Hina Dolls in Ichii Grocery Store in Fukushima City

Hina Festival is March third. I thought I would give more information about the dolls.

I saw a Hina doll set at a local grocery store called Ichii, and the following photos are of that set. (The stairway is in the same grocery store.)

The emperor doll

What’s the proper name of this doll in Japanese?

I’m not quite sure because there are various names for the emperor (and his actually name is rarely used.)

But the emperor can be called Tennou Heika. 天皇陛下

The empress doll

Called “Kougou Heika.” 皇后陛下

(Heika is an honorary title, like His Majesty.)

This is one of the three Ladies-in-Waiting. As a group, they are Sannin Kanjyo. 三人官女

Here is a photo of Ichii’s entire set:

It’s lovely, isn’t it? This is a three tier set.

There are lots of kinds of sets, with various levels of tiers. (Although people nowadays tend to buy smaller sets that fit in small homes.) Hina Festival dolls are unique to Japan. Not borrowed from other countries or cultures!

Here is a link which explains the Hina doll sets in more detail.




Hina Dolls at Nakago Department Store in Fukushima City

These are Hina Dolls. Sets like these are very expensive. This particular one (you can see the price) costs around 4,000 U.S. dollars.

Also, there is a sign (left bottom corner) saying “Please don’t touch.” For Japanese people, this goes without saying, actually. Everybody knows not to touch a lavish set like this. Hina dolls are decorations–NOT toys.

The Empress…Notice her many layers of Kimono. On a princess’s wedding day, she wears MANY layers of of kimono.

Her husband, the emperor.  Royalty passes through the males.

The three woman below are servants. Some sets have more servants than this.

WAIT! HOLD EVERYTHING! I just realized that you may not know who is the emperor and empress of Japan. I can’t copy and paste their photos here because that would be illegal, so I will use a link.


Akihito Sama (I am using his name but NOBODY uses his actual name. He’s the emperor) is currently the emperor. Like England’s queen, he has no true power. He’s a figurehead.

His wife (Michiko Sama) was not royal, but came from a wealthy family. Their marriage was not arranged. The story about them meeting while playing tennis is very famous. She is very well-liked in Japan.

They have two sons, the heir and the one who is allowed to grow out his hair because he’s not the heir. (If you don’t believe me, go look at their photos in the link I provided.) The emperor and empress also have a daughter. She married, and because she has married, she is no longer considered royal. (Yeah, it sucks. Feminists, come to Japan. You have a job to do.)


Both sons are married.

The first son and his wife have only one child–a daughter.

The second son and his wife had two children–two daughters.

UH OH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wait, wait, wait. Did you read this line above? The one that says, “Royalty passes through the males.


Three girls….no male heirs. Japan is doomed.

Wait, second wife saves the day.

Years after her second child, she gives birth again—to a boy.

JAPAN IS SAVED!!!!!!! Yay!

There is now a male heir to carry on the line.


All girls be like “um, hooray  ?”


Hina Festival Snackies

The Hina Festival (also called the Doll Festival) falls every year on March third. It’s primarily a girls’ festival.

When I was shopping at a local grocery store (AEON), I snapped these photos of seasonal snacks for the Hina Festival. In the above photo is senbei (rice crackers.) I don’t think the rice crackers being sold here are any different than other rice crackers, really. It’s just that the packaging is cute and pink and Hina-y.

I was thrilled to find these Hina Tirolle chocolates! I’ve seen these on the internet, but only AEON seems to have these particular Hina ones in Fukushima City.  (Not the other grocery stores.)

I bought a package and set them up as a miniature (and very cute) doll decoration.

Various Hina snacks. I’ll tell the truth…I don’t buy these snacks. I am sure they taste fine, but I have a son, not a daughter. And YES I know boys can love pink….but my son doesn’t love pink. He knows these are for girls….and he won’t eat them. So if I buy them, they will go uneaten, unless I eat them….(and I don’t need the calories.)

The colors of Hina Festival (for snacks) are white, pink and light green. This is Hina Arare, a famous Hina Festival snack. It is a LOT like Super Sugar Puffs cereal (an American cereal) but without all the sugar and sweetness.

Arare is just slightly sweet. (Not sweet enough for most Americans, I think.)

You can see a man and a woman on the sign and on the snacks–that’s the emperor and empress. (Not necessarily the current ones. I’m speaking figuratively.) Their dolls are the symbol of the Hina Festival.

Riding my bike around the neighborhood

This morning I rode my bicycle around. I stopped right at this point because I saw a  a cute orange and white cat. But the cat kept running from me, hiding under cars. She did not want to be photographed! And then swans flew over my head in a beautiful V formation, but I missed a photo of that because I was concentrating on the cat.

Typical house style for Fukushima City.  I walked up the stairs of the embankment to the right.

Looking down towards the downtown of the city. That’s Mt. Shinobu in the background.

Path to my left.

Straight ahead. (That’s a river below the mountain, but it’s hard to see well.)

Path to my right.

Back on my bicycle, passing by the Fukushima bus depot.

Here’s a radiation dectector–now a very common sight in our area.

.147 usv/h

That’s considered a safe amount.

Close to the amount (.127) in my home with my personal dosimeter, shown in this post a few weeks ago:


I decided to go down this path.

Singing to myself. I’ve got a fantastic singing voice. (One of the previous two sentences is a lie.)

Oh, another R2-D2.

Beep Beep Blurp .120

Thank you, R2.

You can tell by the design on the left that we are by the horse racing track. It’s only open when there are horse races, which are usually on the weekends.

Oh, I found a kitty! My mission is a success! Her human servant told me that her name is Mike. (Pronounced “Mikay.”) Mike means calico, a Mike Neko is a calico cat. (“Neko” means cat.)

I hope you enjoyed our bicycle ride. Now take it easy and go pet a cat!

Nuclear Power: From Fukushima to Niigata

Let’s do a  recap about the nuclear power plant situation in northern Japan.

1.) On March 11, 2011, a power plant in Fukushima Prefecture melted down due to a tsunami (which was caused by a huge earthquake on the ocean’s floor.)

2.) Despite being located in Fukushima, the power plant was owned by a Tokyo company (TEPCO) and supplied electricity to Tokyo. So while it was a source of jobs for Fukushima workers, it wasn’t really related to Fukushima much at all.

3.) After the nuclear plant melted down, all nuclear power plants in Japan were shut down. Tokyo no longer had a reliable source for its electricity. Now, years later, some nuclear power plants have started up again, but TEPCO still very much wants to replace electricity supplied by the Fukushima two power plants (one which melted down, one which didn’t.)

So…TEPCO wants to start up a (currently) idle nuclear power plant in Niigata.


As a long-time Fukushimer… I see that TEPCO is getting its electricity from…where? Again, where? From a prefecture in a distant galaxy, far far away.

I made this cartoon, based on a popular meme that is going around:

It’s like TEPCO is tired of its old girlfriend (Fukushima) and wants a fresh new girlfriend (Niigata.)

Where is Niigata? It’s about as far away from Tokyo as Fukushima. So, in my opinion, very far away.

WAIT!!!!!!!!! (You may be saying.) Weren’t people in Tokyo horribly troubled by the earthquake and the radiation scare?!?! It was a disaster for THEM!

Well, it depends on who you ask. If you ask people in Tokyo, the answer may very well be yes. And if one looks at international news (which focuses almost solely on Tokyo) it appears so. But from the point of those of us in Fukushima….Tokyo had it extremely easy.

That may sound like Tokyo-hate, but it’s not. I don’t hate Tokyo. It’s the truth, though–where would you rather have been during the meltdown in Fukushima? In Fukushima? Or much further away in Tokyo? Yeah, um, me too.

Tsuchi-Pain Bakery

A bakery in Fukushima City…..Japan has a lot of bakeries.

Rice is the staple in Japan, but nowadays, people also like bread products–pastries, cakes, donuts and so on.

Japanese people have a tendency to buy less in quantity than Americans, but more of a tendency to buy really high quality.

That’s me and my husband. His birthday is on February twentieth. Happy birthday, Sweetie! He works hard for me and our son. And he’s got a heart made out of love.

View from the bakery shop…

Happy Valentine’s Day

My mom recently asked me, “Does Japan have Valentine’s Day?”

Yes, Mom, it definitely does! Japan has embraced this western holiday, although tweaked it to make it their own.

On Valentine’s Day, women give out chocolate (usually)–to their significant other, to people who are important to them, to friends. When I first came to Japan, they would only give it to the men in their lives (their boyfriend, their dad, their male boss, their male friends, etc.) But now the custom has relaxed, and females sometimes give to females.

In March, there is White Day–a day when males give chocolate to the same women who gave THEM chocolate on Valentine’s Day. (My husband and I don’t do this, though. We exchange gifts on February fourteenth, like America.)

Valentine’s Day treats at SPAL (the shopping center connected to the train station.) I got permission for all photos.

Valentine’s cookies at SPAL.

The photo above (and all remaining photos) are at Nakago, the department store across the street from the train station.

Notice how masculine the packaging is.It’s specifically for Valentine’s Day. (You can’t buy these chocolates in Fukushima City except in the Valentine season.) The masculine packaging is because chocolate makers know that typically women give the chocolate to men. So this would be for a manly man sort of man.

More manly man chocolates.

More chocolates. Not all of the chocolates have manly man packaging. There are MANY different styles. This is only Fukushima City, but in a place like Tokyo…whew! LOTS AND LOTS OF CHOCOLATE STYLES!!!!!

Not only are the chocolates manly man, but the man who created them is manly man.  (Nicolas Bernarde created them.)

Again a manly man–Francois Gimenez–created them.

These chocolates are Godiva.

These chocolates are not for your boyfriend or husband. These would be for your child or for your fun best friend.

Obviously not manly man chocolates. Fun and funky chocos.

For the zoologist in your life.

For the crocodile wrangler in your life.

The signs says, “Sold out.” If a person waits until the afternoon of February thirteenth, a LOT of chocolates will be sold out. (I took all these photos on the morning of February twelfth.)

I’ve heard that Valentine’s Day is when the most chocolates are sold in Japan. Other things are sold as Valentine’s Day (mostly liquor, for the men who prefer that over chocolate) but usually it’s chocolates that are given on Valentine’s Day.

2020 Tokyo Olympics

As I write this in February of 2018, the winter Olympics have just begun in South Korea.

Do you know where the 2020 Olympics will take place?

That’s correct. In Tokyo!

Hosting the Olympics games in Tokyo is considered by many Japanese people to be a great thing, but there are also many Japanese people who are not pleased about it at all, for various reasons.

One big reason that people are unhappy is because Tokyo is overhauling itself to accomodate the games. An extremely famous fish market (Tsukiji Fish Market) will be moved. It’s been in its location for a long time and most people are not at all happy about its relocation.

Street signs are being changed to make them more understandable for non-Japanese speaking (or reading) foreigners. The traditional sign for Buddhist temple is being changed because Hitler based his swastika off of it (he reversed an ancient Asian symbol) and most foreigners don’t understand this.

There will be Olympic baseball games in Fukushima Prefecture. Fukushima won the chance to host these baseball games as part of the revitalization of the area.

Fukushima added as Tokyo 2020 Olympic baseball, softball venue

The Olympic baseball games are slated to be held at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium, which is southwest of Fukushima City. (I say “slated” because I wouldn’t be surprised if the government changes its mind at the last minute, wanting to keep us Fukushimers happy until the last possible moment and then switching the venue over to, of course, Tokyo.)

There are some articles online that say the Olympic baseball games should not be held in Fukushima. “Anti-nuclear activists denounced the move. They argued that it created a false impression that Fukushima had returned to normal and glossed over the remaining hardships faced by an estimated 120,000 residents who still cannot – and may never – return to their homes. This is a snippet from the following article:


Basically, this type of quote says to me: Anti-nuclear activists never, ever, ever, ever, EVER want me and the other people of Fukushima to have the tiny bit of happiness or chance of revitalization.  Due to the meltdowns, Fukushima should be a place of misery and gloom and sadness, perpetually.

The baseball stadium is southwest of where I live. It’s not in the exclusion zone. Is the baseball stadium area safe, meaning that radiation levels there are safe? Yes, I believe so. It’s something that can be measured…and not only by the government, but by ANYBODY who has a measuring device like a dosimeter.

It makes me sad when I see that anti-nuclear people seem to want the people of Fukushima to suffer even more than we have already.  The more Fukushima suffers, the more it helps their agenda. So they want us to needlessly suffer even when we don’t have to.

Anti-nuclear people and the people of Fukushima really do want the same things. So it’s sad when people who are supposed to be on the side of Fukushima actually are wishing for the unhappiness of the entire prefecture.

Yes, there are people who are displaced by the tragedy, and their homes are in ruins. It’s extremely, extremely sad, and a huge problem. But baseball games in Fukshima Azuma Baseball Stadium won’t affect this situation. If anything, baseball games in Fukushima only help these displaced people, by calling attention to Fukushima, and thus to their plight.



I forgot an important point, tangentially related to the disaster in Fukushima, but more related to the entire disaster along the Tohoku east coast, caused by the tsunami. MANY people in Japan were/are against the Olympic games in Tokyo because they feel that money is needlessly being spent on a huge two-week party in the capital city–when there is still much to be done to help the communities of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima (and other places.)  Olympics are expensive to host, and it’s a point of national pride. Should Japan being spending money on them? Some people think yes–the games are fun and they’ll boost morale. Other people think no–they are much too expensive.

Ohnoya Candy Store

In front of Fukushima City station, east exit. Go down the stairs.

Turn left.

And buy candy!

Ohnoya sells traditional candy Japanese. It’s hard candy, and LOT and LOTS of flavors. Green Tea. Brown Sugar. Mint. And more. Yum.

This store is so easy to miss. But it’s so easy to get to from the train station!!!!!


Spring is here!

When I first came to Japan, I was very surprised that spring traditionally begins on February fourth. However, it’s been explained that this is indeed spring…the earth is preparing to open up and grow new life.

I’m not a farmer or a gardener…but take a look at this photo.

This photo shows a plum blossom tree. I took the photo yesterday morning (February fourth.) Plum blossom trees are early bloomers in spring. They don’t get the attention of cherry blossom trees, but neverthless they are a strong part of Japanese culture.

This is a close-up of that plum blossom tree. You can see that even though it is early February, it has started budding. So for traditional Japanese people, that meant that spring was here.

Yes, it will probably snow again. (In fact, we had a dusting of snow this morning.) But despite the cold, new life has begun.