Sazae-do of Fukushima on TV…….

This morning our TV was on, blaring as usual. I wasn’t paying attention…..then noticed that Sazae-do was featured on the Japanese TV programme!  I love Sazae-do!  It’s in the western part of Fukushima Prefecture in AizuWakamatsu City.

This is a national programme, not a local programme, so I was pleasantly surprised.

Wow, look at the date.  September is almost finished.  The weather is finally cool and pleasant here in Fukushima City.  Wonderful weather, actually.  Are you going to be exploring the outdoors?  I hope you have a nice autumn.

Grow, Grapes, Grow!

Fukushima is famous for the fruit that is grown here. Riding my bike, I came across this little grape vineyard. It’s in Fukushima City, and once you leave Fukushima City you’ll see more like this.

Note that each bundle of grapes is in its own bag.  Japanese farmers take excellent care raising fruit.

Regular fruit at my local Japanese supermarket (I’m not talking about gourmet fruit like square-shaped watermelons or white strawberries) that I personally buy is always in great shape.  American fruit can also be delicious, but it’s MUCH more iffy. You have to look and smell and touch in the U.S. because you might find mold or nasty fruit for sale.  I rarely come across less than perfect fruit at my local store in Japan. (If it is going bad, they’ll put it in a special mark-down bin.) The reason for the perfectness of the fruit is because of the special care that farmers give the fruit.

You may think I am exaggerating, but I’m not.  Husband’s father is a farmer (still working) and while he does not do fruit, his vegetables are his little babies.  They receive lots of love and care.

The down side to perpetually high quality fruit is that the fruit here is expensive, compared to the U.S.   (Not it’s not forty-five dollars for a single strawberry. In season, I can afford the fruit, but it’s just rather pricey, in my opinion. In season, a small pack of strawberries will probably be AROUND three U.S. dollars. That’s only in season, mind you, when the supply is abundant.  And the price is very approximate. I think in season in the United States, strawberries might cost three dollars but the package will be much, much larger.)

Also, Japan does not have immigrant labor to help with the harvesting, so this increases the prices of the fruit and vegetables.  My FIL does the labor himself, with a little help from his cat.

If people are hired to help out, they will be other Japanese people. (And I think that farmers also swap help with one another.)

Very lovely.

In Japan, autumn is a season of wonderful food, or so they say.  Am I making you hungry? Am I making you want to come to Japan?  Am I making you want to dress up as a giant grape for Halloween?   Never mind.

Bus Festival, Downtown Fukushima City, 2017

Fukushima City is a not a huge city, but there are still fun things to do.  One of these fun things happens every fall.  A street is closed off, buses are rolled in, and the day-long Bus Festival begins!  It’s a way to teach people about transportation, especially busses.  AND TOTALLY FREE OF CHARGE!!!!!!

My son is fourteen years old now, and so he is supposed to be studying for his entrance exams to high school.  Yes, 24/7 study study study.  😉

So he did not go with me to this year’s bus festival. He’s reach the age where he is not longer interested in hanging out with Mommy.

When he was young, though, I would take him to the festival.  You can go inside the busses and explore completely. The driver’s seat and everything. One year they had a military tank and my son could go down into it and explore. Happy memories!

As you can see from the photos, they have all kinds of busses you can explore.  New ones, old ones, city ones, long-distance ones, buses with a wheelchair lift (that you can try out), and so on. Every year the busses are different.

Me on the bus.

This is a local city bus. “Fukushima Transportation.”

Not sure why the long line?

Anyway, if you are ever in Fukushima City during September, keep an eye out for the Bus Festival.

Why was Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant built near the ocean?

(Please note! I am not a scientist!)

Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Power Plant was (and still is) located on the coast next to the ocean. It supplied electricity to Tokyo until a huge tsunami hit it on March 11, 2011. The water from the tsunami prevented proper cooling, and caused three nuclear meltdowns.

The other day I was listening to a youtube show that I have on while I clean and do miscellaneous tasks. The youtubers do news items, but they are basically comedians, and are no more informed or educated than any other typical person.  They do give their opinions and so forth, though. (Oh, how they love to give their opinions!)

At the end of one of their recent shows, a guest on the show started talking about how nuclear power is good, and it should be used more. (I am not going to link to the youtube show because my mom reads this blog and and she is a grandma and the foul language would shock her. Scads of naughty words are used by these young youtubers. After each time I listen, I have to wash my ears out with soap.)


This particular youtuber (I’ll call him Zeep) thinks we should rely more on nuclear power, which as long as nothing bad happens, is perfectly safe.  (Just like cars are perfectly safe until you crash.)

He says: “But that’s pretty good-you got Fukushima and Chernobyl. Other than that, we got thousands of plants all over the world.” The first time I listened, I thought he meant that even though Fukushima and Chernobyl had accidents, we still have lots of living plants–dandelions, crabgrass, poinsettias, um, what are some other plants, um, African ferns. But the second time I listened I realized he meant:  “Even though Fukushima and Chernobyl had accidents, there are still thousands of other nuclear plants in the world that have not had meltdowns.”


First of all, Zeep is wrong. Wrong wrong wrong rwong WRONG! We do not have nuclear plants like we have Super Walmarts. There are not THOUSANDS.

There are (throat clearing) 449 nuclear power plants around the world. Yes, that link says sixty are currently being built. But it does not say that some places (like California) have already decided to decomission their nuclear power plants, and they will be gone in the future (if things go as planned.)  But anyway, 449 plus 60= I am bad at math, but that is not thousands. Not even close.

Zeep is less than thirty years old. He seems to believe that nuclear power plant meltdowns are normal and no big deal.  I believe they are not normal and actually quite a big deal. I’m guess it’s because for him Chernobyl and Fukushima are not actual places.  They are more like Narnia and Terebithia and Middle-Earth and wherever the heck The Game of Thrones is set.  So for those who are not aware:  They are real places, real inhabitants, real consequences. Chernobyl is in the Ukraine and Fukushima is in Japan.

One of the other youtubers wonders aloud why Fukushima was built near the ocean.  Zeep says, “They do it so that they can sink ’em in there when (things go wrong.)”

What? I don’t know what he is talking about. Zeep? What?

FACT: Nuclear power plants need immense amounts of water to operate.  The Chernobyl plant was/is near Pripyat River. The Fukushima Daiichi Plant was/is near the Pacific Ocean.

Why didn’t they put the Fukushima Daiichi Plant near a river?  I have no idea.  Please see above.  I am not a scientist. And I didn’t even get very good grades in science in high school.

Now what this youtuber did get right is that an alternative like coal isn’t good, either. It messes up our atmophere, and is dangerous to the people who work in coal mines.

He is definitely entitled to his opinion. (Even if it is based on idiotic logic.) Lots and lots of people–intelligent, educated people–agree with him when he says that the world should rely more on nuclear power.  Nuclear power has both good points and bad points.


It’s a difficult question, something I grapple with. Where to get electricity in the future?  People are using more and more and more and more and more……..  And me, too, obviously.  I am a person who consumes electricity.

I’ll sign off here.  I think one major problem with nuclear energy is that people don’t understand it well.  I hope my post today clears up the burning soggy question of why nuclear power plants are always near water.

And I thought it was because the nuclear power plant scientists wanted to meet mermaids!

Image source: (Images are free if source is acknowledged.)


Today on “Respect for the Aged” Day….

I met with one of my Wednesday Japanese teachers. He is ninety-five years young! We went to Nakago department (shown in the photo) for a tea ceremony that he said we could attend, but it wasn’t available. (It will be next month.) So instead we looked at the small museum on the seventh floor.

So then we took a taxi to a restaurant he likes….but it was closed. (Probably because it is Monday and many shops close on Mondays.) So we went to an historic house called Ogura-Tei. It’s a spot for tourists. I’d been there before, but never with a guide. It is not staffed on a daily basis and usually there is nobody (or few people) there. The link says it is 100 yen, but I think it is free.

Leaving Ogura-tei….Every time we saw a seat, my friend would stop and rest.

On October fourth, there is some sort of moon viewing event here, according to the sign. (It starts after 6:30 p.m)

Next we went to the pie shop in Nakago for lunch. I had never eaten a meal there, just dessert.

He ate it all!!!!!

He didn’t eat it all!!! He ate about half. Wow.

Happy Respect for the Aged Day!


Sweets Festival

Today I went to a “Sweets Festa.”  Various Fukushima City area bakeries and cake shops gathered in a local department store and sold their sweets.  So much fun

You can read the name of the bakery.  “Silver Ridge Bakery” was the first bakery in Fukushima City.  I know this because I discovered it one day while riding my bike (it is not especially close to my house).  There was a sign that said it was the first.  I think it opened in the 1950’s (maybe).  From talking to my husband’s mother (who is her seventies) I know that Japanese people NEVER ate bread products when she was young.  They ate rice products, and sweets were rice based.   A big change from today.  Nowadays, Japanese people like flour-based products.  (Although a lot of rice is still consumed in Japan.)

So yummers… Chocolate is the brown bread, and coconut is to the right.  Coconut is definitely NOT a common ingredient or flavor in Japan.

Swans!  The staff for this bakery said that the bakery is near a river with lots of swans.

I was happy to see that there were traditional sweets.  I wanted to buy some for my neighbor for “Respect for the Aged Day.”  I think that really old Japanese people prefer the traditional sweets since that was what they ate when they were growing up.  So bean-based and rice-based sweets are nostalgic for them.  (Beans may sound gross if you don’t know Asian food.  The beans are sweetened and taste good!  It’s not your mawmaw’s pork and beans or your Abuela’s refried beans.)

I bought her some of these, which are soft.

I also bought some hard candies for her. Flavors like sour plum, butter, green tea…

So many flavors of hard candy!  In the trays at the bottom, you can get a free sample.

This is common shopping item in Japan. After you purchase, you can spin it.  A ball comes out. Your prize depends on the color of the ball.


I got a red ball!  So just tissues!  Wah wah… A little disappointed.  Where’s my free trip to Hawaii?

Pink and white were nicer prizes–juice and Fukushima goods.

Respect for the Aged Day

To begin with, the North Korean military launched another missile this morning. It soared over Japan and plummeted into the Pacific Ocean. (Although being North Korean, I imagine it wheezing and coughing its way over Japan and then finally sputtering dismally out into the water. When’s the last time you used a North Korean-made computer or rode in a North Korean-made car?  The country is not known for its engineering skills.)

This is my neighbor’s house. What do you spy with your little eye?  I will zoom in.

A neighborhood cat!  What a pretty little face.

My neighbor lives in the house. She is in her eighties and still going strong.  Monday is “Respect for the Aged Day” (Keirou no Hi) 敬老の日

I will buy her a little present to say “Wow! You are amazing and I love you!” She has a wonderful personality.

The Name Game

Husband told me a couple of weeks ago that he did NOT like one of my character’s names. (Not the names of one of the characters I wrote about in my previous post. Haruka and Sakura are extremely common and modern names in Japan. A different name that I am not revealing here.)

I don’t why it took him so long to tell me that. This book has been a work in progress for over three years.  But anyway we argued discussed it. I decided to ask my Japanese teachers their opinion. They agree with him. I asked my son his opinion. He agreed with him. I asked the crow who gets into my garbage. Her name is Berthe Erica Crow and she didn’t have an opinion.

What threw me off with this name is that I once knew a real-life Japanese baby girl who had this name. The mom was Japanese and the dad American. So I assumed it was an actual Japanese name. But it’s not.

The name has a lovely sound in English. And I like the meaning in Japanese. It’s just that, to Japanese ears, it evidently sounds strange as an actual name.

So for the past couple weeks, I have been thinking, and asking questions of people, and researching.  I’ve gotten a  particular suggestion for a new improved name, the same suggestion from two different Japanese people.  But then I was at the library on Sunday and discovered a gorgeous picture book with this particular improved name.

Such a beautiful and creepy book. LOVE IT!

But…I asked the librarians the meaning of the name here in the picture book’s title. The name has the double meaning of “Child Stealer.”  (The picture book is about a yokai, a Japanese ghost, who steals children.)  So I complained to my husband and he said, “Nobody will think of that meaning!”  But my book is all about word play and I just can’t name my lovely non-child-stealing character a name that is a homophone for Child Stealer!!!!  I just can’t do it!!!!!!!!!!!


So I was thinking of other names. I researched on the internet and came up with three names. (Actually one of these is the name of my husband’s now deceased cat. It’s a wonderful name with a beautiful sound to American ears and Japanese ears, and a lovely meaning.)

Then I called my writing assistant who knows nothing about Japan. My mom. She doesn’t know what a mochi is, what an emoji is, what manga is. She pronounces kimono like “kimona.” She’s the perfect assistant.

I gave her the choice of the three names and she chose the cat’s name.  (My husband is okay with me using his cat’s name.)

So this means I will have to change my character’s name.  It hurts but I have to do it.  I don’t want anybody in my book walking around with a sucky name.

After all, last week, popular YA author Rainbow Rowell wrote on her twitter feed: “I find it harder to name characters now that I know how I have to live with those names for years….” (For what it’s worth, I still love my real life son’s name, and he says he likes it, too.)

Tomorrow and Friday I have Japanese classes, so I will ask my teachers their opinions. They are the experts.


My Fictional Daughter


It’s September now, and my summer vacation in Tokyo with niece and son is long over.  But I want to revisit it a bit….

This is near our hotel while my niece, my son, and I were staying in Tokyo for a couple of days.  That’s the SkyTree in the background, the highest structure in Tokyo. I think it’s in the list of top ten highest towers in the world.

This is the reason I want to revisit.  Haruka.  The name of my bad ass female main character.  I was so excited.

(Actually I don’t think she is that much of a bad ass. Just a regular girl. But bad asses are in now, so let’s just say she is a Fukushima version of Katniss.)




It’s a name I had thought about for quite a while when I began my manuscript.  I don’t think that it sounds pretty to American ears–because Americans aren’t pronouncing it right.  It’s not HaROOOOka. (with emphasis on the middle syllable.) It’s a rather flat pronounciation, like most Japanese words.  Think more like: Harka.  It’s a gentle sound like the sound that an angel might make when whispering in your ear.

It’s a beautiful name, a strong name, and it’s a common name.  (When I went through my mental list of names, I thought about names that girls in Japan have nowadays.  I didn’t want an old-fashioned name or a weird name for my main character, who represents “A Typical Japanese Girl.” Haruka is an extremely common name for a girl or young woman nowadays.)

My MAIN reason for choosing the name Haruka, though, was for its meaning.  If you want to know its meaning, you’ll have to read the book!  😉

I gave the name Sakura to Haruka’s best friend.  I again wanted a typical name for a modern girl because Sakura–even though her personality is very different from Haruka’s–also represents a “Typical Japanese Girl.”  I am not sure how I arrived at Sakura…I was thinking of girls I had met and their names.  What’s interesting is that since choosing this name (approximately three years ago, I more) I have noticed it is a common name in books by western writers.  I just finished “Cherry Crush” by Cathy Cassidy.  The main character is Japanese on her mom’s side and Scottish on her dad’s.  Her Japanese name is Sakura and her English name is Cherry.  I’ve seen the name elsewhere, too. I am not sure why this name is so popular with us western writers, but I think it is  because “Sakura” connotes the beauty of a traditional Japan.


MY REAL DAUGHTER? Well, that name is a secret.  It’s not Haruka and not Sakura. I never got to use it because I never had a daughter. My husband chose it.  And I’ll probably never use it in any of my writing!

“Learning How to Write” Japanese Workbooks

Pardon me!

I haven’t been writing my blog because I have been working on my manuscript. (I have more than one. It’s all very complicated. But for now, we’ll just say manuscript.)

I like to write early in the morning, before five. This morning was so pleasant. With the window open, it was dark outside and I could hear the crickets serenading me.  (Once you have read “The Cricket in Times Square,” you never think of crickets the same way again.)

Then when Mr. Husband comes groggily downstairs at 5:30, I stop writing, because my muses are flighty little things and disappear in a bursts of sparkles that only I can see.

I’ve gotten off track. The following post has nothing to do with Fukushima, but I think it is interesting.

I wanted to show some “How to Write Japanese” workbooks. The kind that Japanese parents buy for their Japanese preschoolers at the local bookstore.  These workbooks are all aimed at native speaking children.

By the way, there are three writing systems that Japanese kids need in order to be literate in their language.

They are:



kanji (also known as Chinese characters because they were originally developed in China and Japan borrowed them)

Here is a Kumon workbook for ages two, three, four.  It teaches hiragana.

This was my inspiration for today’s post!  A new–and popular–set of poop-themed workbooks. These teach kanji.

The first page, first kanji.  It means “one.”

Ichi is one in Japanese.

In Kanji:  一

Some other kanji workbooks

These are fart themed!!!!!!!!

First page

My cousin’s daughter has just started high school in the United States. She chose Japanese as her foreign language!!!!!

I sent her the above three workbooks.  I wasn’t sure of her level, so I looked through all the workbooks carefully, and chose ones that I felt would be good for non-native speakers.  (Although none of the workbooks are actually meant for non-native speakers.)

From left:

hiragana, for age two (Please note that very few Japanese kids are literate at age two!  This particular workbook is beginning type “let’s get ready” sort of workbook.)

katakana, for ages three, four, five

kanji, for ages five, six

From top down, the same books. Please note that I chose the easiest ones I could find. No poop or fart themed ones, sorry.