The first day of spring…. is February fourth! Yes, it’s true! (According to the traditions of Japan.)

The first day of spring–traditionally–in Japan is February 4th.  Winter is considered over, and new life is starting. Maybe we can’t see the new life-it’s there budding deep in the earth, below the snow. The snow will soon melt to make way for this new life to flourish.

However, the day BEFORE February 4th is–traditionally–the last day of winter. Setsubun is on February 3rd, and Japanese people ritualistically cleanse their homes of evil spirits.


This mask is a mask for Setsubun–it’s an oni. “Oni” is a word that can NOT be accurately translated into English.  Often it is translated as “devil” but if you are thinking of Satan, well, it’s not the same.

The “Oni” is also a monster of sorts–like a troll. It appears in fairy tales, and makes those fairy tales difficult to translate into English, because westerners don’t know the concept of “oni.” Even though Japanese people understand European-based fairy tales (they are popular here), the majority of Americans do not understand (nor read) Japanese-based fairy tales.


These photos were actually taken on February 3rd last year (2017.) I saved them to show you this year.

A new tradition in Japan is to eat these rolled sushi on Setsubun Day. The tradition comes from down south (the Kansai area, where Osaka is). My husband doesn’t follow this tradition because he is not from Kansai. (He is from Tohoku.) However, stores all over Japan have picked up on the tradition of eating this sushi on February 3rd…and nowadays people in Tohoku eat them. (Except my stubborn husband.)


You can see from the store displays, that even though an oni is involved in Setsubun, it’s a cute oni. An frequntly has a horn or two and fluffy hair–blue or black or red or green or yellow.


The sushi for setsubun, called “ehoumaki.”


Ehoumaki sushi is big and fat, and you are supposed to eat it without talking, while facing a certain direction. (The direction changes every year.)


The store normally does NOT have ehoumaki for sale like this! This is for Setsubun…they know that many moms and dads will purchase them. KACH-ing! (The sound of a cash register.)

Some people also make the sushi at home.


Beans which are thrown at the Oni. (One person pretends to be the Oni–usually a dad or maybe a mom–and the kids throw beans or peanuts at him or her. That’s why you can get Oni mask–the person who pretends to be the Oni will cover his or her face with the mask.



The paper masks are free. I think you have to buy beans or peanuts? But I think nobody really cares if you just grab one.

illustration taken with permission from

If you want to make your own Oni mask, then you can watch this video that shows one way of making the mask–from a tissue box. It’s in Japanese, but you can figure it out by watching it.

Which power plant melted down, and which was shut down safely? Answers revealed…

Sadly, the answers (to the quiz in the previous post) are obvious.

The first photo shows Dai Ichi, which had three meltdowns.

Following a major earthquake, a 15-metre tsunami disabled the power supply and cooling of three Fukushima Daiichi reactors, causing a nuclear accident on 11 March 2011. All three cores largely melted in the first three days.”  from this link:


The second photo shows Dai Ni which was shut down safely, and continues to be shut down.


The following is a link to a Huffington Post article in Japanese. (I can not find a similar one in English.)

The first two photos compare a part of Tokyo (left) to the Dai Ichi Power Plant area (right.)

The second picture (a diagram) shows the levels of radiation at Dai Ichi Power Plant from February of 2016, four years after the disaster.

The third pictures show the exclusion area (the “forbidden zone” as it is commonly called) in size compared to Tokyo (right side.)

The fourth photo shows Dai Ichi Power Plant in 2016.

The fifth photo shows meals available to workers—I guess the workers trying to repair the mess.

The sixth photo shows a convenience store for those workers.

The next photo shows “Facings” (I have no idea what those are, but you can see them in the photo) in the larger photo. The inset photo shows the way it was before the accident, a grassy hill.

The next few photos show the disaster area that the Dai Ichi Power Plant is now…….

And the last photo is Tokyo. Lovely, isn’t it? Or is it? The last photo is of the lights of Tokyo (one of the largest cities in the word), and it is included in the article because the Dai Ichi Power Plants supplied the electricity for those lights. The Dai Ichi was one of Tokyo’s power sources. I don’t personally put any blame on the people of Tokyo–I use electricity, too. Obviously. But I always reiterate that the Fukushima Dai Ichi Power Plant supplied electricity to Tokyo (Not Fukushima!) because I get very much tired of Fukushima being blamed for the disaster, either directly or indirectly, especially on the internet.

google———Fukushima Dai Ichi and Dai Ni Power Plants

Before the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, there were two nuclear power plants in Fukushima, both on the coast. (Nuclear power plants must be near a source of water.) Both were/are owned by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and supplied electricity to Tokyo.

ONE of the power plants was fine, and was safely shut down. The other one had meltdowns. Look at the Google map views. Which do you think was the power plant that melted down? Which was the one that was safely shut down?


First, Dai ichi. (Literally: Power Plant Number One)東京電力+福島第一原子力発電所/@37.421336,141.0258896,826m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x6020dd3801b3fc69:0xa6090708f3cbc4cd!8m2!3d37.421336!4d141.0280783


Second, Dai Ni. (Literally, Power Plant Number Two)福島第二原子力発電所/@37.3165974,141.0221696,761m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x6020de2dbb45d145:0xacb6b3b41ca75df7!8m2!3d37.3165693!4d141.0249493




If you know you know your numbers in Japanese—-Ichi, Ni, San, Shi, Go (One, Two, Three, Four, Five) then the names make sense.

In kanji, these numbers are: 一二三四五



Big news in Tokyo is that it snowed, and it was the largest snowfall in, I think, four years. Also it’s the coldest in Tokyo in over forty years.

But never mind that.

We haz cold in Tohoku, too!

Looking out my front door…big sigh…more shovelling….It’s snowed heavily twice this week.  (And during winter vacation, it snowed quite a lot.) Nevertheless, Fukushima City has it much easier than many other parts of Tohoku (and, of course, Hokkaido.) It tends to get colder in the north, and also in the mountains, of course. Also, the west side of Japan is colder than the east side.

My husband shovelled late last night. It snowed all night, and so then I shovelled this up in the morning. (This photo was taken before I shovelled.)

Yes, a long path!!!!!!!!

How’s the weather where you live?


Ah……the memories! (When we FIRST moved to Fukushima City)

Husband and I moved from Narita City (near Tokyo) to Fukushima City in April of 2006. April is when the new business year and the new school year start in Japan, so that’s why it was in April. (March and April is a VERY common time for Japanese people to move.)

That very first week my cousin visited us. The first week!!!!!! LOL We didn’t even have our computer set up yet, and that was before everybody had an iphone and ipad and portable wifi…so he was trying to find a computer because he needed to check in for his job. I remember that!

The above photos are from the horse racing track in Fukushima City. I think my cousin enjoyed it? I don’t know! Fukushima City is not really an “exciting” town, so you take your tourist attractions where you can find them…..

My son was three years old when we first moved to Fukushima City. He was put in a preschool. Most little kids in Japan go to a preschool, either public or private. (Or a daycare, if the parents work and need full day childcare.) The one in the photo was private. It was in the mountains, and considered a great atmosphere for kids. It has (had?) a pony as you can see in the photo on the right. The school has an indoor slide (from second floor the the first floor) and I asked my son recently (he’s now a teen) if he remembers the slide and he says he doesn’t remember it.  LOL There are lots of private preschools here, all competing for business.

Month Old News Article about Power Plant (Not in Fukushima)

You may wonder how good I am at Japanese, and how I study. Well, my Friday Japanese teacher always reads my blog (and corrects it! She is so sweet.) so I will just say my Japanese ability is まだ下手です。。。

I study in various ways. I am no longer a beginner, but not nearly native-like.

One thing I do is attempt to read the newspaper. My husband subscribes to the Yomiuri Shinbun (Yomiuri newspaper) and reads it daily. We started taking the Kodomo Shinbun (Yomiuri’s newspaper for elementary school students) and then later the Yomiuri’s newspaper for junior high students. The main paper (my husband’s paper) arrives daily, but these newspapers for children arrive weekly.

The Kodomo Shinbun (literally: Children’s Newspaper) has furigana. This enables the reader to read the Kanji character.

The jhs newspaper does not have furigana, and because of this, it can be difficult for me. I usually resort to just reading the headlines.

The following two articles are the same news story. The news story is about a nuclear power plant in south Japan. (I took these photos during winter break, and sort of forgot about them, so I am posting them now.)

First, I’ll show it from the elementary school paper.

Then I’ll show it from the junior high paper. Ready? Okay!

In the elementary school paper, you can clearly see the little furigana over the kanji characters. They are not really supposed to be there–it’s an aid to reading the characters. They teach the pronuncation of the kanji.

The above photo is still the elementary school newspaper. It’s the headline of the same article. It says: “Genpatsu no Unten Tomeru Meirei.” With the furigana there, it’s very easy for a beginner to read. (Although not necessarily to understand…. Nuclear energy is a difficult topic.)

In English, the headline reads: “It has been commanded that a Nuclear Power Plant’s Operations be Stopped.”

(REMEMBER: This is NOT the famous nuclear power plant that melted down. It’s a totally different plant in a different part of Japan.)

And why is the power plant’s operations going to be stopped? Volcanic activity nearby is threatening operations.

This is the same exact news story, but written at a more difficult level. This is the newspaper for junior high students.

You can clearly see that there is NO furigana. Nothing helps the reader to figure out the pronunciation of the characters. If the reader does not know how to pronounce a character, he or she will have to look it up.

This newspaper assumes the reader has a grasp on the characters in the article.

Does Japanese look FUN and EXCITING!!!!!???? One person explained to me that she likes studying Japanese because it is like a puzzle. I agree that it is like a puzzle, and sometimes it can be fun if you figure something out, but honestly I also find Japanese to be quite a frustrating language! Oh, well.

Good luck with whatever languages you choose to learn.


“They All Saw a Cat” by Brendan Wenzel

Every semester I choose a picture book to read in English to elementary school classes, part of my duties as a library volunteer.  I researched and chose “They All Saw a Cat.”

Usually, I myself will purchase the English version. (I ALWAYS get the Japanese version from the public library. If the library doesn’t have it, I don’t do it!)

But I felt that “They All Saw a Cat” was a book that so many people could enjoy, so I requested the library to purchase it in English. (And they did. Hooray!)

It’s a great book for me to use—VERY simple English, yet it is educational and interesting for all ages. (If you read the book, you’ll see what I mean. It’s about how different animals view the same cat.)

As usual (big sigh) the Japanese translation is not a literal translation of the original book.

The original title in English is: “They All Saw a Cat.”

The Japanese title is: Neko tte Konna Fuu?  “Is a Cat Like This?”


I can’t help but think the Japanese translators need to inject a little imagination into their titles.

Note–One of the animals in the book is a skunk. Well, while I think Japanese kids know of skunks….they are actually indigenous to North America, and they don’t exist in Japan outside of zoos. Skunks are not a part of Japanese culture.

I explained that growing up in the United States, I never saw an actual skunk in the wild (I lived in a housing area.) (Also, wiki says skunks are primarily nocturnal, and I imagine that when I was in the true countryside, I was very noisy and scared any wild creatures away.)

However, every so while in a car in America, especially in a more rural type of setting, I would smell the scent of a skunk. Not terribly often, but sometimes. And yes, it’s stinky!


Teacher in Minamisoma

Here is an article about a teacher from New Zealand who works in Minamisoma.  (You may see the name of this town spelled in English in various ways: Minami-Soma, Minamisouma, etc. Literally, the name means “South Soma.”)

Minamisoma is a small town that was hit by the tsunami, and many of its people died in that.  And then…most of the citizens had to leave because the town is/was too close to the nuclear disaster.  In recent times, it’s been declare safe, and its citizens have been returning.

A quote from the article by the teacher: “For comparison, spending a year in Minamisoma will expose me to about the same radiation as a single hip X-ray … I’m just about as close as it’s possible to be.”


UPDATE: If you click on the link below, you can see exactly where Minami Soma is. As far as a I know the map in the link is current. (It DOES not show how much of Minami Soma was forbidden soon after the earthquake.)




You have been warned.

Two Afghan Hounds strolling down a street near my home in Fukushima City. Oh my goodness, I feel like I stepped out of a picture book!  I talked to their owner human friend and she said she and they come from Iizaka Town (a small town just outside of Fukushima City.)

I told her that there is a Borzoi that lives in our neighborhood. She was impressed.

Google just told me that, while there are several languages in Afghanistan, the most common one is Dari (Afghan Persian.) In Persian (or Farsi) “dog” is “sag.”

And in Japanese, “dog” is “inu.”

The two dogs were very friendly. I asked if it was okay to pet them, and she said yes, they don’t mind at all. They were sweet! And just as soft as they look. (They are obviously well-groomed.)

Are Afghan Hounds really from Afghanistan? Google says yes–Middle East, Persia, and Afghanistan. But the modern ones in western society descended from Afghan Hounds which were brought to the United Kingdom.

Even though the photo looks like the Mr. and Mrs. are out on a walk, I was told by their human friend that they are both male, and the one with the wrap over his head is wearing it due to some sort of ear problem (or maybe not a problem, exactly. The dog’s ears are very long.)

Interesting article by two physics scientists who visited the nuclear power plant in Fukushima

This is a very interesting article written by scientists from the U.K. They visited Fukushima, and went to the Daiichi power plant.  (The one that is owned by a Tokyo company and supplied energy to Tokyo. It melted down.)  It is an area I NEVER go to.  (It’s off limits unless you receive permission.) It’s a long article, but I recommend it.