蛙 kaeru—frog

We have a tiny frog living in our tiny garden. It’s so small and so well-camouflaged that it’s not always easy to spot, but he seems to be resident now, and we are happy to have him.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, our house has a little garden (less than 4 meters x 2) which I have been using to try to grow fruits and vegetables. This effort has not been entirely successful and I have had a number of setbacks along the way.

As you can see in the photo below, the area was overgrown with weeds when we arrived, and the fence had partially collapsed into it. But I repaired the fence, cleared the weeds and dug over the soil.

Around the start of April I planted seeds including pea, bean, corn, sunflowers and pumpkin, and some seedlings that I bought at the hardware store (Kohnan), including cucumbers, peppers and aubergine (eggplant). In most cases the seeds germinated, but then “failed to thrive”. One of the cucumber plants is still there, having not grown at all in 6 weeks, like a bonsai cucumber. Others succumbed, seemingly at random, to “sudden death syndrome”. The plant would appear healthy, and then, literally overnight, would wither.

I have not given up, however, and after a tragic case of self-inflicted damage (having decided that the soil was “bad”, I scattered fertiliser which “burned” and killed some of the plants), I replanted to fill the gaps.

Today we discovered a new enemy – some of the plants (basil, aubergine, peppers among them) have holes in the leaves. A quick inspection revealed caterpillars and eggs on the underside of the leaves.

But, fortunately, a few of our plants have survived against all odds and may yet contribute food to our kitchen.

Melon plant and “mini-paprika” pepper plant (both have flowers and the pepper is starting to have little fruits).

Yellow courgette (zucchini) plants – these are also starting to have little fruits.

And these two cucumber plants are doing quite well:

Can you see the frog in this picture?

Note on the word of the day:

The word 蛙 or カエル kaeru, meaning frog, is pronounced the same (more or less) as 帰る kaeru, meaning return (home). Unfortunately for Japanese learners who might spot an opportunity for a bit of wordplay, there is little respect for puns in Japan, and they are disparagingly referred to as oyaji gyaggu—uncle gags or middle-aged man gags. In other words, terminally uncool. The problem really is that there are so many words that sound alike in Japanese that they are just unremarkable. Not only that, but the complexity of the writing system ensures that words that sound alike do not look alike, so they are obviously not the same word. And in fact, the two words have different pitch accent (I think), so even though they sound alike to pitch-accent-deaf foreigners like me, they may not even sound alike to Japanese people.

Anyway I have a favourite Japanese pun that I am guaranteed to deploy on any visit to an Indian restaurant. It is so funny that it invariably reduces me (if nobody else) to helpless laughter. I will tell you about it another time.

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