July 31, 2006


When I first came to Japan I was surprised to see that envelops were not made with glue on them. It made sense to me after discovering the envelops I had brought from the States had all stuck together. The high humidity here makes it necessary to seal envelops with tape or with glue. The invention of glue sticks have made it easier. On the left of the envelop is a cross between a bottle of glue and a glue stick. It is much wetter than a glue stick. The drier glue sticks are available here as well.

Recently, I found a device in a department store that will make sealing envelops a whole lot easier. It's called dotliner. The word is printed on it in English. You run the flap of the envelop through the device as you press. A narrow strip of two sided tape is applied to the flap. The flap can then be folded over and sealed to the envelop.

The envelop with the red and blue stripes along the edges is for airmail. In recent years they started making them with a tape strip that is covered with a waxed paper. The paper protects against humidity and is easily removed to seal the envelop.

July 30, 2006

Working on the Railroad

I was walking along when I saw all these men on the train tracks. I stopped in my tracks. Someone was blowing a whistle in some sort of code. Everyone scrambled to the sides. It's something that you don't see or hear very often. All of sudden the crossing bars came down and bells started ringing and SWOOSH! This train zoomed by.

Trains come through every couple of minutes or so. It must take them a long to get a job done.

July 29, 2006

Catching Bugs

All those dragonflies yesterday reminded me of watching the kids in the neighborhood as they went through the fields catching bugs. They are all older now and don't do it anymore. There are no young kids around so all those dragonflies escaped capture. There were, however, quite a few birds gathering in the trees and on the wires. We also have bats who dart about at night.

Here is a picture of the net that Papa used when he was a kid. It's a bamboo pole with a net wrapped around a wire. The green bug box is the kind that kids use to hold the bugs they catch. It has a plastic door on it for viewing the bugs. My son and daughter were never keen on catching them. We had this one just in case they changed their minds. As you can see, it still looks brand new.

More Japanese Handheld Fans

These are folding fans called sensu. They are easily carried in a purse or bag. It is not unusual to see people use them on the train. When wearing a kimono, fans are placed in front between you and the obi, the wide sash worn at the waist.

One of my Japanese students gave me the purple and white fan on the left over 20 years ago . It still has a nice scent. I believe it is an expensive, well-made fan. When I first came to Japan, fans were pretty expensive. Now, fans vary in quality and price. The one with the blue and white wave pattern came from the 100 yen shop. Its blue cover was bought separately. The yellow monkey fan was bought many years ago for my daughter long. It was bought before there were 100 yen shops.

A little American girl once showed me how to fold the purple and white fan after I received it. She folded it carefully one fold at a time. She knew what she was doing. When cared for properly, a fan can last a very long time.

July 28, 2006

Birds? Planes? UFOs?

No. They're dragonflies! The other evening there were hundreds of them hovering over the field behind our house. It was nearly impossible to take a picture of them, so sorry for the poor quality of this one. We just stood and enjoyed them for a while.

One Kind of Ice Cream Cone

Has your scoop of ice cream ever fallen off your cone? Well, it can't with this one. The cone is wrapped around the bar of ice cream. It's easy to eat. You can buy them with a slice of chocolate on top under the cone. There is also one with atsuki beans available. Beans in ice cream? Have you ever heard of that? It's good, too.

July 27, 2006

Japanese Handheld Fans

These are handheld fans called uchiwa. They do not fold. They used to be made of bamboo and paper like the green one in the picture. Plastic and paper ones are more common now. Summer scenes, summer patterns, animation or popular characters or advertisements are printed on them. We use them in the car when we first get in and the car is hot (especially in the back seat). We also use them at home.

Someone once said that fanning oneself did not really help. I think it does. I've had a lot of experience over the years. We don't use air conditioning in every room. There are places like on the train where the air is hot and stuffy.

July 26, 2006


Before bedtime last night, we learned from the news that there would be 2 to 3 more weeks of the rainy season in Tokyo. Rain fronts move across Japan so different regions of the country experience the rainy season a few weeks earlier or later than others. According to the same news report, Kyuushu in southern Japan has finished its rainy season. It's a good thing, too. They've had flooding in the past few days.

We woke to a bright sunny day today. It lasted all day. Not much humidity and a nice breeze made for a nice day. We dragged out our snow cone or kakigori machine and made snow cones. The goofy looking character is a sweet robot named Doraemon. He sometimes wears a propeller on his head and flies around with his human friend, Nobita. He also has magic gadgets and all kinds of adventures. Here, he is holding a fan. The kanji printed on the fan means "ice".

Wherever you see this sign, you are sure to be able to buy kakigori or maybe even the machines like in the picture below. Yikes! I just noticed that the sign is reversed. I was on the wrong side when I took the picture. Compare the picture of this sign and the one below. Same sign, different sides. The one below is correct.

Here is a display of machines at a department store. I saw an electric machine recently. Most are operated manually by cranking.

Kakigori is a true summertime treat. The syrup is sold by the bottle, but recently bags of different flavors in little plastic cups are available (see the top picture). Melon, strawberry, lemon and blueberry are the usual flavors. Green tea or matcha can also be found.

July 25, 2006

On the Road Again--In Tokyo

We made a trip to The Salvation Army to drop off some things. The highway was jammed so we went through the back streets. I took these pictures from the car.

I will have to post them later. The system is down and won't let me post pictures!

Ah! Here we go...

Turning right.

A building being torn down.

A billboard. Do you recognize him?

Another nice thing to look at. This hides some construction. It looks like the wave spray in the Hokusai woodblock print.

A guy walking along text messaging walked into my picture. You can't see his phone. You can't really tell that he is wearing a summertime "suit". A lightweight kimono-type jacket and pants. He is walking in front of an advertisement for a mansion or apartment house that is being built behind the wall. Apartments of a certain size (number of bedrooms and amount of space) are called mansions here.

I saw this shop closer to home on the way back. A shop with English printed on the door. There wasn't enough space so the sign painter started a new line to finish the word. That happens a lot here in composition writing in English classes. I think this is the first time I have seen this kind of mistake on a sign.

The Salvation Army

Even though we avoided traffic and got there before closing time, there still wasn't the opportunity to take pictures inside. Can you see the cross on top of the building? Look above the wires. Note, too, the street lights. They have orange and green plastic shades!

The Temple

This temple is down the street from the Salvation Army. The chant or phrase used in prayer is carved on the front of this stone.

This is the main entrance.

This is the entrance used by workers and the priest. Deliveries probably come here too.

This is the entrance used after hours. Notice the light over the door and the doorbell on the right. The mailbox is the slit on the wall on the right.

Detail of the roof.

July 24, 2006


Public pools are open, but it's been raining. Here are some floats sold at a department store. There are all kinds but I thought these were unusual. I'm sure there are kids who can't wait to get in the pool with some of these. School children sign up for pool practice at school. It's not for fun, though. No floats are allowed.

July 23, 2006

Summer Yukata

Today was the fireworks display in our area. Some people dress in summer yukata, a lightweight cotton kimono. Crowds of people go down to the river to watch them. You see more little girls and young women wearing yukata. They wear bright colors with different patterns. I saw several young men wearing them, too, this year. The yukata for men are darker colors with geometric or no designs.

These pictures were taken at a department store. The top picture shows women's yukata. There is one black one with a flower design. These are little girls' yukata in the picture to the left. See the big bows? Those are worn around the waist.

We are fortunate to be able to see the fireworks from our roof garden. We usually watch them from there. One year we dressed up in yukata and climbed the stairs to the roof. We sat there fanning ourselves the whole time. It was hot! This year it sprinkled the whole time. We sat under umbrellas.

July 22, 2006


Here is a display at the grocery store with three types of ginger. The ginger in the middle is the one most commonly used in cooking. You may have seen it in your town. We grate it raw and put on tofu. The other two gingers can be used in cooking but are mostly eaten raw here. Both are used as a garnish. They are very nice when cold and crunchy.

This one is Japanese ginger. It's the one in the package on the right.

It is sliced and used as a garnish.

July 21, 2006

Close-up of Work/Garden Gloves

Here is a close-up of the gloves that were in the cart in the hardware store. See the post for July 16. To think, people garden in white cotton gloves here!! Sounds fancy, but they look and feel like athletic socks! They are made of thick, heavy cotton. In the past few years, you can buy garden gloves like you find in the States.

These gloves are also used by repairmen and carpenters so they don't soil your walls, etc. as they work. You can also find them with plastic yellow dots on the palm for a better grip. I'll add a picture later.

Recycle This Bottle!

I thought you might be interested in this hand soap bottle because it gives instructions on how to squash it in order to recycle it. The company actually made the bottle with dimples in it so that it is easier to squash!
See them on the back and on the bottom? We have to squash all PET bottles and plastic bottles before putting them in a basket for the garbage workers to get. Every little bit helps.

To make sure you don't overlook the dimples (they use the word "rib"), the company printed pictures and instructions on the back of the bottle.

July 20, 2006

Summer Days: Last Days Before Summer Vacation

Yesterday was their last school lunch. It was a special menu. They had two set choices and had to make a decision two weeks in advance. My son chose the meat pie, coffee milk instead of the usual milk, and orange sorbet. The other choice was chicken cream pie, tea or apple juice and vanilla ice cream. Everyone got spaghetti and salad.

Today was the last day of school. They came home at lunch time. Students are off for six weeks. They will go back to the same class on September 1st. (New school years start in April.) Though they have homework assignments to do over the vacation, they'll have time for fun, too. Unfortunately, it was raining today. But here is something fun to do inside on rainy days.

I said in a recent post that a ball is a ball everywhere you go. Well, maybe not. These are paper balls. You blow into the hole to inflate them. They come in four sizes with a round cardboard paddle that you can cut out. The paddle has a hole for you to stick your finger through to grip it easily. You can play by yourself trying to keep the ball in the air or hit the ball to another person. The ball doesn't float so you have to be quick. They're pretty tough. They don't even break when kicked. It's fun for all ages.

July 19, 2006

On the Highway in Tokyo

Most of the highway here has two lanes going the same way. High walls separate the lanes from the lanes going the other way. You can sometimes go miles and just see nothing but walls on both sides. There is little or no shoulder of the road so if there is a problem with a car or an accident there is nowhere to get out of the way. Everyone would have to stop. It would cause a traffic jam that could last hours.

The sign above tells drivers to drive quietly. It says "quiet" in Japanese. What does that mean? No noisy motorcycle riding, horns, etc. Actually, horns are rarely used here.

This sign lets drivers know that there is a phone up ahead for emergency use. It says "SOS".

This is the phone. I took this picture as we drove by so it's blurry. I will replace it when or if I can get a better one.

This sign points to the nearest emergency exit. There was one 120 meters away. I was unable to get a picture of the exit. I saw it as we passed. It was a staircase that led down to the street below the highway.

July 18, 2006

At the Hospital

I had to go to the hospital today. Remember, that just means I had an appointment to see a doctor. When you first go into this hospital, you put your hospital identification in this machine to let them know that you have arrived.

Then you sit in a large waiting room until your name is called. I couldn't take a picture of it because it was too crowded. People wouldn't want their picture taken at the hospital. When your name is called, you then move to a hallway outside the doctor's cubicle. At this hosptial there are curtains instead of doors. This area was crowded, too, but I got a clear shot of the curtains without getting any patients in the picture. My doctor, Dr. Ohta is behind curtain #6 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

This is Dr. Ohta. I have asthma. He has kept my asthma under control for two years. He answers all of my questions. I appreciate the care he has given me. He did research at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, Colorado. He said he liked living there very much.

This table is typical of doctor's offices. For monthly asthma check-ups, I never have to lie down. As you can see he puts patients' records there. I do put my bags in the basket. That is typical of doctor's offices here, too. The scales, too.

At the Hospital 2

After you see a doctor at this hospital, you have to give your records to a clerk at this desk and wait for her to look them over. She stamps them and then calls your name.

Then, if you have a prescription for medicine, you have to walk through the hospital to this desk and have it checked and stamped.

After that you go to the front desk to show your insurance card. Your bill and records are checked and you are given a number. You have to wait until your number shows up on a screen. You pay at this machine. This is a new system. It's much faster to pay by machine.

You're not finished if you have a prescription. Prescriptions used to be filled at the hospital, but now you have to go to a separate pharmacy. You have to have the prescription filled in four days or it will expire.