Library at Fukushima University


The name of this blog is “We Speak Japanese and English” because, well, we do.

But if I were to change the name, I would like maybe “Eating and Walking at the Same Time.”  Because it’s really rude to eat while walking in Japan, but I love to do it anyway.

I also would like the blog name”The Great Book Hunt”  because I am ALWAYS HUNTING FOR BOOKS!!!!!!!!!  More, more, give me more!!!!!!  In English, of course.  I can get Japanese books easily at the library.

So an untapped resource for books might possibly be….Fukushima University’s library!  Let’s go there and check it out!


Hmmm…which way do I go.  Okay.  The library.



I would not exactly call Fukushima University’s campus charming, but it is nice enough.  Students don’t go there anyway for the campus.  It’s a competitive school, difficult to get into.


Here we are!  The library!  It was closed for renovation, but reopened in June of 2015.


Okay, here we go!  English books!  It’s really a hodgepodge.


Some very old picture books.  They are wonderful classics, and available for loan!


Don’t you hate it when people write in library books?  In Japan, you will frequently see this in English books.  Some numbskull with a pencil goes through and translates the difficult words.  The funny thing is that they usually do a couple pages and give up.


Lots of books for research, naturally.   The books with orange labels are English language books.  You sort of have to hunt for them.


There are also MANY MANY MANY readers.  Penguin readers, Oxford readers, and so on.  They are quite common in Japan for students.  They are retellings of famous works, like Huckleberry Finn, or tell in a simple way about important topics.


Downstairs.  Not the stacks area.  This is a study area.


Does this building look scary, or what?  In its defense, it has a sign saying it is no longer in use.


Off campus, but the view from behind the library.


As a Fukushima resident—but NOT associated in any way with the library–I am entitled to borrow five books for free.  Lucky!!!!!

I got four for my son, and one Japanese books of essays for myself.

I chose the YA novel “My Mum’s from Planet Pluto” because—-let’s be totally honest here——I am a bit of an odd mom.  Because I am foreign and loud and weird and embarrassing.   At least this is what my son thinks.  He loves me anyway.  <3  HOWEVER, this book was not about a slightly eccentric mom!  It was about a mom who had spent time previously in a mental hospital, and who during the course of this book stops taking her lithium!  Okay!  Book Fail!  Yes, it happens.  I just stop reading and move on to the next book.  (Nothing wrong with the topic of a mom with mental problems–it just wasn’t something we wanted to read about.)

Also notice “The Smartest Giant in Town”  If you are American, like me, you are thinking, “Oh, this must be about a very intelligent giant!”  No!  This book is British.  “Smart” means smartly dressed.  Yes!  It really does!

(This is no surprise, though, to those of us in Japan, where the loanword “smart” スマートmeans, according to my dictionary, 1.) slim 2.) stylish.  So we cute slim Americans come to Japan and get called “Smart” and we reply, “Why, thank you, I did do very well on my SAT’s.”  )

Hey, wait nobody has called me “smart” in fifteen years.  }:-(

Moving on.  Anyway, in America, the title of “The Smartest Giant in Town” was changed to:  


Okay, there you have it.  If you have a university or college of any sort near you, it is worth checking out.  The worst they can do is say no.  And then kill you.



I’ve posted about this before.  My son is working his way up the Eiken ladder.  The Eiken is an English proficiency test for Japanese people.  Here is the guide to levels.  You get an application at a bookstore and you need to know a bit of Japanese to fill it out, but it’s not too difficult.   I think my son has valued the process of taking the Eiken tests, and it gives him something concrete.  Rather than “Oh, we speak English at home.”  He can say, “I passed Eiken Pre 2.”



Now, we are challenging Eiken 2!  Below are some study guides to help a person prepare for the test.  Level pre 1 in green.  Then 2, pre 2, and 3 in orange.  There’s also four and five and one, of course, but they aren’t in the photo.


For every single test, I have bought this book and we do the practice tests.  Starts out VERY easy with Level Five.


This is Level Two  It’s multiple choice (the choices are on a separate page).  It’s the one he will take next.  Up to this point, I was confident he would pass the tests.  I am no longer as confident.  It’s possible we have met our Waterloo.


Regardless of whether he passes or not, it will be EXCELLENT practice for him.  So it is definitely worth doing.

And then after he passes the written portion, he must take an interview portion.  Again there are practice tests we can do together.  I have heard that for young children, the interviews can be tough because sometimes kids don’t have the general knowledge of the subject.  Topics like “importing food” and “solar panels” are topics that I doubt my son thinks about and may possibly not really have much of an opinion about.  I’ll work with him though, and teach him the fine art of “bullshitting.”

Why yes, I feel that globalization is important for Japan’s future because it is wonderful when we have globalization.  And that is why I feel it is important.

This is really helpful.  If you click on a box, it shows a virtual Eiken interview test.  It shows you EXACTLY what the interview is like and what you, the test taker, are supposed to do.  Simply click on the number of your test.  (1=highest level)

Here is a youtube video for a level three interview.

This site has helpful hints.  I will translate:

If you don’t understand the question, say “Pardon me?”

If you need more time, say “Let me see.”

What if you can’t express yourself well?  Say as much as you able to say.  (Say “Look”  if you can not say “He is a looking at a picture”.  Don’t just say nothing.)

My husband read in the newspaper that a written portion will be added to the higher level tests!  Uh oh!  So be prepared for that in the near future.



JLPT N2 summer 2015 results for me:  Not passed!  Two points away from passing!  Waaaaa!!!!

I told my husband and he said, “Great job!  You will pass next time!”  <3


Tsunami Evacuation Zone in Sakata City (on the west coast of Japan)



Goin’ on a walk in Sakata City


All by myself, feelin’ pretty


Are the leaves already changing?!  This photo was taken August 30, 2015.  It has been a very cool, rainy end of summer in Japan.  I’m really enjoying it.  Ready for autumn!


This sign is brand new.  It’s at the entrance of the nature walk area behind my inlaws’ farm.  The farm and the nature center are on high ground.


That’s a good thing because the ocean is nearby.  See where it says Port and Wharf?  Yeah, that means water!

Although, honestly, do people get up and move every time there is an earthquake?  I think more people are more aware now, post 3-11.  But quite often there are so many false alarms one feels one can’t be bothered, I think.  (I’m just guessing.)  And let’s not forget a lot of people in Japan are elderly, and couldn’t move easily even if they wanted to.

Sakata City in Yamagata Prefecture, Summer, 2015


At Fukushima Station, this northbound bullet train disconnects to form two separate trains which travel in two different directions. Southbound trains connect at Fukushima Station and head to Tokyo.  If you are on this train, you will distinctly hear the “clicking” sound as the trains connect and disconnect.

After our trip to America, we went to Sakata City in Yamagata Prefecture, where the inlaws live on their farm.  We always take the bullet train.


The cat greets us.  “Where ya been?  Did ya bring me anything?  An American mouse?”


Okay, here’s the farm.  See that emptiyish spot?  There used to be a greenhouse there.  Here is the GREENHOUSE STORY.

My son and I lived on the farm with Baba and Jiji after the earthquake.  Far away from the nuclear power plant, it was not affected by radiation.  Anyway, there was a very cold winter.  The snow was piled high everywhere.  While I was watching my son, he climbed to the top of the snow pile next to the greenhouse, and onto the greenhouse….and the greenhouse collapsed under his weight!  I felt horrible, like a very bad mother.  I cried about it, and I am sure Jiji was angry, but he didn’t say anything and I think he has since forgiven us.


These flower photos are recent.  They were taken on August 29, 2015.



The farm is such a relaxing place to visit.  I feel lucky to have a home away from home!  However, we didn’t enjoy living there after the earthquake.  It is definitely not OUR home, if you know what I mean.  It is Baba and Jiji’s domain!

Goodbye Texas, Hello Japan!



Goodbye, Texas.


It’s been wonderful.


I miss you.


But I can’t stay.


Gotta go.


Back to the other side of the world.


Wish I could put you in my pocket and take me with you!


Like this duty-free makeup.  Souvenirs for Baba!  She can give the lip balms to her friends.

The foundation (on left) and nail polish are mine.   I fell in love with my niece’s tan nail polish, and it seems to be the “in” color.  Understated yet classy.  That’s me.


This lady was boarding our plane in a kimono.  I hope she was in first class!  A kimono seems to me to be the most uncomfortable thing one could wear.  And to tell the truth, I don’t see kimono very often in Japan, anyway.


Back in Japan after a successful journey!  If you forgot to buy souvenirs, you can buy them at Narita Airport.  They are all EXACTLY the same….just the location is different.  LOL


Asian King Buffet….in America!



Why in the world is there a Shi Shi in the U.S?

Could it be because……








We went to an Asian restaurant!


My son got his sushi fix.  Of course, the sushi was American sushi.  Lots of avocado.  Yum!


Cheese rangoon!  Haven’t had that in ages!  ((Smacking Lips))


My plate….I took foods that I can not get easily in Japan.  So much fun!


And the best part….the fortune cookie!!!!!

Do your best to make it happen!

I will!  I most certainly will!

I’m writing a book, and I need to devote myself to making it happen.

The Great Trouble


Drop the chicken and I let your ankles live


My son had TONS of summer homework for junior high school.  One of his assignments was to choose a book from a list and read it and do a book report.  He chose “The Great Trouble”  by Deborah Hopkinson (in Japanese, of course) because it was a book originally in English, and I think he knew that would please me and that I would read to him from the original.  And that is exactly what I did.

In English, it is called “The Great Trouble”, but if you look at the Japanese version you will see that its title translates directly as, “12 Days on Broad Street”.    (This is because it takes place in the Broad Street area of London.)  It is a fictionalized account of true events–the discovery in 1854 by Dr. Snow of what really caused cholera, thus saving countless lives.

I wasn’t incredibly interested in the fiction part of the story, but the facts they were based on were mesmerizing.  Nobody knew what caused cholera.  They thought it came from bad air.  So Dr. Snow had to convince them it came from water…..and from poop which seeped into the water.  (The book doesn’t go into great detail into the poop business.)

I recommend pairing this book with “Poop Fountain” by Tom Angleberger.    We read that a couple of months ago, and it is about three kids who venture to a sewage treatment plant.  You can contrast how long ago, poop got mixed (accidentally) into water, and nowadays, the poop is cleaned out of the water.

Makes me thankful to live in a country fortunate enough to have good sanitation and advanced technology!  (Unlike millions of people in the world today.)