Tag Archives: usa

Cherry Blossom Festival

I went to the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco’s Japantown neighborhood yesterday. It’s held every year on two weekends in April.

Of course, it’s only been 5 weeks since the disaster in Japan. Maybe the organizers were not sure about whether to have this fun event this year. However, it’s really important to the Japanese and Japanese-American community here. For example, it helps Japanese and Japanese-American kids living here learn about and participate in Japanese culture. It’s also really important to the businesses in the area. So the festival was held as usual. However, you couldn’t forget about the disaster: there was fundraising everywhere. I thought that was good.

Anyway, here are some of my photos.

Getting ready
We walked through downtown on our way to Japantown. That’s where the parade starts, so some of the people who were going to be in the parade were eating lunch and getting ready.

Floats, waiting
Here are some of the empty floats. The one with the dolls is a special one to support Japan and encourage donations. It was really big and beautiful.

We stand with you
This is during the parade. I don’t know what group it is.

SF Taiko group
There are several Japanese drumming groups that perform during the festival or in the parade. They’re really popular.

"Cable car"
This isn’t a real cable car, but it looks like one. They’re tossing candy to people in the crowd. That’s common in American parades.

Dancers
These dancers are from a Californian Japanese dance school. Both small children and older people danced all the way from downtown–about 1 mile/1.5 kilometers away. Dancers, cheerleaders, etc. are common in American parades.

Keiko Fukuda
Ms. Keiko Fukuda was the Honorary Grand Marshall (leader) of the parade. She’s a famous judoka (also see this video about her). The mayor and the Japanese consul were there too…last year we saw Japanese-American actor George Takei (Sulu from “Star Trek) and the Japanese ambassador to the US.

Omikoshi
These Boy Scouts have a small omikoshi (Japanese portable shrine). There’s a really big one at the end of the parade, but I didn’t stay this year.

Rock
During the rest of the festival, there are outdoor stages with music. This band from Japan, Soulit, performed on a float during the parade, too! They sounded pretty good.

Religious harmony
This is some kind of Japanese/American inter-faith religious group…They look pretty interesting, don’t they?

Cosplay float
In the last few years, the cosplay group has been popular. This float has the best costumes, and the other participants walk. (You can see another photo at Flickr.)

Cosplay for charity
This participant carried a sign encouraging people to donate to the Red Cross by text.

Taiyaki
During the festival, the Japantown mall is really busy. There’s a coffeeshop that always sells their own special taiyaki (like a filled waffle), but they must sell hundreds during the festival. Of course, I had one. I also had mitarashi dango (a kind of sweet rice dumpling on a stick) at a tea shop. My husband had shaved ice.

Washiningyo parade
There are several displays of arts and crafts during the festival, including origami, cloth-covered wood dolls, and these dolls made of paper. There are also displays of bonsai, antique swords, ikebana (flower-arranging) and stones. They also have demonstrations of martial arts (kendo, kyudo, naginata, judo, karate, aikido, etc.), various kinds of dancing and singing, musical performances on the shakuhachi, koto, and shamisen, and they even play karuta (a kind of card game). Some of the people doing these things are not Japanese or Japanese-American at all.

There are other things to do, too. There is one outdoor area where people sell things like t-shirts with original designs, jewelry, and handmade soap. These things have to be related to Asian culture in some way. There’s another area where community groups like Buddhist churches and bilingual kindergartens sell food. You can buy “sakura popcorn” (rice crackers, seaweed, and popcorn), onigiri (riceballs), takoyaki (with no octopus for people who are scared), and lots of other things. I couldn’t take a good photo of these areas.

If you ever have a chance to visit the festival, I recommend it. It’s a wonderful combination of Japanese and American cultures.

You can see more photos from this year on Flickr, including some amazing origami, more cosplay, and a model of Osaka Castle.

If you have any questions about anything, just ask!

P. S. Where are the cherry blossoms? Well, the name is mostly symbolic–it’s just an image. There aren’t many cherry trees in Japantown. It’s in the middle of the city! Also, by late April most of our cherry blossoms are gone, except the double-blossom (yaezakura) type. But there’s good news! I noticed that more double-cherry-blossom trees have been planted in Japantown recently, so maybe next year…

More Messages

I’ve gotten more messages from my friends to share with everyone in Japan! If you’re not in Japan, please read the messages for some good vocabulary.

Bouquets
Flowers from my local farmers’ market

Name: Pat & Winston
Location: El Cerrito, California, USA
Message: There are no words in any language that can express our sorrow for what has happened, and is happening in Japan. Our thoughts and hearts are with you.

Name: Erin
Location: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Message: We are thinking about you and hoping for your safety and well-being, and the well-being of your families and friends.

Name: Alex
Location: Fremont, California, USA
Message: We stand with you, and we are so proud of you! We hope you recover soon. We have great faith in you!
頑張れ 日本!!

Name: Kirsten
Location: San Francisco, California, USA
Message: I am cheering for you. You are in my thoughts every day. Please stay safe. I am so sorry and my sorrow is for you and Japan.

Name: Ellen
Location: England
Message: I want to send a message of hope to the people of Japan. The rest of the world supports you.

Name: Ian
Location: New Forest, England
Message: My thoughts are constantly with you all. I salute your strength and fortitude through these difficult times.

Name: Caroline and her mother
Location: Minnesota, USA
Message: The strength and spirit of the people of Japan inspire us. We pray for you in this time of tragedy.

Name: Dion R.
Location: Bay Point, California, USA
Message: Hearing what has happened in Japan caused much pain, but do not lose hope. I pray to God you’ll all make it through. I encourage you all to continue assisting others in need, as well as staying safe. May you be protected and live another day.

You can leave a comment if you want to say something.

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Sunrise

Messages of Support

Sunrise
Sunrise at the lake near my house – a peaceful scene few days ago

Some of my friends and family wrote messages of support to everyone in Japan. In the US and other places, there has been a lot of news about the earthquake, tsunamis, and other problems. I think we all know about it and are sending our best wishes.

Here is what they said. If you want to answer them or say anything, please leave a comment at the bottom!

Name: Marty (that’s Clarissa’s mom, by the way!)
Location: Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA.
Message: May better days come soon.

Name: Julie F, ESL teacher
Location: Emeryville, California, USA
Message: I am aware of what has happened to you, which is so frightening, and my thoughts and concern are with you. It will be a while before life feels normal again. In this time you must be loving and patient with yourselves and others. I hope your country can safely heal, rebuild and move forward. My deep condolence for any lost friends and family members.

Name: Scott
Location: Denton, Texas, USA — Land of Cowboys, Horses, Tornadoes, and quite a few people from Japan who are here going to school.
Message: Y’all have my best wishes for future recovery. Many, many condolences for those you’ve lost. People at my office could not stop watching the news sites this Friday. We were awed and horrified by what we were seeing. I certainly hope things start getting better as quickly as possible.

Name: Melissa
Location: Sacramento, California, USA
Message: We are very sad about the tragedy that has happened in Japan. We grieve with you. I hope that you all recover and heal quickly, and I hope that the world will come together to help you in this dark time.

Name: Bardi
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
Message: May each morning be a flower of greater hope.

Name: Erin
Location: Washington, DC, USA
Message: I would like to send good wishes and hope to the Japanese people during this difficult time.

Name: Stephanie
Location: Washington State, USA
Message: I wish there is more I can do to help. Take care of each other. Japan is in my heart and prayers.

Name: Brent E.
Location: Seattle, Washington State, USA
Message: This time is tough. I hope that all of you stay safe. Japan will recover!

If I get more messages later, I’ll make another post!

Please take care of yourself. Take a break, eat when you can, get some rest, and drink enough (if you can!). Be kind to yourself and others. We’re thinking of you!

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A Friend’s Christmas Day

I thought some of you might like to see my friend’s Christmas Day. She lives in the southern part of the central US. On Christmas Day, there were four generations of her family in one house!

Here’s Christmas morning. They have a very tall tree (it’s taller than mine or my parents’). However, many Americans have trees that are about 6 feet/2 meters tall. One reason is because there are a lot of gifts to put under the tree.

Some families only give one gift to each person. In my family and my husband’s family, everyone gives more than one gift to each other. (I don’t know about my friend’s family.) So when I was old enough (maybe 10 or so?), I gave presents to my parents, too. They also gave presents to each other. This year, I gave presents to my mom, my dad, my husband, my mother-in-law, my father-in-law, and my brother-in-law. (I also gave or mailed presents to several friends.)

Anyway, here’s the gift unwrapping at my friend’s house.

Some gifts are practical things that people have been wanting but can’t or won’t buy. (For example, my parents gave me a nice pair of jeans, a pair of trail shoes for hiking, and an extra iPod Touch cable.) Some gifts are educational or to help the person in their job. (For example, my husband gave me a book on English linguistics. Last year, my in-laws gave my husband a book about math teaching.) And of course, other gifts are just fun or nice. (For example, my parents gave my husband a Doctor Who DVD box set and a video game.)

I really appreciate my friend letting me share these photos with you. :) Thanks, Q!

Halloween 2010

This year I was really busy during October. I wasn’t able to plan a Halloween party. It’s too bad, because I love having Halloween parties.

Here are some photos from a couple of years ago.


Here are some small lanterns I put outside my place. We usually put decorations outside our homes as well as inside.


In the front is a candle decoration that I made. On the right is a pumpkin that has not been carved yet. On the left is what was inside a pumpkin. That pumpkin has already been carved into a jack-o’lantern.


You can see some of the snacks that we had at our party. (No, we’re not good at making sushi!) You can also see party favors in little bags.

Anyway, I’m not having a party tonight or tomorrow. But tonight we visited a special Halloween event that our city has.

There’s an old building here. It used to be part of a rich person’s house. Now it’s only used once a year for a “haunted house”! I think about 75 people were in line. It costs $3, and the money is given to local charities.


You can see just a few of the booths with carnival games and Halloween items for sale. The games are similar to festival games in other countries.


My favorite part: caramel apples! I always get one that’s covered in chopped peanuts. These are made right there by volunteers. They taste so good! The apples are a little bit tart, and the nuts are nutty, crunchy, and a little salty. So it’s not as sweet as it looks.

Lots of little kids and a few adults go to this event in costume. The volunteers who work there have fun, and my money is given to charity. I really enjoy going there every year.

I hope you have a great Halloween, or a great October 31st if you aren’t interested in Halloween!

P. S. Enter the contest! It’s so easy–just share your ideas with us! Only 2 people have entered so far…your chances are good!

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Where I’ve Lived

Today’s post is just a little bit about me. It’s not as interesting as baby squirrels, I think…


View Where I’ve Lived in a larger map

Both of my parents are from California, but I was born in a small town in Missouri. Missouri is a state near the middle of the US. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. The weather is kind of like Okayama, Japan, but the town I lived in is colder in the winter, and not as rainy in the summer. Compared to Pusan, Korea, the weather is warmer in the summer (but still not as rainy), and almost the same in the winter. (You can compare weather at Weather.com’s comparison site, but they don’t have information for every city outside the US. Wikipedia has information, too.) The town I was born in is very small–only about 12,500 people live there.

When I was little, we moved to Alabama, North Carolina, and then Kansas. This was because of my dad’s work.

Finally, we moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas. I lived there for about 12 years, and I went to college there. It had about 50,000 people then, but it’s bigger now.

All of these states have similar weather. There four seasons including a spring with pretty flowers, a hot and humid summer, an autumn with beautifully colored leaves, and a cool or cold winter. Sometimes there are bad storms. These states have a few big cities, but there’s a lot of countryside. You can see a lot of farms and natural areas.

Now I live in Fremont, California. It’s kind of near San Jose and San Francisco. The population of Fremont is about 220,000, but our city is next to a lot of other cities. It’s part of the San Francisco Bay Area (Wikipedia link — or Simple English version), which has more than 7 million people. The weather is totally different. This part of California has a special climate, which is similar to the area near the Mediterranean Sea. I’ll explain it more sometime, but for me, it was really strange at first!

Anyway, I’ve lived in California since 2000, although I spent 3 months in Taipei, Taiwan.

Where have you lived? You can tell me in the comments. I’d like to know.

If you have any questions about where I’ve lived, please feel free to ask.



Notes
Similar (adj.): Almost the same, very close. Ex. “That painting looks similar to the one we saw before.” (A more casual way to say it is “That painting looks like the one we saw before.”) “Some people say that song was copied from another band, but I don’t think the songs are very similar.”
Humid (adj.): This is when the air has a lot of water in it. The noun is “humidity.” Ex.: “It’s hotter in the desert than in the rain forest, but the rain forest is more humid.” “I try not to use my air conditioner, but when it’s hot and humid, I turn it on.”
Climate (n.): Average weather conditions and patterns (of a place). Weather is what’s happening this week; climate is what happens over years. Ex.: “Italy’s climate is perfect for growing grapes.” “She’s from a country with a hot climate, and she’s not used to snow.”

It’s a Long Road

I’m sorry I haven’t posted this summer. I had a health problem at the beginning of the summer. I’m getting better, but I had to concentrate on that for a while. Here’s something that has no words but is very interesting:

These two guys drove from San Francisco to Washington, D. C.–all the way across the United States. That’s about 3000 miles or 4900 km, 48 hours of driving if you never stop! They had a camera that took 1 photo every 10 seconds. They put all the photos together to make a video. (That’s called “time-lapse photography”–you can find some beautiful videos on YouTube if you search for “time lapse Grand Canyon” “time lapse Yosemite” etc. Try it!)

By watching the video, you can travel all the way across North American in 4 minutes! It might give you a headache to travel that fast…After you watch the video, you can click on it to go to the YouTube page. Look in the information box to the right, and you can find a link to a map of the route that they took across the US.

Does anything surprise you in the video? Did you see fewer cities than you expected? More trees? Lots of different kinds of scenery? (I think I saw a rainbow!) I’ve never driven this route myself, but I’ve driven across the southern part of the US. When you drive across the southern part, you see more desert. Here is some of that area (not time-lapse; regular video).

I hope your study of English is going well! Comment if you have questions you would like me to try to answer.

Valentine’s Day Differences

Valentine’s Day is coming up this Thursday! Are you ready?

two children making valentines, by johnny_automatic at openclipart.org

Valentine’s Day is celebrated differently around the world. What do you know about Valentine’s Day in the US? Check yourself by taking this quiz!

Regarding Valentine’s Day in America …

  1. … do men and boys receive most of the chocolate?

  2. … do people often give presents to their loved ones?
  3. … do couples often go out to dinner together?
  4. … do many elementary school students give cards to all of their classmates?
  5. … do people only give cards to their romantic partners, and not to friends and family?
  6. … do restaurants offer special dinner menus?
  7. … do most people make their own chocolate to give as gifts?
  8. … does your boss expect you to give him or her a present?
  9. … do you get the day off?
  10. … is it the number one day for buying flowers?
  11. … is chocolate the most popular candy?
  12. … is there another holiday in March called White Day, where men give gifts to women?

Okay, ready?







Here are the answers!

  1. NO! Men can both give and receive chocolate, but women get more chocolate than men.

  2. YES! Jewelry is common, but it can be anything–books, plants, video games, art, gift certificates, a bicycle, or anything that your loved one will enjoy.
  3. YES! I’m planning to go to dinner with my husband.
  4. YES! In my school, each student decorated a shoebox or paperback for receiving valentines. Then, on Valentine’s Day, we had to bring a card for each classmate (so that no one would be sad). Some students also give out candy. Stores carry special cheap cards, which come in a box of 20 or more. These cards have images of cartoon characters like Pokemon and Spongebob, pop stars, sports stars, etc. Children sometimes make valentines using colored paper, stickers, etc.
  5. NO! Some people give cards to their partners and to their children, friends, family members, etc. It depends on the person.
  6. YES! These dinners are often very expensive. They are often a set price and include special extras like champagne, roses, and a special dessert.
  7. NO! Some people do, but almost all people just buy their candy. Popular brands include See’s, Joseph Schmidt, and Godiva. M&Ms and other ordinary brands have special colors and flavors, and very expensive chocolate shops make special candies, too.
  8. NO! Your boss will probably be shocked if you give him or her a gift, since this day is mostly for romance.
  9. NO! Almost no one has this day off, because it’s not a national holiday.
  10. YES! It’s considered a romantic gift. Traditionally, men give roses to the women they love, but there are many other choices depending on the people. Of course, it’s okay for women to give flowers to men, and same-sex couples to each other, etc.
  11. YES! A lot of chocolate is sold for Valentine’s Day, and you can buy special chocolates at all kinds of stores (even gas stations).
  12. NO! White Day was invented in Japan, as far as I know. It is not known or celebrated in American culture–there’s no need for it here since Valentine’s Day is for both men and women to give and receive presents.

How did you score? Did you learn anything new, or did you already know everything? Actually, there’s a lot more to know about Valentine’s Day, because it’s a very old holiday in Europe (where it comes from). In a few days, I’ll post some websites where you can learn more about Valentine’s Day.

P. S. Significant other is a way to refer to “wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, partner,” etc., without making any guesses about the relationship or the gender of the person. (After all, you often can’t tell by looking if someone is married, gay, etc.) For example, let’s imagine that I have two co-workers, Alice and Scott. If Alice works late every day and never takes a vacation, I might ask Scott this question: “Does Alice have a significant other? It seems like she’s always working, and she’s never mentioned anyone.”