Rainy Season…has begun?

June is the rainy season here in Japan.

So anyway, today on the last day of May, I was puttering around the first floor of our tiny home when I heard a noise. It was a whooshy sort of sound and I went on full alert. You know, all moms have spidey senses. I thought: Something electrical? Something cooking? Something on FIRE? I went upstairs toward the noise. Actually, it was the noise of heavy rain coming from the open windows.

I love the sound of heavy rain. I love it. And then if there’s thunder, that’s even better. But today, alas, no thunder. That’s all right. A good rain is still nice to listen to.

Here’s a treat for you. Rain outside our second floor window:

MelonPan Shop in Fukushima City

This is a “Melon Pan” shop in Fukushima City. This is actually a chain, so this particular shop is in other places like Tokyo and Osaka.

Melon Pan has always confounded me.

Melon means melon.

Pan means bread. (You may notice its similarity to Romance Languages. I took French so I see its resemblance to pain. In Spanish, the word bread is pan. The Japanese word パン pan comes from Portuguese–pao, with a wavy line over the a.  The word came over to Japan from Europe by way of Portuguese missionaries over 500 years ago.)

Anyway, thanks to Google, I now know that the reason Melonpan is called “Melon bread” is because it is bread that resembles a melon. (Not because of its flavor. It can be virtually any flavor.)

“Do you think it looks like a melon?”

I got Tiramisu flavor, which is rather fancy. Melonpans are very common in Japan (grocery stores, bakeries) but are usually more of a plain flavor. They taste good, but I’m more of a croissant fan.

And the reason croissants are called croissants is because….Oh, never mind. LOL

Callistemon–A bit of Australia in downtown Fukushima City

On Wednesday, I was riding my bike near my home. I saw this beautiful flowering tree (bush? plant?)

I’d never seen this sort of flower in my area of the U.S. (Kansas, northern Texas)

Please look at the photos below:

These are the buds….

I showed my Friday male Japanese teacher these photos and he told me that these flowers are called Bottlebrush. (Actual name is Callistemon.)

They are NOT native to Japan. They are native to Australia! Imagine that!!!!!!  Wow.

So anyway, he checked his dictionary and it said that Callistemon was brought to Japan during the Meiji Period, so basically sometime around the late 1800’s or so. (Meiji Period: 1868-1912)

I thought the flowers were lovely, and now that I know they are originally Australian, I feel like I’ve seen a bit of Australia!

Matsukawa Station in Fukushima Prefecture

I work at a little school near Matsukawa Station in Fukushima Prefecture.


I noticed the flag on the sign in this nice rest area in front of Matsukawa’s small train station.

This sign says that Kuwait donated the funds for this little rest spot in front of Matsukawa Station.

You can see  the name of their country: Kuwait クウエート

You can see the name of the disaster on 3/11: Daishinsai 大震災

Inside the station, waiting for a train.They run north to south/south to north.

The bridge to get from one platform to the other. No elevator or escalator! One climbs the stairs. Typical for many small stations in Japan.

Typical sign for a train station in Japan.

To the south, the next stop is Adachi Town.

To the north, the next stop is Kanayagawa (the stop for Fukushima University.)

The daisies..

As far as I can see, no mutant flowers.

Lovely? I think so.

Masterpieces of the Pola Art Museum Exhibit at Fukushima Prefectural Art Museum

The above photo was taken in front of Fukshima City train station. The Fukushima Prefectural Art Museum is about a twenty or twenty-five minute walk from here. (There is also a 100 yen bus that encircles the city, and stops near the art museum.)

The Fukshima Pefectural Art Museum.

The European art is from the Pola Museum of Art, which is in Kanagawa Prefecture in Japan. Photography was forbidden in most of this exhibit, but it was allowed in a small area. (And these photos are from that small area.)

I enjoy looking at what people wore back then…..


Okawa Elementary School Decision Reached by Court: Money paid to Families (and this will be appealed!)

I subscribe to the Yomiuri Junior High/High School newspaper. While it is easier than their regular newspaper, it’s still hard for me (or rather I should say, time-consuming) It doesn’t have very much furigana, so I have to look up the kanji that I don’t know.

Anyway, I was reading this article (above.) After the earthquake in March of 2011, a huge tsunami hit the coast of northeast Japan. Many students at Okawa Elementary School died due to the tsunami. Of all the horrible consequences of the tsunami, it is definitely one of the most heartbreaking.

The news article says that the court has decided that the school was not adequately prepared in the case of a tsunami. Money must be paid by the government to the families of the victims.

You can read an article about it in English here:



But the government is appealing. I’ll bet this is making them VERY unpopular as it was a horrific tragedy. And yeah, if those numbskull teachers (May They Rest In Peace) had just gone to higher ground, the children would have been saved (and also the numbskull teachers who died in the tsunami would have been saved.) Obviously nobody wants to die. So the numbskull teachers who were killed were just following the school’s numbskull tsunami plan* that the numbskull government had devised.

One good thing about Japan is also its bad thing:  It’s a nation of rule followers. That’s wonderful, except when rules SHOULDN’T be followed (as in the case here. Rather than going to the previously chosen designated spot, the school students and teachers should have gone to higher ground, easily doable because there was a large hill/mountain next to them.) I know that hindsight is 20/20. Yet, when one hears reports that students were begging their teachers to allow them to run up the mountain…and the teachers didn’t listen to their pleas…it’s heartbreaking.



*Upon reading this a few days later, I realize I made a mistake with my wording. The school did not have tsunami plan. They school had an EARTHQUAKE plan. I think that the government, as well as teachers probably, felt that a tsunami plan was not needed because the school was inland enough that a tsunami (from the coast–which was far, but still sort of near) would never hit the school.

This was COMMON thinking. Many people died because they thought they were in a safe location (far enough from the beach.) They didn’t anticipate that the quake was so incredibly big at the floor of the ocean, and they didn’t anticipate that the resulting tsunami would be so incredibly huge.  We see this also in the nuclear power plant. TEPCO did not believe that such a huge tsunami would ever occur, and thus did not make the wall between the power plant and the sea large enough to protect the power plant.

The teachers themselves did not know what was going on–there were reports they were arguing among themselves about what to do. (It must have been horrible.) Remember that the typical time for the tsunami to occur after the quake was about forty minutes or an hour. (This is all the time people had to prepare.)  This is VERY little time, as you can imagine, especially considering nobody knew what was going on, where the epicenter was, etc.



Fukushima City Train Station, West Exit

I live on the east side of the Fukushima City main train station. I think the east side is actually the more touristy side. However, if you arrive by bus or by bullet train in Fukushima City, you may arrive on the quieter west side. (To get to the east side on foot, take the stairs under the station. There’s an underpass.)

I don’t go to the west side very often, except to shop at ItoYokado (not a tourist destination! It’s a regular shopping area for people who live here. So if you want to see regular Fukushima residents buying socks and laundry detergent, it’s a good place to go.)

It’s May now and the flowers are so pretty. Train stations are often the main part of a town or city in Japan.

Not every town in Japan has a train station, though. Smaller towns may only be accessible by bus or car.

If you are a tourist, the main place you’ll want to visit is the Corasse building, the glass building in background. The reason is because it has a store devoted to products from all over Fukushima Prefecture. It’s a great place to buy presents for people. (I often shop there for people who live outside of Fukushima, but I don’t shop there for myself as it is quite gourmet and therefore rather expensive.)

The tracks on the right are the bullet train tracks.  Notice they are raised high. The bullet train starts at Tokyo, travels north to Fukushima City, and then (depending on which one you are on) veers to the north-west or goes up straight north. Yes, bullet trains are expensive, but they are fast. If you are in Japan as a tourist, try to take a bullet train at least once so you can brag about it back in your own country. 🙂


I don’t talk about my writing process for fiction here much. I write middle grade. Middle Grade is the industry term for books for kids approximately ages ten to twelve, or so. Young Adult is for teens, but I can’t write young adult because I was an extremely boring teenager. (Meaning I did not have a boyfriend who was a vampire, I did not engage in any battles to the death, and I never left behind audiotapes blaming thirteen people for the reasons why I died. Yep, I was boring.)

So anyway, I do middle grade. As yet unpublished. But still very very very very very very very good. (My mom thinks so.) Anyway, I wrote a cat into one of my manuscripts. It was set in Japan, and at first I made the cat an exotic “American shorthair.” (I was amazed when I first came to Japan, and discovered that one can buy pedigreed American Short Hair cats at pet stores for the yen equivalent of hundreds of dollars.) To me, American Short Hair is the kind of cat that almost everybody in the U.S. keeps as pets, and they always get them for free.

Anyway, I thought about it, and thought about it, and I changed the cat in my manuscript to a Japanese Bobtail. Why?

I had never seen a Japanese Bobtail in the U.S. NEVER! The very name sounded exotic.

But then in Japan, I saw one almost immediately! “Wow!” I exclaimed. “Japan really does have Japanese Bobtails!!!!!!!!”

The Japanese Bobtail cats are free cats here, not the pet store cats. (You know….your neighbor’s cousin’s friend’s cat had kittens and you want a kitten, and well, you’ve heard there’s two tabby brown and one gray, but the gray’s been taken so you have your choice of the male tabby brown or the female tabby brown, and they’re both really cute and sweet and free and they’ve got bobbed tails.)

Roughtly ten to twenty percent of the cats here in Japan are bobtails? (I’m guessing. This statistic is NOT scientific.) Their tails are naturally bobbed. They were not cut off! It’s a genetic thing.

So anyway, my parents’-in-law cat is a cat that they got from somebody for free, and he is a Bobtail. His photos are below.

My son named him “Hiro” (pronouced Hero), but my MIL calls him Shiro when my son leaves the room.  Shiro means “White” and is a common name for white pets. (But I use the name Hiro/Hero because it is a cool name and I love my son.)

This is our local park in Fukushima City, last Sunday morning. Another Bobtail. This is a Calico so she is probably female.

So basically, for my characters in Japan, Bobtails are “regular” cats and American Shorthairs are “exotic” cats. Funny how it reverses like that! In Japan sushi is “regular” food and turkey with mashed potatoes is “exotic.” Different countries have different points of view….

Hi, Mom! Hi, Baba!

For Mother’s Day, I’d like to express my love to my sweet and caring mother, Maxine. She is such a giving person! True story: Once (in Wichita, Kansas) my dad was driving to work on the Wichita highway. (Quiet by big city standards.) Further ahead, a bank truck accidentally released money when its doors flew open!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Yes, it happens in real life. It sounds like a movie plot, but my dad was there and my dad is not a liar. Anyway, my dad did not stop because he had to get to work. But when he drove home that night, there were two one dollar bills on his car grill. AND MY MOM RETURNED IT. That’s how honest she is.

My husband’s mother, Mizue, is a hard-working woman who is also a good person. She is Obaasan (Grandmother) but we call her Baba (Granny/Gramma.) She took me and my son in after the quake in eastern Japan (she and her husband live on the west coast.) She is also very honest. How did I get so lucky to have a great mother and a great mother-in-law?

This sweatshirt was a present from Baba for my son. I think this shirt is neat because I’m always trying to figure out what it means, exactly.

Happy Mother’s Day!


HATRNES MORE PATRYLYN!!!!!!  Because everybody needs more Patrlyn in their lives. 🙂

Kako Satoshi (famous Japanese writer of children’s books, and also scientist) passed away

This news has absolutely nothing to do with Fukushima. However, I enjoy books so it interests me.

A famous writer (and scientist) named Kako Satoshi has died at the age of ninety-two.

He wrote many books for kids, and also illustrated them. This is the display of some of his books at our local public library.

He is such a famous writer that some of his picture books have been translated into English. (It’s very rare for Japanese picture books to be chosen to be translated to English. Unfortunately, there are many wonderful Japanese picture books that never get translated.)

Kako is his family name and Satoshi is his given name. Interestingly, Kako Satoshi is his pseudonym. Pseudonyms are VERY common for writers in Japan.


What would my pseudonym be? Hmmm……that would be interesting to pick your own name!

Pen Name—–Real Name

Kako Satoshi—–Nakajima Satoshi

Natsume Souseki—-Natsume Kinnosuke

Yoshimoto Banana—–Yoshimoto Mahoko

Beat Takeshi——Kitano Takeshi

Koizumi Yakumo—–Lafcadio Hearn (I think he officially changed his name to Koizumi Yakumo, and therefore it was not only his pen name.)