Here and There Japan

by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu

November 3, 2016
by anniedc

Horseback Archery at Meiji Jingu on Culture Day

shadow-img_3483I went to Meiji Jingu to watch yabusame, horseback archery. I waited in a crowd under the trees. The archers slowly passed by on their way to the starting point. I was not able to get a photo of any of them coming from that way. They were too fast!

So, I put my camera away and just enjoyed the pound of hooves and the thwack of arrows and the streak of archers bolting past. People’s cameras and heads kept getting in my line of view, so I was left with sound effects most of the time.

Later I moved to a different area. This is not a good photo, but look at him! Poised to take aim.img_3576

I wandered off but then came back after the ending ceremony. I took this photo of one of the archers.archer-standing-img_3639

I wandered off again and was about to take a photo of some men clacking wooden poles in a kendo bout. They all stopped, dropped to their knees and bowed to the archers as they passed on horseback. So I turned to take photos from the crowd.

archer-close-up-img_3665This archer had an omamori on his scabbard. This article explains what they are.

archer-female-img_3656All of the archers had a dragonfly on the cuff of their sleeves and some of them had their family crests on their shoulders. I decided to follow the crowd behind the archers.

behind-horses-img_3670Two attendants followed behind to clean up after the horses.

Sorry for the poor quality of the photos. It was either too dark or too light. Moving in and out of light and dark made it hard to make adjustments. But you can probably google photos!

Check this link to see the other Culture Day activities on November 3 at Meiji Jingu (Shrine). Here is a link to 2016 events.

For more information about Culture Day see this Kids Web Japan article.


October 31, 2016
by anniedc

Halloween 2016


Times have changed. I used to have to go all over town looking for pumpkins. This year, the grocery store in my west Tokyo neighborhood had one. Big Sister and Little Brother are young adults and living in the United Staes now. So, there will be no party. I don’t need a pumpkin, but it was nice to see it every day. When I went to the store today, October 31,  I saw this:


All month, Halloween items were available.

img_1952On Saturday (a good party day), there were hamburger steaks and chicken entrees. Pumpkin quiche was available (on the left.)

orange-drink-mochi-img_3426I bought some ghost and pumpkin-shaped glutinous rice cakes with bean paste inside (on the left) to drink with green tea. (I smushed the purple one on the way home.) I splurged and bought a bottle of orange drink to show you how it is decorated with Halloween motifs. I will give it to Papa.

I have been waiting for a persimmon to ripen. It’s ready today.  I will eat it for dessert (and maybe) make a jack-o-lantern later. Check an old post to see how we and Ema from Somewhere Among made a jack-o-lantern out of a persimmon.

img_1954Here are some store decorations.

img_1931And some decorations at a neighborhood school. Check the categories for more Halloween posts.

October 3, 2016
by anniedc

Signed copies of SOMEWHERE AMONG

Thank you Books of Wonder in New York City and Gae Polisner! On September 14, I took part in the launch of Gae’s new young adult novel The Memory of Things along with middle grade novelists Jewel Parker Rhodes, author of Towers Falling, and Nora Raleigh Baskin, author of Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story.

You can purchase signed copies of each our books from the Books of Wonder website. They ship world-wide.

Thank you to the booksellers who let me sign stock at Compass Books (no photo) at the San Francisco airport and in Berkeley

at Books Inc. ,


Sorry the photo with booksellers at Books Inc. did not turn out. But here it is among books!

at Mrs. Dalloway’s ,



Anne, buyer at Mrs. Dalloway’s.  Drats, I was a week early and missed Grace Lin!


at Moe’s Books (not listed on website),


on shelves at Moe’s Books (center & wall)


and at Mr Mopp’s Books (Kelly will send a photo later.)

In Oakland, at Diesel Books.


with bookseller David

I loved all these wonderful shops. Support independent booksellers! They ship books!

September 12, 2016
by anniedc

Moon Viewing



I am leaving Japan tomorrow for a short trip to the United States. I passed by a cake shop and saw ads for moon viewing. The date changes every year according to the solar calendar. Our family follows what the stores in the neighborhood do.

I went in to buy some cakes for souvenirs for my trip. But the cakes I wanted to buy needed to be eaten within a day or two.  So I only got this ad. Too bad my American family and friends won’t be able to sample any of these cakes!

A rabbit is said to be on the moon pounding rice into mochi, glutinous cakes. Mochi is pounded throughout the year but particularly around the beginning of the new year. Some school boys and girls have a chance to pound rice into mochi. Our neighborhood school alternated events like this at different times during the year. I added pounding mochi as an activity for the characters in Somewhere Among. It is not a usual activity for moon viewing.

Here are links from past posts about autumn moon viewing here on this blog.

This link shows what the dates are for this year and future years.


July 8, 2016
by anniedc

Our House

SA our old house image0-005

We lived in one and half rooms on the second story of the house on the left. A multi-purpose room and a kitchen were upstairs, the bathroom and laundry were downstairs. Grandfather, Grandmother, and Aunt lived downstairs.


Our old wooden gate and our old house.

We finally were able to build a new house in its place. Big Sister and Little Brother each got a room of their own. They started to sleep in an “up-bed” (what they called a bed with feet). We built a roof garden to sit out at night to view the stars.

Our obaachan did not want to build a new house. I cannot imagine living in one room with big kids! Some people may have to, but most people don’t.

July 7, 2016
by anniedc

Tanabata 2016

I didn’t see many bamboo branches outside of homes and businesses this year. Our neighborhood has changed a lot over the past years. There are many apartment houses. Most of the family-owned “Mom and Pop” shops are gone.

The weekend of the 2nd, I saw families with children on the street carrying small decorated bamboo branches. The children looked like they were in kindergarten. So maybe they were coming from school festivals.

Here is a link to Kids Web Japan page on Tanabata.  And their Tanabata story.

Here are the photos I took on July 7. Sorry they are not so good, but the sun was too bright or the rooms (or shade) were too dim!


I went to Okunitama Shrine in Fuchu. There was no bamboo branch. However, the frames for ema were crowded with wishes and requests.


ema closeupIMG_2688

These are ema. They are not tanabata decorations. Tou can see them at shrines year round.


Bamboo, wishes and lotus at Fudatenjin Shrine in Chofu-shi, Tokyo.

Bamboo, wishes and lotus at Fudatenjin Shrine in Chofu-shi, Tokyo.


Behind the scene, you can see the bamboo isstrapped to a pole to help it stand tall.

I stepped behind the scene and saw more clearly that the bamboo was strapped to a pole to help it stand tall.


school branch IMG_2643

Outside the teachers’ room at a local school.


At a flower shop.

At a flower shop.


At a sweets shop.

At a sweets shop.


At a "mall."

At a “mall.”


At a department store.

At a department store.

We didn’t have a bamboo branch this year. Big Sister and Little Brother are all grown-up and living in the United States. It’s just me, Papa and Aunt now. And the dog and cats.

I found this wish from last year. It was asking for good health for the dog and cats.

I found this wish from last year. It was asking for good health for the dog and cats.

June 8, 2016
by anniedc


Spring 2016

If you are interested in Japan, you may like to read my new book Somewhere Among.

The story takes place in Japan 2001. It is about Ema, an 11-year-old American-Japanese girl. She has a white American mom and a Japanese father like my children. She lives in Japan but visits America. Like my children (when they were younger.)

Unlike my children, Ema and her mom have to move in with her Japanese grandparents. Her mom has a difficult pregnancy and needs help. They will stay there until after the baby is born. Ema has to finish the summer semester of fifth grade at the dining table in front of the TV. She will enter the fall semester at a neighborhood school.

Obaachan, her Japanese grandmother, thinks Ema needs extra instruction in Japanese culture and manners. She controls everything in the household and stresses everyone out. Ema misses her August trip to visit her American grandparents. She misses her school friends and dreads going to a different school even for a few months. A bully at that school makes things even worse.

The story weaves many aspects of home life and school life in Japan. It is not the story of our family life. Our obaachan was sweet like our jiichan. And my children never had any problem with their studies.

History and anniversaries that Japan and America share are also woven into the story. They were enemies in the past but have been friends for many decades.

If you want to know more, check out my author’s website for the resources I used as research.

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