Gardening adventures

I thought I’d give a small tour of some of my garden.

Blueberry bushes

I’ve been growing blueberry bushes for years now, and I have yet to see “the Great Harvest” a friend of mine who has blueberry bushes keeps boasting about. The first year was maybe four blueberries, then the bush was neglected for a week while I was away in the summer, and it died. Cue a new bush, more disappointment and now, this year, finally we have what might possibly be the beginnings of glory. I have no idea, but as I adore blueberries, I’m never going to give up trying to grow my own. Japan charges you about 600 yen for a little pack of blueberries, and I just can’t bring myself to pay that much.

The promise of tea

A tea tree

This is my first year trying my hand at growing a tea tree. Apparently green tea leaves and my beloved oolong tea all come from these leaves, and I thought it’d be fun to try growing my own. Apparently you need to leave it alone for two years, pruning it back in the winter and getting new growth (the new growth is what you harvest for tea). I’m patient; I can wait.

Too many cantaloupe plants

Cantaloupe vines

Cantaloupe is another fruit that costs a fortune to buy here. You can pay as much as 4,000 yen (about 40USD) for a particularly nice one. Tiny cantaloupe, however, go for about 500 yen. Thus, I have resorted to growing my own. I tried last year, too, but I started too late in the season and watched my vines thrive, then die as the air got too cold. Now I’m starting at what I hope is the right time, but this time I put too many seeds in the same pot. I’m going to wait for them to grow a bit more before thinning them out a lot. I think if I can get even two cantaloupe out of this adventure, it’ll have been worth it.

What people here are looking for in a condo

Many people in Japan choose to buy a condo for a variety of reasons. While it means sharing walls, floors and ceilings with neighbors, condos nowadays are trying their hardest to give you a reason to choose them over a house.

Here are the top ten amenities people in Japan want from a condo nowadays, according to a free Suumo (a real-estate agency here) magazine I picked up:

  1. Being able to throw out trash any time.
    • Many new condos have set up dedicated trash rooms where you can throw out your trash, recycling and other stuff anytime you want. Otherwise, you have to follow the strict schedule given to you usually by your apartment or the city for when you can bring things outside to be thrown out or recycled.
  2. Package storage
    • For anyone who works outside of the home, it can be really annoying to get a slip in the mail announcing you missed someone delivering a package to you. You usually have to arrange for another pickup and hope you don’t forget to be at home then.
    • Be annoyed no more, for many new condo complexes have postal boxes just for packages. Some condos are even wired so there’s a notice inside your condo for when there’s a package for you waiting in one of the boxes.
  3. Having someone pick up your trash for you
    • Some people’s condos are quite far from either the place outside where you’re supposed to leave your trash or from the dedicated trash room, and that’s where this service comes in. There’s a little box in the hallway or near your front door where you stick your trash in, and someone comes and gets it for you.
  4. A bicycle port
    • Many people here use bikes quite a lot, so having a nice space to park your bike that includes a roof over the bikes and security cameras so no one steals your bike is quite revered here.
  5. Having a concierge
    • They can help you reserve shared spaces in the condo, lend you tools to fix something in your condo and help you figure out any problems you might be having.
  6. Supplies for a natural disaster event
    • Considering how often natural disasters like earthquakes and typhoons seem to strike here, you’d think this would be higher on the list, but I think people here just get used to having to deal with it as it comes. Still, I think the condo having supplies on top of the supplies I’ve personally prepared is a bit of extra security I can appreciate.
  7. A newspaper delivery service
    • Many here still subscribe to an actual newspaper, and it can be annoying going all the way to the mail room every morning to get the paper. This service means your paper will be at your front door every morning, much like America up to about the 1990s.
  8. A nice playground nearby, or one just for your condo
    • As you are basically expected to lock into a 30-year-loan, many people who buy condos are young families. Young families mean little kids with lots of energy who need to run around, so it’s nice having a park right outside for you to use.
  9. Having a dedicated space for shopping carts
    • It might be nice living near a store, but who loves hauling back heavy bags of groceries and other stuff? Some condos have solved this dilemma by creating a space where you can drop off a shopping cart right outside your condo.
  10. Having rental bikes or bike-sharing programs
    • Sometimes you want to have a bike, but parking one at a condo often means paying a monthly fee. I can see how having a rental bike service or a bike-sharing service might be handy for people who only use bikes on occasion.