Rainy Day Dolls

I was shopping and I saw this basket of……  Do you know what they are?

If you don’t know, can you guess?

Look at the sign above the basket. It is in the shape of an umbrella. It says:


Ame no hi o tanoshiku.

Enjoy rainy days.

(Below that, it says “Go ahead and feel free to take one.)

Those dolls are part of traditional Japanese culture. They are called Teru Teru Bozu.

When it looks like rain, people (often children) make these dolls and hang them up. This is to hopefully keep the rain away.

If an outing is planned for the following day, for example, a child might make them in hopes that the outing won’t be cancelled.

Currently, it is June, so that is considered the rainy season in Japan. It doesn’t rain constantly, but it rains quite a bit. In July, the rainy season is said to end and the days get hotter and sunnier.

So in Japan, the symbols of June are often “rain” or “hydrangeas” or “teru teru bozu” and so on.

When I wrote my manuscript about Fukushima, I wrote the basic story first. Then I divided it into a trilogy and added more.

In the the second (as yet unpublished) book in the trilogy, I write about the custom of “teru teru bozu.”

“If you make the teru teru bozu and hang them up, it’ll stop for sure,” said Baba Flap. “It always works. It may take a day or two or three, sometimes even four or five, but it eventually works.”


In the summer (and also winter), Japanese people have a tradition of giving, and receiving, gifts.

When I first came to Japan, during the last century in the days of rotary phones, and automobiles with no GPS, and airport security so lax you could get a parade of elephants through it, and–what else?  Oh, there were no self-check-out lanes at grocery stores. We used videocassettes instead of DVD’s and now we don’t even use DVD’s much any more.

Back then, Americans didn’t know anything about Japan except that we had fought a war with them. And that they were keen businesspeople. (Seriously. Manga and anime did not exist in mainstream America at all.)

Anyway, in those days, I worked in a small rural town in Chiba Prefecture. If you fly into the New Tokyo International Airport, and look down as you are landing, you’ll see it. It’s the one with the goat living behind its Town Hall.

My boss there was a woman named Ms. Sase, and she was/is very kind. She sent us these melons as our summer present! Wow! So nice!!!!!

In America, we call them honeydew melons. (I think.) In the Japanese language, they are just called メロンMeron (Melon.)

A sweet older woman lives near me. Mrs. H. owns a dog named Melon!!!!!!!!! I gave her one of the melons.

Melon is a very elderly dog with failing health.  She has no vision, but you can tell by the photograph that she was so happy to smell me!

“Nice to sniff you!”

“Nice to sniff you, too. Hope you have an aromatic day.”

At Doiaidate Park in Matsukawa



The front entrance of Doiaidate Park in Matsukawa. It is famous for its hydrangea flowers in June and July.

map of the park itself.

I talked to the man taking photos. We agreed it was too early yet in the season–later the hydrangeas would be at their best.

I said I wanted to come to the park before it got too hot. (And indeed today, six days later, the weather is many degrees warmer. So I’m glad I went when it wasn’t hot yet.)

It was quite early in the day–about nine a.m.–and he said that after Matsukawa’s park he was going to drive to Nihonmatsu’s hydrangea park and take photos there, too. I told him that after this I would return to Fukushima City by train and clean my house!


A few years ago, I visited this park by myself and was astounded by the intense beauty of its hydrangeas. (It was the perfect time for them, not too early and not too late.) So then I took my son because I wanted him to see them. Anyway, we were goofing around in this play area inside the park. As you can see–the slide is VERY wide! I slid down from its top, sitting in its center. Well, it was wet (from previous night’s rain) and I had nothing to stop myself. The rails were too far for me to reach. I slid way, way too fast and landed on my bottom very hard! It hurt, and hurt about a year. (Mostly when I was sitting down.) I even went to a doctor who X-rayed it, and said nothing was broken.

I learned my lesson! Do not go down wide slides like this where you can not control your speed. Luckily, my rear end has healed completely, but it ached for about a year!

The droid (actually a radiation detector, which I have discussed in previous posts. They are at virtually every park here in Fukushima.)

See the hydrangeas.

Hydrangea path. They were a very light blue, I remember them being deeper blue.

Close up.

A small cemetary? I’m not really sure. It’s probably very, very old, though. (very!)

Several gardeners were working on the park. A beautiful park like this doesn’t happen by magic!

View from the back of the park

I left the park through the back exit, as it was closer to the train station.

Goodbye park!

Walking back the train station. It’s a short walk–ten minutes? Unless you dawdle like me.

lovely, lovely

That mountain (hill?) is the park area.

I thought this tree was interesting.

defunct cigarette vending machines

map of my area

At this point, I was on the main road (yellow line) at the red box (which says in Japanese “You are here.” Well, not literally. Literally it says: Current Location.) The station is the box to the right with the word eki 駅.

Eki is the Japanese word for “train station.”

Kokeshi dolls in a home’s window

I’m back at the station now, inside it and waiting for my train.

The trains go either south toward Koriyama or north towards Fukushima City. They are local, of course. I think if you miss one you have to wait about forty minutes for the next one? (But the schedule varies.)

Goodbye, Matsukawa!

Walk to Doiaidate Park in Matsukawa (Part 2)

Here I am, taking a long cut along the rice paddies.

Don’t let it fool you that I live in Fukushima “City.” Fukushima Prefecture is really very rural, and also very mountainous. A lot of it is not inhabited by people because it is too mountainous.

Neat and even rows of growing rice.

You may have seen photos of terraced rice fields in Asia (on sides of mountains) but that’s not something I’ve ever seen here in Tohoku.

Farmers working outside.

Their crop

We can see the mountain I am headed toward, off to the right. I was walking around the back way.

More fields.

Currently all rice in grown Fukushima Prefecture is tested for radiation. Samples of other produce are checked.

From what I hear, the levels of the rice and other produce are at safe levels. No problem.

A little pond

Now I have circled round to the other side of the park on the hill. I’m in front of the front entrance of Doiaidate Park, facing away from it.

A map of the Matsukawa area. Doiaidate Park is bottom right.

Next I’ll show photos of the park itself. See you then!

Walk to Doiaidate Park in Matsukawa to see hydrangeas (Part 1)

This outing is picture heavy so I’m posting it in parts. Today I’ll show the first half of my walk to Doiaidate park in Matsukawa.

First I travelled by train to Matsukawa Station, three stops south of Fukushima Station.

The sign in the photo is written from top to bottom.

ま Ma

つ Tsu

か  Ka

わ Wa

There is a map of tourist spots around Matsukawa. The one I’m going to (Doiaidate Park) is bottom, second from left.

I’m old school, so I don’t use a phone for directions EVER. I just use old-fashioned maps and then sort of guess and ask people if I’m in the right direction.

First I crossed the pedestrian bridge to reach the other side of the train station.

Some flowers along the way…

Not the park.

But I saw a sign that says,”Nice flowers. Great smell!”

So I took this path to see their flowers.

Their garden…it’s gorgeous.


The same garden….

Back on the main road, I took a photo of this sign. There will be a festival in Doiaidate Park from June 30 to July 1.

(That’s a kappa, a mythological creature which was shown in my last post. It was in the form of a statue.)

I stepped off the main road here, just to take a long cut and experience the charm of life in the countryside (rather than walk along the street next to passing cars and busses.)

Charming house!

Okay, next will be part two.  See you then!

Shinobu Yama (Mt. Shinobu) in Fukushima City

Last Saturday I walked up (a short ways) Mt. Shinobu. I love Mt. Shinobu. It’s very close to my home so I write about it on this blog frequently.

What do we see? And what is being seen by it?

A mountain cat

Another mountain cat

I came across a cemetary on the side of Mt. Shinobu.

Near the cemetary, there is a shop which sells stone sculpted objects…obviously to be put in the cemetary.

One of its statues: a kappa

More statues at the shop

a house

very pretty

hydrangea…June is the hydrangea season in Fukushima

Fukushima City Kitties

One early morning, what do we see?

It’s a lady looking at me!


Ugh, now she’s taking our photo!

Yes, she’s putting us on the internet. How human.

Don’t look behind you.

Why not?

We’re being attacked.

In another part of Fukushima City….

Aw, a human. How precious. With a camera. I guess I should smile.


“Would You Rather…” Library Volunteer Book

On Thursday of this past week, I was assigned to read a book to the fifth graders at our local elementary school. (Usually the library volunteer books are only in Japanese, but I am American so I choose an English book and also the same book in Japanese. Both are read concurrently.)

I found the above two books (actually the same book–original is in English, the other is translated into Japanese) at our Fukushima Prefectural Library.

I love this book by John Burningham because it gets the kids thinking. And also the fact that the library already owned it in English made it an obvious choice.

So I read it to the fifth graders, and they seemed to really like it. And then, for the first time ever, we went to the local public preschool, where we read the same books there.

I’m hoping that the public libraries (we have two–prefectual and city) will purchase more English picture books–very simple ones. They do have picture books in English, but a lot of them are beyond the level of children that don’t know English.

I’d love to see more toddler books, more easy-English books. Books focussing on basic themes like emotions and daily routines and manners. If you don’t know what I mean, something like Karen Katz’s Excuse Me!I think all teachers of English to little kids in Japan love books like these! (And the kids love them, too.)

Beverly Cleary was a librarian when she started writing, and in her second memoir, she told how she went to read to kids who were still learning basic English. They did not understand the book she had chosen very well because it was too difficult. It was a learning experience for her to choose a simpler book.

Emperor and Empress of Japan

Over the weekend, the emperor and empress of Japan visited Fukushima Prefecture. Previously, I had known that they would be in Fukushima City yesterday (Monday.) I also knew that they would be driven to the train station (to return to Tokyo), down the street near my house. So I went to that street to watch them go by.

I showed up at 3:10, and they weren’t supposed to be driven by until around 4:30. There was a lot of security (police) standing there, and I asked one of them where to go. I was taken to a spot–everybody who wanted to watch the emperor and empress pass by had to stand in that particular spot. I was first! And then the police put people next to me, and then behind me, as the people streamed in because they, too, wanted to see the emperor and empress. A lot of them were my neighbors, actually. So it was a fun neighborly experience.

My selfie

We were bound in by ropes. We were told the ropes would be taken away before the emperor and emperor came by, but not to move.

(I think the ropes were taken away so a better impression would be given to the royal couple. That’s my guess.)

My view as waiting for their royal car. The man looking at the camera is one of the security. So is the other man in black further down (on right.)

The people were just usual pedestrians.

We were told that when a vehicle with an A passed by it would be a thirty minute wait from then. So this is the A car.

A vehicle with a P means pizza for everybody. (Just joking. This is a pizza restaurant scooter. Cars were not stopped from using this street until a later time.)

The B car means…I can’t remember…ten minutes left?

The 3 car means three minutes left. We all were excited! I got my camera ready.

We were told the royal car would have a flag on it. So that’s the car approaching.

Her royal highness, the empress. The emperor is next to her–you can see his hand waving.

This car went by really fast! (I’m sure it was travelling at a normal speed, it felt super fast to me. Just time to snap one photo and then, whoops, finished.)

The cars travelling behind……… The entourage, I guess?

Afterwards. We’d seen the empress and sort of seen the emperor. So we all left and went home. I took a hot shower because I was wet!

I’m happy I had the experience…..but as I expected it was a long wait. I expected the royal car to pass by more slowly. It was probably was slow, actually, but it did not really feel like it.

They went back to Tokyo in a bullet train. I asked a police officer and he told me they use their own bullet train, and it looks exactly like a regular bullet train.

The Emperor was born in 1933. The Empress was born in 1934.  So they are well over eighty years old.

Usually, the Japanese emperor remains emperor until his death. But the current emperor wanted to retire from duty. (Presumably duties like giving speeches, meeting other important people,  visiting parts of Japan, etc.)

So next year, he will retire and his eldest son will take over as emperor.

It was a debate over whether he should be allowed to retire or not. I felt he definitely should be allowed! I don’t think the role seems especially hard for a younger person, but for a very elderly person, it would be a hard job.  So I am happy that he can do what he wants and retire. 🙂

Fukushima Bus

This photos was taken in front of the east exit of Fukushima Station. There is an area where one can catch a bus.

Er—-sorry, girls and boys. Not CATCH a bus and add it to your collection of motor vehicles. No, no, no. Sorry for the misunderstanding. This is an area where one can stand and wait, and then step onto a bus and (for a fee) be taken along the bus route until one gets off at a bus stop. Is that clearer now? I hope so. Sorry to get your hopes up and cause confusion.


Most of the busses in Fukushima City do not have artwork on their sides, but a few do. The rabbit is called Momorin and she/he is Fukushima City’s mascot.

Okay, Japanese lesson time.

iriguchi (入口) Entrance

deguchi (出口) Exit

So upon looking at the photos above, can you determine which door is the entrance and which is the exit?


When is the last time you rode a bus? Let’s ride them and help the environment!