Alan Booth in YouTube Now! (アランブース、YouTubeに登場)

Last year I wrote about Mr. Alan Booth in 20th Anniversary of Alan Booth Death & Kagoshima. Mr. Booth was a British writer, a film critic,  English teacher, etc. who lived in Japan, travelled rural Japan extensively in the 1970s and 1980s and wrote books including Roads to Sata. He also appeared on TV in the NHK English classes. He died prematurely in 1993 when he was only in his 40s.

A reader of the Japanese side of my blog uploaded in YouTube a few videos of the NHK TV English classes with Alan Booth in.

Thank you, Yukihiko-san!

He taped them back in 1983 and had the Beta video tapes (do you remember Beta and VHS?) in his house for 30 years and completely forgot about them. Recently he discovered the tapes when did major cleaning of his house.

These are the first and the only videos with Alan Booth in you can find on the internet, I think. How great!  Thank you thank you!

I hope not, but this may be Limited Time Offer!

Before NHK finds them and may remove them from YouTube, hurry and see Alan Booth on YouTube!

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Mt. Yufu (由布岳) & Yufuin Hot Spring (由布院温泉)

A Happy New Year!    謹賀新年!

2013 was a busy and not-so-good year for me. I hope you had a good year and wish 2014 will be a good year for you. I will want to keep writing sporadically in 2014, wishing I were back in Kyushu.  Thanks for visiting my blog  m–m (感謝).

Feeling frozen in North America, looking at the continuous snawfall outside, I am remembering my trip with my father to the mild-climate, quiet, and charming rural hot spring in Oita, Kyushu, Yufuin Onsen (由布院温泉).


Mt. Yufu (由布岳) – its nickname is Bungo Fuji (豊後富士).

This is a view from the window of the cafeteria of the hotel my father and I stayed in.

Obviously my father (on the right) had no interest in Mt. Yufu.

I love the shape of Mt. Yufu.

Bungo (豊後) is the old name of this area. This are used to be called the country of Bungo (Bungo-no-kuni: 豊後国) in the medieval times. There are many mountains in Japan called ‘(the name of the area) Fuji’.  If the mountain is good-looking and resembles Mt. Fuji, it is likely to be called ‘such and such’ Fuji.

Mt. Yufu is like the landmark of Yufuin Onsen. No matter which hotel in Yufuin you stay in, you can enjoy the view of Mt. Yufu.  The hotel we stayed in had outdoor open-air onsen (rotten-buro (露天風呂) with the great view of Mt. Yufu. It was great to sit in onsen looking at the Mt. Yufu.

When I was a sophomore in high school in Fukuoka (long long time ago), we had a 3-day summer trip to Yufu. We climbed Mt. Yufu.

It’s not easy to climb Mt. Yufu. It becomes very steep and rocky towards the top. Many students gave up in the midway, especially the girls.  I was one of very few girls who made it to the top (yay!). The ones who made it to the top received respect from other students – for a while.

After the expedition to Mt. Yufu, we sat in the onsen. I still remember how good my tired legs felt in onsen.

MY RECOMMENDATION – go hiking, go cycling (you can rent a bike), or climb Mt. Yufu, and sit in onsen at night. You will feel so good. If you choose to climb Mt. Yufu, you don’t have to make it to the top. Climbing only half the way or even one-third of the way will make you feel very good.

So, I sat in the onsen with my classmates. It was a little bit embarrassing for me to be completely naked with my classmates. Yes, even for a Japanese teenager it can be embarrassing to sit in onsen with other people naked. I was one of many overly self-conscious teenagers. I was peeking at the other girls’ bodies, pretending I was not, and was feeling bad comparing my body to theirs (maybe the other girls were doing the same to me – haha).


Yufuin became famous to the entire Japan since the national TV broadcast (NHK) made the TV drama featuring Yufuin, Kaze no Haruka (風のハルカ), in 2005. I think it was the first drama ever that was based on Yufuin. I liked the drama, too, especially the theme song written and sung by Naotaro Moriyama (森山直太郎), who is the son of Ryoko Moriyama (森山良子) who was when young touted as the Japanese Joan Baez.

I wanted to hear the theme song (without buying -lol), but again, it’s not in YouTube or anywhere else. Not even in which is selling his CD that contains the song. Won’t it help sell his CD if they insert in the webpage even the first 3 seconds of the song?  I don’t understand it.

Yufuin Train station (由布院駅) – When I came here in my high school summer trip, it was a very rural train station. Now it looks like a train station of a fashionable resort.

Yufuin used to be a rural, laid-back, and somewhat run-down onsen town, but now it has  fancy downtown with cute gift shops and coffee shops with many foreign tourists – it’s sort of like a resort in Switzerland.

Noticeably there are many Korean tourists. Thanks for spending your hard-earned money in Kyushu (^^)

My son and his Korean wife who temporarily lives in Seoul considered going to an onsen in Kyushu for New Year holiday, but they decided to go to Jeju Island (済州島) instead because onsen in Kyushu are very expensive around the holidays.


Really?  Kyushu is expensive?

Wow, I never imagined Kyushu would become an expensive tourist destination.  I feel kind of honored that somebody now makes a choice between Jeju and Kyushu.

And then I heard from my relatives in Japan that now the relationship between Japan and Korea is about the worst ever.

Would that have affected my son’s wife?

Would they have treated her nicely if they had chosen to go to an onsen in Kyushu?

I hope so.

I want to believe that on the grass root level, they get along with each other…

The hotel my father and I stayed in was Saigaku-kan (彩岳館). There were many paintings hung in their cafeteria. I noticed one of them was by the late father of my college classmate. His late father was an artist. There are many of his artwork all over Kyushu, I think. My classmate chose to become a scholar instead of following his father’s path. He is now a professor of a university in Kyushu (him?! *_*)  I e-mailed him about the painting. He did not know about it, and he was very happy to hear it.  It’s such a small world – always.


Now here is trivia (mame chisiki マメ知識) –

Did you know that there are two different Chinese characters, 由 and 湯, used for Yu of Yufuin, 由布院 and 湯布院?   由 and 湯 are both pronounced Yu. Sometimes you see 由布院; other times you see 湯布院.  Yu (湯) means hot water, so you may want to think 湯布院 is correct. Neither is wrong, but 由布院 is the one which was traditionally used. So, 由布院 is perhaps the official one.

In 1955, the town of Yufuin (由布院町) and the village of Yunohira (湯平村) merged to form the town of Yufuin (湯布院町). Before 1955, nobody used 湯布院.  When they want to refer to the town of Yufuin, they use 湯 for Yu of Yufuin, while they use 由 when they want to refer to the hot spring, the mountain, the train station, etc. that had existed before the merger in 1955. They also use 湯 when they name new things like Yufuin Film Festivals (湯布院映画祭り) and such.

Wmmmm, I did not know that!

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After Sakurajima Eruption – Cleanup with Road Sweepers – 桜島大噴火の後始末は?

When I saw the news of Sakurajima Volcano large eruption on August 18 (桜島大噴火), I was shocked.

Because when I visited Kagoshima (鹿児島市) with my family this May, Sakurajima was very quiet and peaceful. We did not hear or see any signs of a large eruption coming only 3 months later.

But actually, Sakurajima (Showa Crator: 昭和火口) had had 499 small eruptions this year before August 18!

I always wondered how people in Kagoshima city clean up the mess after an eruption.

Here is the film of how they were coping with the ash mess on the following day.

I see – they use road sweepers. They are so efficient and fast.

When I was a kid (I grew up 300km to the north of Kagoshima), I learned in school that Kagoshima people frequently face volcanic ash falling into the city from Sakurajima, they have to carry umbrellas, they can’t hang washing outside, etc. I used to think, “Oh no, I would never want to live in Kagoshima. What a terrible place”.

People in the film don’t look upset at all. They are calm and seem totally used to it. One lady interviewed in the film says with a smile, “yeah, my car is covered with ash, so I am taking my car to a car wash now”.  A hotel manager interviewed says with a smile, “Our hotel is open. Business as usual. I would like to ask our customers not to cancel their hotel reservation just because of the volcanic eruption. Everything is OK. Please come visit Kagoshima as you planned”.

As the hotel manager said, everything seems OK and in order. People are brushing the ash from the window sills, off their cars, very calmly.

I remembered the very friendly cats I met at the Shiroyama Park Observatory (城山公園) back in May.


I think the cats were the pets of the gift shop at the Shiroyama Observatory.

Shiroyama observatory 1/2

Shiroyama observatory 1/2 (Photo credit: 7_nana)

I hope the cats now can lie on the ground free of volcanic ash again.



These are from the guide plate they have at the Shiroyama Park Observatory.

I never knew that Sakurajima used to be an island until the large eruption in 1914 and that there were huge ones 29,000 and 26,000 years ago.

Big nature. People adapt to life with volcanos. People coexist (kyosei: 共生) with volcanos.

Coexist with volcanos – This is actually exatly what a local woman I chatted in Hawaii said to me. She told me she wanted to ‘coexist with the volcano’ in the Hawaii Island, so she moved there. Kagoshima people coexist with Sakurajima. The English translation in the guide plate says “people live there in harmony with the volcano”. I had to laugh a little. ‘In harmony with a volcano’ sounds funny to me. It must be their translation of ‘共生 (coexist)’. Japanese (including me) love to say “in harmony with …”. I know it because I used to be a translator.

Anyway, people are ready for the next eruption. When another eruption occurs, they run away and hide indoors. When it subsides, people come back out, clean up the ash, and resume their daily life. Business as usual (but I would not want to live there if I don’t have to!)

Location of Kagoshima in Kagoshima

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Bougainvillea in Kagoshima (ブーゲンビリア@鹿児島)

When I was riding the city tour bus in Kagoshima city (鹿児島市) with my father and my son back in May, I noticed Bougainvillea in bloom here and there in the city.


It made me feel like I were in Hawaii.

Kagoshima is warm!

There is a big difference in the climate between northern Japan and southern Japan.

Kagoshima is definitely subtropical (亜熱帯).

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20th Anniversary of Alan Booth’ Death & Kagoshima (天才アラン・ブースの20回忌 )

Japanese text (日本語はこちら)

Update (Jan 26, 2014)! Since I wrote this post, one of my readers uploaded in YouTube a few videos of NHK TV English classes with Alan Booth in taped back in 1983.  Hurry and go watch it (before NHK may remove them). Here is one of the links:

Have you ever read ‘The Roads to Sata‘ by Alan Booth?


He was a British writer, a film critic,  English teacher, etc. who lived in Japan and travelled rural Japan extensively in the 1970s and 1980s.

He was pretty famous – but not like Dave Spector. He was famous to the native English speakers who lived in Japan and to the Japanese who were English teachers. He was on TV, on the radio, and wrote for the newspaper and magazines. For a while, he was the teacher of the NHK TV English classes.

My American husband knew Alan Booth when he was alive. More precisely, my husband attended the convention for the English teachers in Kyushu where Mr. Booth was the keynote speaker and he had chats with Mr. Booth in the evening parties. Mr. Booth was a heavy drinker. My husband told me that Mr. Booth was drinking beer for lunch!!

Alan Booth-photoTwenty years after his death, my husband still keeps telling me how incredibly talented and how funny Alan Booth was.

So, in March, I finally ordered Alan Booth’s book, The Roads to Sata, from Amazon, without knowing that January 24, 2013 was the twentieth anniversary of his death.

It was after the book was delivered to our home that my husband found and forwarded me a link to his obituary in Feb 1993 in the British national newspaper, the Independent.

I feel very strange about this. My husband kept telling me about Alan Booth for years and I finally ordered his book, and that was right after the twentieth anniversary of his death. I am sure it’s just a pure coincidence, but something in me is wanting to believe that his spirits somehow reached me and made me order his book.  Silly!  In this modern age, I still sometimes want to believe in superstition.

Mr. Booth could sing very old Japanese folk songs (in Japanese) as well as the old English folk songs. He used to sing the folk songs in the parties and impressed everybody, both the Japanese and the English speakers.


Back in the 1970s and 1980s, before the JET program started, Japanese used to believe that no foreigners could ever sing in Japanese, let alone speak Japanese.

Mr. Booth learned Japanese after he went to Japan at the age of 24. He also learned to speak  (Tsugaru dialect: 津軽弁).

In 1970s, Mr. Booth travelled Japan on foot from the northernmost point, Cape Soya (宗谷岬 Soya Misaki), in Hokkaido, to the southernmost point, Cape Sata (佐多岬 Sata Misaki), in Kagoshima (鹿児島).

English: The south end "Sata Misaki light...

English: The south end “Sata Misaki lighthouse” in mainland in Japan. (Kagoshima Prefecture Minami osumi-cho. ) 日本語: 日本本土最南端・佐多岬に位置する「佐多岬灯台」(鹿児島県・南大隈町) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Location of Kagoshima Tokyo=Metropolis

I read the last chapter, the Kyushu part, first (I have not finished reading the book yet).

And in May, I went back to Kyushu to see my father who lives there alone. My father wanted to try the new Kyushu Shinkansen (bullet train) (九州新幹線), so my father, me, and my younger son rode the bullet train to Kagoshima city.

I really wanted to go to the Cape Sata to pay my respect to Mr. Alan Booth, but we did not have enough time. Cape Sata is in the southern tip of Osumi hanto (peninsular) (大隅半島) and is very far away from the city of Kagoshima. They say it is a rough area and it’s not easy to get there on foot. Most people drive there. Alan Booth walked all the way there. He was a strong man.Cape Sata+Kagoshima


IMG_2199 (Photo credit: SSTUDIO Samuel Bietenholz)

But we went to the sand hot spring (sunamushi onsen: 砂蒸し温泉) in the other peninsular, Satsuma Peninsular (hantou) (薩摩半島), which is closer from Kagoshima than Cape Sata. Ibusuki (指宿) is famous for sand hot spring, but we went to the other one in the small fishing village, Yamakawa (山川) .

They say on a sunny clear day you can see the Cape Sata from the sand hot spring areas, but we were out of luck.


My son standing at the Yamakawa sand hot spring (山川砂蒸し温泉) – My son never reads my blog (good – I don’t really want my kids to read my blogs)

See how hazy it is – with yellow sand dust in the air

If you are lucky, you will be able to see the cone-shaped Mt. Kaimondake (開聞岳) behind the sand like the photo below…


DSCF8204.jpg (Photo credit: turnerw82)

We could not see the mountain at all.

The taxi driver who took us to the sand hot spring explained a lot about the local weather. He said the yellow dust has become much worse lately and suggested we come to Kagoshima in autumn.


A view from the famous park, Shiroyama Park (城山公園), in Kagoshima city (鹿児島市). If you are lucky, you will see Sakura-jima (桜島) above the bay (like below), but again when we were there it was so hazy that we could see only the bottom of Sakura-jima very vaguely.

English: Sakurajima Kagoshima-ken, Japan. 日本語:...

During our whole 3-day trip, the sky was very hazy, as it was covered with the yellow dust (Asian dust) from China (黄砂) with PM2.5. The local people of the sand hot spring told me that the PM 2.5 was particularly bad that day we were there 😦

Yellow dust always came to Kyushu in spring, but it was not bad at all before. We still could enjoy ‘Satsuki-bare (五月晴れ)’ (beautiful weather in May with clear blue sky), but we can’t expect it as much as before any more?

If you want to visit Kagoshima, go there in autumn!


Back to Mr. Alan Booth –

Mr. Booth encountered all kinds of Japanese people in the deep rural Japan. Because he could speak and read Japanese, his insight was deep and very interesting. He was a big drinker – that might have caused his death in his 40s… but through drinking, he could get to talk to local Japanese  (I have to say drinking is a good way to get to know local Japanese – but only for men. Women should not try that).  Traveling on foot also helped him meet local people.

Being a Japanese, why am I interested in Alan Booth’s book? I  probably have some empathy with him; he lived in Japan permanently but he was not a Japanese. I live in America permanently but I am not an American.

And how much I wish I had met him when he was alive and had a chance to hear him sing old folk songs – both Japanese and English.


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Versatile Award – Me, Too? Thanks (^^)


Finally!  I did this homework, too…

Chrissantosra nominated me for a Versatile Award 6 months ago.  I am so sorry to be this late and thank you very much, Chrissantosra!

My job situation got rather tough around the same time, so I was away from blogging for a while. But it’s getting better now. Time to do homework.

Chrissantosra’s blog, From Korea with Love, is one of my favorite blogs. She is from Philippines, married to a Korean and lives in Korea. If you are interested, check it out!

Seven Facts About Myself

I wrote 11 facts about myself in the Liebster Award. Let me think of 7 more.

  • I am one of very few Japanese who blog in English. Most Japanese blog in Japanese in the platforms like Ameba, FC2, etc. Why am I blogging in English in WordPress?  Good question.
Montage of languages. Prototype header for the...

Montage of languages. Prototype header for the language portal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s not easy for me to write in English. I guess I don’t want to be limited to a Japanese-only world. That is so me – I always wanted to be around people from different countries and different culture. English is powerful. It’s a global language. With English, I can be connected to anybody from anywhere on the globe. I wish more Japanese would join WordPress. They are too confined to their small Japanese-only world.

  • I have a sister much older than me.  She is between a sister and a cousin, i.e. her father and my father were brothers.

Is there a name for somebody like that in English? There is none in Japanese.

Is this unusual and shocking in the society and culture you grew up?  It was to my generation, but it was a rather common practice for my parents’ generation. In fact, when my mother’s first husband (my sister’s father) died in WWII in 1945, right before my sister was born, everybody expected one of his brothers would step up and marry my mother to rescue her and her daughter (my sister).

And my father married my mother much later.

Here is the photo of my sister (in her school uniform) holding her baby sister, me, at home in Kumamoto city.

Juri baby+sister+her friend_2

  • My sister’s father died in the POW camp in Komusan (고무산: 古茂山), North Korea (北朝鮮).


He was dead on the day my sister was born. So, my sister never met her father in her life. All she’s got are his photo and his hair which was sent back to Japan from Komusan after his death. Who knows if the hair is really her father’s hair.

Someday I hope my sister will be able to go visit Komusan to find her father’s bones. I want to go with her. A group of Japanese who had lost their families in Komusan got to visit there recently (below is a clip of the TV coverage – in Japanese)

I hear a lot of soldiers died in the camps in Komusan from diseases.

I don’t know if my sister will want to do it, though. It may be too painful for her. I hesitate to bring up this topic to her. If we get to go, we should mourn for all the people who died there, Koreans, Chinese, Russians… not only for the Japanese soldiers.

  • I seem to have ties with Korea – my older son married a Korean girl last year.

    Wedding Dress For Happy Couple in Love

    Wedding Dress For Happy Couple in Love (Photo credit:

결혼 축하  !!   

In the early 1980s, I took a Korean language class from curiosity. Some language schools started offering Korean classes in the 1980s as some Japanese wanted to learn Korean before making a trip to Seoul to watch the PalPal Olympics in 1988.

In the 1970s and before, there were virtually no Korean classes, except a very few academic places like the university I went to. We would see posters written in Korean hung on the electric poles here and there in town for the Koreans who lived in Japan, but nobody would pay any attention to them.

English: Hangul and hanja characters Português...

It was after I travelled (backpacked) overseas when I was in college that I became interested in what those posters were saying. When I took the Korean class, everybody’s reaction was, “why are you learning such a thing?” – I imagine the opposite was probably the case in Korea – no Koreans would want to learn Japanese. The recent bad history between the two country. But, nowadays, no Japanese will be surprised if you take a Korean class. Time has changed – in a good direction.

When I took the Korean class, I never imagined that one of my sons would marry a Korean 30 years later.  For 3 months before my son’s wedding, I hired a Korean teacher and reviewed my Korean – I had forgotten most of what I learned 30 years ago, and it was so hard to relearn it with my old and rusty brain. My teacher translated my speech for the wedding into Korean. I practiced it a lot. I think I did OK on the speech at the reception. The bride’s family and relative looked puzzled at times (my Korean was probably incomprehensible) but I think they appreciated my effort.

  • I  seem to have some ties with Hawaii, too.

In the early 1900s, my husband’s great grandfather owned a factory in the clothing industry near New York. He was rich. He owned a summer house on the beach in Connecticut, etc. He took his daughter (my husband’s grandma) on a worldwide cruise. I imagine the ship was just like Titanic.  Imagine how much money they had to pay for a cruise like that. Oh by the way, very sadly, the wealth was not passed down to my husband. The wealth rapidly disappeared in his grandma’s generation 😦   Not easy to pass down wealth from generation to generation.

Titanic 9326

Titanic 9326 (Photo credit: ISD 191 Performing Arts Programs)

When their cruise ship stopped at Hawaii, WWI broke out, so the rest of the cruise travel had to be cancelled and they went back home. But my husband’s great grandpa and grandma landed and probably walked around on Hawaii in 1914. This is the beginning of my husband’s family’s ties with Hawaii.

30 years later, the grandson (my husband’s father) volunteered to fight in WWII, as many other American men did, and he was sent to Hawaii for training to be a frogman (combat diver).

Crater_Mt Haleakala_Maui-4

The crater of Mt. Haleakara, Maui Island, Hawaii (you can drive all the way up to the top of the mountain ^^)

My husband’s father hiked right here in the crater around 1944-1945. He was lucky that the WWII ended before he would be called for a battle. He probably would have died… frogmen had extremely dangerous duties.

English: Photo of University of Hawaii, Manoa ...

English: Photo of University of Hawaii, Manoa campus from Round Top drive, Honolulu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then another 30 years or so later, my husband came to the University of Hawaii as an exchange student from the mainland.  The exchange program was meant to be just for one year, but he liked Hawaii so muh he never went back to the mainland, and lived in Hawaii for several years.

And now one of my sons lives in Hawaii (*o*)

  • My husband’s father was stationed in Kagoshima (鹿児島) after the WWII ended, from 1945 to 1946.

Many American soldiers were assigned to Japan after the war when the U.S. occupied Japan.  I am sure my father-in-law never ever imagined when he was in Kagoshima that his son’s future bride would be from Fukuoka (福岡) which is only 300km away from Kagoshima.

English: Sakurajima Kagoshima-ken, Japan. 日本語:...

English: Sakurajima Kagoshima-ken, Japan. 日本語: 鹿児島県の桜島 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When my father met my husband’s father for the first time, I think my father was quite nervous. Thinking back, he was for a good reason. They had been enemies when there were young only 40 years before. My father once told me that when the war broke out in 1941 (he was a teenager) he was really bummed out. My father did not want a war against the U.S. I am sure many other Japanese did not. But nobody could speak up against the lunatic government.

Location of Kagoshima Tokyo=Metropolis

Location of Kagoshima Tokyo=Metropolis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • I took piano lessons (more precisely, my mom forced me to) for 10 years. I became good enough to enter regional competition, but I could not stand the practice (4-6 hours a day). One day I could not stand it any more and I declared to my mom that I quit. I wanted to play sports with my friends. My mom got furious and the night I declared I quit, she did not give me supper. I spent one night without supper (which is no big deal, I guess). I won the battle. She gave me supper every night from the next day.


When I was a child, it seemed every family with a daughter bought a piano and they made the daughter take piano lessons. Since I was a little bit talented, my mom got carried away and it became her dream to make me a concert pianist. Far East Asians (Japanese, Korean, Chinese) love to have their kids take piano/violin lessons. What’s up with that?

Asian boy with violin guitarrock

I liked playing sports and I liked rock-n-roll and pop music better than classical music – I think that was the big problem (lol).

Nowadays I don’t even want to touch a piano, which must be a reaction to my childhood.

  • I do not like swimming.

I can swim. I can keep swimming for hundreds of meters (very slowly). But I don’t like being in water.  I’d always rather be on the land, being dry. Maybe because my mom never signed me up for swimming lessons when I was little, which was quite normal in Japan in those days. My mom could not swim. Neither could my sister. And nobody thought they should learn how to swim.

Japanese flower arrangement 5

Japanese flower arrangement 5 (Photo credit: mharrsch)

I think my mother was under the influence of the British Victorian-era culture. Victorian influence on women in Japan?  Yes, my mother grew up in the pre-WWII period and she had this idea instilled in her that ladies should play the piano, have tea, never play sports, never plunge in any swimming pools – those are men’s things. Flower arrangement (ikebana: 生け花) and tea ceremony were good things for ladies to do, too. My sister took flower arrangement lessons, though she never took swimming lessons.

SwimmingBelieve it or not, it was when I was 8 years old that I opened my eyes in the water for the first time in my life!  My elementary school did not have a swimming pool yet (Japan was still poor in those days) and the school took us a few times for school-wide swimming lessons to one of the only two public swimming pools the city of Fukuoka had (at that time, Fukuoka had only two public pools for the population of one million). To prepare for the lessons, the teacher gave us homework to practice opening our eyes in the water in the sink in the bathroom at home. I was scared to do death (laugh), but I did my homework with a bowl filled with water in the sink in the bathroom. And I was totally amazed that we humans can open our eyes in water (laugh).

Little boy learning to swim in a swimming poolLater, I took more swimming classes and became able to swim, but I never can look forward to going into water. I think you have to learn swimming at your early age to be able to feel completely natural and comfortable in water and to like being in water.

Well, I wrote a lot. Once I start writing, I can’t stop.  If you read all of this, thanks a lot for your patience! I think I wrote more than 7 facts about myself. I broke the rule (omg).


I Nominate the Bloggers Below for the Versatile Award:

I will try to nominate a few at a time. Voila.

Vector Charley – He blogs about the magnificent Lake Michigan and the beauitufl Lake Michigan shore area. His travel is local but universal. His blog is also very useful for my other blog on Michigan (^^)

Nanda (何だ?) – He is an international student from Indonesia studying at my alma mater. I am glad he seems to be enjoying his student life there.

Coal Troll’s Blog – He is pro-coal industry. I am not. But I still like his blog and I respect his opinion and courage to speak out. His blog is very funny and full of wisdom. I also like it that he is an older blogger like me (Mr. Charley, too).

I think I will offer a choice of Versatile or Liebster Award to the bloggers I nominated. They may want to choose, you know.

Or can I offer both to the same blogger???

Rules for Versatile Award:

– Thank the person who nominated you and post a link to his/her blog.

– Nominate 15 blogs that you follow regularly or have visited recently (the ones that you like and you think are deserving of the award). You need to inform them that you have nominated them by posting a link to their blog.

– Tell 7 interesting facts about yourself.

If you don’t want to bother, you can just ignore the nomination, though I hope you will accept it.

It took me 6 months, and it will take me more months to finish nominating 15 blogs  So please take your time, too (^^)

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Liebster Award – Me, too? Thanks (^^)


Well, finally!  I did my homework…

Happyuan nominated me for a Liebster Award 6 months ago!  I am so sorry to be this late and thank you very much, Happyuan, for nominating me.

I have not been much active in blogging for the past several months, because my job situation became rather tough. But it’s getting better now.  I did not forget about the award nomination. Please forgive me.

Happyuan is a Japanese who is from Kyushu, Japan, like me, and she blogs about daily life in Japan.

Well, here is my homework –

Eleven random facts about myself:

  • I am 168cm (5’6″) – very tall for a Japanese woman, particular in my generation. Younger generations nowadays seem bigger.
  • I have been living in the U.S. since 1985.
  • I married at 23 (omg) – extremely young for a female college graduate – So, I became  an empty nestor very early, too.
  • I know how to do Hustle line dance – if you don’t know what hustle line dance is like, here is an example. It’s very easy. Line dance is fun. I love this one, Stevie Wonder’s My Eyes Don’t Cry.
  • I love whales. One of my dreams is to go to the Bering Sea to see the Aleutian Magic where 50,000 whales come from far far away for a summer retreat (but I would probably not be tough enough…)

aleutian magic Aluetian magic2

(These are what I copied from Google)

While ago, NHK, Japan’s national TV broadcast had the special show on the Aleutian Magic. I watched it, loved it, and I wanted to buy a DVD, but they would ship only inside Japan (again!). And I can’t download it, either.  You can’t download any of NHK’s shows. I wish they would have a more open attitude someday. They make really good shows and it’s a shame that they are not available outside Japan.

  • I am addicted to YouTube.
  • I like watching in YouTube old movies made in 1920s and 1930s. My favorite are Yasujiro Ozu’s (小津安二郎).
  • I dislike cleaning the house (shame on me).
  • I  am fascinated with the human prehistory – that our ancestors walked out of Africa around 50,000 years ago, they interbred with the Neanderthals, and that kind of stuff.


  • In fact, I recently took a DNA test. The above is my test result showing my maternal lineage. My mother’s ancestors came from Southeast Asia. Also, I have 3% Neanderthal DNA.
    English: First reconstruction of Neanderthal m...

    English: First reconstruction of Neanderthal man Español: Primera reconstrucción del Hombre de Neandertal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    I did not know until recently that Asians have Neanderthal DNA. It has been discovered that Asians have 2.8% Neanderthal DNA on average.  So, I am slightly higher than the average. This means tens of thousands of years ago, some of my ancestors were Neanderthal, so their DNA was passed down to me through the numerous generations before me.


  • When I was a kid, I wanted to become a manga artist, graphic design artist, or an English-Japanese simultaneous interpreter.  (Japanese girls like me use to think all of these were very cool careers). But somehow I ended up a corporate accountant. What happened?

    My Accountant

    My Accountant (Photo credit: billypalooza)

Answering Happyuan’s Questions 

1) What is your New Year’s resolution?

It’s already almost July, so I can’t remember if I made any resolution 6 months ago.  Sorry!

2) What time do you go to bed?

Sometime in the range of 11 pm – 3 am.

3) What foods do you like?

Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Italian, American (hot dogs, hamburgers…)

4) Which celebrities do you like?

Kensaku Morita (森田健作) – Oh, he was such a huge idle for all the schoolgirls when I was a teenager. He starred in the hugely popular TV drama, ‘ore wa otoko da’ (おれは男だ:I Am a Man) He was such a cool big brother. He is still cool now. He is now the governor of Chiba prefecture (千葉県知事). He gets up at 4 am in the morning and grows lots of vegetables in his garden. I want to be like him no matter how old I become. Here is the theme song of the drama sung by him. Oh how much I loved this song…

Beat (Kitano) Takeshi (ビート(北野)たけし) – An incredibly talented Japanese comedian, actor, film director.

Venice Film Festival-winning film director Tak...

Venice Film Festival-winning film director Takeshi Kitano (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The left one (above) is Takeshi when he was young.

Kenji Sawada (沢田研二:formely Julie) – Too beautiful to be a man. He was the lead vocal of the legendary Japanese band, the Tigers, in 1960s when group-sounds was big. Later he became a solo. He is still active now but he is now fat.

Hitomi Kuroki (黒木瞳) – A Japanese actress. She is well known for starring in the movie, ”失楽園 (Lost Paradise?)’ in ’90s.  This movie was a big sensation, but my guess it it was only inside Japan? She is in a lot of TV dramas and I think she is a  good actress.

Nanako Matsushima (松嶋菜々子) – A Japanese actress. Her acting in the TV drama, ‘I am Mita, Your Houseeeper (家政婦のミタ)’ was awesome. She was in the Canne Film Festival in May this year.

5) What is your happy time in your life?

When I am having holiday dinner together with my family and when I am lunching together with my good friends.

6) What is your favorite color to wear?

I would like pastel color, but I don’t really look good in pastel color as I have fairly dark skin. There are lighter-color skin Japanese and darker-color skin Japanese. I am one of the darker-color skin Japanese (per my DNA test result, my maternal ancestors are from southeastern Asia – that explains)

7) Do you collect anything?

I am collecting old photos from my father and digitizing and saving them in Google+ and Flickr.

Like this one – probably around 1900 – I know they were on my mother’s side, but I have no idea who these people are. As my mother is dead now, there is nobody I can ask.

Oba Family_2

8) What kind of music do you like?

*Tatsuro Yamashita (山下達郎) – He has been a big star in Japan. I have been his huge hard-core fan since 1970s when he was not famous yet.        

*Michael Jackson – I liked him better when he was dark-skinned and looked healthier and more natural. Check out MJ in 1979 singing Off the Wall (^^).


*Beyonce – She is just too cool!

*Exile – (the Japanese band) – There are two Exile: one in Japan and one in the U.S.)  It’s so much fun to watch young cool guys dancing and singing like them (^^;)!

*World Order (with Genki Sudo 須藤元気) – a Japanese male group who mixes martial art, choreography that reminds us of Buddhist sculpture, hip hop, etc.


I showed this to my sons who grew up in the U.S. (they are very American). The reaction of one of them was ‘I don’t have any feeling about them because I don’t understand what they are saying’.  I was disappointed. Do you have to understand what they are saying to like their music and song?  I wish they could sing in English…

*Psy – I love his Gangnam Style.


Psy (Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer)

*Kyary Pamyu Pamyu – She is a diva of Tokyo kawaii (cute) pop culture, isn’t she. I am not a fan of Kawaii (cute) culture, but Kyary is uniquely talented, I think, and I kind of like her.

Japan Expo 13 by Dj ph -503

Japan Expo 13 by Dj ph -503 (Photo credit: Dj ph)

9) If you were given USD 10,000 and had to spend in a few days, what would you spend for?

I would donate half of it to charity (what a good person I am), and would spend the other half on eating, drinking, watching Broadway musical, and staying in an expensive hotel in New York City.

10) What do you think of your blog?

Pretty good.

11) What do you think of my blog?

Very very good (^^)v

I Nominate the Following Bloggers:

I think I will try to nominate a few at a time, as Happyuan suggested. This time, I would like to nominate:

Magnificajp’s Blog – She is a Japanese who blogs about her Aska cruise travel.

Yuki no Kotoba – Suishou Yuki, a Tennessee girl, blogs about her hard work and her passion on studying Japanese.

Mediadreamz – The author, Kathryn, blogs about her career and her aspiration in the British film world.

How does Liebster work?

  •  You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated your blog.
  • When you receive the award, you must post 11 random facts about yourself.  (why 11?)
  • Paste the award picture into your blog.
  • Answer the questions posed by the blogger who awarded you.
  • Pass the award onto 11 other blogs (while making sure that you notify the blogger that you nominated them).
  • Write up 11 NEW questions directed towards your nominees.  (11 again!)

My questions for the nominees:

  1. What is your favorite pastime activities?
  2. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
  3. What food do you like?
  4. What holiday do you like the best?
  5. Which season do you like the best?
  6. Do you get along with all your family members?
  7. If you can have another life, what would you want to be?
  8. If you are a man, do you like voluptuous and shorter women or slender skinny and taller (not taller than you) women?  If you are a woman, do you like muscular and shorter (not shorter than you) men or slender skinny and taller men?  (I made the slight change – ‘slender’ sounded too good)
  9. When was your first love?
  10. Which type of movies would you like the best, comedy, action, romantic, documentary, SciFi, or something else?
  11. What kind of music do you like?  Any singers you like?

If you don’t want to bother, you can just ignore the nomination, though I hope you will accept it.

It took me 6 months, and it will take me more months to finish nominating 11 blogs. So, please feel free to take your time, too!

Cheers (^^)

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Tea Time With 300-Year-Old Imari Ware @Arita Porcelain Museum (九州陶磁文化館)

For Japanese, please click here (日本語はこちらをクリック)!

My Imari series #4.


This year, the annual Imari spring sale by the kilns (Haru no Yomoto Ichi: 春の窯元市) will be held from March 31 to April 3, 2013 at Okawachiyama (大川内山), Saga.
I wish I could go, but I never can take time off at that time of the year.

I just hope that the sale will not be affected by the yellow sand dust (黄砂) blown from the Yellow River region in China. The yellow sand dust seems to be getting worse – probably due to the progressing desertification in China. We had it when I was a kid in Fukuoka but nobody paid attention to it.  To make the matter worse, the sand dust now contains the fine particulate matter (PM2.5), caused by the air pollution due to the rapid (too rapid) development in China. Thanks, China 😦    The good thing is this is only seasonal.

If you are lucky enough to go to the spring Imari sale, be sure to stop over at Arita city (有田市) and visit the Arita Porcelain Museum (佐賀県立九州陶磁文化館)!


10 minutes’ walk from the JR Arita train station. If you don’t want to walk, take a taxi. There are always taxis waiting in line right outside the train station.


Stairs to the Heaven – for Imari lovers 🙂

On the second floor of the museum, there is a cafeteria which serves tea, coffee, sweets, and light meals in the very old Imari ware.

I almost missed the sign on the left that says “you can have coffee in Ko-Imari (古伊万里: old Imari ware made from the 17th century to early 19th century)”. They need a bigger sign.


Not many people know this place yet. It’s a hidden gem 🙂


One of the menus they gave me –

Cake sets served in the old Imari ware

Choices: Green Tea Chiffon Cake, Fruit Role Cake, Gateau Au Chocolat, Layer Cheese Cake    750 yen with coffee

Japanese women are very fond of cake sets like these. I am one of them.


They also gave me the sheet that explains about the old Imari they use.

The plates above were made sometime between 1680 – 1700s.

The ones below were made sometime between 1770 – 1800s.

Depending on what you order, you will be served with Imari with different designs.


They were donated by Ms. Yuko Shibata.

How generous of her to do that!

It says “be sure to hold them with both of your hands”.  What if you drop one on the floor by mistake and break it?

I am totally amazed they serve general public with such old and valuable stuff.

They have a lot of trust in the general public – but I think I can safely say that people who come to this museum must be Imari fans who are respectful of any Ko-imari ware, so they are not really serving them to the ‘general public’.

But still…  I can’t imagine anybody could do this in the U.S.


I had a slice of fruit roll cake with a cup of coffee.    mmmmm

It was like my dream came true.  For an Imari fan like me, what could be better than this (^o^)


I look outside the windows.

I see the lush green of southern Japan. I love it. I always took it for granted until I moved somewhere much colder. It actually resembles the climate of states like Tennessee, Georgia, I think (I have been to both Tennessee and Georgia) – am I right?


Don’t forget to visit the exhibition rooms.


If I remember correctly, this is the only sign in English, Korean, and Chinese.

I spent almost 4 hours in there.  Even if you are not a big Imari fan like me, you want to spend at least half an hour in there.


They have both the Japanese-style Imari and the European export Imari.

They have wares specially made for the Dutch East India Company. Some of them have the names of the then-oweners imprinted on them.


And there is a Kakiemon (柿右衛門) Imari, too, of course.

The decendent of Kakiemon (Kakieyom XIV) lives near this museum. He is a living national treasure (ningen kokuho: 人間国宝) in Japan.



Did you know Japan made huge Imari like this in the late 19th century?  They made them only for the export. (Japanese houses would be too small for them)

Japan entered big Imari ware like this in the International Expositions (万国博覧会) held in Europe in the 19th century and received praise from the crowd. I did not even know that they had International Expositions in the 19th century.



There is a big clock in the lobby made of Imari porcelain. It plays (kind of sleepy) music every half an hour.

This is an excellent museum, but here, too, they are half baked in providing English signs and explanations.

Some of them have full English translation, but many have only the title translated into English.

My guess is they just don’t have enough resources. It costs money to hire good translators.

100_3157 100_3100


The website of the Kyushu Ceramic Museum (九州陶磁文化館):

The website is only in Japanese, but if you scroll it down a bit, there is a link to the PDF of the brochure in English. 

Preview of “kyushu ceramic museum, arita, saga - Google Maps”

Map Imari en

Map Imari en (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Take JR Sasebo Line (佐世保線). Get off at Arita (有田). 10 minutes’ walk from the JR Arita station.  Imari City is close from Arita City  – 30 minutes’ ride of Matsuura Railway (松浦鉄道).

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I Bought Gangnam Style Pistachios (江南スタイルのピスタチオを買った)

For Japanese, please click here!

On the frigid Friday evening last week, I was on my way home, very tired from working all day (I live in the US and come back to my home country, Japan, regularly).  Driving 40 minutes each way, sometimes in snow, makes me very tired. I stopped by at a nearby supermarket on my way home to buy wine.  I have to drink a little on Friday night. I noticed the Wonderful Pistachios, Psy was selling on Super Bowl, for sale.


I bought one bag. I would have liked unsalted better, but I still enjoyed munching them.


Last Sunday night was the Super Bowl night – America’s big winter festival. I wrote about Psy’s performance in Times Square on New Year’s Eve 2012 Watching Psy. I thought I would not see Gangnam Style dance on TV again, but it appeared once more in the Super Bowl commercial.

photo-4 photo-5

I had heard he would be in Nabisco’s commercial, but no, it was Wonderful Pistachios by Paramount Farms in California which sells mainly nuts. They have the website named

Get cracking!

I Google searched blogs in Japan for curiosity.  He is not popular. He was never. And he will not be.

There is one blog which seems dominant on the topic of Psy’s Super Bowl commercial. It cites nothing but the negative responses he seems to have collected from the U.S media.  It should show both positive and negative responses.

The blogger obviously does not like Psy, so he shows only the negative ones to give you an impression that the majority of the American audience hated the commercial.

This is why you can’t trust some (or many?) of the blogs out there.

Don’t waste time on reading idiotic blogs by bozos  (oh, I am being careful of what I write! :))

Yes, maybe Gangnam Style was a little too overexposed in the media. But hey, I would do the same thing if I were him. Make hay while the sun shines.

The company must have done market research and must have known using Psy would be effective enough to sell their nuts. Usually businesses know what they are doing.

I liked the commercial, and bought a bag of the pistachios.  The commercial worked for me.

Japan is the only country Gangnam Style was never popular.

I can’t understand why. I have been away from my home country too long?

I guess it makes it more interesting to have a country that is different from everybody else. If all the countries were the same, the world would be boring.

One of my Facebook friends in Japan said she could watch the Super Bowl game and the half time show on the BS channel (one of the TV channels in Japan which broadcasts the pro sports in the U.S. like Major League Baseball), but not the commercials. So, I shared the link to Psy’s pistachios commercial in YouTube. She liked it, too.

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Imari Beef Lunch in Antique Imari (古伊万里焼きで伊万里牛ランチ)

In Imari city, Saga, there are restaurants and coffee shops which serve Imari beef lunch and dinner.

When I went to Imari last time, I had lunch at a coffee shop named Roger (ロジェ)located near the Ai-Oi-Bashi Bridge, downtown of Imari.


All the restaurants and coffee shops who are ‘certified’ by the local government that they serve authentic Imari beef have red flags like this outside their entrances.

Thanks to the red flag, it did not take me long to find this place. Thank goodness, I was getting pretty hungry wandering the city of Imari.


Their number one recommendation on their menu is Imari Beef 100% Hamburger Steak lunch with salad, cream soup, Imari cucumber dessert, and beverage for 1,575 yen.

1,575 yen is a little expensive for lunch, but I really wanted to try Imari Beef 100% hamburger steak, so I ordered the lunch.

No English anywhere – it would be hard if you could not read Japanese.

I am planning to go to Korea and Taiwan in the near future. Some people told me if I can read Korean and Chinese, that will make it a lot easier to travel in Korea and Taiwan. I agree. I know a little Korean but not good enough to travel in Korea freely. Same for Taiwan. I sometimes think “What a nuisance. Why do we have so many different languages in this world” (well, that’s because once upon a time there was a tower called the Tower of Babel…)


Everything is served in a antique Imari ware.

All of these plates and bowls were made in the 18th – 19th centuries.

Cafe Roger is owned by the couple. The wife served me lunch. She grew up in Imari.  A very friendly rural Japanese woman.

She explained to me that all these Imari ware are from her house in which she grew up. Her house was full of old Imari ware like them, so she is using some of them to serve her customers. Wow. She also said there are many houses in Imari which are, like hers, full of old Imari ware. I would love to stay in one of those houses. I am hoping some of them will run B&B sometime in the future.

The 100% Imari beef hamburger steak was tasty.  A very Japanese-style hamburger steak which goes well with white rice.  Living in the U.S. for so long, it is one of the things I sometimes miss.

Is Imari beef supposed to be as good as or better than other famous beef like Kobe Beef?  Not being a gourmet, I don’t know and I don’t think I will be able to tell differences…

Imari people are very proud of Imari beef. They are raised somewhere near the city of Imari. They proudly say the Imari beef are raised very carefully with lots of pride, so they are delicious.



An antique Imari saucer


Imari cucumber dessert – it’s cucumber ice cream. Delicious. The cucumbers they use are locally grown in Imari.  mmmmm


The interior of Cafe Roger. I should have taken a photo of the owner lady. Her husband is the chef cooking in the back.

If you want to try Imari beef burger, Finding Fukuoka briefly mentions it (you can eat more American-style burgers with buns) :  Finding Fukuoka



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