“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!

Futatsuyama Park in Fukushima City

It’s June, and hey, it’s gettin’ warm here in Fukushima City! I went bicycle riding yesterday. Here are photos of a city park that I visited. It is called Futatsu Yama Park.

ふたつ Futatsu= Two

やま Yama=Mountain(s)

See if you can find these words in the sign above. (Hint: They are at the top.)

You may have learned to count in Japanese: Ichi (Itchy) Ni (Knee) San (Sun)

Ni means Two.

However, the Japanese language does not use the grammar “Ni Yama” to mean “Two mountains.”

The speaker has to change the form of the number to make an adjective. Thus, “Futatsu Yama” means “Two mountain(s)” (Japanese doesn’t always use the plural form.)

The two “mountains,” I think. The green one grassy one behind the cement one.

A play area for little ‘uns.

Kids playing ball, and so on.

Off to the side… Shops and houses

It’s a rather big park.

baseball field


“Isle of Dogs” Review (My opinion only)

Months ago, I was excited to hear of an upcoming movie called “Isle of Dogs.” I like isles and I like dogs, so it seemed like a movie I would enjoy.

But then I began to hear more about it….

An LA Times review accused the Texan and white (like me, I will add) director of appropriation of Japanese culture.  You can read the review:


For me, not having seen it–but knowing the basic storyline–I felt that somehow Fukushima and the nuclear accident would be part of the movie. Once I heard the words “grim landscape” and “pre-apocalyptic wasteland,” I thought: “Oh, we know what’s comin’! It’s a difficult topic. Will it be done well? Can a guy from Houston, TX handle the tragedy well? Can he do it well? Can he? Can he?”

I saw the movie.

Spoiler: No, he can’t. He can not do it well.

In the movie, some kind of center for dogs was destroyed (twenty years from now) by earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power devastation.  In the background of the grim landscape in the movie, there were nuclear reactors jutting out of the horizon.

In the movie, human cat lovers are the enemies of the dogs.  This doesn’t make sense to me. (The story was so strange to me……….) It wasn’t a movie about 3/11–and Anderson NEVER says it is an allegory for 3/11, or about the actual abandoned pets of Tohoku. It’s actually… Well, Anderson doesn’t ever seem to explain what it’s about (in the interviews I’ve been combing through.)



“The inspiration for the film came not from Japan but from London, where Anderson was filming 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox: He saw signs for the Isle of Dogs, a small urban borough that juts into the River Thames, and it stuck with him. Developing the story with Jason Schwartzman, Kunichi Nomura, and Roman Coppola, Anderson transported Isle of Dogs to Japan in a tale influenced by the films of Hayao Miyazaki and Akira Kurosawa.

`The movie is a fantasy, and I would never suggest that this is an accurate depiction of any particular Japan,” Anderson says. “This is definitely a reimagining of Japan through my experience of Japanese cinema.’`”—from above link (Entertainment Weekly)

So what he is saying, I gather, is that in 2009 he wanted to make a movie about dogs. And then he placed it in Japan because he liked Miyazaki and Kurosawa.  And then he….what? I don’t know where his thinking went at that point.

No, it was NOT an accurate depiction of Japan. It was a hodgepodge of what the vast majority of Americans think when they hear the word Japan:

sumo. drums. sushi. seven-eleven convenience stores no, not that, not cool enough. school uniforms. ethnically ambiguous American foreign exchange student who knows more than the entire population of Japan altogether. Shopping at the grocery story, no, let’s leave that out, too humdrum. Japanese words that are incomprehensible. kids named Atari. Dogs named Nutmeg. Probably, nobody will notice the Japanese dogs are named Nutmeg, Chief, Spots, Rex rather than Pochi, Chibi, Koro, Momo, Chako and Shiro because, after all, Japanese is incomprehensible.


Okay, I’m getting really sarcastic here. Please forgive me. It’s just that I LOVE Fukushima. “Isle of Dogs” was a movie that went all over the place, grasping at anything it could to either titillate or disgust the audience, squeezing everything it could out of Japan to make a movie that Americans would find unique.

I wrote the above on Friday, and saved it to think about it. I didn’t want to post a review that I didn’t feel was what I wanted to say. On Saturday morning, I was walking early and thinking about the review, and the movie, and my feelings about the movie.  One thing that really bothers me is that Japanese people LOVE dogs and (for the most part) treat them very well. Very very very very very very well. There are countries where dogs are not treated well, but Japan (generally speaking here, based on what I’ve seen) is not a country that leaves dogs to be neglected.

In the Japanese rural areas, yes, it’s more old-school–a bored, burly dog outside guarding the farmhouse. But in recent years, Japan is far more a country of people who take REALLY good care of their dogs. Pure-breds, mixes. Expensive dogs, rescue dogs. Young dogs, old dogs. Healthy dogs, dying dogs. Japanese people in general take really, really good care of them. (Speaking generally here, of course. Every country will have people who abuse animals.)

When I am walking, I greet all the dogs I pass. Some owners are in a hurry, but some owners are happy to talk and show off their pooch. Yesterday, I came across this sweetie while I was thinking about the movie. His human caretaker told me his name is Taro. He is a mix. It was so funny, because I asked, “Is it female or male?” The woman said, “Half.” I laughed and said, “Male? Had an operation?” She indicated that yes, he had been neutered.

She loves her dog SO SO SO much, and she’s NOT ALONE here. Lots of dog lovers in Japan. So that’s what left me scratching my head. We can’t take Anderson’s storyline literally….so what is it an allegory for? I don’t know. I feel it would have been a better movie if it were set in Houston–if he worked with what he knew best. Texans can be sending their dogs to a trash island in the Gulf of Mexico.

If he sets it in Japan, then he should NOT be making up the story. He doesn’t know Japan well enough, IMO. (I suspect he got LOTS of help from Kunichi Nomura for the Japanese culture parts, which are stunning, by the way.) Miyazaki very often (like Disney) borrowed other writers’ stories: “The Borrowers” “Kiki’s Delivery Service” “Howl’s Moving Castle.” I’ve seen two Kurosawa movies (“The Seven Samurai” and “Rashomon.”) Of those two movies, the first seems to have not been based on a book or anything else. But “Rashomon” was based off a Japanese classic story, and its storyline is very similar.

So Anderson…please, don’t think of your own storylines. You should paying me for this advice, but you’re not good at writing storylines. Visuals–A+, gorgeous, stunning, very nicely done. You are excellent at that. But storylines? No.

If you are interested in authentic Japanese dog names, here are a few: