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


Education in Travel

There are quite a few things I have learned from my most recent trip to Japan.

One, just because a soft ice cream is green does not mean it is the regular green tea flavored one. I was too eager to get one and so I skipped reading the ad. The salesman was kind enough to point out its flavor: wasabi. It was so good.

Wasabi ice cream in Japan

Trains can have nice looking flooring such as this Sonic.

Sonic train in Japan

There was once gold mining in Japan. We visited the Taio Gold Mine near Hita in Northern Kyushu.

Taio Gold Mine in Japan

I know now the taste of Vegemite. I had to come all the way to Japan as a tourist to taste this at breakfast time at a Japanese friend’s home.

Another new taste was yokan (not to be confused with the Japanese sweet bean jelly). Yokan, the Japanese term for this vegetable, seems like a cross between potato and radish. I was told this is a fairly new vegetable from South America.

Quote of the Day

People love to be praised, so do so with all your might.

– Japanese proverb –

Even Monkeys Fall from Trees: The Wit and Wisdom of Japanese Proverbs: Vol 1 from

Daijoubu 大丈夫

The man and his dog, rescued after three days, replied to the question: 大丈夫ですか? (Are you okay?), with just a simple 大丈夫 (I’m okay).

[youtube 2zeroCZSrjo]

Not only did he come out with a smile on his face, but he also said: “Let’s rebuild!”

Some angst-stricken Germans panic more than the Japanese themselves.

Thanks, Yoshiko, for sending this link!


With everything Japan has to battle right now – the sea quake, tidal wave, a possible nuclear fall-out as well as warnings about a volcanic eruption on Kyushu – I wonder how much a nation can take.

View onto Wakato Hashi and Dokay Bay in Kitakyushu, Japan

From Facebook I have learned of siblings gone missing, such as former Frankfurt International School (FIS) students. My thoughts are with all the Japanese families who have come through Oberursel and FIS. I have heard from one former adult student that she is safe and both her college-age children have decided to leave Tokyo and return home to Aichi prefecture for now.

Another former FIS student and her family are still looking for the brother, gone missing in Sendai.

So many lives have been touched and/or come undone in this disaster-stricken time.

My first thought immediately went to late January 1995, the time after the Great Hanshin Earthquake (a.k.a. the Kobe earthquake). While holding our one-year old in my arms, I watched the NHK channel run lists of people who had perished in the big earthquake. I often saw the same name mentioned five, six, seven times in a row. The age given behind each name was conclusive enough to see that in each case, two or three generations of one single family had been wiped out.

In Kitakyushu, we had felt only a very slight tremor. But so many Kyushu residents had family, or friends, or somebody gone missing in and around Kobe.

My thoughts are with you, the people of Japan.

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