Happy Setsubun!

It’s now February, and February third is “Setsubun” in Japan. It’s very old and traditional. I believe the traditions associated with it are Japanese in origin. (Many old Japanese customs originate in China, but have become so assimilated into Japan that it can be difficult to know what is actually Chinese in origin and what is Japanese in origin.)

Setsubun is a fun holiday. Usually somebody is the “oni” (a word that can not be translated accurately into English, but is usually translated as “devil.” I don’t like this translation as oni is probably more of a monster or troll…… Like I said, the word can not be accurately translated.)

A person plays the Oni, representing bad luck or misfortune. People (usually kids) throw mame (dried soybeans) at him/her to drive the Oni out of the house, ridding the house of bad luck for the coming spring.  In our region of Tohoku, peanuts in the shell are often used instead of soybeans.

Every year, I do this tradition when I teach English. However, it’s difficult to translate the Japanese:

鬼は外!Oni wa soto!

Literally it is: Oni out!

This sounds awkward in English, so there are a huge number of translations of the phrase Oni wa soto! in English.

There are many Setsubun picture books in Japan, often depicting an adorable Oni. Honestly, who could not love these guys?????!!!!!!

(photo from Amazon.co.jp)

But unfortunately there are no picture books in English that are about Setsubun. I decided to use a much loved picture book because even though it does not depict a Japanese Oni, it does depict a monster. And it teaches “Go away!” That’s basically the meaning of Oni wa soto! Hey, bad guy get outta here!

And the phrase “Go away!” is so useful because my students can use it not only with monsters, but also robbers, mean dogs, siblings, and so on.

How much do Fukushima people worry about the radiation?

I was recently asked “How much do (Fukushima) people worry about all the chemicals that were spread around because of the great Tōhoku quake?

My short answer is: It depends on the person.

My longer answer is: The question is rather a simplistic one to ask of a Fukushimer. We here don’t think only of the chemicals. First and foremost, people were killed by the the tsunami. Second, people’s houses were destroyed by the tsunami.

And then, after that, the nuclear meltdowns, of course. People who lived in what is called the “Exclusion Zone” were forced to leave their houses. They can’t go back without permission, but they do still own their homes and their land. Of course, their homes have been neglected and fallen into ruin.

So then after this, worrying about the chemicals? Well, nobody here is happy about the radiation. That’s for sure. We don’t like the danger it puts our children in, the future in, and how it’s put us into the serial killer list of tragedies. It’s kind of like waking up one morning and finding out your prefecture is the Unabomber. And hey, it’s not our fault.

There are different worries going on, though. Some people are (mostly) worried about their health or the health of their children. (I think pretty much all Fukushimers worry about the children, to varying degrees. Some people a lot. Some not as much. But everybody worries about our children.)

We all worry about the future. This isn’t something that goes away in a few months. The aftermath of the meltdowns will be with us for years….and years…..and …………um.  My attention span isn’t great.  What was I saying? Oh, the cleanup and so on will be here for a really llllloooooooonnnnnnnnggggggg time.

Farmers worry about their crops. And they’ve been treated unfairly by the internet media because their produce gets tested, and it is supposedly safe. (“Chemicals” i.e. radiation was NOT spread evenly thoughout our prefecture. Obviously towns closer to the plant were harder hit than the towns way out west, and so on. Furthermore, people on the internet seem to have the impression that all our rice fields are on the grounds of the nuclear power plant, or just down the road from it. Cough Stupid Netflix New Zealand Guy Cough)

Owners of hotels worry about tourism. Before the quake, Fukushima had a wonderful reputation in Japan as a place for Tokyoites to get away to. Now, of course, this reputation is ruined. In my opinion, most of Fukushima Prefecture is safe. (Ironically though, before the quake we didn’t get many tourists from abroad. People abroad hadn’t heard of us. Before the quake, foreigners in Japan visited Tokyo, Kyoto, Nikko. Tohoku was a destination primarily for Japanese people who are more familiar with what the area offers. Understandably so. After all, foreign tourists in the U.S. don’t head to Branson, Missouri. A place like Branson is for Americans. Okay, bad example. LOL)

On a day to day basis? NOBODY WORRIES AT ALL. What’s to worry about? Here in Fukushima City, our radiation levels are within a safe level. (We can measure them. We don’t guesstimate, which seems to be how most people on the internet determine our radiation levels.)

And guesstimation is……….

Well, let me explain it this way. It snowed last night. I told my mom on the phone, “It’s at least one or two feet of snow!” Poor me, shoveling two feet of snow.

I went out and actually measured it with a ruler. (The ruler has both metric and um whatever Americans use…Imperial?)

It’s actually about seven and a half inches. So it’s below what I guesstimated. SNOW CAN BE MEASURED. AND SO CAN RADIATION.

So back to the original question. “How much do people worry about all the chemicals that were spread around because of the great Tōhoku quake?”

How much would YOU worry if chemicals were spread around your state/province? What would you do if it happened to YOU?


New Bakery near Fukushima Prefectural Art Museum

I love to go to both the Fukushima Prefectural Art Museum and the Fukushima Prefectural Library. They are located together about a twenty minute walk from the Fukushima train station. (East Exit)

So I’m on my way……Tra la la la la   la la    la      la

Oh, look! A new bakery. Let’s check it out.

This bakery has just been built, and it’s a good addition because there are not a lot of cafes near the art museum.

I went in and talked to the owner. The bread in the photo is a traditional sweet scone. It’s the sort of sweet that a Japanese grandma or grandpa would have eaten when they were young.

The owner took me upstairs to the eating scones and drinking coffee nook.

I loved the fire because nowadays one doesn’t see real fires inside of buildings. So cozy!

A photo from the window. It’s a five minute walk (or less) to the museum/library.

Japan–so orderly! Bicyclists on the left, please. Pedestrians on the right.

And kisses for the Pomeranians.

Pomeranians are the Reese Witherspoons of the Dog World.

My Journal—from 1997

I was doing my “around the world” cleaning in which I deep clean my entire home. It takes about two years. I’m almost finished. Then I’ll start again because during the two years, everything got messy again.

Anyway, I came across my journal from 1997. (Like Greg Heffley, I wrote that it is NOT a diary. It’s a journal. Yeah, I really wrote that. LOL There’s a long story behind it. Diaries contain juicy secrets. So the key is to insist it is a journal, and then it sounds boring and nosy people will leave it alone.)

Coming across one of my journal notebooks, I’m thinking, “I haven’t touched this in years. Since before the 2011 quake. It’s probably covered in radiation.” No kidding, I think stuff like that. Living in Fukushima, radiation is something we think about. But at least my home isn’t in the forbidden zone. Those people had to leave their belongings behind when they quickly left immediately after the quake and the resulting problems at the nuclear power plant. Later, they could go back and retrieve important items–but their photo albums and journals probably got covered with radiation if their home is in the forbidden zone. (The area which received the most radiation.)

On to less grim topics.

I opened my journal to a random page, and on October 6th, 1997, I wrote:

My quote for the day:

“Saying you have writer’s block is like saying you have “cooking block.” You can always cook a little something for yourself–somtimes it’ll be a wonderful, gourmet meal and sometimes it won’t. But if you’re hungry, you’ve got to eat.”

I made this up after reading about some guy who spent 3 years with writer’s block! (?!?!) Ridiculous!

Heard on the radio today: Ray Bradbury is 77 years old. He has 1 rejection slip for every week of his life!

Electricity sources around the world

The other day I showed photos of power lines near my inlaws’ home in the countryside. My inlaws live in the area of Japan known as Tohoku, and I also live in the area of Japan known as Tohoku.  (Tohoku is the northern part of the island of Honshu. It has a reputation of being rural. Tokyo is NOT in Tohoku.)

Dai Ichi nuclear power plant (the power plant in Fukushima which suffered the meltdowns) is in Tohoku, but it did NOT supply power to people here in Tohoku. It supplied power to Tokyo.

We who live in Tohoku (and that means me in Fukushima City) get our electricity from a different source: Tohoku Electric Power Company.

Tohoku Electric Power Company has several power stations, listed here.  As you can see if you scroll down, that includes two nuclear power plants. These two nuclear power plants did not have meltdowns.

Only the Dai Ichi nuclear power plant (owned by Tokyo Electric Power Company) suffered meltdowns. Although its location was Tohoku (Fukushima, to be precise,) power lines led from that plant all the way down to Tokyo.

This is very confusing, but it’s important information.

I myself do not like it when people who are living in or visiting Tokyo say nasty things (online) about Fukushima because Tokyo’s electricity consumption is the reason for the meltdowns.  And yeah, people frequently say nasty things about Fukushima nowadays. So don’t say nasty things about FUKUSHIMA. Please. Don’t.

In case you are wondering where the people of the world get their electricity, here is a map:


Three sources are shown in the map:

  1. Fossil Fuels
  2. Nuclear
  3. Renewables

Each source has good points and each source has bad points. I am not here to tell you which source is best. I want you kids of the world to think about the sources. You kids are the future. You are the scientists of tomorrow.

(images are from  https://www.irasutoya.com/   )


Very early morning in Sakata City (Husband’s hometown)

The photos on today’s post were all taken in January 2019 at my husband’s parents’ house in Yamagata Prefecture. His parents are farmers, so this is a farmhouse. It was very early in the morning.

Do you see their cat?

Over the years, my husband’s parents always have one cat, a free cat they’ve gotten from somewhere. The cat’s official “job” is to rid the farm of vermin like mice and moles. However, my husband’s father is a cat whisperer. Cats LOVE LOVE LOVE him, because he is very gentle, he loves cats, and he always has dried fish in his pockets for the current cat. A winning combination.

I, on the other hand, get very excited when I am around a cat and my excitement annoys the cat. Dogs like me tons. Cats tolerate me.

You can see the annoyance on their cat’s face. “Humeenalina, you idiot. Stop taking my photo and let me in the dang house. It’s freezing out here, I’ve been partying all night (even though I’m neutered,) and I’m hungry. So put the camera down now. Geesh.”

(The cat refers to me as Humeenalina because he thinks I look like a Humeenalina.)

Photos from my husband’s hometown (Sakata City) Winter Break 2018-2019

Walking to the convenience store……..

I was thinking to myself, Should I frame the photo so that the electric towers can’t be seen? Then I thought, No. This blog’s goal is to get kids (and other people) to think about WHERE we get the electricity we use to power up.  So I kept the tower in.

All these photos were on my way to the convenience store. (About a ten or fifteen minute walk)

Bullet Train Train Station Waiting Room in Fukushima City

Japan’s bullet trains (called shinkansen 新幹線 in Japanese) are famous throughout the world. Their tickets are more expensive than the regular trains, but of course the bullet trains are much faster. In most stations, the bullet train area is completely separate from the regular train part of the station. And the bullet train area tends to be far nicer and cleaner.

When we travel to my husband’s hometown (from Fukushima City to Sakata City) we take a bullet train to Shinjo City. At that point, the bullet train line stops, so then we transfer to a regular train.

In the above photo, you can see the waiting room at the Fukushima City train station, in the bullet train section.

A map of some major train lines in our area. The bullet train is in green. My husband’s hometown is on the west coast, so we head out west on that green line, then north. (Then further west on the local train until we reach the end, shown by the black line.)

vending machines in the waiting room

Sign that lets you know upcoming trains. (It flashes in Japanese and English)

Kokeshi dolls are a product of Tohoku. I love Kokeshi, especially the traditional kind.

This is at Shinjo City station. Shinjo City is a very small city, and just happens to have access to the bullet train. It’s station is super duper small. Usually bullet trains and regular trains are completely separate from each other, but Shinjo City’s train station is so small that I could get a photo of a regular train and a bullet train side by side. I think the differences in their shape is obvious!

Happy New Year 2019!

These photos are actually from my husband’s hometown of Sakata. I asked permission to take photos inside the grocery store. These are items being sold for the new year. (Japanese New Year corresponds to western calendar, thus it is January first.)

All the mochi that will be sold for New Year celebrations.

The red days on the calendar show the “Luckiest” days. (Taian Days) Most people in Japan don’t seem to pay attention to whether a day is lucky or not–except when planning a wedding. Most Japanese couples will try to choose a “Taian” Day for their wedding day.

Flower arrangements for the new year.

A great 2019 to everyone!