Toys R Us, Fukushima City style

I had heard that the American branch of the Toys R Us chain was having financial difficulties. I decided to go see this beloved store (here in Fukushima City)—just in case it went out of business.

I know everybody shops on the internet nowadays, but come on. Do we really want to tell our kids, “Yes, when I was young, we used to actually GO to stores and browse and shop there instead logging on to a website and shopping from a screen.”

And our kids will say, “No, way. Did you have to walk around the store?”

“Yes, we did.”

“Didn’t that hurt your legs?”

“Well, back then we were just hardier. We were used to walking around stores.”

“Man! I’m glad I didn’t live in the old days!”

Japan is a country that economizes space. So this particular building has a grocery store on the first floor. The Toys R Us is up the escalator.

Entering the store…….

And traditional ornaments for the Japanese New Year, which is celebrated January first.

Stuffed animals…….

As the sign says, “Plush.”

Meru (Mell?) is a Japanese doll. Notice that they do NOT have black hair.  Yes, it is a Japanese brand. No, I don’t want to discuss it.

Popo Chan, another Japanese doll. This one does have black hair.

Rika dolls (a Japanese doll similar to Barbie) Yes, again notice that she usually does not have black hair.

Having a non-doll loving boy, I never ever ever bought dolls except possibly as gifts for people in the U.S. (And then, rarely, as Japanese dolls are fairly expensive and it wasn’t something I could afford to do very often.)

Notice the price tag: thirty American dollars for a Rika doll.

(Fun Fukushima Fact: Rika dolls are originally from Fukushima Prefecture! You can visit the factory. I never did having a (shall I say it again?) non-doll loving boy.  However, my friend had a doll-loving girl and they said the factory was boring. Nevertheless, I am intrigued. Being a doll-loving female*, I want to see exactly how they make them.)

This is the ONLY doll in the store with non-light skin.  I have a feeling it is movie related and will be available for a short time.

Puzzles for little kids (toddlers and preschoolers)

Japanese people, in general, feel it is important for their children to learn English. (Although there is controversy over what age to begin.)

So one can buy products which teach English.  Usually the English is very easy. But also, if it is made in Japan for Japanese people, it will virtually always have katakana next to the English word. This enables a child to not read the English at all, just the katakana. One major problem is that the katakana does not accurately represent the English word.

This overuse of katakana is why I have rarely bought these sorts of “Made for Japanese kids” products. I don’t think most Japanese people themselves care at all about this issue, but being a native speaker, I prefer for kids not to rely on katakana.

Some fun games. It’s fun to shop in Japan and buy unique Japanesque games like the sushi Jenga type game on the right.  Well, I didn’t buy it, but I can dream.


*I admit it. I like dolls. I always felt a bit angry that Bo Peep was thrown out (literally and figuratively) of the movie “Toy Story.”

On the way to Toys R Us……..

No, I did not take a train! I rode my bike to our Toys R Us here in Fukushima City. It took me over twenty minutes.

When we first moved here, my son was three. I had previously lived within walking distance of a Toys R Us in Narita City, and it was fun to take little son there. So when son was three, I would take the train (a short journey.) However, now it’s possible to ride bikes.

Going through the section of Moriai in Fukushima City

Moriai Village Stone Monument

A temple, I think.

That’s the temple.

So I was riding along…..tra la la tra la la

And I notice a huge stuffed animal in a window!!!!!!!!  Omigosh, so huge!!!!  What?

Another view.

It’s a cat! A living cat! It was enormous.

And a puppy dog.

Back onto my bicycle. Mustn’t dawdle.

Notice this vending machine? What does it sell…..?

Fresh apples

This park is close to Toys R Us, and my son used to play here when he was little. What happy memories!

“ice wall” of questionable effectiveness

To understand the following post, you need to know that ground water has been passing under the Dai Ichi nuclear power plant. (The one where the meldowns occured.) This is a huge problem. The water has been building up, being collected and stored.  It reminds me of one of those cartoons with a leak in the ship. First the cartoon character stops the leak. Whew. But then another one pops up. Then another one. The water keeps coming. Gah.

An ice wall was built to prevent the water from running through the nuclear power plant.  But is the ice wall working? Okay, NOW our post begins:


My husband watches national news in Japanese every morning. This morning I heard the round table discussion talking about Fukushima, so I listened. They said:

杜撰な壁  Zusan na Kabe

Zusan means “Faulty”

Kabe means “Wall” (In this case, the ice wall)

So basically the ice wall is NOT doing a good job of keeping the ground water from getting radiated by the power plant.

Here’s a recent Japan Times article in English that you can read:

The ice wall itself is mentioned towards the end of the article.

(editted to add: My husband is NOT related to the Kawamura in the article.)

Going to the American Embassy in Tokyo

My son’s American passport needed to be renewed.  At age fourteen, he is still a child–and that means he MUST go to the embassy in person and with both parents in tow. (One parent may be absent if proper paperwork is filled out.) So last Wednesday, my husband, my son, and I headed to Tokyo. The American embassy has strict rules about what may be brought inside, so we stuck most of our belongings in a locker.  So I don’t have photos of the embassy itself. (And photos are not allowed inside the embassy, anyway.)

This is the subway station for the embassy, and other embassies in the area.  I think the mural depicts the international feel of the area due to the many embassies and consulates there.

Sushi from a restaurant my husband chose. (We’re in a mixed marriage. He’s a foodie and I’m not.)

Light soup and green tea

My lunch was the top left on the sign. So….I don’t know the current exchange rate, but aroundish fifteen U.S. dollars, give or take several dollars. (I really don’t know the current exchange rate.)

Tokyo Station………… this is just a very small part of it! It’s large.

Ooooooh pretty lights

Shop. Japanese people are expert shoppers…..and sellers. We all know the Kit Kat craze. (What? You don’t know the Kit Kat craze?) Japan constantly introduces new flavors of Kit Kats. It started with your basic flavors like strawberry and then progressively wackier until the powers that be are wracking their brains for new flavors.  Please look at this link:

Sake flavored Kit Kats behind me. I can just imagine drunk chocolate company managers thinking this one up.

Tokyo Banana flavored KitKats

Tokyo Bananas are an upscale Twinkie.  See link:

People usually did not buy these special items for themselves. Japan is a culture that likes to give presents, that likes to give souvenirs, and likes to give food. They usually buy these rather expensive food items as souvenirs for friends and family back home.

The line for the Tokyo Banana Kit Kats was SO LONG (and it was a weekday.) One woman was buying over twenty boxes over them!!!!!!!!! I bought some for my Japanese classes to munch on. The Kit Kats were banana flavored, and I must say, delicious.



Fukushima City Train Station (East Side)

This is the Fukushima train station, east side, at seven a.m. on a weekday.

Do you know what the red boxes are?  Public mailboxes, of course.

Mail carriers don’t pick up mail from one’s home like in the U.S. so one must go and mail letters using a public mailbox or go directly to a post office.  (Post offices are more common in Japan than in the U.S.)

This is inside the station, but before one deposits one’s ticket into the gate. So anybody can hang out here for free.

Fukushima is known for its delicious and plentiful fruit, so there is an apple tree on display.

Now I am standing behind the tree. Off to the left, you can see the ticket vending machines.

Both the east and west exits have Fukushima tourism information, but it doesn’t open until nine a.m.

A wider view. You can see the ticket gates in the very front. Fukushima Station also has a bullet train section. You enter here, walk about a minute, then use your bullet train ticket to enter into the special bullet train section. The bullet train section is nicer than the regular local train section.

As you can see, there are no benches or chairs.  A couple of benches used to be available, but they are no longer there. (I have no idea why.  I’m pretty sure, though, that the train management does not want people loitering around in this area.)

Off to my side is a shopping area. Most of the larger train stations in Japan have some sort of shopping area.

I mentioned that the lobby area of the train station has no benches. Outside, there are a few stone seats, covered. It’s not very comfortable…but that’s probably the idea!  They want people to sit there just long enough to wait for their friend, I suppose. But not spend all day loitering around.  You may wonder:  Why not sit on the ground?  Japanese people rarely sit on the ground. They might squat, but actually plant their butt down on the ground and sit?  No, it’s rare, and considered rather low class. (In parks, they usually use plastic mats to sit on, for picnics and so forth.)

Illuminations in Fukushima City….on TV

The other night, Fukushima news on TV informed the public that the “Illuminations” (winter lights) in downtown Fukushima City (east exit) are ready for viewing.  So romantic!!!!!!!! They will be up until the end of January, 2018.

The news informed us of other illuminations displays in Fukushima Prefecture:

Illuminations are in Kagamiishi Town (on the local train line, slightly south of Koriyama City) (Field Art?????  Now I am curious!)

Koriyama City (west exit of train station) has Illuminations

Iwaki City’s Illuminations start on November eighteenth.


So grab the hand of your special loved one and head on out to some winter magic, Fukushima Style. Sendai City also has illuminations, quite elaborate ones.  However, when I went there a few years ago, it was VERY crowded.  Fukushima Prefecture may have smaller strings of lights, but the atmosphere is more charming and low-key.

Mt. Shinobu–Autumn leaves, November 2017

I’ve talked about Mt. Shinobu many times in this blog–the long, low-lying mountain near my home (and in the center of Fukushima City, so easy access for city people. In fact, my son’s school is on the side of this mountain.)

It’s a small mountain compared to the mountains which surround Fukushima City—higher mountains like Azuma and Bandai. I don’t have time to get to Azuma and Bandai, to tell the truth.  Also, years ago, my husband drove me and my son up one of the high mountains. There were SO MANY switchbacks (curves in the road) that we were all feeling ill just halfway up!  We stopped at a rest area, and so did another car–the passenger tumbled out of the car, almost puking.  My husband and I turned around rather than continuing higher.

Being from Kansas, I’m not really mountain savvy.  Driving up a high steep mountain was not exactly a “fun” experience!  I guess I prefer the lower mountains.

Riding my bike. This is in front of the art museum.

Still riding my back. Art museum to my right now. That’s the edge of Mt. Shinobu in the distance. It continues on to the right (the east) for a very long distance.

Hmmmm…I wonder where a path up a mountain starts?

At the bottom, of course.

It was such a perfect autumn day.


Japanese trees

In the distance, the city. This is not the part of the city where I live though.

Such an interesting plant!  Anybody know what it is?

I’m glad I took advantage of the beautiful blue sky. If you travel in Japan, autumn is a pleasant time, usually. (My friend Lauren came a month ago—during our huge typhoon!  Rain! Typhoons can strike in the autumn, so be aware of that. I think typhoons are especially early autumn though, when the temperatures are higher.)

Chitose Candy

November is the month of “Seven-Five-Three”  (In Japanese: Shichi Go San.  This is literally seven five three.) The official day is November fifteenth, but that often falls on a weekday, so people will celebrate on the nearest weekend.

Shichi Go San is a holiday to celebrate girls who are age seven and three, and boys who are age five.  In my photo is the local shinto shrine with a notice about Shichi Go San.  Parents will dress their kids up (kids at those ages) in kimono, take photos of them, and take them to the shrine to pray.

My own son had his photo taken in a kimono at age five, but we did not go to a shrine.  Kimonos are VERY expensive. (I’m talking about real kimonos, not fake ones.) So, like most people, we just borrowed one of the many kimonos at the photo studio for his photo.  The photographer suggested a kimono with little picture of Pikachu on it.  You don’t notice the Pikachu in the photo, but it was a brilliant way to get my son to put on the kimono agreeably. (He hated clothes at that time, and still hates fashion, etc.)

Girls are treated more lavishly–kimono AND professional hairdo AND professional makeup for their photos. It can be very expensive.  The results are lovely, though.

This is the candy that children receive on shichi go san.  Our church gives it out to all the children in November. (Not just kids aged seven, five, or three.)

It’s a hard and slightly sweet candy, and its name is Chitose Ame (千歳あめ)

The name literally means: Thousand Year Candy

As you can see, each bag has a crane on it…for long life and good luck.

As you can see, there are different kinds of Chitose packages for this holiday. I think they are really interesting!

Rakuten is an online shop similar to amazon and if you click on the link you can see examples:

“Mysterious Radioactive Cloud Over Europe….”

According to recent news, there was a “cloud of mysterious radioactive material” over Europe in October. (It has since dissipated and supposedly is not harmful to people in Europe.) Scientists don’t know where it is from, but think it is from the east.  So from somewhere in the area of Russia.

Some articles:

I think what is most worrisome to me is the secrecy. Somebody in Russia (or Kazakhstan or in that area) knows what is going on, but isn’t telling.

If nuclear energy (or nuclear medicine, in this possible scenario) is to be considered “safe,” then we have to do away with the secrecy. And will that ever happen?  No way.  Not with secretive countries and companies in existence.  A country or company can release radiaoctive materials accidentally and then can say to itself: “Well, we know they world will get so MAD at us for this stupid mistake, so let’s just not tell anybody what happened…….”  People outside country insiders or the company insiders may not know for years what really happened, or may NEVER know.


This photo is unrelated (except tangentially) to the above news story.  It’s a politician’s vehicle and the sign at top says: “Fukushima o genki ni!”  “Let’s help Fukushima recover!”

I took this photo yesterday in downtown Fukushima City.

Years after the accident Fukushima is still trying to recover……………………..

Fukushima University Library

I wanted to borrow a book from Fukushima University’s library so I made the trek there.  Not really that far for me. I got on a local train for two stops, got off.  (Kanayagawa Station) Fukushima University is right next to the station.  This photo shows a very small part of it in the distance.

To the left, the library.  As a resident of Fukushima City, I am allowed to use the library there and have a library card.

By the way, in Japan, these state universities are prestigious.  I went to the University of Kansas.  They sound similar, (Fukushima University, University of Kansas) but a university like University of Fukushima is MUCH more difficult to get into. Top students only please, who excelled in the rigorous testing.

Whereas University of Kansas–almost anybody from Kansas can attend, I think?  Some state schools are more prestigious in the U.S., like The University of Texas, which requires high G.P.A.s.

Anyway, only a real and true smartie pants can attend Fukushima University as a full-fledged student.

Lesser students go to lesser schools, especially private schools which cost a lot of money and are often for students who didn’t have good enough test scores for a state university.

Oh….another thing.  Most students at the University of Kansas are from Kansas. But students all over Japan compete for spots in Fukushima University (and other top schools like Tohoku University, the best school in Tohoku.)  I guess what I am saying is that the names of the schools sound very modest, but they are top-notch schools.  Anybody in Japan knows that Tohoku University is simply one of THE best schools in Japan.

(Tokyo University, by the way, is considered THE VERY BEST in Japan.)

I asked permission to take photos.

The library at Fukushima University has a great collection of materials relating to the disaster on March 11, 2011.  Almost all of the materials are in Japanese, though.

Just very few of the books…..there are lots, lots, lots more besides this.

Some books in other languages, mostly English.  (Not a whole lot, though.)

See the “Strong in the Rain” book?  I think that’s the most recommended book if you want to learn about the tragedy.  The phrase “Strong in the rain” refers to a Japanese poem.

Moving on. We are NO longer in the disaster section. Now in the English section. If you have a small child, these books are useful.

Those books are what I read when I was a kid! I distinctly remember my mom bringing home the newest Frog and Toad book by Arnold Lobel when I was five years old.  Or maybe it was Owl. I just know he cried into a pot and then warmed up his tears and drank his own tears.   NOW THAT WAS LITERATURE!!!!!

Fukushima seems to have A LOT of books from the last century.   It’s wonderful for me because these are the books from my childhood.

Readers for learners of the English language.  The library at Fukushima University have a lot of these little books.  A LOT LOT LOT!!!!!!!!!!

Books in translation by esteemed Japanese writers.

Japanese learning section.

Japan has the best selection of Japanese learning books. Hmmmm….I wonder why that is???????  😉

I went to Barnes and Noble in America and their Japanese textbooks were for very beginners, and the section was limited.  They did have a nice selection of manga in English though!

The level of these graded readers is way too low for me, but I want them anyway. Reminds me of second grade and working my way through the English readers the teacher had in a box.



There’s a world map on the wall and it has universities around the world where Fukushima University students can study abroad. This particular photo is just the U.S.


Walking back to the train station. Perfect autumn weather.

The train station. (Kanayagawa Station)

“Come”  (Kite)

Fukushima really wants people to come here as tourists.

On the platform, waiting for the train. It’s a local train so there is just one or two per hour.