Quote of the Day

One kind word can warm three winter months.

– Japanese proverb –

Ferry from Ikishima to Hakata

German Lesson: das Rechenbrett

As a teacher and antiques collector, I always appreciate unique teaching material. When we lived in Japan in the early 1990s, I bought some antique abacuses/abaci, of which the big one had been used in the elementary school in its former days.

the abacus: das Rechenbrett (‘calculation frame’)

Abacus in Japanese elementary school

There are two more sizes – the bigger one in the next photo was used by students and adults (merchants, traders, etc.) and the small was for the hands of real young learners. Oops, I just realized the small one is upside down.


Taken from The Abacus – A Brief History

Circa 1600 C.E., use and evolution of the Chinese 1/5 abacus was begun by the Japanese via Korea. In Japanese, the abacus is called Soroban. The 1/4 abacus, a style preferred and still manufactured in Japan today, appeared circa 1930. The 1/5 models are rare today and 2/5 models are rare outside of China (excepting Chinese communities in North America and elsewhere).

福島の復興か?犠牲か?Clean up or Mess up for Fukushima?

 Posted: 22 October 2013

Makiko Wood, a high school teacher from Japan who currently resides in Germany, shares the following information about the clean up of the mess in Fukushima, set for November 2013. 




Watch the video at raw for beauty: http://rawforbeauty.com/blog/no-one-is-watching.html

海外に住んでいる私だから、福島第一原発の情報に疎くなっているのか・・・。それとも、日本人が知らされていないのか・・・。両親に聞いてみると、     この危険な作業を行わなければいけないことももちろんそうだが、国民に周知されていないことも問題です。福島に住んでいる私の両親は、地震後も政府を信じ、政府やメディアの発表をもとに、福島に残りました。一方、東京に住んでいる姉は、地震以降、一度も実家には帰っていません。情報を信じるかどうかは、個人が判断するものですが、「秘密保全法案」が国会を通ろうとする最中、判断基準となる情報を得難いことに憤りを感じます。

Repeated accidents, radiation contamination, leaking of radiated water… It is still a severe situation in Fukushima after two and half years from the earthquake. I feel irritated about the actual statement, because we are not informed what is happening as well as ad hoc steps of TEPCO. I found some information about Fukushima in an overseas blog and I would like to share it for people who might not know about it otherwise.

A delicate operation is about to start in Fukushima in November, which is to remove 400 tons of highly radiated spent fuel rods – 1535 fuel rods, 300kg of weight and 4.5m long each- from the pool in damaged Reactor No.4 so as to evacuate the rods from the damaged reactor building. However, the delicate and dangerous operation has to be completed manually with cranes because the computer which is used to control process that memorized the exact locations of roods down to the millimetre was broken by the earthquake.

This operation is obviously fraught with danger. This spent fuel which contains deadly plutonium is equivalent to 14,000 times amount released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb.  If a fuel rod is dropped, breaks, or becomes entangled while being removed, possible worst-case scenarios include a big explosion, a meltdown in the pool, or a large nuclear fire.

Any of these situations could lead to massive releases of deadly radionuclides into the atmosphere, putting much of Japan — including Tokyo and Yokohama — and even neighboring countries at serious risk.  Mycle Schneider and Antony Froggatt said recently in their World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013, “Full release from the Unit-4 spent fuel pool, without any containment or control, could cause by far the most serious radiological disaster to date.”

I wonder whether I am not abreast of the information by TEPCO or people, in general, who live in Japan are not informed. I asked my parents about is. It is a big problem that both we have to face the dangerous operation and we are not informed about the operation, or anything for that matter. After the earthquake, my parents still live in Fukushima, believing the government and the media. On the other hand, my sister who lives in Tokyo has not been back to our parents’ house since the disaster happened.

It is personal decision what they believe, however, as the law of secrets is about to pass the National Diet (国会 Kokkai), I am very irritated by the actual statement. It is hard even for people who live in Japan to get the right information to make a sound judgment.



On our last night in Japan, our good friend Yoshiko took us out for okonomiyaki. My, oh my – this was good!

Prior to going out, my companions wanted to know what it was and I described as a pancake with Japanese ingredients. I had had it before, but this time I tried it with mayo on the side.

Surprisingly, I saw quite a few Japanese using mayo on dishes such as okonomiyaki, yakisoba, sushi, etc.


To learn more about its history and local varieties, visit History – Okonomiyaki World.


Education in Travel

What looks like very pleasant to our eyes and inviting to our taste buds is actually meant for canine pleasures. Found this pet shop with a wide selection of canine delicacies for all occasions.

Dog food Japanese style

We surely miss all these jidou hanbaiki 自動販売機(じどうはんばいき) – Japan has the highest number of vending machines per capita around the world, averaging one machine for every 23 people. There are vending machines for hot and cold beverages, cigarettes, ice cubes, eggs, vegetables, umbrellas, beer, rice wine, instant noodles, and much more. It seems every street corner has at least one. There are close to 6 million machines throughout the country, generating a huge amount of sales.

In 2008, a smart card called taspo was implemented in tobacco vending machines to restrict sales of cigarettes. From such machines, cigarette purchases may only be made by taspo card holders, which is issued to adult applicants (in Japan,  this is 20 years of age). The card is held up to a sensor after money is inserted into the machine. Some beer vending machines also require age verification.

Vending machines in Japan

At the Fukuoka Airport, I saw a tobacco vending machine customer holding up his wallet to the sensor. He did not even have to take out his card. This looked very futuristic to me.

Japan spends  a lot of money on its conveniences, but still neglects to hire proof-readers/translators when putting information onto print.

Translation Japanese - English

The simple beauty of a stone basin and floating flower heads, as seen in Japan, inspired me to take out my Imari bowl and snap off some pansy heads from the flower box on the balcony.

Stone basin with flower heads


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