I have been observing my neighbour for quite some time, always exchanging daily greetings and a chat now and then for the last 17 years. It seems that all the time I had entertained the wrong impressions about his life past and present although the gentleman had alway been extremely civil with me.
I thought it was about time to have a “real” chat with him. After all, the gentleman had woken me up a few times in the past as early as 6:30 a.m. to offer me some products of his garden, especially red shizo/perilla leaves I’m so fond of!
Mr. Yoshizou Sugiyama/杉山芳造 (70) retired at the early age of 53 after scouring the whole of Japan working for Sumitomo Life Insurance. He certainly could afford to retire as he bought land for his new house near my abode.
Being born in a local farming family and having an older brother growing rice and tea (he still occasionally gives him a hand), it was only natural that he expanded on his bonsai hobby he had pursued for the last 45 years.
He first borrowed land from a neighbour to indulge into his gardening hobby as his collection of bonsai did not leave hime any place.
A few ago he finally managed to buy some land next to his home from the local rice grower who had decided to change his field into a much-needed car-park.
The land area is 60 tsubo/~200 square metres. Not much by Western standards, but quite a bit for the Japanese, especially in towns.
He justly pointed out that real gardening is vastly different from a verandah hobby. He has to use pesticides, although sparingly as he tries to fend off pests with very thin mesh nets.
As for fertilizers, which are unavoidale, he works with a mixture of artificial fertilizer and home-made compost.
He has also devised his own brand of trap for night pests!
He grows all kinds of vegetables all year round and according to season.
Presently he is tackling Brocoli, Satoimo/Taro, Eggplants, Ha Negi/Leeks, Daikon, Cabbage, Ha Shoga/Stick Ginger, Spinach, Green and Red Shiso/Perilla and a strange kind of Yama Imo/Yam called Taiwan Tororo.
He even grows “Mukago”, the fruit of the Yamaimo/Yam!
These do ot come cheap in markets. You can eat them raw, fried, or boiled.
Otherwise you will see him busy at impossibly early hours tending Tomatoes, String beans, Green peas, Lettuce, and what else!
The gentleman has actually proved, in his own poker faced humour, a great source of information that I will have impart into coming articles.
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