Shinto seems to survive and to revive at present, I am afraid.

Anyway, such a shrine should be respected since it has been worshipped by our ancestors even if it is only a primitive regional religion. I imagine a lot of old people have attended to the shrine either they had anxiety or pleasure in their lives. They kept this place as an object for worship for their ancestors. In their mind, ancestors should be something supernatural or transcendental over themselves.  

I have driven along the Naka River which runs from the mountains of Yamizo toward the Pacific Ocean. I was surprised to see various parts along the riverbank were flooded. The water seemed to spill over the bank and left much dirt there, either housing areas or farms. People were working to clean it up.  

On the way to the Kuji River, I knew it could be dark when I ran near to my home. I decided to come back home. There is a straight truncal road running from east to west, which I used to drive with my family and my old mother. The sun was starting to sink on the horizen. I remembered, whenever my mother saw that sinking sun, she used to say "The fall sun sets as quickly as a bucket dropping into a well". This saying was quite common in our generation or older ones who know of the old well. It is only less than 30 years since we had that pleasant drive together.

On the way back home, I have donated a little money to a person who were working for those victims by the thyphoon in our area.


Hearing loss and dementia

I have read a post in the internet telling that some portion of dementia in elderly is caused by hearing loss. Instinctively as well as from own experience, I suspected it could be an association but not a causal relationship.

Actually, the relationship between hearing loss and dementia is one of the topics in the related medical field. Investigating the papers regarding this topic by Pubmed, I found there is no finding that show the causal relationship of hearing loss with dementia. A review has clearly denied it.

I believe hearing function related with dementia must be the linguistic process. Intellectual activity is based on hearing and understanding words/sentences. The hearing by the outer/inner ear, which is often quantitatively measured by audiometry etc, is only perceptive process. In further linguistic process, the information obtained through perception of sound should undergo various processes of morphology, syntax and lexicology, which are handled in the higher center of cerebral cortexes/brain stem. The higher center function is not clearly elucidated yet. Only recently, it has been discussed semiquantitatively by functional MRI findings, I believe. At least, it is still too early to conclude the hearing loss in the elderly causes some dementia. 

I believe this higher center function is more closely related with dementia if it is not a causal relationship. For an example, discriminating a certain speaker among crowd of people speaking at the same time is often becoming difficult for elderly. I suspect this dysfunction of higher center is reflecting the entire dwindling brain function associated aging. Sadly, I am an example of a person with such dysfunction.

Hearing is, however, an important source of intellectual activities. If it is not the cause of dementia, loss of this information source may be indirectly related with lowered intellectual activities.

We should be careful not to lose hearing acuity in this sense. It is not good for us to wear headphone listening to noise for a long time. Repeated fatigue in inner ears may result in permanent sensual hearing loss.


Typhoon Hagibis

A few friends of mine have asked me how I was doing with typhoon Hagibis. As a conclusion, like I reported in facebook before, we have had no damage from that storm at this place. We were only just lucky. It has hit the central area of our country very badly with record hard wind and record amount of rain. So far as they researched, 47 rivers have flooded and 66 people were killed with this storm. A friend of mine, the violinist whom I have asked to play chamber music for the past couple of decades, has had flooding in the vicinity and spent a sleepless night with her family including 2 infants.

Now more dameges and victims are being revealed especially in the mountainous areas in central Japan. Some people have lost their grounds for living. A number of people are being found dead mainly due to landslides. Infrastructures including roads, railways and trains have been lost. It may take a long time and budget to recover from these damages. 

It is reported they haven't done preventive drainage from 6 dams despite of being advised to do that by authorities. It sure caused some flooding in the downstream areas. Even though this storm was a historically record in size and intensity, it should be questioned whether there was anything they could do daministratively to prevent or lessen the damages.

One of my concerns with this storm was if it has caused anything ominous to the destructed nuclear reactors in Fukushima. Actually, a member of a scientist group, whom I rely on, has announced the radio activity in the air has transiently risen in some suburbs in Tokyo. It was quite probable radioactive substances have flown from the accident area to the surrounding areas. The so called decontamination of the soil, that is, removal of contaminated soil in limited depth, has done only in the living area. The forests and fields have never been done anything to remove radioactivity. A research report said the fallen leaves of broad-leaf woods would absorb and maintain the radioactive substances fallen on the ground while the soi in the naked area would easily flow into river etc and cause further contamination. The river base should be highly contaminated with radioactive substances. In Fukushima, they have had flooding this time, which might expand the contamination to the other areas.

The contaminated soil from decontamination procedure is stored in vinyl bags. The number of the bags is increased up to 16.5 million. They are exposed outdoor to the weather. Soon or later those bags are decayed with ultraviolet light of sunray. In this storm, some of them have been flown into a river, that has caused further contamination there.

There are high ventilation ducts of 400 ft of height in the destructed nuclear power plants. They are highly contaminated that they could not be dismantled easily. Together with the other structures like the reactor cases, they have been most likelily destructed with high winds. It was not realized this time. But we should observe it closely when such a gust hits the area. The accident of the nuclear power plant is not finished at all. 

While the storm passed by here, I operated radio to know if the antenna was intact. It resulted in no damage. In pretty good conditions, I could manage QSOs with some old friends. It was the only good thing this storm had brought to me.

So I thank you for your concern toward us and for your wishes. I will be seeing you either in the internet or on the air soon.

Webern and his early work

Anton Webern, an Austrian composer, is one of the New Vienna Schools, who has played the main role to create as well as activate the modern music early in the 20th century.

Like his teacher, Arnold Schoenberg, in his young days, he has composed a few pieces in the late romantic style before starting the atonal style and later by the twelve tone technique. This romantic piece is told to have been composed while he was hiking with a girl who would be his wife later. He was only 21 years of age and a few years before he got into the atonality style. It is a music of love with infinite beauty. The romantic melody line and the complicated structure tell us it was under the influence of Brahms. It is also noted it would express not only the pleasure of love but also faintly perceivable anxiety and sorrow.

The commentary of this Youtube clip quotes the following words by Webern himself.  He might have expected some "cold rain at night" even at the height of happiness. He still decided to walk along with her then.

"To walk forever like this among the flowers, with my dearest one beside me, to feel oneself so entirely at one with the Universe, without care, free as the lark in the sky above -- Oh what splendor...when night fell (after the rain) the sky shed bitter tears but I wandered with her along a road,"

It has been a question why the late romantic style has been taken over by the modern music method in Webern and in the other modern composers. One reason might be that they had faced a wall which they could not express themselves with the late romantic style, which was going to endlessly extend their sense and emotion. Voluminous score and larger number of performers would play almost endless works. Actually, they wer not endless. There was a hard wall to overcome before them. They must have thrown away that thick clothes hiding their real inner selves. And they have reached simpler and crystlline harder style of atonality and further methods in the modern music.

The other aspect we should never forget is that they have lived the age when the idealism of democracy has been replaced to totaltareanism in the politics. It has ended in the massacre and total destruction of the society. Before and during that period of tragedy, the composers must have been influenced by that thought of the times. They must not be concerned with doubtful humanity but should be concentrated in the logic of music itself. I am afraid they have given up something music could reach and react with our mind directly.

Maybe, later music historians will reveal what has happened to them. Hopefully, contemporary and future composers would find the way to sublimate this contradiction of music styles.

This piece is still really attractive to me.


A fellow travellor of life

As written somewhere in this blog, this place, my birth place, used to belong to my mother's family. My aunt, an faituful Christian, founded and managed a small sanatorium for tuberculosis patients before and during the WWII. Tuberculosis was a fatal illness those days. It was prevailing among not wealthy people. They were often separated from their family members. My aunt has accepted those people desined to death. Yes, it was a kind of hospice, even though it was not equipped for any advaned medical treatments or medical staff. Based on belief in Christianity, they were keeping a small community for themselves.

After WWII was over, there came on the antibiotics effective for tuberculosis. Judging that sanatorium was not necessary in the society any longer, the aunt has closed it. It was the time for our family to exodus to Tokyo. Nearly 3 decades later, I have come back to this area for the residency as reiterated in this blog. In the beginning, we intended to come back to Tokyo for further study and training after the residency. A few factors, such as having our son to our family, decision of my parents coming back from Tokyo to this place to spend their retirement or fascination of rural way of life etc, have made us decide to be settled down here. First of all, we wanted to go out of the narrow and nasty resident house in the medical school hospital.

It is difficult for me to conclude if it was a right decision or not. There could have been, I believe, the other ways of life if I had not been settled down here. No one knows. It is of little use to imagine the other possibilities of life at present. The past is past and unchangeable for now. I should acknowledge it as it is and should gratify what I have been given here.

There is a big chestnut tree in the eastern end of this property. It must be over 40 years or more old. It seems to have been grown spontaneously there while there was no one caring for this land. Every September, when it blows a bit cool breeze telling us the arrival of fall, it would invariably bear so many chestnut fruits. Sometimes, we are inclined to cut it down in order not to be troubled with chestnut cases fallen on the ground. When I find the chestnuts fallen on the ground in the season, pulling myself together, I would collect them on the ground and confirm the fact this tree has lived the same history as we have.

As I have always done in the past years, I peeled the case of chestnuts and froze them in the refrigerator. To make chestnut rice shown as below. It is a bit of work for me. But I have stored them divided in 8 packs. They are good enough to enjoy it throughout a year. Isn't it a good gift from this tree?

I might feel this old chestnut tree as a fellow travellor of life.  


The last lot of harvest of tomatoes

I have harvested, possibly, the last lot of tomatoes in the garden farm yesterday.

In the end of last month, we have had a long lasting episode of rain. Without appropriate pruning, it has accelerated the growth of tomatoes, which has made them a kind of bush.

In the end of the season, as always, I am defeated by mother Nature in this way. They won't bear good fruits or, if bore some, together with this cooler weather, they won't get matured. Soon, I should mow them. It is a moment of a bit of sadness making me convinced it has become fall.

Yesterday, my wife came home from Shikoku, where she had visited her parents at a nursing home. Both of them have reached mid 90s of their age. Each has some health issues but, with the good care at the facility and help by her elder sister living in the same city, they are getting along well. I asked her to bring a simple sound collecting device to father in law, who had had hearing loss due to aging for the past years. He told her it worked OK and, actually, they could converse without writing down what my wife would say to him. He reiterated thanks to me when she was leaving there for home. His words has given blunt pain to my heart. I wondered what I had done for him. Have I owed too much to parents in law for the past years while they have helped us so much? 

Knowing she came home deadly tired after a long trip, I have prepared a nice dinner. Pork cooked with vegetables with seasoning of soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Pretty good.

It is a dayoff for my wife. She has been cleaning the house and will be attending to a gym this afternoon. It is my routine to practise cello for Brandenburg Nr4 I play with company this week end.  


A drive trip to Mt. Nasu

It was a very fine and crisp day yesterday. I could not resist to drive to a place where I had wanted to go for some time. It is a highland area close to Mt. Nasu. My sister and her husband have spent their honeymoon years over there. The brother in law is a vet doctor and has started his career there.

This is a photo in their honeymoon days.

It was the time when I prepared for the entrance exam for med school that I asked them to let me stay there for a few weeks in a summer. No prep school in the summer and it was tough for me to spend days diligently studying for the exam in muggy Tokyo. They have kindly accepted me there. One night, I was on the side seat of brother in law's car heading from Tokyo to that place.

It was almost half a century ago! Everything has changed. I could recognize some steep slopes or some views over to the plain area below. There were a few amusement parks or zoos in this area in addition to villas constructed since the days when I visited there for the first time.

The streets were paved. Being on a plain week day, there was small amount of traffic there. Even at the restaurant and souvenir shop area, I could find only few people.

This is a view toward the Mt. Nasu, an active volcano, with a skirt spreading to the east, which must has been formed with lava flow ages ago. This highland is the skirt of Mt. Nasu. It used to be developed as diary farms by certain farmers. My borther in law used to work for them in those years. There were still diary farms in this area, which didn't seem to be very active. Most workers seemed to be old people, even though I could see only few of them there. I could not see any cows grazed in the field. I don't know if it was the season when cows were not grazed.

This could be the street where I took walk in late afternoon after studying hard in the daytime. Of course, it was not paved and was rich with weeds thosedays. 

The vast plain area was seen below toward the east. However, I could never recall such a view in the summer I stayed there. It is so impressive that I could never forget it if I had seen that those days. It is more likely I was just stepping ahead looking at own feet. I could not see and enjoy the view, possibly. I was so serious for I could never go on preparing for the exam next year. Our family was not wealthy at all and my younger brother was going to a university in a year or two. I was smiling wryly at myself imagining myself walking looking down at feet those days.

I have made much effort to break the path to be a doctor by myself. I still remember, without my family's supports, it was not possible. What a trouble it was for my sister and her husband to have me staying at their home in honeymoon those days! I could least imagine of that until recently. My parents should be pleased to have me finishing a college but let me go to another university after this preparation period. No complaint at all. But they have really helped me. When I took a night train from Tokyo to go for an exam of a university far away, my father used to come to see me at the platform of Tokyo station. What a sweet father he was! I again learned their supports and helps have made me what I am right now.  

Driving through this area, I was thinking of those things. I was full of gratitude toward them again.

Cluster amaryllis was coming out at  a roadside. It has been too hot and they are coming out late by a couple of weeks.