Strolling along Sumida River (Tokyo, spring 2018)

In Tokyo, last Saturday. I took this photo at the red spot. Then we walked along the bank of the Sumida River.

This is a tower and it is in Tokyo. But it is NOT the Tokyo Tower!!!!!!!

The Tokyo Tower is a much, much older and much, much shorter tower.

This tower, named the Sky Tree, was completed just a few years ago.

(And no, we are not going to ascend it today. It’s expensive to take an escalator to the top, although I hear walking up the stairs to the top is free. That’s a joke. Walking up the stairs to the top is likely not free.)

This area ALSO has cherry blossom trees, and it is much less crowded. It was a nice place to stroll.

Oh, look, Godzilla has climbed to the top of the Sky Tree. How interesting. You never know what you’ll see in Japan.

Two different kinds of cherry blossom trees.

Oh no. It appears that Godzilla has fallen from the Sky Tree. But don’t worry. Radioactive giant sea monsters are like cats. They always land on their feet.

Kids playing in the park along the river.

See? Godzilla is fine. And he’s eating a double scoop ice cream cone. He couldn’t be happier.

Kids (both boys and girls) are playing baseball.

The park.

I hate to end on a sad note, but if this were Fukushima City, this is where the radiation detector would be (so that everyone in the park can read the current radiation level.) But it’s not Fukushima City, and so there is no radation detector. It felt weird not to see them around.


Ueno Park in spring, 2018 (Tokyo)

The first thing we did upon arriving in Tokyo (on Saturday) was walk through Tokyo’s famous Ueno Park. Ueno Park is famous for its cherry blossoms in spring. The photo above shows a map of the whole park. In addition to the park itself, it has a zoo and several museums.

The cherry blossoms are lovely…but this is not really my favorite place in Toyo to see cherry blossoms because Ueno Park can get VERY crowded. (This was early in the morning. Later it was completely packed with people.)

Japan has stringent rules about recycling.

A different kind of cherry blossom tree, so the blossoms are pink rather than white.

As you can see, we are in the midst of Tokyo.

Husband and I

Day Trip to Tokyo

Yesterday, husband, son and I left for Toky for a day-trip. We usually go about this time of year, just for fun. But this time was special because it was son’s special day–a celebration of his acceptance to high school.

Leaving Fukushima City.

Just a couple minutes later (by bullet train, so it’s a high speed) we are in the countryside. The track is elevated.

A trip to Tokyo by bullet train is an hour and a half. (And it’s another hour and a half to return.) It costs about eighty U.S. dollars for a round-trip ticket.

A lot of people will take the bus, which of course is cheaper but takes longer.

La la la I’m on a bullet train…..Hmmmmmmmmmmm….Gettin’ bored.

I know! I’ll read a book! I use my kindle a lot because Fukushima City does not have any English language bookstores. “The Astonishing Color of After”…? Yes!!!!!!!


If you were wondering what I am currently studying for Japanese…

Reading Training. My very kind Friday Japanese teachers are helping me go through the reading passages in this textbook.

Quite an interesting textbook. This essay is about what to do with polluted material from factories, etc.

You can see the acronym NIMBY which stands for “Not In My Backyard.”

This very much makes me think of the nuclear meltdowns, and how the meltdowns were in Fukushima’s “backyard.” Nowadays, I think we rural prefectures do NOT want Tokyo’s nuclear power plants in our area. We’ve seen what happens. After all hell breaks loose, Tokyo (I’m speaking generally. Not every Tokyoite, but many Tokyoites) blames and villifies Fukushima instead of taking responsiblity for what is THEIR mess.

I personally have not gone to the exclusion zone myself. (The exclusion zone is the part of Fukushima Prefectures which is near the power plant and it is considered to have dangerous levels of radiation. One needs permission and protective gear to visit there nowadays.) I didn’t go there before 3/11 and I have not gone there since. It’s a rural area, and a lot of farmers–and their livestock–suffered horribly due to the forced evacuations.

Please look at the following blog. It’s by a Polish man who has taken photos in the exclusion zone. The photos are sad, the photos are amazing, the photos will make you THINK.

One of the Japanese men pictured in the blog’s photos stays (illegally, I believe) in the exclusion zone in order to take care of the poor, poor domesticated animals left behind.

(Please understand: The meltdowns have been a blessing for wild animals. They now run free and happy. A little radiation? Wild animals don’t care.   But! The domesticated animals can not cope with freedom. They need human care. A cow doesn’t know how to survive by itself. A pet dog does not know, either. It may learn–but it won’t be happy about it.)

So without further ado….


Graduating from jhs and entering high school

Yes, my fifteen-year-old son is now a high school boy!

And oh my goodness…….if you are a literary agent, you should put out a manuscript wishlist for a non-fiction account of the final year of jhs (ninth grade) in Japan, and presumably much of Asia.

It’s UNBELIEVABLE! Truly. I’m not the one to write this non-fiction book, but let’s just say that studying for the high school entrance exams is……like the plot of a movie. Highs Lows Highs Lows Highs Lows. Ending of course in a thrilling HIGH. (Like all the best movies.)

A school has to be chosen. Private or public. We chose (like most) public because it is not as expensive as private.

The problem?

Unlike America, a student does not automatically get into his or her district’s high school. Instead it is a race to the metaphorical death, a last off the island kind of thing, Queer Eye Fab Five coming in and ignoring the haircut and the clothing and house decorations and ONLY working on the testing and studying….whew!

All of Japan is rooting for the students who are studying for their high school (or univesity) entrance exams.  Even the snack companies.  Er, ESPECIALLY the snack companies.

Kitto Katto! Surely you can do it!

These are special snacks that cheer on the never-sleeping, never video-gaming, never texting, never watching dumb youtube videos ninth grader. (All ninth graders study 24/7.)


“Don’t give up until the last!”

“Believe in yourself!”

And so on.

My son’s after-school snack.

The rice crackers are called senbei.

Fortunately, my son passed his public school entrance exam.

Lots of congratulations and cheering….Yay!

Not everybody passes…and there’s more to the story…and that’s why a book needs to be written (in English) about a typical Japanese ninth grader’s year of intensive studying. “The Year of Studying Dangerously”

CandleNight– In Memory of Victims of 3/11/11 (2018)

Every year in Fukushima City (and other places in Japan) candles are lit in memories of those who lost their lives, or have gone missing, due to the huge earthquake of March 11, 2011.  And also in memories of those along the coast whose homes and communities were destroyed.

This is in the evening in front of Fukushima City train station (East Exit.)

Lots of people praying and remembering…


Free of charge, people can receive a candle holders and markers to decorate…I enjoy looking at the messages from my fellow Fukushimers.

The vertical sign says “Candle Night”

These candles says “3.11” because March 11 (in 2011) was the day the earthquake occurred.

Lots of messages for Fukushima. They’re mostly in Japanese, of course.

Middle one says (at top) “Don’t give up!” The red cow is a traditional Fukushima symbol, the Akabeko.

The candle on the right says in red (vertically): “Healthy Fukushima” (Translating “Genki” to “Healthy” although it is often translated as “In good spirits” or “Lively.”)

This is the candle that I drew on.

I talked to a young woman from Osaka who recently moved to Fukushima City.  Her candle says: “From Osaka. Happy Smile & Healthy”

Once the sun set, the candles really are very beautiful.

Just noticed I wrote “FUKU SHIM” Instead of “FUKU SHIMA” oops.

I wanted to show this candle because it has some English: “Remember.”





Anti-Nuclear Energy March

Last Sunday (March 11, 2018) was the seventh anniversary of the huge earthquake that resulted in a major tsunami that killed many people. (And the tsunami caused meltdowns at a nuclear power plant here in Fukushima Prefecture.)

During the afternoon of Sunday, I went to a ceremony at the Bunka Center (Culture Center) here in Fukushima City. The purpose was to remember the lives lost and missing. We were not allowed to take photos, so I have no photos of this.

I rode my bicycle home, only about a fifteen minute bike ride. I passed the parade that is in the following photos that I took. It appears to be a group of people marching against nuclear energy.

At this point, the were near Shinhama Park—MY neighborhood!

We don’t want nuclear power plants.

Women of Fukushima.

Don’t Trust Government

We don’t want nuclear power plants.

Women of Fukushima.

(top left sign)


Increase in Fear. (My note: This sign is against current Prime Minister Abe, who favors nuclear energy. His name is in the sign.)

Return to the people!

Return to our livelihoods!

(top right sign)

Stop…(something…I can’t read it….I tried to look it up but the sheet is folded, so I can’t make out the character.)

UPDATE: I asked my Japanese teacher and she told me the sign in red says, “Sai kaidou yamete!” This means: “Stop reoperation!”



Grocery Store Rice

One can also buy rice in a regular grocery store, of course.  Japanese people take their rice VERY seiously.

This is the grocery store near my home, and it has a section devoted to rice. In the photo, you can see Fukushima grown rice.

Top left, in the blue circle, it says: Fukushima

This particular rice is from the Aizu region. (Western part of the prefecture.)

The above rice was also grown in Fukushima Prefecture.

More varieties of rice, from different regions.

Written in black: Hokkaido

Akita rice

Aizu rice (Aizu is part of Fukushima Prefecture.)

Niigata rice

Yamagata rice

My husbands’ parents are rice farmers in Yamagata Prefecture, so my husband likes this rice!

You can see there are lots of choices in Japan. If you live in the United States or Canada (or most parts of the world) I very much suspect you are NOT eating Fukushima rice. I simply don’t think that Fukushima exports to the U.S. in any great quantity.

Although this link is for exports in general, it claims to show which countries export the most rice. (Japan is NOT one of the countries.)

Rice Exports by Country

Rice shop near my house

Currently, all rice grown in Fukushima is tested for levels of radiation, and can be sold only if the rice passes the test. The governments wants to change the testing procedure from ALL rice to SAMPLES of rice. It appears it is a burden for farmers to haul all the rice to the testing centers.

Here’s an article about it:

The following photos show a rice shop very close to my home.

A very quiet street

The rice shop. The owners’ children go to my son’s junior high, and also his former elementary school. (So they know me from my library volunteer at the elementary school.)

Fukushima rice. Tomorrow I’ll show rice from other regions of Japan. Basically each region has its own rice. Professions like farmers (one of the main industries in Fukushima Prefecture) were very much affected by the meltdowns.  It appears (to me) that crops in most parts of the prefecture (remember that Fukushima is one of the larger prefectures in Japan) were not affected by the radiation, or minimally so. And of course, crops have been tested since 2011. However, most people don’t follow what is going on in Fukushima……and therefore they avoid Fukushima food because they assume its dangerous.

My own husband’s parents are rice farmers, although not in Fukushima. Rice farming is a hard job, with low pay. Furthermore, the rice here in Tohoku is usually high quality, gourmet rice, grown with lots of love and care. I’m not telling you to go out and eat Fukushima rice if you don’t want to. But don’t be ill-informed.

This rice shop is special to me because immediately after the earthquake, my husband told me to come here and purchase rice. In all shops, all the food was being bought until the shelves were empty, and he wanted to make sure there would be plenty of rice in our home. (Shortly after, my son and I left to stay with his parents in another part of Japan, but he stayed behind to work.)

The seventh anniversary of the quake is on March 11–next Sunday. I plan to attend a ceremony of remembrance during the afternoon.