Will be on hiatus during the Winter Break

Off to the U.S.!

I plan to buy tights.  Why tights?  Because I am too tall for Japanese tights.  I’m not really tall at all.  It’s just that Japanese companies make really short tights.

What else am I planning to buy?  Well, this doll.

I’ve already ordered it.  It’s for a pregnant Japanese friend.  In America, it’s about 27 dollars and in Japan it’s about 180 dollars.  Go figure.  So it’s like I’m giving a super duper expensive present!

Spend. Spend. Spend.  That’s what I plan to do.



tabi no haji wa kakisute

One loses all inhibitions when one is away from home

The only question is:  Which is home, America or Japan?

Well, that’s not the only question.  The other question is how many turkey pot pies can I eat before the chicken pot pies get jealous?





Upon returning from bustling Sendai City to quiet Fukushima City, the streets felt so empty.




Machi wa hissori shite iru.

All is hushed in the streets.



But we have our own illuminations!

Bright and beautiful is Fukushima at night.


At age eleven, my son is old enough to watch the news. But at age eleven, he is not old enough to learn that the other day’s massacre was of children. This pains everyone, but I think it pains our children the most to hear that other children have been killed.

They are thinking, “Could it have been me?  Could a bad guy come into my school and kill me?”

I just want to wrap him up in my arms and tell him that nothing and nobody will ever ever EVER hurt him.  But of course I can’t say that.  My son is a tall eleven year old, and likely would have been one of the targeted boys if he were attending that Pakistani school.

A couple days ago, I started Malala’s book as a read aloud for my son.  It’s the one for kids, “I am Malala”  It’s really an excellent book.  And so we are reading along about how the Taliban is gaining power in her area–preventing women from showing the face, going out in public, getting an education–and then that tragedy happened.  Not being up on Pakistani politics, it helped put everything in perspective.

The only thing I regret I have is that I got the kindle book rather than the actual book.  Her face is beautiful, and I’d like to show it to my son every time I pick up the book.



Sendai City Illuminations, December 2014!


View from Matsushima Kaigan train station.  Goodbye, Matsushima!  We are heading to…….


Sendai City!  All decorated for the holidays!


My son’s primary goal was to visit the Pokemon Center.  It’s basically a gift shop, IMO.  Not terribly exciting to me.  My son said, “I will never grow out of Pokemon.”  Um.  LOL I think.


While my son was at the Pokemon Center, my friend and I went to Starbucks and then the bookstore.  They have a lot more English books and Japanese learning books than Fukushima City–a lot more!  Anyway, my goal was to get a book of Japanese essays that I could learn from, since I don’t do well at reading comprehension on the JLPT test.  There were only two or three essay books and they all had furigana.  So I did not buy them.  The book I have now, Chukyuu Kara Manabu Nihongo, introduces the kanji and their furigan and then the essays are without furigana (generally.)  I much prefer this style, so I can’t cheat and peek at the furigana.


Next stop: The Loft.  I took a photo of these Japanese wreaths called kadomatsu, for anybody out of Japan reading this blog.  They are hung around Christmas on doors.  Then in January they are burned to release the spirits.  (I can’t imagine Americans burning Christmas wreaths!  These kadomatsu are too beautiful to burn…..IMO)


2015–Year of the Sheep!  Japanese celebrate the Chinese New Year on Jan. 1st, not in February.


I have already bought our family calendar, where we put our schedule.  However, I loved this Curious George one.  Want!  Want!  Want!


Otoshidama packages…..They are envelopes for giving New Year money to children.  They come in a variety of styles.  These in the picture show traditional scenes of Japanese life.  Adorable!


Not a good photo, but these are New Year cards.  Again, a wide variety of styles, but I thought these were especially nice.


Funashi–mascot of Funabashi City.  He is charismatic and cool.  Fukushima City’s mascot Momorin is, in comparison, quite boring.


Bought this!  It’s a map of Fukushima Prefecture!  How could I resist?

I’ve seen these dogs out before.  They must go out a lot.  I am starting to feel sorry for them.


Sendai illumination!!!!!!!!!!  Sendai is famous for its brilliant lights.




Sendai City is so incredibly bustling.  It is four times as big a Fukushima City, but ten times as exciting.


Posh Sendai City.  What a pretty display.  We had a great time!




Matsushima Aqarium

Yes! We went to the Matushima Aquarium! (Suizokukan=Aquarium)



you went to the aquarium?  did you see my crazy fish friends?



“Welcome to Matsushima

Matsushima is famous for its beautiful ocean scenery.  Just really famous.  We didn’t see too much of the lovely scenery–our goal was the Matsushima Aquarium.  It will be moved in the spring, so my husband suggested seeing it before it is changes.


This is a map of Miyagi Prefecture, north of Fukushima Prefecture.  Matsushima is in the “You are here” location.  Sendai City (about a million people) is southwest of that.


We saw a sea lion show.  Cute little devils.


And really talented, too!


Balancing a Christmas tree on his nose.


Electric eels!  What do they do to this Christmas tree?


At feeding time, their electricity lights up the tree!  Neat!


Totally environmentally friendly!  Take that, TEPCO!

The lights would flicker on and off, it wasn’t a continuous beam.  But really cool.


Next we saw the regular aquarium part–all kinds of fish and sea creature. Then we saw this:


This was taken the day after the devastating earthquake and tsunami of 3/11/11.  This was on the coast, so lots of water.  Really sad.  In the restaurant where we had lunch, there was a sign which said that the water came up to this point–almost tall as much my son who is a tall sixth grader.  It’s amazing that they got it all cleaned up.


I wanted to also say about “The Story of the World”–I felt that it did a good job of explaining the misdeeds done by European countries.  In the past, I have felt contempt from other westerners (not other Americans, of course) about America and its politics and how horrible it is.  (Funny thing though, Chinese people and Japanese people never seem contemptuous.  We do NOT talk politics generally.  Chinese and Japanese people are just generally really sweet, I have found.)

Okay, so when a European hates America…….how can they hate America when their own European country has done equally miserable things?  And how can they hold it against ME?  When I’m just strolling along in life, being apolitical.

It’s hard to explain.  America is a country that generates strong feelings, love or hate.  Do other people have experience with this?




Famous Picture Book Characters in Japan


Anpanman, actually from a comic book.  Japanese kids seem to grow out of Anpanman pretty quickly.  When I taught kids, I liked to ask the older kids, “Do you like Anpanman?” to see the expression on their face.  :-P


Family of Fourteen by Iwamura Kazuo  Such relaxing books!


Guri and Gura by Nakagawa Eriko  Cutey Cutey


Not originally Japanese, but The Snowman by Raymond Briggs.  Japan treats a lot of western characters as their own, so to speak.  They adore The Snowman, The Little Prince, Moomin, Miffy, the list goes on and on…….  I don’t think America embraces Japanese characters, probably because Japanese books are rarely published and promoted in the U.S.


both famous.  Nakae Yoshio? on the left.  Imoto Youko? on the right  Just really famous


Matsutani’s book on top Super duper famous and loved.  Iwasaki Chihiro…all these illustrators are incredibly famous, but she is arguably the most famous (?)


Bruna’s Miffy……Much loved in Japan.  Is it my imagination, or is it obvious that Miffy influenced that Japanese cat Hello Kitty?


I don’t know this so well….by Kakagui Hiroshi.  Looks really Japanese, though.


Darling Husband bought these Christmas cookies for us.  My son and I have the same personalities….we both scoffed ours down!  My husband is saving his.


When my son was little, I never read to him from Japanese picture books, only English ones.  Therefore, I am not 100% familiar with the beloved Japanese picture books.  However, some of them have been translated in English, and are carried by our libraries (city and prefectural.)  I did read him those English ones, like The Family of Fourteen and Guri and Gura.  Really sweet books.  Sometimes they don’t translate too well, most of the time I prefer the pictures over the text. (Although some books translate just fine.)

But moving on….at age 11, my son is way past the baby picture book stage.  (Sigh) LOL.   He told me he wanted a history book for his read aloud, so for the past several months, I have been reading “The Story of the World” to him.  It is four separate books, the history of the entire world from ancient times to the nineteen nineties.

He loved it.  I loved it.  We both loved it.

He loved it because he likes history.  Also, while I think it can be read to kids of almost any age, I am glad I waited until this year to do them.  He has been doing Japanese history and WWII in sixth grade and it really corresponds with the Story of the World.  Like literally, he talked about Pearl Harbor (in Japanese, Shinju Wan–Shinju literally means “pearl”) in school and the same exact day we talked about Pearl Harbor at home.  It was pretty funny.  I asked what his teacher said about it and he said that the teacher said, “Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and didn’t tell the Americans.  Write that down.”

I loved the Story of the World because it filled in lots of gaps for me and explained things I wasn’t sure about.  Very easy to read.  I have a feeling that if you were a historian, you would find things wrong with the books, but I personally found it very unbiased.  It was just very straight forward about things.

Anyway, I really recommend the books.  Informative!


Speaking of my son’s history class, he told me that his teacher asked for a show of hands of which students knew who Hitler was.  My son said he and only two other kids knew who he was!  Amazing!  They are in sixth grade, remember.  And kind of sad.  We hadn’t reached Hitler yet in The Story of the World at that point, but my son knows who Hitler was because we have definitely talked about him..  I don’t have English books about him, but I checked Japanese books (picture books aimed at older kids) out of the library and we talked about them.

I hadn’t done this previously, but after my son said that so few kids knew who Hitler was, we talked about him again and I told him that Hitler was a mesmerizing speaker (apparently).  We logged onto youtube for his speeches.  You don’t have to understand German to see that he really had the crowd under his control.  So basically, the moral was:  Don’t listen to somebody who sounds good!   Use your head and THINK about right and wrong!

Oh, also………….getting off the subject here, but I asked if he heard in school about the Rape of Nanjing.  (I didn’t use the word “rape”)  No, of course they weren’t taught that. :-(  I read the book by Iris Chang so I told him about it.  But not getting any library books on this one.  (Not sure that they exist?)  The photos are pretty horrific.  Hmmmm….maybe I should get a library book on it.  How would I tactfully request THAT?


Japanese Class Christmas Party


My darling friend sent me these yummy cookies!!!!!!!!!!!



On Friday our Japanese class had a Christmas party.  At first I was going to make my mom’s chicken salad.  But then I started thinking that chicken salad is a summery type of food and that I wanted something more wintery.  So contemplated pumpkin pie, and went to the International Store Jupiter so see if they had canned seasoned pumpkin pie filling.  They didn’t.  I realize I could make the pie from scratch using kabocha, but I just didn’t want to deal with all that trouble.

So I started thinking again:  I remember long ago, my Japanese student telling me that she went to the U.S. as a host student.  Her American host mother was aware that Japanese people love rice and made rice pudding for her as a treat.  The Japanese student told me that she thought rice pudding was such a disgusting idea!  Sweet rice!  Gross!

I decided to introduce my class to the wonders of Rice Pudding.  I chose an easy recipe off the internet (from Foodnetwork) and made it that morning.  It really was easy and the nice thing is that all the ingredients were easy to get in Japan.  It’s such a pain when you can’t get a certain ingredient!

I put the rice pudding into little containers with plastic spoons–I know people are reluctant to try anything they can’t handle with chopsticks.  So they need spoons provided.

Also, I labeled it Amerika no Ofukuro no Aji RICE PUDDING.  “Ofukuro no Aji” is an expression that I learned while studying for N2.  Basically it means like Mom’s Cooking, something mom would make.  Comfort food.  I wanted everybody to know a bit about rice pudding.

Nevertheless I could hear people picking it up and saying, “Is it sweet?  Amai?”  because they had no idea what it would taste like.  But I think it went over well.  It was all eaten up!  If you add enough butter and sugar to anything it’ll taste good.  :-)


We all brought presents for a present swap.  I got a book of Japanese puzzles, which I will have to try to do.  One of the ladies from the Philippines got my map that I gave as a present, so I was please with that.   I was sort of hoping a student, rather than a teacher, would get it.


Oden was made. Traditional Japanese comfort food.  I personally never make oden.  I kind of got turned off by it once when I was in 7-11 and a fly was floating in it!  (Convenience stores sometimes sell oden.)


Silent Night in Chinese, Japanese and English.  We sang all three. Kurisumasu Omedeto!


“Rakuten” thinking


I saw these Christmas cards at a local bookstore and thought they were so adorable!  They mix western Christmas wreaths and trees with traditional Japanese decorations.  Just…..oooooh!  It’s one of the nice things about living in Japan.  It’s the country of kawaii and there are just so many kawaii things here.  I did NOT buy these cards, however, because I have already sent off my Christmas cards.  I get most of my cards from my church.  They sell religious ones ridiculously cheap, like thirty yen each.  This is good for me, because I just can’t afford to spend two or three hundred yen per card.  I’ve never seen cards in affordable boxes of twenty or whatever, like they sell in the United States.  So cards can be pricey here.

I think they are selling more “kawaii” stuff in America, though—stuff copied off Japan.  I know they sell things like kokeshi online.  I want this kokeshi nativity set* …..kawaiiiiii!!!!!!!!!

Positive Thinking…..

It’s something I want to write about, in regards to test taking.  I know conventional wisdom is that in order to pass a test, one must think positively.  I’m not really a big believer in that.  I have met many people who are like, “Oh, that was SO EASY!  I am sure I passed it.” And then they didn’t pass it.  So I guess I think it is best to think positively, but also to think realistically.

The reason I am such a negative thinker about the results of my JLPT test is because I know that I have not reached the level of skill that the test requires.  I am getting there, but I’m not there yet.  JLPT Bootcamp Blog says that if you pass N2, you can translate.  Well, I can NOT translate written materials….so I know I am not at the N2 level.  I need to study more and learn more.  Once I get closer to the N2 level, I will be more positive about the results, but not until then.

By the way, in Japan “optimistic” is らくてん。。。。The name of the online shopping company?  Yep, I just checked and it is the same kanji.  楽天   So I guess they want you to be optimistic about shopping!  LOL


*  Upon further examination, this nativity set appears to have been created by a Japanese man.  Okay, found this doll by Kids Preferred made in China.  Definitely copied!


BREAKING NEWS:  Just saw this on national Japanese TV.  Apparently our local vocano, Mt. Azuma, is getting active again……    http://www.jma.go.jp/en/volcano/