What I found there on Route 4 to the south

Well, remember my last post?  Where I intrepidly explored the south part of Fukushima City?

I went there to do some shopping.  I wanted to go to a home supply store—something that sells furniture-y type items.   You know what I mean–stuff you can find in a house.


Anyway….So first I went to this store:

This store is called “Nittori.”  Back when we lived in Narita City, we lived close to a Nittori, and I always liked it.

By the way, I got permission for ALL the photos on this post.  (I asked the store people.)

It sells almost anything to decorate your house…and prices are reasonable.  (Although, interestingly, it did not sell what I was looking for–a storage bin.)

Notice the English.  English is often used to give an exotic flair in advertising and so on.  If not English, then French.

This is only sold in summer.  Can you guess what it is?

These are bamboo shades.  In the summer–when light is strong–Japanese people cover their windows with these traditional shades.   Many people in Japan do not use air conditioning, by the way.   (Or some will use it sparingly.)

Moving on to this next store, Tokyo Interior.  I had never been to this store before, but I really liked it.  (Plus, I was able to find the exact kind of storage bin I was looking for.  :0) )

Stepping inside the store……

This is interesting.  Very American style…Reminds me of a Hobby Lobby!

This is actually a furniture store.   In addition to typical furniture (sofa, tables, chairs), they have a section devoted to school desks for elementary school kids.  School desks are a big BIG market in Japan.  Studying is taken very seriously here!

Different styles…..

This girl looks excited to study!

Bath area of the store…..

These toilet slippers are so cute!

I’m sure you know Japanese people don’t wear outdoor shoes indoors.  And also they often have bathroom slippers in the bathroom.

I got so excited when I saw these!

I have a collection of educational placemats for kids.   I bought them mostly in the U.S.  It’s hard for me to find them in Japan–even on the internet.  (I’ve looked.)

I wanted to buy some in the above photo …but they were a little expensive (about 500 yen, or five U.S. dollars each) and plus, um, my son is fourteen years old.  lol  So I didn’t.

Good going, placemat maker!  Proud of YOU!!!!!!!!!!!

Kids’ play room attached to the store (Tokyo Interior.)  I think it costs 100 yen, and it is for preschool and younger.  (No elementary school kids.)

Amigo:  a pet store.   I don’t have a pet, but shall we go in?

I asked the staff lady if I could take photos for my blog.  She said really that photos aren’t allowed…but she said I could take a few.

Do you what this is?  It’s food for a certain type of animal….

Stag beetles!  A traditional pet during the summer months in Japan

We’ve owned them before.  A good learning experience!

Oops!  I noticed this when I was LEAVING!  Not when I was entering.  But I did ask for permission, and it was granted. (For the record.)

I hope you enjoyed the photos!   And have a great summer (Northern hemisphere people)/winter (Southern hemisphere people)!



Riding my bike on Route 4 to the south…….

I live in my own little world in downtown Fukushima City.  Train tracks on one side, Mt. Shinobu (a low mountain) to another side, a river on that side….  I don’t often leave the downtown area.  But sometimes I get the urge….  You know, the urge to SHOP.

The downtown area doesn’t have many large (in terms of space) stores, since space is confined.  But once you leave the downtown area, there is much more space and the larger stores tend to be out there.  (And then once you leave THAT area, you get into the countryside, home of bears, monkeys and wild boars.)  Unlike Tokyo, Fukushima City is fortunate in that it has a lot of space.  It’s one of the perks of living in Tohoku.

I headed south on route 4.    This road heads to Koriyama City–but I won’t be going that far!  That’s fifty minutes away by regular train.   (About fifteen minutes by bullet train.)

I am just going to do a bit of shopping in the south part of Fukushima City.

I am going to cross this river!

See it?

Okay, here is the bridge.  (This is just one of the bridges that cross this river.  It’s not the only bridge!)

As you can see there is a bike and pedestrian path along it on both sides–very convenient.  Japan tends to think about the needs of cyclists and pedestrians more than the U.S.   (But probably not much as the Netherlands, cycle capital of the world!)

We’ve crossed the bridge.  This is a new neighborhood for us.  I’ll have to remember what I see, like To Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street.

This low mountain has a hiking trail.   The sign notifies you of the bicycle parking area, which is next to me, but not shown in the photo.  I want to go shopping though…so no time for hiking!

Namie, Iitate–those little towns to the east were the ones most affected by the nuclear disaster resulting from 3/11.  People had to evacuate those towns, whether they wanted to or not.

Another river!

In case you forgot that this is Japan….karaoke.

I liked this sign!  Kyou mo Ganbare!  Let’s do our best today, too!

Kyou = 今日 = today

mo = も = also

ganbare = がんばれ

(usually the verb form is ganbaru (casual) or ganbarimasu (formal))

Ganbaru is a word that has a nuance that can not be translated into English.  But it is often translated as persevere.  (Which sounds extremely formal and rigid, so it often gets translate into do one’s best.)  Without a doubt, this word is the favorite word of Japanese people.   (Except for those who hate it.)

What an interesting building!  I really don’t see many buildings like this.

The same building from the front.  Built perhaps when Japanese architecture was beautiful, but non-earthquake-proof????

Did you forget this was Japan?  Here’s a reminder.  A Buddhist altar (and other Buddhism related items) store.

It’s June as I type this…..the season of hydrangeas in Japan.  They are extremely common during early summer.

This is heading back, but on  the opposite side.  Northern Japan is a winter area for swans and other birds.  So bird watching is popular.  (During summer the swans head to Siberia.  I don’t blame them.  Summer is hot here!)

Did you enjoy our little trip?   I sure had fun, and remember getting out and exercising is the greatest happiness in the world (after petting cats.)




Upcoming Festivals in Tohoku Region…

A commenter asked about summer festivals in Fukushima Prefecture.  Luckily, right afterwards, I happened upon this poster!  The main part is advertising a summer festival in Fukushima City–but the bottom part lists dates for other parts of Tohoku.

Waraji Festival in Fukushima City–August 4th and 5th, 2017

On the left:  Aomori Nebuta Festival.  (SO FAMOUS!)  August 2nd to August 7th, 2017

On the right:  Akita…Somethingsomething mumblemumble Festival  August 3rd to 6th, 2017

On the left:  Morioka Sansa Odori  August 1st to 4th, 2017

On the right:  Yamagata Hanagasa Festival  August 5th to 7th, 2017

On the left:  Sendai Tanabata Festival  August 6th to 8th, 2017  (Tanabata is now officially in July, but the old traditional calendar celebrated it in August.)

On the right:  Fukushima Waraji Festival  August 4th to 5th, 2017

This part of the poster says:

Together, let’s do our best!


Tohoku summer…Garnishment of Color…Summer Festival

(Tohoku Festival Network)

If you come to the festivals, you get a free kiss from me.   What, you say you don’t WANT my kisses??????   (Why does everybody SAY that?!?!?!?!?)


And then…don’t forget the more minor festivals.  Every town pretty much has some sort of festival in the summer.    And each one features a kissing booth where you can get free kisses from me.  (Noisily applies breath spray)  Pucker up!


“Is the government telling us the truth?”

William McMichael  is a Canadian of Japanese descent.  I’ve known him for a few years, and he’s a super nice and hardworking guy.  He obviously loves Fukushima.   I met him when he was a CIR here, but now he works at the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Fukushima University,

Anyway, he organized a Fukushima foreigners’ round table discussion a few weeks ago, and I was invited.  There was a Japanese researcher there who explained things and answered our questions.  (My husband told me this Japanese researcher is famous, but sorry, I forget his name….)  Anyhoo, it was all extremely interesting, and I appreciate the opportunity.

So moving on.  Willam McMichael recently asked foreigners who live in Fukushima to write a question and then take a photo of ourselves holding the question up.   For his project, I suppose?

I thought about my question, the number one thing I wanted to know.   Here it is:

I discussed the wording and so forth with my Japanese teacher, Sagi Sensei.  And we ended up nixing this photo because I  look too happy.

So we decided on this photo where I am just smiling slightly…

How did I choose THIS QUESTION?

First of all, I am constantly hearing on the internet from people outside of Fukushima that the government is lying.    “I won’t eat food from Fukushima, because even though they say they test the food for radiation, they are LYING.”   “They are LYING about radiation levels.”  “They changed the safe levels and they are LYING about it.”

People write these things, but they never ever back it up.  And plus people on the internet have posted a photo of the nuclear power plant in flames…but it’s actually a photo taken in Chiba Prefecture.   (And it’s definitely NOT a nuclear power plant.)  Or they will post an icky looking fish, and say its disease is caused by radiation…but a little research will tell us that the photo was actually taken BEFORE March 11, 2011 and therefore the fish’s disease can in no way be related to radiation.

So all this leaves me wondering what is true, what isn’t.  It is one of the reasons I try to make this blog unbiased.  People will try to sway you, but if their facts are faulty….well, think for yourself.

I don’t actually believe that the goverment is telling us the whole truth.  I am not naive.

I don’t expect an answer to the question in the photo.  It’s a question to make people think.  Not to be answered–because there is no answer.

If the government is lying us, they will not say, “Gosh, darn it,  you are right.  We are lying.”

And if the government does tell the whole truth all the time (which, um, I very much doubt), if they say, “Yes, we tell the truth all the time….”  Who would believe them?  Actions speak louder than words.

So let’s keep us eyes and ears open for the truth.   In this age of fake news and government misdeeds, it’s a good skill to be able to discern fact from fiction.


Outside Over There…….Library Volunteer

I am a library volunteer at my son’s former elementary school.   A couple weeks ago, I received a phone call requesting me to read a book to the fifth and sixth grade classes.

Because they are older kids (ages ten to twelve), I wanted to do a picture book appropriate for older children, a book that makes readers think.

I decided to do Maurice Sendak’s Outside Over There.   It’s a slighly creepy story about a girl named Ida who must watch over her baby sister, but when she is not looking, her sister is stolen by goblins!   So Ida must climb through the window to rescue her sister from being the bride in a marriage to a goblin.

Chilling, huh?

First I teach the words in the flashcards that I made, and then I read the book in English while a Japanese volunteer reads it in Japanese.

The sixth graders today seemed to really like it, and were very interested in it.  I asked their teacher afterwards if it was too scary for fifth graders and sixth graders and she said no.  Whew!

Ida reminds me of the character I created in my own manuscript.  Haruka is also an older sister who feels she must be responsible and take care of her younger sibling, and also feels a bit responsible for the adults in her lives, too.   Like Ida, she is a serious sort of girl who is so busy being mature that she has little time for frivolity.

I have noticed that in disaster stories the main characters are often either only children or oldest children.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (a plane crash)–an only child

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, idea by Siobhan Dowd (mother’s cancer)–an only child

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee (San Francisco earthquake)–oldest child

The Cay by Theodore Taylor (Shipwreck)–only child

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (left behind on island)–oldest child

Ninth Ward by Jewell Park Rhodes (Hurricane Katrina)–only child

The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley  (World War II in England)–oldest child

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle (Lost father)–oldest child

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (possibility of battling to your death in a dystopian society)–oldest child

Up from the Sea by Leza Lowitz (2011 Japanese tsunami)–only child

Dust of Eden by Mariko Nagai (internment of Japanese-Americans)–youngest child! (main character is the younger daughter with an older brother.)

You know what else is REALLY interesting?  In books where it is an only child, it is a male child.  (Except one book, Ninth Ward.)

In books with the protagonist as an oldest child, it is a female character who has a younger sibling.  (Except Ninth Ward.)  And except for Hunger Games (in which the younger sibling is female), all the younger siblings are male!


So why did I choose an older sister/younger brother combination?  First, I did not base Haruka off myself.  I myself am a younger sibling, and about as serious and mature as a pinata.

I think that perhaps people naturally think of females as caretakers….and I guess fell into this trap, too?    (Even though when I was a kid–and I am a female–I was not a caretaker!)

As a writer, though, I felt that if my protagonist has a younger sibling, then she has somebody to converse with.  Further, the younger brother provides a bit of comic relief–a necessity because Haruka is so mature and serious.

Why did I make the younger sibling male?  Well, that’s easy….  I have a son!  While the boy in my manuscript isn’t that similar to my son, I find it easy to know how (some) boys think since I am constantly around a boy nowadays.


This article above (from the Yomiuri Shinbun) is a few months old.   The headline translates as “Nuclear Power Plant Accident:  Country and Tepco have Responsiblity”

Basically what it is saying is that a verdict was reached that determined that both the country of Japan (the government) was responsible (because higher walls should have been built along the ocean to prevent tsunami damage) and also TEPCO (the company which owned and ran the power plant) is responsible.

I think it’s kind of a “Duh!” thing, but it’s nice to see it in print.

“Well, it sure wasn’t my fault!” says Mr. Cat.

Okay, thank you, Mr. Cat.  Nobody is blaming you.

Moving on…….

This has been a big week for nuclear news, but not happy news.

On Thursday, I was reading the news. It appears that seven more people in Fukushima have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  Here is the link:  http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/06/national/seven-fukushima-residents-diagnosed-thyroid-cancer/

Radiation affects the thyroid especially, and especially in children.  All the children of Fukushima have had their thyroids checked for anything suspicious.   This includes my son, whose thyroid appears to be fine.

This is a contentious issue–the rise in thyroid cancer.    One side says, “Look!  Thyroid cancers have gone up!  Obviously it is because of the radiation from the nuclear accident!”   And then other people say, “Well…..All the kids and many adults in Fukushima have had their thyroids checked.  (Normally people do NOT get their thyroids checked, unless there is some problem going on.)  When an entire population gets something checked out, doctors are liable to find bumps and lumps that normally would not have been detected.”  Basically saying that it is the screening procedure that detects thryroid cancers early on–cancers that would have existed no matter what.

Me?  I personally am in the middle.  (As usual.  Fence sitting hurts my bottom, but I ain’t moving.)   Obviously, radiation has caused and will cause cancers to develop.  But which ones?  We don’t know and won’t know.     And obviously, a screening procedure will catch both those cancers caused by the nuclear accident, and also those that would have developed anyway.

Anyway, the purpose of this blog is not to sway or convince.    It is to lay out the facts so that you can use your brains (and I know you smarties have them) and figure out the answers for yourself.

“Thank you for having the confidence in me to think for myself!” says Mr. Cat.

You’re welcome, Mr. Cat.


And then also in the news this week (but totally unrelated to Fukushima) some workers were exposed to radiation during their job at a nuclear facility.  Let me repeat:  This incident was not in Fukushima at all and has NO RELATION to Fukushima.


“THAT SUCKS!” says Mr. Cat.

Yes, it does, Mr. Cat.  Yes, it does indeed.




Dashi Matsuri in Fukushima City

Dashi= According to a Japanese/English dictionary, this word means “Parade float, festival float.”  But in reality, it is one of those words that simply can’t be translated accurately because it doesn’t exist in western (English-speaking) culture

Matsuri= Festival

I took the above photo in downtown Fukushima City a few days before the festival.  This was announcing the festival and giving names of its participants.

The festival itself was last Saturday.  In the photo, you can see a dashi (festival float.)  Fukushima City and Date Town participated in this festival.

Downtown Fukushima City, East Side

People dress in really interesting outfits—traditional clothes—for festivals!  It’s not mandatory, people do it for fun and tradition.

This woman is wearing a festival hapi coat.  You can see the parade of dashi in the background.

People ride on top and whoop it up.  Dance and so on.

It was crowded.  I have to admit I was quite busy last Saturday, so I didn’t stay long.  Just sort of wanted to see it a bit.  It’s really close to my home.  That’s one of the benefits of living in the downtown area.

A dashi….impressive!

Whenever there are festivals in Japan, there are also stalls which sell food.  This one seemed very popular with kids.  The line stretched on and  on!


Inoshishi on the loose…..

When I heard that bores were roaming freely through Fukushima, I imagined my great-aunt Jane and my tenth grade math teacher ambling zombie-like through the city.  And when I heard they were wild bores, I imagine my great-aunt Jane and my tenth grade math teacher wearing mini-skirts and too much cheap perfume.

But then I realized they were wild BOARS, and I thought, “Oh, that’s totally not what I was imagining.”

Okay, kids, all joking aside, yes, there is a wild boar problem in the evacuated parts of Fukushima Prefecture.  (In Japanese, wild boar are called inoshishi.)   However, I can’t leave my home and take photos of them, because they don’t exist where I live.  I live in Fukushima City (not evacuated) and thus we have no wild boar problem.    Life goes on as normal here.  We don’t even have stray dogs here in Fukushima City.  We do, unfortunately, have a few stray cats, which makes me quite sad.  (Not many, just a few.  The friendlier stray cats seem to find kind people who feed them and give shelter.  It seems that it is the more timid stray cats that suffer.)

Anyway, back to the wild boar problem.   First of all, I was researching this on the internet, and kids, I found a sentence which teaches us not to believe everything on the internet:

“Hundreds of boars carrying highly radioactive material are reportedly stalking residents hoping the Japanese town of Fukushima six years after the meltdown of the nuclear plant.”  (Foxnew.com)

Never mind the fact that that sentence is grammatically incorrect and therefore incomprehensible.   Let’s look at this part:  “the Japanese town of Fukushima”

Fox News, let me be the first to inform you that that Fukushima is not a town.

There is Fukushima City and Fukushima Prefecture.   It’s exactly like New York City and New York State.  EXACTLY!    And are wild boars roaming in New York City?  No.  Well, they are not roaming in Fukushima City, either.

The boars that are causing trouble are in the evacuated area of small towns around the nuclear power plant.  What happened is that people were forced by meltdowns to quickly leave their homes.   So then in the years that followed, wild boars came in from the uninhabited parts of Fukushima Prefecture.  (Fukushima Prefecture is mostly uninhabited mountains.)   Those boars found food in that evacutated area, and plus nobody was living in that area to scare them off or shoo them away.  So as animals do, the boars have claimed the territory for their own.  Rats and other vermin have done the same in the evacuated area, but they are not getting international news attention.

And now residents are returning to parts of the evacuated area.  Naturally, they want to fix up their homes and live peaceably.   But there are dangerous boars about, and so of course this is a problem.

There seem to be two ways that the boars are being killed:  by trapping and hunting. (Yes, hunting IS legal in Japan, although it is strictly regulated.  My husband’s uncle was a hunter.)  However, the boars can’t be killed for their meat because they have been roaming and now have high amounts of radiation in their system.  (Every cloud has a silver lining, though.  Scientists can use the boars and study them to  judge just how much radiation has dispersed through the area.)

Here is an article about the situation in Japanese and English.