School field trips to Fukushima Prefecture

You can read news from Fukushima, by Fukushima from the Minpo website. It’s the regular news for Fukushima, not meant for the outside, but for us who live here.

So anyway, I was reading the above article about schools who canceled their school field trips to Fukushima after the disaster, and are now starting the trips back up, or thinking about starting the trips back up.

Once thing you need to know: Japanese schools often have field trips. It starts when the kids are young, on field trips to nearby parks and camping areas. Then as the students get older, the field trip becomes a once a year extravanganza to far away places. I think the idea is to introduce these important places to children who might normally not have a chance to visit.

My son, in his last year of junior high, went to Kyoto and Osaka. These two cities are far away for us. As a family, we frequently get to Tokyo, but Kyoto and Osaka are further south, so we basically never to there. So it was nice for him to to get the opportunity to hang out with his friends in those places.

My very first visit to Fukushima Prefecture was in the nineties on a school field trip. I was teaching at a junior high in Chiba Prefecture (near Tokyo) on the JET Programme. The school invited me to tag along on the third year students’ trip to Fukushima. I did not know ANYTHING about Fukushima. We went to the Goshiki Numa in western Japan near Mt. Bandai. Goshiki Numa are five beautiful lakes created by an explosion of Mt. Bandai in 1888.

So you can see, way before 3/11 the earthquake occurred, Fukushima was a common sightseeing spot for school kids in the Tokyo area. Many of the Tokyo area kids live in a city atmosphere, and for them, coming to Fukushima meant experiencing a more rural part of Japan.

You can see a live webcam viewing of one of the lakes if you click on the link below. Just don’t do it during the Japanese night, or it will be dark!

Toys R Us, Fukushima City style

I had heard that the American branch of the Toys R Us chain was having financial difficulties. I decided to go see this beloved store (here in Fukushima City)—just in case it went out of business.

I know everybody shops on the internet nowadays, but come on. Do we really want to tell our kids, “Yes, when I was young, we used to actually GO to stores and browse and shop there instead logging on to a website and shopping from a screen.”

And our kids will say, “No, way. Did you have to walk around the store?”

“Yes, we did.”

“Didn’t that hurt your legs?”

“Well, back then we were just hardier. We were used to walking around stores.”

“Man! I’m glad I didn’t live in the old days!”

Japan is a country that economizes space. So this particular building has a grocery store on the first floor. The Toys R Us is up the escalator.

Entering the store…….

And traditional ornaments for the Japanese New Year, which is celebrated January first.

Stuffed animals…….

As the sign says, “Plush.”

Meru (Mell?) is a Japanese doll. Notice that they do NOT have black hair.  Yes, it is a Japanese brand. No, I don’t want to discuss it.

Popo Chan, another Japanese doll. This one does have black hair.

Rika dolls (a Japanese doll similar to Barbie) Yes, again notice that she usually does not have black hair.

Having a non-doll loving boy, I never ever ever bought dolls except possibly as gifts for people in the U.S. (And then, rarely, as Japanese dolls are fairly expensive and it wasn’t something I could afford to do very often.)

Notice the price tag: thirty American dollars for a Rika doll.

(Fun Fukushima Fact: Rika dolls are originally from Fukushima Prefecture! You can visit the factory. I never did having a (shall I say it again?) non-doll loving boy.  However, my friend had a doll-loving girl and they said the factory was boring. Nevertheless, I am intrigued. Being a doll-loving female*, I want to see exactly how they make them.)

This is the ONLY doll in the store with non-light skin.  I have a feeling it is movie related and will be available for a short time.

Puzzles for little kids (toddlers and preschoolers)

Japanese people, in general, feel it is important for their children to learn English. (Although there is controversy over what age to begin.)

So one can buy products which teach English.  Usually the English is very easy. But also, if it is made in Japan for Japanese people, it will virtually always have katakana next to the English word. This enables a child to not read the English at all, just the katakana. One major problem is that the katakana does not accurately represent the English word.

This overuse of katakana is why I have rarely bought these sorts of “Made for Japanese kids” products. I don’t think most Japanese people themselves care at all about this issue, but being a native speaker, I prefer for kids not to rely on katakana.

Some fun games. It’s fun to shop in Japan and buy unique Japanesque games like the sushi Jenga type game on the right.  Well, I didn’t buy it, but I can dream.


*I admit it. I like dolls. I always felt a bit angry that Bo Peep was thrown out (literally and figuratively) of the movie “Toy Story.”

On the way to Toys R Us……..

No, I did not take a train! I rode my bike to our Toys R Us here in Fukushima City. It took me over twenty minutes.

When we first moved here, my son was three. I had previously lived within walking distance of a Toys R Us in Narita City, and it was fun to take little son there. So when son was three, I would take the train (a short journey.) However, now it’s possible to ride bikes.

Going through the section of Moriai in Fukushima City

Moriai Village Stone Monument

A temple, I think.

That’s the temple.

So I was riding along…..tra la la tra la la

And I notice a huge stuffed animal in a window!!!!!!!!  Omigosh, so huge!!!!  What?

Another view.

It’s a cat! A living cat! It was enormous.

And a puppy dog.

Back onto my bicycle. Mustn’t dawdle.

Notice this vending machine? What does it sell…..?

Fresh apples

This park is close to Toys R Us, and my son used to play here when he was little. What happy memories!

“ice wall” of questionable effectiveness

To understand the following post, you need to know that ground water has been passing under the Dai Ichi nuclear power plant. (The one where the meldowns occured.) This is a huge problem. The water has been building up, being collected and stored.  It reminds me of one of those cartoons with a leak in the ship. First the cartoon character stops the leak. Whew. But then another one pops up. Then another one. The water keeps coming. Gah.

An ice wall was built to prevent the water from running through the nuclear power plant.  But is the ice wall working? Okay, NOW our post begins:


My husband watches national news in Japanese every morning. This morning I heard the round table discussion talking about Fukushima, so I listened. They said:

杜撰な壁  Zusan na Kabe

Zusan means “Faulty”

Kabe means “Wall” (In this case, the ice wall)

So basically the ice wall is NOT doing a good job of keeping the ground water from getting radiated by the power plant.

Here’s a recent Japan Times article in English that you can read:

The ice wall itself is mentioned towards the end of the article.

(editted to add: My husband is NOT related to the Kawamura in the article.)

Going to the American Embassy in Tokyo

My son’s American passport needed to be renewed.  At age fourteen, he is still a child–and that means he MUST go to the embassy in person and with both parents in tow. (One parent may be absent if proper paperwork is filled out.) So last Wednesday, my husband, my son, and I headed to Tokyo. The American embassy has strict rules about what may be brought inside, so we stuck most of our belongings in a locker.  So I don’t have photos of the embassy itself. (And photos are not allowed inside the embassy, anyway.)

This is the subway station for the embassy, and other embassies in the area.  I think the mural depicts the international feel of the area due to the many embassies and consulates there.

Sushi from a restaurant my husband chose. (We’re in a mixed marriage. He’s a foodie and I’m not.)

Light soup and green tea

My lunch was the top left on the sign. So….I don’t know the current exchange rate, but aroundish fifteen U.S. dollars, give or take several dollars. (I really don’t know the current exchange rate.)

Tokyo Station………… this is just a very small part of it! It’s large.

Ooooooh pretty lights

Shop. Japanese people are expert shoppers…..and sellers. We all know the Kit Kat craze. (What? You don’t know the Kit Kat craze?) Japan constantly introduces new flavors of Kit Kats. It started with your basic flavors like strawberry and then progressively wackier until the powers that be are wracking their brains for new flavors.  Please look at this link:

Sake flavored Kit Kats behind me. I can just imagine drunk chocolate company managers thinking this one up.

Tokyo Banana flavored KitKats

Tokyo Bananas are an upscale Twinkie.  See link:

People usually did not buy these special items for themselves. Japan is a culture that likes to give presents, that likes to give souvenirs, and likes to give food. They usually buy these rather expensive food items as souvenirs for friends and family back home.

The line for the Tokyo Banana Kit Kats was SO LONG (and it was a weekday.) One woman was buying over twenty boxes over them!!!!!!!!! I bought some for my Japanese classes to munch on. The Kit Kats were banana flavored, and I must say, delicious.



Fukushima City Train Station (East Side)

This is the Fukushima train station, east side, at seven a.m. on a weekday.

Do you know what the red boxes are?  Public mailboxes, of course.

Mail carriers don’t pick up mail from one’s home like in the U.S. so one must go and mail letters using a public mailbox or go directly to a post office.  (Post offices are more common in Japan than in the U.S.)

This is inside the station, but before one deposits one’s ticket into the gate. So anybody can hang out here for free.

Fukushima is known for its delicious and plentiful fruit, so there is an apple tree on display.

Now I am standing behind the tree. Off to the left, you can see the ticket vending machines.

Both the east and west exits have Fukushima tourism information, but it doesn’t open until nine a.m.

A wider view. You can see the ticket gates in the very front. Fukushima Station also has a bullet train section. You enter here, walk about a minute, then use your bullet train ticket to enter into the special bullet train section. The bullet train section is nicer than the regular local train section.

As you can see, there are no benches or chairs.  A couple of benches used to be available, but they are no longer there. (I have no idea why.  I’m pretty sure, though, that the train management does not want people loitering around in this area.)

Off to my side is a shopping area. Most of the larger train stations in Japan have some sort of shopping area.

I mentioned that the lobby area of the train station has no benches. Outside, there are a few stone seats, covered. It’s not very comfortable…but that’s probably the idea!  They want people to sit there just long enough to wait for their friend, I suppose. But not spend all day loitering around.  You may wonder:  Why not sit on the ground?  Japanese people rarely sit on the ground. They might squat, but actually plant their butt down on the ground and sit?  No, it’s rare, and considered rather low class. (In parks, they usually use plastic mats to sit on, for picnics and so forth.)

Illuminations in Fukushima City….on TV

The other night, Fukushima news on TV informed the public that the “Illuminations” (winter lights) in downtown Fukushima City (east exit) are ready for viewing.  So romantic!!!!!!!! They will be up until the end of January, 2018.

The news informed us of other illuminations displays in Fukushima Prefecture:

Illuminations are in Kagamiishi Town (on the local train line, slightly south of Koriyama City) (Field Art?????  Now I am curious!)

Koriyama City (west exit of train station) has Illuminations

Iwaki City’s Illuminations start on November eighteenth.


So grab the hand of your special loved one and head on out to some winter magic, Fukushima Style. Sendai City also has illuminations, quite elaborate ones.  However, when I went there a few years ago, it was VERY crowded.  Fukushima Prefecture may have smaller strings of lights, but the atmosphere is more charming and low-key.