Last Monday, the 24th of February, was a national holiday for the Emperor’s birthday. I went with a friend to Shiroyama Park next to Matsuyama Castle. The weather was sunny and the trees along the moat had started to blossom.
We enjoyed delicious food from food trucks in the park, especially strawberry crepes!
I enjoyed my day in the park very much. I think the green spaces of Matsuyama are beautiful and peaceful. I hope everyone cares for them and enjoys them as Spring begins!
There are some strong memories which I still have from my childhood. Some of these memories include riding my bike, playing with action figures, camping, video games and sleepover parties. I think bikes, toys and video games are pretty usual activities for children around the world, but I’m not sure how popular sleepover parties are.
Sleepovers, also known as pajama parties or slumber parties, were pretty common in the states when I was growing up. Usually a friend or friends will sleep at another friend’s house. They will likely eat dinner there as well. Most friends will bring over a bag with their tooth brush, pajamas, pillow, and of course-favorite toys, video games or comic books. It was always the most fun when you were supposed to turn off the lights and go to bed, but just talked with your friends for another two or three hours. The mornings were always difficult.
Most children enjoy sleepovers, but they don’t happen very often. As a kid, you usually had to consider three things when planning a sleepover; 1) your parents’ mood 2) your friend’s parents’ mood 3) timing- usually on a Friday or Saturday night. Parents are always reluctant to say “Yes.” at first, because if their child wants to stay at another family’s house, they don’t want to impose. If your child wants to invite people to stay over, you have to take responsibility for another child or children. Parents also have to talk over details on the phone. This makes it a difficult prospect for children from the start. Lots of children will plan in advance, by doing chores and finishing homework early. The most common technique children use is to ask one parent- “Can I stay at Jimmy’s house?” and the parent will say “Ask your mother/father. If they say yes then it’s okay.” Then the child will ask the other parent “Is it okay if I stay at Jimmy’s house? Mom/Dad said it was okay.” Then the second parent will probably say “Yes.”. Children are always good at adapting language to their needs.
Usually sleepovers are filled with games, chatting, pillow fights, and snacks and sweets. They aren’t always smooth though. Sometimes children who aren’t used to staying away from their own home wake up and the middle of the night and want to go back to their house, which makes it hard on both parents and the host friend. Friends also sometimes get into fights with each, but it is usually a good experience all-around.
Did you grow up with sleepovers? If so, are they different from the sleepovers I wrote about? If you are a parent or grandparent, do your children or grandchildren have sleepovers? One of my favorite movies is “Sandlot”. It’s a story about baseball loving boys growing up in the late 50’s or early 60’s. They have a great sleepover scene which takes place in one of the boys’ tree house. If you have the chance and you’re interested, please check it out. You might get a glimpse of the magic of sleepovers.
Fish were leaping out of the water.
She leaped for joy.
2020 is a special year for many reasons. For one thing, it’s the start of a new decade. For another, it’s an Olympics year (Go Tokyo Olympics!). It’s also unusual because the numbers repeat. The last time that happened was 101 years ago in 1919, and it won’t happen again until 2121 in another 101 years! But 2020 is also a special year because it is a leap year.
A leap year is something that happens every four years. Usually, a calendar year is 365 days long. However, an astronomical year, which is how long it takes for planet Earth to make a full circle around the sun, is actually 365.2425 days long. So every four years, we take those four 0.2425 of a day and combine them into one extra calendar day: February 29th, also known as leap day. Any year that has this extra day is called a leap year.
Why do we call it a leap year? To ‘leap’ usually means to ‘jump forwards’. Usually, a specific date during the year (for example, February 19, 2020) will be one day of the week later than the year before (so while February 19, 2020 is a Wednesday, February 19, 2019 was a Tuesday). However, during a leap year, the extra day in February means that for the rest of the year, every date will actually be 2 days of the week later than the year before (so March 1, 2020 will be a Sunday, but March 1, 2019 was actually a Friday!). So, during a leap year, the day of the week ‘leaps’ forward by two days!
You probably are already used to having an extra day every four years. But did you know that there are not only leap years and leap days, but also leap seconds?
When we say that a year is actually 365.2425 days long, even this number is not completely accurate. It’s actually an average of the lengths of many, many different years. The Earth doesn’t always spin at exactly the same speed, or travel around the sun in exactly the same amount of time. So, to make sure our clocks and calendars are still accurate, sometimes the world’s clocks have to be adjusted by just one second. Unlike leap years, leap seconds are not applied on a regular schedule, but only when they are needed.
My sister who lives in Sapporo sent me this photo the other day.
“My car is covered with snow! It’s troublesome to remove it before driving!”
I sent back a photo I took while walking around my neighborhood in Saijo.
“Are you all right? LOL”
I like the contrast between the North area and the South area of Japan.
I found blooming apricot trees! A happy spring is coming!
My sister enjoyed the Snow Festival in Sapporo.
She said the lights and the projection mapping on the snow were beautiful!
Which February do you like better?
The other day I was in the book store. I usually go to the Men’s Interest corner, because I like magazines about cars and motorbikes. I was surprised, because there was a young lady in that section. Of course, I was a little curious about what kind of magazine she was looking at, so I took a quick glance. It was a magazine about trains. So it got me thinking about trains in Japan.
I grew up in Hawaii and parts of the mainland in the US. When I was living in the mainland, I almost always lived in the countryside. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to ride a train. In Hawaii, we don’t have any trains except for a tourist attraction that was used to haul sugarcane from the plantations to the refinery. You can see this train in the “Train, Train” music video by the rock band “The Blue Hearts”. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to ride it.
I first came to Japan in 1994 and that was my first experience riding on a train. I was living in Nagasaki, so I rode the train to neighboring cities and also the street car. It was amazing how punctual and clean the trains were. Coming from Hawaii, we only have “The Bus” and it’s always late, crowded and slow. With this new found public transportation, I always looked forward to riding the train and still do.
I was a little surprised when I noticed how many people in Japan are enthusiastic about trains. When you ride trains, you can often see people taking pictures of the train along the tracks. It is also surprising how many people know all of the different types of bullet trains (Shinkansen) and local trains. On the news, you can usually see a long line of people waiting to ride on a train when it’s the train’s final run. The passengers waiting in line always talk passionately about that particular train and how they will miss it. Many little children, especially boys, also love Purare-ru- the plastic train sets from Takara/Tomy. Sanrio also has the “Shinkansen” line of character goods, which feature cute bullet trains.
Here in Ehime, we have the Anpanman Shiokaze Express. No matter how old passengers are, they always seem to be happy when they get to ride on “the Anpanman train”. They even sell the miniature trains at the convenient stores inside the station. If you ride on the Anpanman train and look hard enough, you will probably be able to see a train enthusiast taking a picture of the train.
Personally, my favorite train to ride is the Iyotetsu street car. I especially like the street cars with wooden floors. They’re very beautiful and have a very nice feel to them. I also like the old fashioned logos on different components inside the older street cars. The newer street cars are nice as well, but the older ones really add a nice flavor to Matsuyama City. I hope they stay around for a while. I also hope the love and enthusiasm that the Japanese people have for their trains continues as well.
Here in Japan, we recently celebrated a very fun and unusual holiday on February 3rd– Setsubun. But did you know that the USA also had a very strange and interesting holiday this week?
One of my favorite and one of the most unusual American holidays is celebrated on February 2nd every year. The name of the holiday is “Groundhog Day”, and it celebrates the approach of spring and the end of winter.
A groundhog is a small furry animal that is only a little larger than a rabbit. They live in holes in the ground, and are native to North America.
If you were to see a groundhog, you might not think it’s anything special. But once a year, on Groundhog Day, the groundhog gets its chance to shine.
According to tradition, when the groundhog comes out of its hole on February 2nd, if it can see its shadow on the ground, that means there will be six more weeks of winter. However, if it doesn’t see its shadow, it means that spring will come early.
Every year, news trucks and reporters flock to a small town in Pennsylvania where the “official” groundhog, named Punxsutawney Phil, lives to see if he spies his shadow. This year, it seems that Phil did not see his shadow, so people in the US can look forward to a short winter and early spring!
It might seem like a very strange and silly tradition, but it’s still a lot of fun.
“Groundhog Day” is also the name of a very funny movie starring Bill Murray that was made in the 1990s. It tells the story of a news reporter who is sent to report on Groundhogs Day, but somehow gets stuck living the day again and again and again and again… I highly recommend this movie for anyone who likes slightly dark humor.
What are some strange or unusual holidays that you celebrate?
English has one of the largest vocabularies of all the languages in the world. I grew up speaking English so I thought it was normal to often have two words for what is, more-or-less, the same thing. Only when I became a teacher of English did I realise how enormous and complicated the English vocabulary is.
At university I started learning Spanish and I noticed an interesting thing, when there were two words for the same thing in English often the Spanish word would be similar to one English word and not the other. For example, in English ‘decision’ and ‘choice’ have the same meaning, and the Spanish word ‘decisión’ matches the first English word but not the second.
When I researched why this happened I learnt a lot more about the history of the English language, and I understood why English has such a large vocabulary. This short video helps explain the ‘double vocabulary’ of English!
February 3rd is the day of Setsubun.：2月3日は節分の日です
The literal meaning of the word Setsubun is “division of the seasons,”：節分は季節を分けるという意味です
It is believed that *oni come when the seasons change in Japan.
There are many rituals to exorcise these oni.：鬼を追い払うためのさまざまな儀式などがあります
Throwing roasted soybeans was first practiced back in the Heian period, to stop oni from attacking villages by throwing beans at their eyes.
To get rid of the oni, people scatter roasted soy beans both inside and outside of their houses.
The phrase “Out with the devil! In with good fortune,” is said when throwing soybeans.
Once the beans are thrown, gather them all up and eat the same number of beans as your age. Eat one extra to keep you from sickness and stay healthy for the whole year.