Temporary Housing in Fukushima City

Hello, everybody!   As you may know, many people in Fukushima Prefecture lost their homes due to the earthquake of March 11, 2011.  Virtually all these people lived along the east coast.  Some people lost their homes because of the damage caused by the seismic energy itself.  Some lost their homes due to the tsunami that occurred shortly after the earthquake.   And some people lost their homes because the homes themselves were to close to the nuclear power plant.  (There is an area around the plant that was evacuated due to the meltdowns, and much of that area is still closed off today.)

Last week I rode my bike to the northern part of Fukushima City to shop at Aeon shopping center.  It’s a little far for me (at least twenty minutes or more by bike) so I don’t usually go to that particular shopping center.  But this time, I looked around the neighborhood.

There are homes in this area which are temporary housing for evacuees.     (Even thought they are considered temporary, they are still being lived in now, almost six years later.)


So there you can see them.  Very, very VERY small.  Japan is known for small housing.  But we’re not in Tokyo.  This is Fukushima–the countryside–where people tend to have larger housing.  And remember these people came from the rural part of Fukushima Prefecture, so many of them probably once lived in houses that were quite large.  Farmhouses with lots of land, and so on.  So this temporary housing must seem very cramped and uncomfortable to them.


You can see the doors.  Each door represents a different home.

You can see the pink roof of the AEON shopping center in the background.  One can buy almost anything there (including food) so these evacuees are probably happy that shopping is conveniently located…(at least they have that.)


Another photo….


I took this photo to show how little space there is.   No place for gardening, for grandchildren to play.


Another photo….

There was nobody out and about so I didn’t talk to anybody while I was there.


Okay, this is across from the temporary housing.  You can see that the regular houses (NOT temporary housing) in this Fukushima neighborhood are quite nice.  These are what typical middle or upper middle class people here might live in.  (That white house is especially nice–it’s actually a little more spectacular than typical houses in Japan.)


Some sort of religious center?  I wasn’t sure what this was.



Here I am on my bicycle heading back to my home.  The twenty plus minute journey!  The houses here are VERY typical.  Just regular homes for Fukushima City dwellers.  I live on the other side of that mountain in the background.  My area is downtown, whereas this area in the photos is not the city center.


This is a photo of a poster.  Sorry, it’s all in Japanese, but it tells of the upcoming memorials that will take place in Fukushima City on the anniversary of the earthquake for 2017.  (March 11th)  I always try to go to the memorial downtown and look at the candles and think about the victims and pray for them.


Winter Cycling


Well, it’s getting towards the end of February.   The weather here has perked up, and it’s a very comfortable temperature for being outdoors, as long as you are wearing some sort of coat.   I took advantage of this by going bicycle riding along the Matsukawa River.


Watch out for Kappas!  In Japan, Kappas are mythological creatures that live in rivers and love to eat cucumbers.  My son loves cucumbers, so sometimes I call him a “Kappa.”


This sign says, “Cycling Road.”   Shall we follow it?


First, let’s look at the map. Gosh, I can’t make heads or tails of it.  Never mind.


What a great day for biking!  Although a little windy….


I’m staying on the left side……….even though there are not many other people on the path!


This is going towards the east.  So it is going in the direction of the coast, where the Pacific Ocean is.  (Although that is way, way, way too far for me to cycle.  The sign in the first photo said that the Pacific Ocean is seventy-four kilometers away.)  This is in the general direction of the nuclear power plant–the plant is southeast of Fukushima City.


The river!!!!!


Looking back…  (Toward the west, in the direction of Fukushima City)






At this point I turned around.  This photo shows an orchard in winter.  Fukushima Prefecture is famous for its fruit trees.


Back to the city…and I must say cycling back against the wind is much harder than going with the wind!

I hope you have a great February.  Hopefully, you can get in some outdoor activities, too.  It feels so good to exercise!


Highest levels ever of radiation detected inside the nuclear power plant….

If you regularly read the news, you may have come across an article which tells of the most recent findings concerning the nuclear power plant.

Apparently, in at least one part of the nuclear power, an extremely high amount of radiation is present.  Very, very, very high.

What does this mean?  Well, it’s inside the power plant.  So it does not directly affect people who live in areas like Fukushima City or Koriyama City or Iwaki City.  But of course, it indirectly affects us, in that it is just another worrisome piece of news to fret over.

The extremely high amount of radiation makes clean-up very, very difficult.  According to news reports, a robot can’t last very long in such a high amount of radiation.  (Let alone a human, who could in no way get anywhere near the radiation hotspot and survive.)

Unfortunately, not good news, is it!

But fortunately, I do have a photo of pretty kitties to share with you:


They are Fukushima City kitties, the best kitties in Japan.  Perhaps Koriyama City kitties and Iwaki City kitties would argue that point.   Or perhaps they would just curl up and take a nap….

What we now call Fukushima……

I just started listening to an audiobook called Atomic Accidents:  A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters;  From the Ozark Mountains to Fukushima by James Mahaffey.   Since I am at the very, very beginning, I don’t know how good it is yet, but I expect to learn quite a lot.  (I have read books before on the disaster, and every so often like to brush up on it.)

The author starts by discussing accidents, and ending with the disaster in Fukushima, saying “the problem of water inappropriately forced upon a large power plant would come up again, this time in Japan in 2011.  We now call this incident Fukushima.”

As a long-term resident (since 2006) of Fukushima City, it rankles me when I see the word Fukushima as equivocal to “the meltdowns that occured at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power in March of 2011.”    A far better name for the disaster is 3/11 (begging a thousand pardons to those who share that birthday,) similar to the appellation 9/11.

Because you see, many of us actually live here in Fukushima.  It’s a place.  NOT a disaster.   I tried to get that across in the two middle grade manuscripts I have written, which are far more the stories of Fukushima’s children than of its infamous disaster.

So you wanna see what Fukushima City has looked like recently?   These photos are near my home, on a day when I walked to a shopping center during a blizzard.


Stepping out, on my way there.   The wind was very strong, although it wasn’t snowing a whole lot.  My umbrella rebelled and turned itself inside out, due to the strong wind.


I actually was going to the mall for a tea ceremony.  (On the fourth floor, there is a center for classes and so forth.)  However, it was cancelled.  So I ended up buying these gloves at an end-of-the-season discount.  I always try to buy on sale!


Now I have to leave…the snow has picked up, and how!!!!!….no, I don’t wanna walk home…No…too windy too snowy……….Gah.


がんばります!(Ganbarimasu!  I’ll do my best!)


I speak a bit of cat language, so this kitty and I talked to each on my way home.  She said it was cold.


This building (which is roped off, although you can’t see that in the photo) is probably almost a hundred years old.  It’s amazing that the 3/11 earthquake didn’t topple it, but I am really glad because I love this building.  It’s a piece of history.


I thought this shade of blue was so lovely in the falling snow.  (This blue color is quite common for structures in Japan.)  Notice the graffiti.  Graffiti is most definitely not at all common in Japan.


Almost home!   The duty of shovelling this path falls on my family and on my neighbors.  So I have mixed feelings about snow!  It’s beautiful, isn’t it……..But sometimes a bit of a pain!

I hope you enjoyed these photos of my neighborhood from winter 2017.   And now excuse me while I go drink some hot green tea and cuddle in a wooly blanket…..


Spring is here!


It’s only February!  How can spring be here?!?!

In Japan, it is traditionally believed that spring begins on February fourth.  This day is called “Risshun.”  February third is known as “Setsubun” and is one of the most celebrated festivals in modern Japan.


Here is a display for Setsubun at a local grocery store.


Here is another display at a different grocery store chain.

So why the big masks?  And what is being sold?


Setsubun is the day when one drives evil spirits (oni, often translated into English as “devil”) out of the home.  Traditionally roasted soybeans were thrown at the oni.  Nowadays, it can be roasted soybeans, or peanuts, or even chocolate covered peanuts.


At the beginning of February in Japan, there are many brands of dried beans to choose from.  I bought these roasted soybeans for celebrating Setsubun with my students, and also at home with my family, because the package was so stinkin’ cute.   During our class on Tuesday, I let the students choose which little packages they wanted.  They loved them so much!

Nowadays, the soybeans are often in packages like these because they are usually eaten after being thrown at the oni.  And of course, not many people want to eat soybeans that have been on the floor!


Here I am…….a terrifying oni!

Setsubun does not seem well-known at all in the United States.  (And understandably so, since it is a very traditional and extremely old Japanese custom that dates back to the 1300’s.)   It’s a lot of fun.  After all, who doesn’t like dressing up in scary masks??!!!???