It’s been a long time since my last post. Nothing has really happened since then. Actually, everything has happened so buckle up here we go:
First, we had the rainy season. Now, for most people, in most parts of the country, Japan’s rainy season is a pretty big annoyance: weeks upon weeks of heavy rain, without a single dry day to show for it.
It’s nothing like the drizzle we’d get back in the UK. Instead it’s the kind of rain that can turn going to the shops into an endeavour requiring Operation Overlord levels of planning.
When I was living in Nagoya this was all pretty much tolerable, though. If I took an umbrella and a coat I could just about dash to the subway, or the gym round the corner without getting completely soaked. And this regular exercise at the gym – though, like all visits to the gym, basically unbearable – helped to mitigate the cabin fever brought on by days otherwise stuck inside.
But it’s so much worse in Nagiso.
Being located in a pretty deep valley, Nagiso gets a lot of rain and fog at the best of times. In the rainy season, though, it’s a whole different level – and for whatever reason this year’s rainy season went on for almost a month and a half before summer finally came to save us with its daily 31-32°C heat (yay).
It’s perfectly doable to quickly brave the rain and pop to the gym when it’s just down the road. Here in Nagiso the closet gym is a 40 minute drive, along narrow roads in heavy rain. And obviously you can’t go for a walk or a bike ride, so there we were basically stuck at home for a month and a half.
But that wasn’t the worst of it. The worst of it (as you’ve probably already guessed from the title of this post) was the mould.
Now, as an Englishman, when I hear the word ‘mould’ I think of a damp corner of ceiling and a landlord looking up at it, tutting about what an unfortunate situation it is but actually there’s nothing he can do about it for some reason (Anyway, make sure to get that rent paid on time this month as always haha no, of course I won’t be returning any of your security deposit when you eventually move out. What a ridiculous question).
The mould we faced wasn’t this kind of mould. It wasn’t centred around one damp spot of poorly-maintained ceiling in your student flat owned by an improbably rich elderly man who literally would come round, let himself in, and violently knock on your bedroom door with his expensive cane (true story). This mould was airborne, and it got everywhere.
The warm, extremely humid air of the Kiso Valley, combined with our house’s poor ventilation and location right by a steep bit of damp, damp mountain, meant that every room became an impossibly rich breeding ground.
The floor inside our cupboard grew mould. The chopsticks all grew mould. Our favourite wooden spatula grew mould. The wooden handle of our second-favourite saucepan grew mould. My wife’s bamboo knitting needles grew mould. A pair of leather shoes grew mould. My very nice and definitely not 10+ years-old-bought-when-I-was-in-sixth-form coat grew mould. The sliding doors grew mould. The shelves made out of that cheap Ikea-grade cardboardy fake wood grew mould like absolutely nobody’s business.
The tatami flooring in our bedroom grew mould.
Greenish-blue circles of mould like the mould found on bread, only it’s on your bookshelf for some reason. White fluffy mould that, if jostled, releases spores that dangle in the air and spread to other surfaces, and then get inside your lungs and eventually burrow into your brain and take control I guess, I don’t know.
All this mould only started to appear about halfway through the rainy season, and since neither our flat in Nagoya nor my wife’s family’s house in her hometown had any problem with mould, we hand no idea what precautions to take (or even that mould was a thing we should be worrying about in the first place).
At first, like any well-adjusted man worth his salt, I immediately looked for someone to blame. Why didn’t our neighbours warn us about how bad mould was in this area? But when we asked, it turned out that while some people had a spot of mould here and there, no one had anything like the problem we did. It was only then that we realised how unlucky our house’s location was (despite the great views), and how poorly its ventilation had been thought through when being built.
Anyway, we discovered that the best thing to use to clean the mouldy surfaces is ethanol, but when we went to go and buy some we found that, because of the coronavirus, basically nowhere has any in stock. So we had to improvise. And clean every inch of the house, only for all the mould to spring up again in new and daring places.
Oh, and at one point the rains were so heavy and so unrelenting that there was a flood warning for large parts of Nagiso, and we were advised to evacuate (which we did, though I later found out that lots of my elderly neighbours outright refused to – great ‘completely unnecessary old person stubbornness’ on display, there).
(Oh, and I just remembered that I got incredibly sick at one point! I know it’s a cliche by now, but 2020 can really go do one.)
Luckily, there ended up being no flooding at all, though I have to admit that at one point I did harbour some darkly satisfying dreams of our entire mould-colonised house being swept away by the floodwater.
As you can probably imagine, all of this happening at once basically broke our brains. We had to move the bed out of our mould-sauna that was once our bedroom and sleep in the living room. I lost my enjoyment of cooking, as even after several deep cleans the kitchen still felt dirty to me. We couldn’t feel comfortable in our own house, and (due to everything moving at a snail’s pace here in the countryside) our attempts to find a new place in Nagiso to live (even temporarily) stalled and died.
It’s only now, after a few weeks of summer heat finally removing any trace of mould (until next year (lol)), and allowing us to get out and exercise, that we’ve started to feel relatively normal again. We’re still looking to move (our house also has literally no insulation, and we don’t fancy another winter of -10°C to 15°C indoors at night), but for now, at least, we can breathe a sigh of relief.
And I could write this blog post. Expect more blog posts soon, unless a previously-undiscovered volcano suddenly opens up underneath Nagiso and kills us all. Or a giant eagle swoops down and carries me away and also takes a big shit on our car. Or ISIS decides to declare war on me specifically.
Knowing the last few months we’ve had, I wouldn’t discount these possibilities. But assuming none of these increasingly plausible things happen, expect more blog posts soon.
(p.s. at one point a snake literally got inside my house, but I couldn’t find a good place to fit this story in. Just wanted to let you know. These last few months have been hell. Bye!)