Saito Kiyoshi–famous Fukushima artist

The path to the prefectural art museum in Fukushima City. You can walk from the main station (about twenty or so minutes) or rent a bike. Also, there’s a minor train station next to the museum on the Iizaka line (a minor train line right next to the main train station.)

Currently the art museum has an exhibit by a very famous artist—and he also happens to be from Fukushima Prefecture!

His name is Saito Kiyoshi and he is from the Aizu area (the western part of Fukushima Prefecture.) A lot of his art features Aizu.

He worked in woodblock print.

I had seen a few of his works in our permanent exhibit, but when I saw his woodblock prints in this travelling exhibit, I fell in love!  Such interesting artwork.  I really recommend this exhibit.

Click on this link to see examples of Saito Kiyoshi’s artwork.



Nishizawa Bookstore

Earlier this month, I rode my bike out to a particular bookstore. It’s rather far from my house by bicycle.

I try to support brick and mortar bookstores because I know it is tough for them nowadays.  Not to say I don’t do online shopping. (For English books, it’s a necessity for me because English books are not really sold in Fukushima City.)

My bicycle is the pretty pink one.  I always tell husband that I want a bright colored bike so I can pick it out among the bikes easily!  Most bikes in Japan are gray.

And omigosh, that bookstore really is brick and mortar!!!!

I asked permission to take photos and got a yes. I am just not allowed to open the books and take photos of the insides.

Poster for something????

Poster for something???

This series is interesting……What is that man?  WHAT IS THAT MAN?!?

He is a butt. Bottom. Derriere. Buttocks.   (In Japanese: Oshiri.)

His name is Oshiri Tantei.

Detective Butt.

America, you just can’t keep up with Japan’s cleverness.

Halloween books.

Regular picture books.

There are, of course, many illustration styles in Japan for picture books. (Of course!!!)

However, I have noticed that one style that I see in Japan, but not much in American picture books is this kind of….I don’t know the word for it.  Cute, but not cute, style of illustration.

Here is another example of the “Cute but not cute” style. (That’s my own term, by the way.)

It’s not gorgeous like it belongs in an art museum, it’s not overly clever, it’s not daintily pretty.

Another “Cute but not cute” style. It sort of looks like what a fifth grader might do?  And that’s the point? Like a kid could have drawn it?

One book that is very famous in the “Cute not cute” style is called “My Not Cute Little Sister.”  Click to see its front cover.

I discovered “My Not Cute Little Sister” (Boku no kawaiikunai Imouto) in a first grade list of good books to read.  I read it.

It’s about a boy who has a little sister who is NOT cute.  If you look at the book cover, that’s her face.  So it’s kind of funny. We expect girls to be cute, but this one isn’t.  Anyway, that’s my prime example of the “Cute but not cute” illustration style I see so often (well, about ten percent of the time) in Japanese picture books.



“Say Hello” Recent Read Aloud…..

As I have posted before, I am a library volunteer for my son’s former elementary school. We go to the school, once a week and read a book (usually a picture book) to either one or two classes. (It is a small school.  Each grade has only one class.)

I choose one book per semester, and this semester I chose a book called “Say Hello” by Jack and Michael Foreman.

I had never heard of this book, but I was in the library here in Fukushima City, and saw the Japanese version on the shelf.  (One of the shelves where the book covers face out.)

Like I do with many books, I picked it up, and skimmed it.  I loved it.  I love the simplicity of the language (which I look for in my read-aloud books in English for Japanese kids). I loved that the kid had black hair, and could possibly be Asian. I loved the message–helping kids fit into groups. It’s the kind of message that is good for wee little kids, but also fifth graders and sixth graders can benefit from this message. It’s not a babyish book.

The Japanese title is “A So Bo” meaning “Let’s Play.” COMPLETELY different than the English title of “Say Hello.” (In fact, there are little translation differences throughout the entire book.)

I started the Reading Aloud by showing both copies of the books, and explaining that the titles were different, but it was basically the same book. And I translated “Say Hello” for them. (Konnichiwa Iinasai.)

Why do the publishers totally change the titles of books upon translations? (And this is often done with movies, too.)

Not being a publisher, I don’t really know, I can only guess.

One reason is that perhaps the original title is already taken.  If you have a popular book with a certain title, you are certainly not going to bring in another book with the same exact title. Confusing!

Another reason is that the English (or other language) title just doesn’t sound good enough in Japanese.  It sounds harsh, stupid, confusing, whatever. But if it is deemed to sound great, it will be kept.

For example: The moie Big Hero 6 is called Baymax in Japan.  I actually prefer the title Baymax and use this title myself!  Big Hero 6 is too hard to remember. (Super Hero 7??? Cool Hero 5??? What was the name of that movie anyway?)

Inside Out is called Inside Head in Japan. And yes, I like the American title better!  But it was confusing for me because I thought it was actually named Inside Head in English, and then in America people were talking about Inside Out.  It took me a couple of moments to realize they are the same movie.

Frozen is called Anna and the Snow Queen in Japan. I far prefer the Japanese name—-but I know why it was named Frozen in the United States.  They wanted boys as well as girls to see it, so they chose a gender neutral name.  My son enjoyed this movie, but I have to admit he would not want to see a movie with the name “Anna and the Snow Queen.”   (He hates princess type stuff.)

After pulling the dashi…..

Well, the festival is over for the year. The weekend itself was fairly warm, but the week (today is Thursday) has turned cool and nippy.  The way October should be!

The dashi was pulled four times over the course of three days. (Saturday, Sunday, Monday) My son pulled the dashi twice.   (He had a fever on Sunday and couldn’t pull it.)

Anyway, after the dashi is rolled back into its parking lot where it is stored during the festival weekend, each child gets a paper bag of treats.  (Shown above.)

This is a sample of what is in that particular bag.   Even if my son couldn’t participate, he still gets a bag, so he got four of these bags.

On Monday evening, the festival is finished. The dashi must be put away until the next year.  It is stripped of its lanterns, then the light bulbs.  We all work together, and it takes about an hour. After that is a party.

Notice the crane?  Cranes are significant in Japanese culture.  They are said to live a thousand years.

Festival Decorations

These decorations are hung up in all the neighborhoods that partipate in the festival.  The festival is on a Saturday, Sunday and a Monday. (The Monday is a national holiday, so it’s a day off from work and school.) They are hung up on the preceeding Friday and taken down on the Tuesday.

They are made of rope and paper.

As you can see, they are hung in many places, even next to the STOP sign


Down that street is the main part of the festival…food stands and a haunted house, and the temple itself.  I suspect it is physically barricaded for fears of criminal activity involving vehicles. (Like cars that can be used to hurt people.)

Riding my bicycle to the supermarket….  Even on festival weekend, you gotta shop.

Decorations next to a local preschool

This is dashi in front of the supermarket…pulled down the street.  This neighborhood is much more highly populated than my neighborhood.

Not using the zoom!

Inari Jinja Festival 2017–Going out

The above photo shows the current year’s poster for the Inarij Jinja Festival, held every autumn in downtown Fukushima City. It has the dates written in Japanese.

Our neighborhood dashi was pulled around, then we stopped at an area with two other dashis.  This was on Saturday night, not Sunday night. (Sunday evening is the biggest, most impressive, when all the dashis line up and perform.)

Same picture, but slightly different viewpoint.

My son in the middle. Drum players.  (And dashi pushers)  All the kids in the neighborhod learn to play the drums for the festival…..although we have VERY few kids in the neighborhood!

This is nearby. It’s a festival, so average people (not pulling dashi, etc.) are relaxing.

This is really hard to see in the dark, but it’s a fake samurai, holding a sword of yakitori meat.  Very interesting!

And of course sake for sale.

The sign says Fukushima sake.  There are vinyards, and thus wineries in Tohoku.


Two dashi.  Not my neighborhood dashi. The three dashi have lined up for a drum performance

Festival-goers taking photos…just like me!

The three dashi lined up, performing.

My son is playing the drums on this night, and I feel happy he gets this opportunity. It’s very much a privilege (which we receive because we live in the festival participating section of town, the downtown area.)  Even most Japaense people don’t get this privilege.  So I feel lucky!





Inari Jinja Festival 2017–Before going out with the Dashi

Every year Fukushima City has a large festival this time in autumn. It’s associated with Inari Shrine, a Shinto Shrine (although I am not Shinto. Most likely many of the participants are not Shinto, either. For us it’s not a religious festival, really.  Japanese people LOVE their festivals and it’s a time to have fun and celebrate the traditions of Japan.)

This was Saturday around 4:00 in the afternoon. (October 7, 2017) I was walking to the place where we meet. This is my neighborhood, Bansei. Each neighborhood in the old part of Fukushima City participates in the festival.  Lots of people come from the newer parts of the city to watch us.

The dashi is there. We’ll have to pull it, although nowadays it has a motor. A person inside it steers it.

When my son was younger, he pulled the dashi and led the cheering. But now that he is older, he plays the drums inside the dashi.  (They practice the week before the festival begins.)

I had trouble finding my hapi coat yesterday (since it is only used once a year). I didn’t want to go without it, so I searched and finally found it.  I told a mom this when I got there, and she said, “Finding Hapi.” And we laughed.

The coat says “Bansei Cho.” Bansei Area

It says “Bansei Cho” in Kanji. That is the name of our little neighborhood. That’s one of the drums. (The large one.)

This is the back of a young child’s hapi coat. It says matsuri.  This word means “festival.”

After these photos were, taken we pulled out the dashi, and walked around the town with it.


For years, I’ve had the idea of writing a middle grade book about the festival.  Fiction. I’ve run a plot through my head many times, and could just never make it work.  I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Also, I’m not sure I want to write about something in which my neighbors could see their own selves.  (In my current trilogy that I have written, all the neighbors are completely fictional–that is, made up in my mind with no resemblance to my actual neighbors. ) In the end, I’ve abandoned writing a book about the festival.



We still have earthquakes in Fukushima!

Today’s earthquake was so small I thought maybe I imagined it.  (It later turned out to be a 2 in our area.)

But it was caused by a 6.3 one out far in the ocean.  Similar to the 3/11 earthquake.  So it is an aftershock?  Probably.

We knew that the aftershocks would occur for years.  And here they are, still occuring.

For those who are no familiar with Japan’s geography: Very top (with white dots) is Hokkaido. Then under that is Tohoku, where I live. Then below that is Kanto. Tokyo is there, and it looks like it’s mostly white and blue.

Winner of 2017 Nobel Literary Prize

This post has absolutely nothing to do with Fukushima at all. It’s related to writing, and it’s funny so I wanted to share it with you.

Last night I was asleep in bed. Husband stays up later usually and watches TV. So last night he came in and lay down and said, “Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize. He’s that writer you like? You’ve read his books?”

I started thinking of all the Japanese writers that I had read. Haruki Murakami? Kenzaburo Oe? No. No.

I have not really read all that many Japanese books in translation, so I was completely confused as to whom my husband was referring.  (With a name like Kazuo, of course he writes in Japanese???!!!!???)

But then my husband said, “He moved to England when he was young.”

Oh! Then I remembered!

Kazuo Ishiguro writes books in English, having grown up in the United Kingdom. So I think of him as an English author. My favorite book of his is “Remains of the Day” about a British butler.

But hearing his name while I was half-asleep really threw me off.  Ishiguro??? Gotta be Japanese!

Moon Viewing 2017

This post is just a quickie.  Every autumn is a bit special due to the moon. It’s a festival, but it seems very toned down. Nothing special goes on (school is still in session!)  other than buying maybe some special treats and looking at the moon. When son was little, I tried to make an evening of it, sitting outside and snacking, watching the moon.  Teaching him about history: “Did you know that people have visited the moon!”

And of course looking for the rabbit in the moon (Japan, and I believe most of Asia) or the man in the moon (United States.)

These photos are from this evening of October 4, 2017.

This is my neighbor’s house. (The moon always rises over it.)

Oops! Camera slipped while I was taking the photo! Looks like the world when I am not wearing my eyeglasses…..