Archive | July, 2011

Hiragana Flashcards

28 Jul

Is your child (or you) nearly done learning hiragana? Or just want a good review? I found a website with online hiragana flashcards HERE. It is a simple website but very effective!! You can choose to have the hiragana displayed in order, randomly, fast, or slow. You can also choose to see hiragana words instead of individual kana.

The flashcards are a part of a larger project called TOSSランド. This website has online learning materials for many subjects, including: math, science, social studies, health, and physical education.


The Japan Blog List

27 Jul

Do you love to read about the adventures of foreigners living in Japan? Or Japanese in Japan/America? Maybe you just love all things Japan or enjoy discovering new blogs in general. Then you should definitely visit They are constantly updating their list of Japan-related blogs (they currently have over 350!). I wish I had the time to visit each blog. Do you have a favorite Japan-related blog? If you are the author of a Japan-related blog, you should add yours to the list!

Japanese Hiragana Blocks

27 Jul

One of the most popular and favorite toys in our house is a set of wooden blocks we got from Pottery Barn Kids ($49). Babies love to hold and throw them, toddlers love to stack and crash them, and now my preschooler is building more complex structures and recognizing the letters painted on them. I would say they were a great investment!

The only thing that might make them better is if instead of the ABC’s, it had hiragana on them! Well, yesterday I just stumbled upon a set of Japanese Hiragana Blocks ($41)! They are handcrafted in Michigan by Uncle Goose and sold by hazel. They look to be high quality and I love that the hiragana is embossed instead of painted.  What do you think?

Cool Mom: Laurie at o-cha to wagashi

25 Jul

Have you stumbled upon the blog, “o-cha to wagashi” by blogger Laurie yet? If you haven’t, you’ll want to!

Laurie is similar to me… except, way more talented and cool. We are both trying to help our toddlers learn Japanese and both love Japanese culture and language, BUT she takes better photographs, makes yummier, more beautiful food (her bento boxes are amazing!), and she is not only bilingual, but TRILINGUAL! And she isn’t even Japanese! How’s that for amazing?!? She blogs in French but thanks to Google Translate, you can read her blog in whatever language you choose.

Laurie is someone I KNOW I would want to be friends with if I lived in France. I asked her if she would be willing to share a little but about herself and what she is doing to teach her son Japanese with us. Thanks Laurie!


Interview with Laurie of o-cha to wagashi:

1) Tell us a little bit about your background.

I am a 33 year-old mama, living in France.
I have been in love with Japan for as long as I can remember, maybe all my life. Japan is my passion, I’ve been blogging about it for 7 years now. I visited the country 4 years ago and the time I spent there definitely was one of the most life-altering moments I’ve had the chance to live. A couple of years after I came back in France I became the mother of a little boy who’s now just about to turn 2 years old (on July 27 !).


2) Why do you want to teach your child Japanese?

Well, it wasn’t really my intention at first. I tend to believe that parents cannot raise a bilingual child unless they know perfectly well the two languages they’re teaching. And it’s not the case here, for both my husband and I are French (and although we’re doing okay in Japanese, we’re not bilingual). We live in a very Japanese environment nevertheless. Because we both take our Japanese language studies very seriously we often address one another in Japanese at home. Plus, we watch Japanese TV all the time (TV shows, dorama, movies).
When our baby turned 6 months old (and absolutely despised solid food – he still does by the way), I started to show him videos of “inai inai baa” and “okaa san to issho”to divert him during meals and… it worked ! Well, it did not magically make him like food, but at least he’d eat whatever was in his plate. Then, later (and much to my surprise), the very first words he said were Japanese. We were amazed at how much he actually remembered of everything he heard ! His dad and I thought it would be sad to let such a chance go to waste, and decided to go on teaching him two languages.

3) What are you doing to accomplish this goal?

We sing Japanese nursery rhymes to him, show him Japanese TV shows (inai inai baa, okaa san to issho, miitsuketa, kodomo challenge, etc) as well as Ghibli animation movies (he just adores Totoro !). We read Japanese books to him, we use Japanese picture books to let him name the objects he knows… One of our good Japanese friends lives with us at the moment, so he and my son get to spend a lot of time playing and speaking Japanese together. And soon, he’ll go to a Japanese playgroup in our town.
Of course, the great material and ideas I find on Hiragana Mama are incredibly valuable help !

4) What is your favorite Japanese children’s book?

Kodomo zukan (series of 4 books).

5) Anything else you want to share..?

I’m constantly looking for cheaper ways to find Japanese educational material for my son. Where I live this is quite difficult (and/or very expensive). So, any help, hints or ideas from other readers are welcome !

See? I told you she was cool! Be sure to visit her blog HERE to see what she’s up to. I love discovering other parents around the world who are rising up to the challenge of teaching their children a second (or third) language. Are you a parent trying to raise bilingual/trilingual children? Do you blog about it? What are your favorite blogs/websites/resources? Let us know!

Is It Safe to Visit Japan?

20 Jul

Is it safe to visit Japan? Is it safe to take young children there?”… These are questions that I have been asking myself ever since the Earthquake. It has been nearly 7 years since my last visit to Japan and I am craving it… the people, the food, the atmosphere, the language, the cool products… and now that I am trying to raise bilingual children, I desperately want to expose them to the Japanese culture first-hand.

I’ve talked to a lot of people (mostly Japanese people) about current safety and they seem to fall into one of these two categories:

1) It is absolutely safe to visit Japan. The aftershocks are subsiding and the radiation levels are too small to worry about. The people in Japan are going about business as usual. We can’t let fear keep the country from moving forward. We need to support their economy by visiting. The naysayers are just trying to freak you out.

2) It’s not worth the risk. Nobody knows what harmful side effects the radiation can have. The government is not telling us the whole truth. Wait at least a few more years before going.

Japan just launched a new campaign/video with a band called “Arashi” to try and show the world that Japan is a safe place to visit:

Watching this video makes me REALLY want to go to Japan. That food–DROOL! You can watch more videos urging foreigners to visit Japan HERE.


If you are also contemplating visiting Japan, these websites are informative:

JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organization)‘s travel advisory website is frequently updated and currently says:

Can We Visit Japan Today? – YES!

The majority of regions in Japan including popular leisure travel destinations, are outside the areas affected by tsunami, earthquake and radiation, and received no disruption to infrastructure.  Everything in these areas continues to operate as usual.  The greater Tokyo area has already retrieved the usual condition, and there are no more periodical blackouts.  The other regions are unharmed, and safe and normal as before.

How is the Radiation Level? – NOT DANGEROUS!

Except for the proximate areas near the nuclear power plants, there is no dangerous level of radiation detected in Japan.  Tokyo is not within radiation contamination concern area, located over 200km (124 miles) away from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant facilities.  The radiation level in Tokyo is similar to that of New York City.  The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and other international organizations confirm that the radiation level in the atmosphere is within a reasonable safety level to human health.

Another article by Japan National Tourism Organization states:

Japan has once again shown the world how hard-working and determined it is with a super speedy recovery following the earthquake and tsunami on 11 March. Popular holiday destinations such as Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, Mt. Fuji, Nagasaki, Hokkaido and Okinawa are safe and well and waiting to welcome you.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office of Britain has a Travel Advice Page for Japan that currently says:

  • We advise against all but essential travel to those areas in north-east Japan most affected by the 11 March earthquake and tsunami. This includes those coastal areas of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures which suffered extensive damage. These areas continue to experience disruptions to residential, business and transport infrastructure. There is also a continuing risk of aftershocks. If your travel is essential, you should consult local contacts before travelling.
  • We advise against all travel to within a 60km radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility with the exception of transit through the area via the Tohoku Expressway and the Tohoku Shinkansen Railway. The Tokyo Metropolitan area and Narita airport lie outside this zone.
  • The situation in Japan outside of these specific areas has largely returned to normal and most visits are trouble free. 184,045 British nationals visited Japan in 2010. See General – Consular Assistance Statistics.
  • There may however still be some further disruptions to transport, power, communications and water and food supplies. For up to date transport news, please refer to JR East’s English site. For information about possible power cuts during the summer months, please check the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) website.
  • There is a continuous risk of earthquakes and tsunamis throughout Japan.  Latest warnings and advisories are published on the Japan Meteorological Agency website.

What do you think? What have you been told and what do you believe?  If you live in Japan, what are your thoughts?

ち:ちょんまげ (chonmage)

19 Jul

My daughter recently used a Japanese word that I had never heard before: Chonmage/ちょんまげ. She learned the word from watching おかあさんといっしょ on TV. They were doing a musical number called ちょんまげマーチ… possibly my favorite song on the show, ever 🙂 My daughter and I could listen to and dance to this song over and over and over. Click HERE to watch the video on YouTube! (Better do it quick though, as NHK has really strict copyright policies… my guess is that the video will be removed soon). Here are the lyrics to the song:

ちょんまげ ちょんまげ ちょんまげマーチ
ござるで ござるで ござるでござる

僕のあたまにちょんまげがあったら 朝のあいさつ

パパのあたまにちょんまげがあったら パパじゃなくって

君のあたまにちょんまげがあったら さよならするとき

ちょんまげ ちょんまげ ちょんまげマーチ
ござるで ござるで ござるでござる

ちょんまげ ちょんまげ ちょんまげマーチ
ござるで ござるで ござるでござる

ちょんまげ ちょんまげ ちょんまげマーチ
ござるで ござるで ござるでござる

Here’s another, non-NHK version of the song in case the above link doesn’t work:

What is a chonmage? It is basically a little ponytail at the top of your head. Samurai warriors wore them, and sumo wrestlers wear them. Not the most flattering hairstyle in my opinion. But if you love it, you can buy a chonmage wig HERE, from (available only in yen).

Did you already know this word? I love being a mom because I learn something new every day!

In Culture Parent Magazine

18 Jul

Have you all heard of the online magazine, ““? It is definitely worth a look around. It is “a magazine for parents raising little global citizens”… which I believe is all of us! It covers all types of topics related to bilingualism and biculturalism of all cultures and languages. You can read about other parents and their experiences raising their multicultural/multilingual children. So far I have enjoyed reading this article about bilingual parenting.


There aren’t too many articles about the Japanese language and culture on there yet, but I’m hoping there will be, in the near future!

More Japanese Apps for Kids!

12 Jul

A few months ago, I mentioned the App “Hiragana Nazori/ひらがななぞり” and lamented the fact that it was only available through iTunes Japan. Well… it’s now available to us in the United States! It is called “Japanese Tracing: Hiragana” by STX Games. And I think it is worth every penny. My toddler loves tracing the hiragana and is motivated by the music that plays while she traces (the sounds make it easy to know when you’re writing correctly and incorrectly).  For each kana, you can listen to the pronunciation and watch an animation of the stroke order (you can adjust the speed too). You can also select specific kana you want to work on (for example, I had my daughter practice writing her name over and over). I highly recommend it for both children AND adults learning to write hiragana! It works for iTouch, iPhone, and iPad. It is $3.99.

If you own an iPad, I am extremely jealous of you, because there are some cool-looking Japanese apps available now! Here is the one I am coveting the most at the moment because it is illustrated by Imoto Yoko- I LOVE her!

It is called “あいうえおのえほんfor iPad” or “Hiragana Picture Book for iPad“. It is one of the pricier apps at $9.99, but when you consider the beautiful illustrations and the fact that you can learn hiragana, katana, AND romaji with this one app… I would think that it is totally worth it. We own the book, and the book was $20! The same company also has a cute Karuta App!

Here are some more great apps for you lucky iPad owners:

1) Children’s Book with Stickers: Momotaro

2) Kanji Workbook for First Grade Student

3) Kanamoji

Japanese Children’s Games

11 Jul

Does anyone else feel like this summer is just FLYING by? We are enjoying our summer routine of swimming at the pool, hanging out at the playgrounds, and attending library storytimes, but we could definitely use more variety in our activities 🙂

If you are looking for something new to do with your kids, I have the perfect resource for you.

ミックスジューチュそとあそ is FULL of fun games that children in Japan play (doesn’t require technology or money!)! The games are divided into several sections: outdoor games, games using items from nature, parent-child activities, water games, etc. The original site is all in Japanese but they’ve recently added an ENGLISH SITE as well! There are seriously SO MANY games…36 different versions of the game TAG alone!

Here are some games that I plan to play with my kids asap!

* あしたてんきにな〜れ (using shoes to predict the weather)

* あしじゃんけん (paper-rock-scissors with your feet)

* いろおに (Color Tag)

* だるまさんがころんだ (Japanese version of Red Light Green Light)

I’ll try to do an individual how-to post on these games sometime. What I LOVE about this website is that there are pictures/photos/animations for each game! That makes it so easy to understand how the game is supposed to be played. The site also has a LINKS page that’s definitely worth checking out!!


あそびのひろば (Asobi no hiroba) is another website full of games. It has many games that include singing songs.

Now stop reading/blogging and go have fun with your kids! Let me know if you try any of these activities 🙂

B1G1 Sale at Omiyage

11 Jul

Omiyage- Simply Charming is having a BUY ONE GET ONE FREE sale right now. You can get things like the the Panda Kamifusen (paper balloon) for $2 or origami for $4… then get another one for free! They would make great party favors or if you are trying to beat the heat this summer, would make a great indoor activity. Omiyage also sells other wonderul (and beautiful) things like stationary, washi tape, bento accessories, and stickers.

Personally, I love to visit their blog and look at all the beautiful photographs there.

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