February 28, 2007

Ume Branches

I started this month with pictures of ume. I'm ending the month with some, too.

Flower shops and grocery stores sell these branches of ume. During this season, you can see many people carrying them home. They hold them with the branches pointing down. Flowers are carried that way, too.

These branches are used in ikebana, flower arrangements. They are also used as part of the hina matsuri decorations.

Plum Blossom Chewing Gum

This is ume flavored chewing gum.

February 27, 2007

The Thing About Georgie

There may not be a thing about Japan in this new book by Lisa Graff. As far as I know, the author isn't coming to Japan. So why did I post this picture? A librarian at the New York Public Library wrote an interview with Lisa Graff on her blog. Ms. Graff's publisher, HarperCollins, said they would give a copy of The Thing About Georgie to the first three people who sent an e-mail to them.

The librarian posted the interview late at night New York time. Everyone must have been sleeping. I was here on the other side of the world. It was 4 PM in the afternoon when I read the interview. I was in the right place at the right time. I sent an e-mail. I got a copy! They mailed it DHL, and it came today.

I've only read the first two pages, but it sounds really good. You will want to look for this new book at your local U.S. bookstore. I'm going to read it to Little Brother. Though he reads English, he prefers to read Japanese. I still read to him in English. We love stories! Thank you Lisa, Betsy, and HarperCollins! English books are precious here!

P.S. We started the book this evening. Little Brother wanted two chapters before bedtime. He wanted more, but it's getting late (Tokyo time).

P.P.S. We started chapter three tonight. As Little Brother said, "This book makes you work." We saved it for tomorrow afternoon. We're loving it.

P.P.P.S. Our answers for chapter 3:

floor to doorknob 94 cm
floor to light switch 125 cm
floor to windowsill 76 cm
floor to faucet 92 cm
floor to table 70 cm
floor to freezer 90 cm

Can you figure that out in inches?

Dodgebee Court

This is a diagram of a dodgebee court. The court is 9 m x 18 m. Some of you may have to figure that out in feet. On the left side of this diagram, team B is on the outside of the court. The kanji after the letter "B" means "outside". Team A stands in the middle of the left side of the court. The kanji next to the "A" means "inside". Team B stands in the middle of the right side of the court. Team A is on the outside. There is a center line that neither team can cross or touch.

Teams have 10-13 players. The game starts with one or two members of each team on the outside. The game is played like dodge ball in the United States. Teams try to hit the other team players with the dodgebee. If you are in the middle and you get hit, you have to go outside the court. The player who hit you goes into the middle. The object of the game is to remain in the middle of the court. The winning team has the most players on the inside of the court at the end of 8 minutes. It's fun for all ages, and it's not as painful as dodge ball!

February 26, 2007


This soft frisbee is very popular in Japan. It's used like a frisbee, but it is also used in a game like dodge ball. The frisbee and the game are called "Dodgebee".

Little Brother took part in a dodgebee tournament on the weekend. Teams from different schools participated. Each team played four games. The gym was divided into three courts. Three games were played at one time. I'll explain how to play the game tomorrow. I need to find or draw a diagram.

At the end of each game, the team players remaining in the center of the court line up. This makes it easier to count how many players were left. The winner is determined by how many were left in the middle.

After all the games were played, certificates were given to the top three teams in each court. Here, they are sitting in line by team. They are waiting for the ceremony. Each school got two new Dodgebees. Each and every player got a sports drink and pencils.

Still Blooming

Ume trees are still blooming.

February 25, 2007

Braille on Station Railings

I went through several stations today without the big camera. I noticed that most of the railings on staircases had Braille on them. My mobile telephone doesn't take very distinct pictures, so I looked through my archives. I found this picture. I took it a long time ago, but I didn't post it. Click on the labels below to see more aids for the blind.

February 24, 2007

Solar Energy

There are quite a few old houses in our neighborhood that have solar panels on them. Here are two.

Other Energy Units

These are gas tanks under the stairs of an apartment house. They are next to the resident bicycle parking lot.

The unit on the ground is natural gas. However, it is plugged into an electrical outlet on the outside of the house. Note the pipe next to it. Its insulation is shredded.

February 23, 2007

Street Mirrors

Some streets here are very narrow. Only one car at a time can go down some of them. There are mirrors that drivers and bike riders can check to see if someone is coming from another direction.

February 22, 2007

Bicycle Parking Lots

This is a parking lot for bicycles near a small train station.

This parking lot is several blocks from a bigger station and a big shopping area. You just lock your bicycle and remember where you parked it.

February 21, 2007

Handwarmers for Bicycles

Click on the "bicycles" label to see an example of lightweight handlebar covers for summer. Note, too, the cover for the basket.

This bike was parked outside a dress shop. The owner left her packages in the baskets. I have to admit that I took this picture early last summer. See the plant there? I was surprised to see these hand warmers out of season. She must've kept them on the bike for protection from the sun. It must've been miserable, though. It is so hot and humid in Tokyo during the summer.

February 20, 2007

Hot Buns and Drinks

There are cases of hot drinks on the counter of this convenience store. Customers can choose what they want and then take it to the register. On the left are hot buns. Most of them have meat in them. This is not self-service. The clerk serves them to customers who pay first.

Down the street at a vegetable stand, there were more hot snacks for sale.


Our daphne shrub hasn't bloomed yet. It has been in a shady part of the garden for decades. Great-grandfather planted it long ago. As I walk down the street, I know other daphne shrubs are blooming somewhere. The fragrance is strong. It is very distinctive from the ume that is also blooming now. It seems both are blooming late this year.

On the way to the shops, I found a daphne shrub that is starting to bloom. This one was in a pot!

February 19, 2007

Winter Fast Food

During the winter, some convenience stores have a pot of hot oden on or near the counter. Customers can spoon out what they want (konnayaku, fish cakes, daikon, tofu, kelp etc.) along with the broth. They pay for it at the register. Oden is made at home, too.

February 18, 2007

Recycled Toilet Paper

Or, rather, toilet paper made out of recycled milk cartons (30%). The red lettering is written in katakana, the script used for foreign words. It literally sounds out the words "Recycle Eco Roll". The word below it in blue says "single" in katakana.

Toilet paper is sold in packages of 12 rolls like this. It has a plastic handle at the top to make it easy to carry home.

Kids Web Japan-- katakana

February 17, 2007

The Mural at the American School in Japan

The original tile mosaic (they call it a mural) was made in 1963 by Pearl Mok. It was on an outside wall of the school's old theater. The theater was rebuilt and reopened in August 2006. The students, faculty, parents and alumni reconstructed the mural and had it placed on a front wall of the new Ricketson Theater. The mural now faces the street. Some tiles were replaced. The old tiles were made into keychains. They were given as gifts when people made donations to the school.

February 16, 2007

Bird on the Neighbor's Roof

Our neighbor's house is our view from our dining room. Sometimes birds line up there. This bird seemed like she was looking for or waiting for something. Not sure what kind of bird she is. I will add that later.

P.S. I think it is a brown-eared bulbul.

A Grove of Ume

In our area, there are fields where vegetables grow through the seasons. There are also groves of trees or bamboo. This grove of ume is among houses and apartment buildings. The trees are very fragrant.

February 15, 2007

Valentine Treats

It looks like a heart-shaped dorayaki, but instead of azuki bean paste it had chocolate inside.

Heart-shaped osembe, rice crackers, were sold at a department store.

February 14, 2007

More Valentine Treats

Valentine's Day is celebrated in Japan. However, men and boys receive chocolate on February 14th. Women and girls receive chocolate on White Day on March 14th.

Some women and girls buy chocolate to give on Valentine's Day. Others make it. Grocery stores have displays of chocolate making supplies, decorations and wrappings. Department stores have many displays of chocolate wrapped in fancy ways. There are many beautiful and delicious possibilities.

I bought these chocolates at Mini Stop, a convenience store like 7-Eleven. I have never seen anything like these. Little Brother was surprised when I put this fish on the table for him. It was filled with an M&M type candy. Papa will get this "sushi" when he comes home tonight. It's just chocolate in printed plastic packages.

P.S. It was very good chocolate!

Kids Web Japan--Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day

Some coffee shops and restaurants served special things for Valentine's Day.

This coffee shop had some special "drinks which make you happy."

Remember the big Halloween pumpkin that was painted white and made into a snowman for Christmas? Well, it was still outside the cake shop. It was wearing a hat with hearts on it! The shop's window was decorated for Valentine's Day, too.

This shop was having a sale on chocolate. The yellow lettering says "balentain se-lu" (Valentine sale) in katakana, the script used for foreign words.

Baskin Robbins, known as "31", was decorated too.

Kids Web Japan--Valentine's Day

Kids Web Japan-- katakana

February 13, 2007


You can rarely buy one box of tissues at a time here. Boxes of tissue are available like this. They are wrapped in plastic with a handle at the top. It is easy to carry home. This is a common brand name.

February 12, 2007

Hot and Cold Drink Machine

In the fall, there are hot and cold drinks in vending machines. Hot and cold drinks are sold until spring. See the red line on the bottom row? Those are the hot drinks. In the summer, there are only cold drinks in vending machines.

Kids Web Japan--Canned Hot Drinks

February 11, 2007

Foundation Day

Another awful picture! We saw this flag on our way home from shopping. It was dusk and there wasn't much light so the picture is fuzzy. Can you even see the flag up on the balcony? Today was Foundation Day. Tomorrow is a school and work holiday. Japan started giving three-day weekends in recent years. So, though Foundation Day is really on the 11th, the day-off is tomorrow. Maybe they'll have their flag out again tomorrow. If so, I'll replace the picture.

Next day: Nope. I'll have to wait another year for another picture. By the way, that's an ume tree in the garden. Dark fushia blossoms.

Kids Web Japan--Foundation Day

February 10, 2007

Another Toilet Sign

This sign was in a restaurant. Look at all the options.

Click on the label below to see more about toilets.

Modesty Flush

These devices are sometimes found in toilet stalls in public restrooms. Push the button and it creates a flushing sound to mask noises. When I first came to Japan, people flushed the toilet before or as they were using it. That wasted water. These give privacy without wasting water.

There are different ways to flush toilets in Japan. Some toilets have sensors and they flush by themselves as you move away from them. I have seen some of them in public restrooms in the States.

This toilet has a sensor on it. You hold your hand over the top. After you move your hand , the toilet flushes. You don't have to touch it.