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.

Riding my bike past Shinhama Park

Yesterday I needed (and wanted) to go to the city library.  It’s a short bike ride away, and I passed by Shinhama Park. I saw this wild creature!  What could it be? A lynx? A panther? A tiger? A lion?

Too fast for me!  It’s obviously hunting. It’s probably not safe for me to get too close…or I might be its dinner.

Oh, no! It sees me!  I know, I’ll shoot it!  With my camera, of course.

See its eyes? That means it has the ability to do magic. I better leave or it might turn me into a statue or something worse.

Back to my bicycle and off to a place of pages and words: the library.

Is Amy Lange Kawamura my real name?

Yes, it is!

“Lange” is my maiden name and I married a man whose surname is “Kawamura.”

Lange is a German name meaning long or tall.  Kawamura is a Japanese name meaning literally River Village.  (Kawa=River  Mura=Village)

My first name is interesting because it is very similar to the Japanese female name Emi.  For this reason, I don’t like going by Amy Kawamura because it makes me sound as if I myself am of Japanese descent. (Although virtually everybody in Japan calls me Amy Kawamura or Kawamura Amy.  The idea of women using both their maiden name and husband’s name, or even their own maiden name only, has not caught on in Japan.*)

Despite not being of Japanese descent, I’ve lived here longer than all Japanese teens and children.  So that’s odd!

Some tidbits:

—-I remember when Japan was not “cool” and it was still somewhat considered the enemy of the United States (not technically, but by popular culture.)  Lots of older American men had fought in the Pacific War and this carried over to TV shows like The Love Boat (a seventies show.)  Sample episode: Can old white American guy tolerate being on same boat as Japanese man, who reminds him of the war?

—In the eighties and early nineties, Japan became an ecomomic powerhouse.  This brought on feelings of envy and competition in the U.S.  For example, Michael Keaton’s movie: Gung Ho, which comes in at #35 on one internet’s list of most racist movies. In 1992, Michael Crichton’s book Rising Sun was published, about the competitiveness of Japanese companies.

—When I met husband in 1993, Japan was not cool in America.  (At least not in mainstream America.) Grocery stores did not sell sushi yet. Ghibli was not known in the U.S.  Pokemon did not exist in the U.S.–it would not be introduced until 1998.  Manga (meaning Japanese comics translated into English) could not be bought at mainstream stores like Barnes and Noble.

Japan is now considered cool in the United States. I notice this especially among young females.  Yay! I’d like to see this more with all cultures of the world. I really believe all cultures have beauty and mystery and excitement.  All should be considered “cool.”

*Rarely, very rarely, the man will change his surname to his wife’s surname.  She will keep her own. This is virtually always if she is last in the line, and the family wants to preserve the surname.  In this case, HE is joining her family, rather than the other way around.  I knew a man who got married and did this.

This post does not have anything to do with Fukushima, but just letting you all know who I am.

Autumn Leaves: Shinhama Park vs. Momiji Park

One of the Japanese teachers in my Wednesday class enjoys hiking, and he told me yesterday that now it is the peak season for autumn leaves in Fukushima City.  Today I went to a park that is really close to my house.

This park is called Shinhama Park. Shin means “New” and Hama means “Beach” so New Beach Park if literally translated….but that doesn’t make sense to me at all!

It’s a wonderful park and I spent a lot of time here when my son was young.  It is well-maintained…the building with the green roof is the administration building and during the day there is always somebody there working.

In my Haruka trilogy (the books I have written, but not yet published), this is the park they visit. Those are the restrooms.  Of course, the restrooms are always open to the public….but immediately after the earthquake there was no running water, so they would have been closed and locked up.  If you look hard, you can see a caretaker raking leaves.

I left Shinhama Park on my bicycle and headed down the street to Momiji Park. It’s about seven minutes away by bike.

Momiji Park is right next to the Kencho Building for Fukushima Prefecture. (The Fukushima Prefectural Building which administrates the prefecture.)  This used to be the site of a castle, but the castle no longer exists.

Here we are at Momiji Park. Momiji means “maple leaves” or “autumn leaves” so you can see why I wanted to visit this park in November.

It is a very different style than Shinhama Park.  It’s a traditional Japanese park, whereas Shinhama Park is a modern park for children to play.

Very peaceful!

A map of the area. Shinhama at the bottom.  Momiji at the top. On the right is Fukushima City’s main train station.