“Once Upon a World” : Fairy Tales Reimagined!

17 May

 

Have you happened upon the “Once Upon a World” series yet?? If not, you must! It is a refreshing, delightful new take on the classic fairy tales. The stories are the same, but the characters and illustrations reflect a different culture. So far in the series, there’s Snow White, Rapunzel, and Cinderella.

We are especially in love with “Snow White“, by Chloe Perkins. The illustrations inspired by Japan are just lovely to look at. I love that my little girl can see that someone who looks like her can be a princess too.

Here’s what the Simon & Schuster website has to say about Snow White:

The classic tale of Snow White gets a fresh twist in this debut title of a brand-new board book series, Once Upon a World. With Japan as the backdrop, and beautiful artwork from Japanese illustrator Misa Saburi, Snow White is still the same girl who meets seven dwarves and accepts a shiny red apple—but she’s totally reimagined. Once Upon a World offers a multicultural take on the fairy tales we all know and love. Because these tales are for everyone, everywhere.

You can purchase “Once Upon a World: Snow White” HERE. (Currently less than $5 on Amazon! I might stock up for baby shower gifts)

These are nice board books– perfect for little ones!

(This is not an endorsed post. We found this book at our local library and loved it so we wanted to share. If you use my amazon link to purchase a book however, we will earn a few pennies to help keep this blog running! Thanks!)

Kanji-Learning Videos!

3 May

There’s a lot of hiragana-learning videos for kids, but there’s still very few kanji-learning videos for kids (as of 2017). I hope someone will create some high-quality kanji videos in the near future. In the meantime, here are some kanji videos I’ve found. Mostly geared towards adults but I think kids could benefit as well.

This first video IS geared toward kids but is outdated. It is part of a series called 児童教育 右脳イメージトレーニング (Image Training for Children).

This next video is by Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com, and is very well done.

Learn the Kanji Basics with Williams College:

Learning kanji with animation, by キッズボンボン:

By the Japan Channel:

By 英会話のEnglish Garden:

By Easy KANJI Lesson:

First Grade Kanji by LetsLearnJapanese:

 

If you come across any great kanji-learning resources, please leave a comment!

Super Simple 日本語 Japanese Children’s Videos

1 May

Super Simple has released some great Japanese videos recently. They produce videos in many different languages. I think the translation is done really well! I hope they keep adding more.

 

 

They also have a set of “Mommy-and-Me Japanese videos here.

Back-to-School, Japanese-Style!

9 Feb

 

In Japan, a school year ends and a new one begins in the spring. For my children who attend Japanese School on Saturdays, they have graduation in March and begin their new grades in April. This means that back-to-school shopping happens in February for me! Here are some items that we purchase for Japanese School, that’s different from what we purchase for American School.

1. Randoseru. In Japan, when a child begins first grade, they buy a backpack (usually leather) that is meant to last them for all their elementary school years. These cost anywhere from $100 to $1000!! Since my kids will only be using them once per week, I opted for the less expensive option. I bought this one. I can’t wait to see my son wearing it on his first day of school!

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2. Pencil Case (Fudebako). At my children’s American School, everyone shares supplies so there’s no need to have your own supplies box. But at Japanese School, everyone brings their own. Younger students love these fancy cases with their favorite characters on them (click on the photos to be taken to where you can buy them). My daughter who is almost 9 is past that phase so I got her one without any characters. I recommend looking for items that are Made in Japan.

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3. Suito (Water bottles). Now, I know we take water bottles to American schools too. But I really love the ones made in Japan with the flip-top lids and straps so it’s easy for kids to carry to school and onto the playground. There are so many fun varieties! I personally got my son the Stars Wars one.

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4. Bento Boxes and Supplies. I think part of the reason why my kids still tolerate going to Japanese School on Saturdays is because they love lunch time. Monday-Friday, we make them a traditional American lunch (sandwich) but on Saturdays, I spend extra time making them onigiri, tempura shrimp, tamago-yaki, etc. When I first started, I was totally clueless so this book (Just Bento Cookbook) by Makiko Itoh was a lifesaver.

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There are a lot of other supplies– shitajiki, compass for math, triangular ruler, etc that I’ve had to purchase for Japanese School over the years. You can CLICK HERE to see all the supplies I’ve found on Amazon (I’ll be updating/adding things soon). I love that all these items are readily available for purchase online! Yes I am an Amazon Affiliate which means I receive a small portion of purchases (but you don’t pay more than normal), but I would never recommend anything that I don’t personally love! I’m hoping I’ve saved you some time by having all these products on one page.

Happy Back-to-School Shopping!

Popular American Children’s Shows: In Japanese!

11 Jan

あけましておめでとうございます!Thank you for following my blog, even though I am terrible at posting regularly.

Did you know that many popular American children’s shows are available in Japanese? Shows like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, Curious George, Little Einsteins, and more! And of course all the Disney/Pixar movies like Frozen get translated to Japanese as well. It is a very fun way for children to learn Japanese with their favorite characters.

My toddler’s current favorite show to watch in Japanese is Sophia the First (小さなプリンセスソフィア). I think the translation has been done really well!

 

So how do you find and watch these shows? One option is to search YouTube. This option is free- however, due to copyright laws, it can be difficult to find full episodes.

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A better option is to purchase the DVD’s and Blu-Rays via Amazon Japan. Many of the DVD’s cost between 1000 and 2000 yen ($10-$20) each, with Blu-Rays being more like $20-$30. The advantage of the blu-rays is that Japanese blu-rays can be played in America (not sure about other countries). Japanese DVDs will only work on Region 2 or Region-Free players. My dream is to own all the Disney/Pixar movies in Japanese on Blu-Ray!

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I really hope that someday soon, we will have access to things like Hulu Japan or Netflix Japan so we can stream great children’s shows from Japan. (Dear people who work for these companies, could you please make this happen for all of us parents who are teaching their children Japanese while overseas?)

Anyway, thought I would share, if you hadn’t thought about this before! Don’t forget that Ghibli movies are readily available in America– even at your local libraries!

And lastly, because my kids love watching this… Pikotaro x Sesame Street Japan 🙂

“Are You An Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko” book review

9 Nov

I was sent this beautiful book to review. To be honest, it sat on our bookshelf for awhile because we have experienced a death in the family and unexpected busy-ness recently.

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Today I finally had a quiet afternoon to explore “Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko” by David Jacobson, Sally Ito, and Michiko Tsuboi.

And… WOW. I don’t think I can adequately describe how beautiful this book is. Not only is it a book (full) of poetry, but it’s also a biography, a history lesson, a peek into the life of an incredible woman. We learn about the poet Misuzu Kaneko’s life, little by little, followed by an accompanying poem.The language of the poems are simple enough for children to enjoy yet rich enough for adults to ponder as well (I found my 3rd-grader immersed in this book the other day). The second half of the book includes the original poems in Japanese, as well as the English translation. At times like this, I am so grateful to be bilingual, so I can enjoy both languages!

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image from the Poetry for Children blog

 

One of the poems in particular struck a chord with me given our recent circumstances:

 

COCOON AND GRAVE

 

A silkworm enters its cocoon–

that tight, uncomfortable cocoon.

 

But the silkworm must be happy;

it will become a butterfly

and fly away.

 

A person enters a grave–

that dark, lonely grave.

 

But the good person

will grow wings, become an angel

and fly away.

 

Copied from the Misuzu Kaneko website:

Misuzu Kaneko charmed 1920s Japan with the child-like sincerity and empathy of her poetry. But despite her success, she suffered tragedy in her private life and committed suicide at age twenty-seven, after writing 512 short poems. Nearly forgotten for the next fifty years, Misuzu’s work was rediscovered in 1982 and she soon became one of Japan’s best-loved children’s poets. The appearance of her poem “Are You an Echo?” in a public service announcement after the 2011 tsunami achieved instant fame, reminding Japanese of their shared humanity at a time of great national crisis.

The illustrations by Toshikado Hajiri perfectly complement the soft, beautiful words of the book. One could learn a lot about Japanese culture simply by studying the artwork.

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I would love to see this book in every school and library. It would perfectly complement any lesson about Japan, Poetry, or the March 11, 2011 Earthquake/Tsunami in Tohoku. I would recommend it to any parent who wants to widen the world view of their children. It is one of those books that you’ll want to read over and over– one time through won’t be enough! I am a self-proclaimed fanatic of children’s picture books– and can honestly say that this one stands out from the others in its beauty and uniqueness. The purity of her poems really struck a chord with me.

Like I mentioned earlier, I wish I had the words to adequately describe this book. Please read the review by Elizabeth Bird in the School Library Journal— she does a much better job putting her thoughts into words.

You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon, HERE. The hardcover version would be perfect for gift-giving (the paper is high-quality and there’s full-color illustrations cover to cover). It is also available on Kindle and Nook, with an Apple version due out soon.

Thank you, Chin Music Press, for this jewel of a book.

 

Cafetalk: Private Lessons Using Skype!

15 Oct

Have you heard of Cafetalk? You must check it out. It is one of my favorite Japanese-learning resources! (Special promotional link at the end of this post!)

Cafetalk is a website that connects you to tutors from all over the world. The tutors teach languages (TONS of Japanese teachers!), music (piano, voice, ukulele, etc), arts and crafts, hula, abacus/soroban, and a lot more. There are thousands of lessons offered.

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As you know, I am passionate about exposing my children to as much Japanese language and culture as possible, so I searched the Cafetalk website for tutors who teach Japanese to children. I was a little bit overwhelmed with all the choices, so I asked a Cafetalk representative to recommend teachers to me (you can chat, call, or email them and they are very helpful!).

I registered online (very easy), entered my Skype name (you must have Skype to use Cafe Talk), then signed up for some lessons! It was all very straight-forward, and I thought the lessons were priced very reasonably (cheaper than hiring a tutor to come to my house). Many tutors even offer free or discounted Trial Lessons.

The day of our first lesson came, and my kids sat anxiously in front of our computer, waiting for our Skype tutor to call us. The lesson was for my two older kids, but Baby Sister wanted to join in the fun.

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Our tutors were always right on time. I love that. And I love that we didn’t have to leave the house, and my kids could be in pajamas.

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I sent each tutor specific requests before each lesson. For example, “I want them to practice katakana”, or “Could you help them increase their vocabulary?”. The tutors went above and beyond my expectations, catering their lessons to my children and sending a follow-up message after the lesson was over, which included what was taught during the lesson, and what my kids could work on during the week. One of the tutors sent me a message ahead time asking me to print out a worksheet to use during the lesson.

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One tutor did such a great job keeping my kids engaged during their entire 20-minute lesson. She used a game of guesstures to teach action words. My kids loved it, as evidenced by this video! My kids are always sad when their lesson comes to a close.

 

Sometimes the lessons were face-to-face conversations,  and sometimes the tutor would use a feature on Skype where they can type on the screen during the lesson. I thought that was pretty neat. Here’s an example from when my kids were practicing katakana:

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Overall I was very pleased with our Cafetalk experience. I was impressed with the number and quality of tutors available on the website, the customer service, and price.

The only downside for us was that since we live in the New York Time Zone and most of the tutors live in Japan, many of the lessons I wanted to try were not available during my children’s after-school hours (because that would be the middle of the night in Japan). The tutors we found were Japanese teachers who had moved to Hawaii or the mainland.

Our family was given a few free lessons in exchange for a review. To be honest though, we enjoyed Cafetalk so much that I’ve already paid for a few lessons as well!

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I think this service is a great supplement to my children’s Japanese education. I know that in a few years, Japanese School may become too difficult or sports will get in the way of attending. So Cafetalk may become our alternative to Japanese School at that time.

I highly recommend Cafetalk if you want to learn Japanese (any level– beginner or advanced, and any age!). It is great for people who want to learn from home, or live in an area where getting a private tutor is difficult or expensive.

Cafetalk has generously offered Hiragana Mama readers 500 free points! You can use your points to purchase any lesson. Click HERE for your free points!

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The 500 points will be delivered to your account only if you sign up using this special link.  Also, the points will be usable only for 30 days after you sign up. 

Please let me know what lessons you tried and how you liked it!

Love, Hiragana Mama

Mell-chan dress for a real-life girl

2 Oct

メルちゃんが大好きな1歳の娘のために、メルちゃんとお揃いのドレスを作ってあげました。

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My 1-year old daughter loves her Mell-chan (メルちゃん) doll from Japan. We ordered it for her (via Amazon) last Christmas, and she has not stopped carrying her around (by the hair, lol!), changing her clothes, and feeding her food.

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So I thought my daughter would be thrilled if I sewed her a dress just like her doll (and, it can double as a Halloween costume). I just eyeballed the pattern and used fleece, felt, and velcro. It took me about 3 hours (I’m not a seamstress!) and was a labor of love.

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I was crushed when I showed the finished dress to my daughter and she REFUSED to wear it! She went limp like a noodle and had tears running down her face. She did NOT want to wear the dress!!

I think she didn’t want to wear it because she hates to be treated like a baby. She thinks she is a big girl/a mama. So a few days later, I tried again, saying “It’s a mommy dress!”. And–whew! She put it on!

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Taking pictures of a 1-year old is near impossible to say the least. She was either 1. Running or 2. Not smiling while I tried to take some pictures. Haha! But I managed to get a few.

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What are your children going to be for Halloween? Anything inspired by Japan? My older two want to be Pokemon. Maybe I will post about their costumes later. Other Japan-inspired ideas I threw around in my head were:

  1. Characters from Totoro (Totoro’s, Mei-chan, Cat-bus, etc.)
  2. Characters from Anpanman (Anpanman, Melon pan-na chan, Baikinman, etc)
  3. Characters from Shimajiro (Shimajiro, Mimirin, etc)

I’ve also seen super cute baby-sushi costumes, and of course the ever-so-popular ninjas.

Halloween is becoming an increasingly popular holiday in Japan. Is it celebrated where you live?

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NEW Gakken Go Go Workbooks!

10 Sep

I believe learning should be fun, motivating, and rewarding. If you believe that too, you should check out the new Go Go series by Gakken!

Gakken has been creating educational materials in Japan for years. Go to any bookstore in Japan, and you will see shelves lined with workbooks by Gakken. Just recently, they have started branching out and creating workbooks for sale in the United States. They reached out to me to see if I’d like to review the new books, and I said SURE! because I knew they create good-quality books.

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The books arrived and my children (even the ones who are too old for them) couldn’t wait to flip through the colorful pages and admire the cute stickers.

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Hmm which sticker to use next?

The first thing that impressed me was the quality. Every page, front and back, is full-color. The pages are nice and thick so you could use pencils, crayons, or markers. The stickers are high-quality and the illustrations are adorable.

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2-4 year old tracing book

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Go Go Tracing 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

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from the 4-6 year old mazes book

I also liked that the books are very age-appropriate. I received several books for 2-4 year olds. My almost-2-year-old could do some of the beginning pages, but the rest of the pages were a bit too advanced. I know they will be just perfect in a few months! However, she wants to use up all the stickers NOW! 🙂

Right now they also have books for 3-5 year olds and 4-6 year olds. I hope that as the company keeps expanding, they will publish more books for older kids too! (See all the currently available books HERE). I would also love to see their Japanese language books (like hiragana) here too.

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cute stickers galore!

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As someone who is passionate about Japanese culture, I was thrilled to see that pieces of Japanese life are included in the books. People who don’t know anything about Japan may be confused by things like Koinobori (carp fish) and Hinaningyou (Girls Day Dolls), but I LOVE it!

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Gakken workbooks are available for purchase NOW! And I think they are very affordable, ranging from $5 to $8 on Amazon. Totally worth it to keep my kids busy and learning. The stickers are definitely motivating and rewarding for little ones.

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Here are the Amazon links to purchase the books.

Go Go Intellectual Skills 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Life Skills 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Cutting and Pasting 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Tracing 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Drawing 2-4 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Life Skills 3-5 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Mazes 3-5 (GakkenWorkbooks)

Go Go Cutting and Pasting 3-5 (GakkenWorkbooks)

Go Go Mazes 4-6 (Gakken Workbooks)

Go Go Intellectual Skills 4-6 (GakkenWorkbooks)

Want to try out a few pages before deciding to purchase? Gakken has generously provided free sample pages from each book, which can be downloaded HERE. Enjoy!

 

Gifts for the Pokemon Go! Fanatic

21 Jul

 

Never in a million years would I have guessed that my family would be addicted to a Pokemon app on the phone. My kids have never even seen the TV show (and neither have I) but we downloaded the game (Pokemon Go!) to see what all the fuss was about and… we love it. Most electronic games tend to isolate individuals but we have found that our family has bonded over hunting for Pokemon. We have visited many parks and attractions in our city and have walked more than usual! My 6-year old son will talk your ear off about Pokemon Go! if you will let him. I have never seen him so passionate about something, lol. I am thinking we might have to dress up as Pokemon for Halloween, haha!

Thinking ahead to back-to-school shopping, birthday gifts, and holidays, I already have some Pokemon-related gift ideas for my kids. I added some of these things to my Amazon Store. Take a peek if you also have a Pokemon fanatic in your life! Here are some of the items I’m considering purchasing:

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Pokemon Colored Pencils, 24-Pack

We have some other colored pencils by Showa Note and they are very high-quality (much better than the generic kinds you find in the stores here!). They come in a durable tin container.

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Pokemon Furikake (rice seasoning)

My kids LOVE furikake on their rice. I love these individual-sized packs. They’re perfect for including in bento lunches.

 

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Pokemon Name Stickers

I use these every year for labeling all my kids’ back-to-school supplies. They’re great for pencil boxes, water bottles, notebooks, etc.

 

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Pokemon Opposites Card Game

This game will teach children hantai-kotoba (opposites), in Japanese. Looks cute! I need all the help I can get in the teaching-vocabulary department.

 

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Pokemon Chopsticks-Spoon-Fork Set

I love these things. They are the perfect size for little kids. No more using disposable utensils for lunch boxes! And at just $5, a great price.

 

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Pokemon Deluxe Essential Handbook

I know my son would eat this book right up.

 

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Pokemon Japanese-Style Pencil Box

I loved these pencil boxes when I was little. They have a magnetic closure and hold pencils, erasers, etc securely inside.

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Pokemon Hat

Just cute for your Pokemon-lover!

 

Lots MORE Pokemon gift ideas at my store!

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I am an Amazon Affiliate and will receive a small percentage of each purchase. ありがとう!

My Amazon Store also has Japanese School Supplies, Japanese Food, Books, etc!

 

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