Stag Beetle Exhibit at Komu Komu in Fukushima City

A few days ago I took my niece to the local kids’ center in Fukushima City.  (The center’s name is Komu Komu and it is near the downtown train station.)  There was a stag beetle exhibit.

My son didn’t go because he had to visit a high school that day, but my niece loved it so much she wants my son (her cousin) to see it, so this exhibit is what we will be doing today, again, for the second time.

Stag beetles are a very popular thing in Japan during summer.  Really a huge part of the kid culture.

Kids keep them as pets in the summer in Japan.  (And through winter,  if they can keep them alive.  Something we have never managed to do.)

Most kids in Japan are quite knowledgeable about stag beetles.  (In Japanese: kabuto mushi.)

My niece LOVED the exhibit.  She loves animals, and learning about them.

You can touch the beetles.  They won’t bite or sting you.  They are harmless to humans.

This exhibit, however, doesn’t allow you to pick them.  (Although if the beetle is your own pet, it can easily be picked up and allowed to crawl on your body.)

If you don’t like bugs, this exhibit is not for you!

This beetle loves me!  He was exploring my toes.

All over the place…you can see why my niece wants my son to see this exhibit!  He has seen (and owned) stag beetles before, but never been inside a cage with them.

Is this something you would like to try?  It really is fun and educational.  (The sign says:  “Touch them gently.”)

This is a different part of the exhibit.  I wanted to show this photo of the famous Japanese writer/illustrator Gentaro Kagawa.  He is extremely talented.  His books are illustrations of elaborate mazes with different themes.

My son was lucky to be in a workshop held by Mr. Kagawa.  Mr. Kagawa is such a nice guy!!!!!  Really and truly!!!

Goin’ to Koriyama City

We went to Koriyama City.   No time!  No time!  Hurry!  Get an Ekiben!  Eat it on the train!  Yum!


My ekiben.  Lots of delicious foods.


A pretty princess.  We went to a park in Koriyama City for the Beerfes.  (Beer Festival)

It was a rainy day.

The people ahead of us were in summer kimono.

My niece says this is not a mallard.  (But she doesn’t know for sure.  Now she’s googling it.)

This is her hungry face.


Beer!  Five dollars a cup.

It costs five dollars for each adult to enter, but my son was free because he is under age.  Twenty is the age one can drink alcohol in Japan.

Kirin, Sapporo, Asahi are all famous beer brands.

An oompa band  (that’s what my niece told me that brass band is.)

She looks like a teenager, but she is over twenty.

Fun times in Fukushima Prefecture

Bloomin’ Onions

So incredible yummers

At the Koriyama City train station.

Now it is time to enter another dimension.

My niece and my son travelled backward in time one thousand years.   Aren’t magic portals awesome?


Eating dinner at Kappa Sushi Restaurant

My niece said that she wanted to eat sushi while in Japan.  So my husband took her, me, and my son to an inespensive sushi restaurant called Kappa Sushi.

I think each plate is about a dollar.  Since it is so cheap, it is very casual.  Lots of families who are on a budget eat here.  It is definitely not an upscale sushi restaurant.

Most plates have two pieces of sushi, but some have just one piece.

See?  It is rolling by on a conveyer belt.  You pick up the sushi plate you want.  You can also order sushi, though.

Hot water comes out of the spigot at the bottom of the photo.  You can use the hot water to make green tea.


Hawaiian style sushi

Eel sushi.  Eel is commonly eaten in Japan at the height of summer.  It supposedly gives energy.

My son chose the “worst” sushi for my niece to eat.  And she ate it.  And she said it was good.

She likes it!

Burp!  Excuse me.  It was delish.

Ice Cream Shopping

At a local grocery store.  My niece said there were so many flavors of ice cream.


A famous and old brand—polar bear brand ice cream.  It’s sort of like shaved ice.  Delicious.

This is SO DELICIOUS.  Basically shaved ice.

My niece says, “I wish they had them in America.”

Gari Gari Kun…A famous brand of popsicle.  The picture shows soda flavor and pear flavor, but this brand likes to do weird flavors of popsicles like potato soup.   Those weird flavors never last long and are obviously publicity stunts.  Gari Gari Kun is great at marketing.

Me and the watermelon popsicle.

The seeds are bits of chocolate.

My niece says, “My aunt likes ice cream so much she can’t think straight.”

This kind is what we ended up purchasing.

It has little mochis.

At the bottom is vanilla ice cream.

She likes it!


On the way back…..across the tracks to the east side.

This is Fukushima.

The train.   A passenger train, and only two cars.  My niece said, “That was fast!”  In Texas, trains are usually SO LONG…… very, very, very long cargo trains.  Endless.  You can wait literally forever at a train crossing in Texas.  Literally.  People started waiting in 1996 and are waiting there still……  But that’s in Texas, and this is a Fukushima train so we didn’t wait very long.

Second day with my nice niece

We headed to a recycle shop to drop off some items.  (She helped clean my home.)

She said she was interested in these old kimonos.  She said there were three prices:  1,000 yen, 2,000 yen, 5,000 yen.  (About American dollars ten, twenty, fifty.)

I asked her why she wanted a kimono, and she said to wear it around the house (in America, of course.)   I told her that some people who sew buy them and turn them into other things, like cute purses.

As you can see, most of the kimonos are actually rather plain.  The plainer kimonos tend to be worn by older women.  The vibrant kimonos (the kind we usually see photos of in the West) tend to be worn by young women.

Next we went to Mossburger.  It’s a fast food hamburger chain, but prides itself on being more upscale and higher quality and more environmentally conscious than places like McDonalds.  (And therefore a little more expensive.)  I personally like Mossburger for its onion rings–it can be hard to get onion rings in Japan!

My mouth is weird because I thought the lady had taken the photo and so I said something to her.  lol

I chose this vegetable rice burger because the lady who was serving me said it had the fewest calories of the burgers.    It’s really good.

My niece got…. a regular hamburger, I think?

My rice burger up close.  Japanese type vegetables.

My niece said, “Let’s stop on the koi pond on the way back!”  I knew there was water—but did NOT know there was fish!  I’ve ridden this route many times, but I guess I am not very observant.  It’s a nice bicycling path.

Hello, Miss Niece!

You can see the path….  It is pretty.  Very quiet.

Bye fishies!

My niece is here

At the train station to meet her at the bus stop.  She had taken a bus from Narita Airport to Fukushima City.  This is NOT her backpack.  It belongs to a Japanese hitchhiker who I talked to briefly.


This is the bus stop on the west side of Fukushima train station….where her bus dropped her off.

“The bus ride was nice,” she said.  She watched a video on her ipad and took a nap.  The bus driver stopped twice for bathroom stops with shops and such.  (Although there was a toilet on the bus.)

Hi, sweetie!

We went to the little supermarket near my house.  She chose this.  Warabi mochi.

She liked the warabi mochi.  She said it was molassey.

That evening we went to a “famous” potsticker restaurant at the station.  Prime Minister Abe dined there a few months ago!


I had bought a bunch of ice creams I felt were “only in Japan.”  So she picked the green tea shaved ice one and I picked the top one.  But she ended up liking the top one more because it was sweeter so we traded.


Important Points:

1.)  She had no trouble getting here by herself, although the immigration guy was confused about why she was coming to Fukushima.

2.)  She was interviewed by a popular tv show while she was at Narita Airport.

3.)  She experienced an earthquake already.  Yes, already.   The fun has started.


Hydrangeas and Jizou Shrine

Near my home is the shopping district for downtown Fukushima City.  It used to be a lot more bustling, say a half-century ago.   But nowadays, like many downtown areas, it is a much quieter area.

There’s a little street called Bunka Dori (Culture Street) and on that street, there is a little shrine.   It’s really quite easy to miss.  Last year I noticed it had a hydrangea bush, and so this year I wanted to take its photo while its hydrangeas were blooming.  These photos were taken last Monday.  (July 10, 2017)

The little shrine.  It seems very well taken care of.

The hydrangea bush.  Most hydrangeas are left to wither and turn brown, but last year, these flowers were clipped off when they started to turn. (Like in “The Walking Dead.”  They’ve turned.  They’re Walkers!  Oh, wait–you’re too young to watch “The Walking Dead.”  It’s a show* about zombies, although the actual word zombies is never mentioned during the entire show.  Am I getting off track here?  Sorry.)

Anyway, the blossoms were clipped off and I couldn’t get their photo last year.

In preparation for this blog post, I showed this photo to my Wednesday Japanese teacher.  She said she thought this was a Jizou statue, but wasn’t 100 percent sure.

So I just now showed it to my husband (who is Japanese) and asked, “Is this a Jizou?”  and he said “Yeah, maybe.”

Assuming that it is a Jizou, it is much more nicely dressed than most Jizou statues.  Jizou statues are often dressed in red, but their attire is usually much simpler.  And often dirty and wind-blown.  Like I said, this statue is obviously being well taken care of.


Here’s me standing back and taking the photo.  Bunka Dori is that gray striped street.  There are shops along it, but unfortunately all you can see in this particular photo is a parking lot.

I arrived in Fukushima City in 2006, and have lived in this same area.  I have noticed the downtown area “going down” (as my mother would say.)  It was in the process of declining when I arrived.   Cute shops are going out of business slowly, one by one.   They are replaced by parking lots or seedy bars.   Even before the earthquake, Fukushima City was not exactly a tourist hot spot.  And the fear of radiation and so forth has only kept the people away even more so.  (Except for those who come here specifically BECAUSE of the disaster.)

*Yeah, I know “The Walking Dead” was a comic book first.  I haven’t read it though.  It can be quite difficult to acquire English materials while living in Japan so……I haven’t read it yet.  Though I do wonder if American libraries even carry it?

Radiation Detector

My twenty-six year old niece is coming to visit in about a week, and she is absolutely the neatest girl I know.  And so I am doing a big clean-up of the house in honor of her.  Although, even though she is extremely neat, she is also very messy, so hopefully she won’t mind that I am not even close to being finished with the tidying.

In the midst of my cleaning, I came across this:

Okay, boys and girls!  Do you know what this is?

Hint:  It is not a new version of a smart phone.

Okay, I’ll let the cat of out the bag.

“Thanks for letting me out!  It feels so good to stretch!”

This is a portable radiation detector.  I showed it to my classmate from the Netherlands, a scientist named Marcel.  He explained it to me.

My radiation detector (the one in the photo) measures microsieverts of radiation per hour.   (In the photo, it is the measurement of our upstairs area in June 2017 in downtown Fuksuhima City.)

Eating one banana (according to a chart on the website) will give a person .1 microsieverts of radiation.  So first of all, it is important to recognize that we constantly are receiving radiation.

The radiation amount shown on our radiation detector is in MICROsieverts and it is a safe level.   Be careful when looking at charts on the web.  Some are listed as MILLIsieverts–a difference of 1,000.

The internet does NOT always make the differences of microseiverts and millisieverts clear, so this is something one has to be careful about.

One website pointed out that ALL radiation is potentially harmful.  And yes, this is important to remember.  We don’t always know what causes cancer.  So avoiding radiation (in a realistic manner) is prudent.    I think it is often looked at as a cost/benefit thing.   The cost of getting a dental X-ray will (probably!) not be high because it (probably!) will not cause cancer, but the benefit of curing one’s dental problems is extremely high, and worth the very slight risk of getting the X-ray.

I don’t think portable radiation detectors (dosimeters) are just a normal thing people happen to have lying around their homes.  My husband bought this one after the earthquake.  But anyway, you can see for yourself where the radiation level is in my home.  It does change, but doesn’t get any higher than .20 microsieverts (still a safe level.)

If you would like to look at environmental data for yourself, please check out this website:


I would like to say thank you to Marcel from the Netherlands for explaining radiation to me!  🙂

Tanabata (“The Star Festival”)


Tanabata (Star Festival) is a tradition that was borrowed originally from the Chinese long, long, long ago.   (It was adopted  by Japan in 755 A.D. according to Wikipedia.)  It falls on July seventh according to the modern calendar.  (But traditionally it fell in August, which is why you may still see decorations during August in Japan.)

The story of Tanabata is:  Two lovers are kept apart all year but can meet in the Milky Way on this one night.  The full story is here:

The two lovers are  called Orihime and Hikoboshi.  Their stars are Vega and Altair.

These Tanabata decorations are in a local grocery store.

They have paper and pens available so shoppers can write their wish and attach it to the bamboo.  (This is especially popular with kids.)

This sign says “Tanabata”

In yellow, it is in kanji:  七夕

To the left of that, in white, it is is written in hiragana.  たなばた This is so that people (especially children) who can’t read kanji can use the hiragana to read the kanji.

Hiragana is similar to the alphabet–it’s quite easy to read.

This says, “Write your wish on the paper and decorate!”

I didn’t want to take a photo of  a very personal type wish (or one with a name attached.)  I chose a very typical wish.

This person wishes:

“I would like to get 100 points on my test!!”  Other wishes are for peace, health, family.  Lots of school-related wishes (good grades.)

So adorable!

I personally enjoy Tanabata because the decorations are so pretty.  And who doesn’t like making wishes????  (I know I do!!!)

Kubota Ajisai Kouen (Kubota Hydrangea Park) in Date Town

In my taxi.  Spending money on the fare.  Lots and lots and lots of money.  A taxi is not the best way to get to Kubota Hydrangea Park because it is expensive (even from the closest train station.)  And also, it is too far (for an average person) to walk.   Bicycle might be possible–but be careful because roads are narrow.    There are no buses.  So the best transportation is obviously a hot air balloon.  No, wait, I’m sorry.  I forgot that I am not an aeronaut from Texas.

A car.  A car is your best bet.


It’s like straight out of a Ghibli movie.

I saw a Totoro behind this shack but he was shy and scurried away because I could snap a photo to put on Facebook.

Very peaceful.  This is still the rainy season.  Not the super duper hot season.  (In July and August.)  It’s very humid–very!

Hydrangeas…..I was a little early for their peak, but that was okay with me.

To tell the truth, I don’t think the hydrangeas show up as well in the photos as in real life.  (I seem to remember more of them?)

Rickety bridge.

No cicadas.  June is too early for that in Tohoku.  (Their “Nee Nee Nee” will be incessant later in the summer.  Plus the sounds of bullfrogs.)

Do you see something?  Something unusual?  It’s something that I attempted to write into my book, but found it difficult to describe because they don’t exist in the U.S. (as far as I am aware.)

This is a hollow bamboo trunk. Water (which is naturally coming down the mountain) fills into it.

The weight of the water causes the bamboo tube to rise.

And then the tube pops down, pouring water into the lake.   There is a clacking sound as it drops and hits the stone.

It looks like there will be a lantern festival at the park on July eighth and ninth of 2017.

As you can see, there is quite a lot to visit in the area.  Another reason to go by car!

Oh, hi there, me!  Are you having fun?

Why, yes, future me!   Peace out, Dude!