Archive | February, 2012

Happy Hinamatsuri

28 Feb

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Isn’t this a cute ekaki-uta? March 3rd (this Saturday) is Hinamatsuri (Girl’s Day) in Japan. Read my post from 2011 for ideas on how to celebrate ひなまつり!

This year, my children made these crafts in honor of Hinamatsuri (all ideas are by my talented friend Az!):

hina ningyou made of clay and paper

hina ningyou card by my daughter

hina ningyou card by my son (with mommy's help)

I was craving mochi so I used this mochiko recipe from Cookpad (Cookpad is the equivalent of America’s “Allrecipes”). It was easy to make and my kids gobbled it up!

anko mochi cake I made in honor of Girl's Day

Are you doing anything to celebrate? Do you own a hina-ningyou set? (If so, I am jealous!)

P.S. I am sorry I have been slow about responding to emails and comments. We had a family emergency this weekend and I am still recovering from our whirlwind trip… 5 planes in 3 days! I feel like I have been run over by a shinkansen :). The good thing is, I now feel more prepared for our long plane ride to Japan. I’ll be posting about what I plan to do to entertain my kiddos for 17 hours on the plane soon!

Omiyage (Souvenirs) to Take to Japan

22 Feb

Japan is a country where the giving of souvenirs/gifts are very important, as well as the presentation of those gifts. Japan is also a country that seems to already have everything … they have all the brand-names and their technology and design seem to be far superior to the rest of the world (and, everything is cuter!). So. What to take to Japan as gifts? I know a lot of people are going to take good care of us in Japan so I want my gifts to be nice and thoughtful.  After asking my friends and “researching” on the internet, here are my omiyage ideas:

image from ameapa.com

FOR WOMEN:

* Eco Bags (Reusable Bags) from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. They are cute, functional, and seem to be popular in Japan. (click HERE to see how much they are selling for in Japan!). I read that large eco bags are hard to find in Japan. BONUS: they can double as gift wrap!

* Nice hand lotions from somewhere like L’Occitane or Crabtree and Evelyn. I bought these cute gift sets. Who wouldn’t love these whether you live in Japan or anywhere else in the world?

* Little hand sanitizers, called “PocketBacs”, from Bath and Body Works. Inexpensive, cute, and useful. I have heard that since hand sanitizers are not widely used in Japan, you’ll have to explain to your gift recipient how to use this. I think it would look really nice to package 2 or 3 of these in a clear cellophane bag with a pretty ribbon.

* Kitchen tools and accessories from Williams-Sonoma or Crate and Barrel. I think beautiful kitchen towels, pretty cupcake liners, or unique kitchen tools would be nice (note: measuring cups, unless they are measuring spoons, are probably not a good idea because they are different sizes in Japan and in the U.S.)

* Foods like fancy balsamic vinegar, local honey, maple syrup, jam, or spices.

* Pretty earrings, perhaps made locally where you live.

* I hear that cute aprons are popular these days. Anthropologie has some that any girl would love! For someone who likes to host home parties.

* If your recipient is into scrapbooking/card-making, pretty papers, stamps, stickers, cutters, etc might be nice (I like the Martha Stewart Line that can be found at Michaels or JoAnns).

* Nice stationery and notepads (Barnes and Noble, Hallmark, and Papyrus have nice selections).

FOR MEN:

* For my grandpa, I plan to get some beef jerky, nuts (nuts are expensive in Japan), and dried fruit.

* NFL or College team T-shirts or other apparel

* I hear teenage boys like shirts from Hollister, or vintage shirts.

* American candy. I have read that Skittles and Reeses’s are two candies that can’t be found or are rare in Japan.

YOUNG GIRLS AND BOYS:

* Hair accessories and clothes from Gymboree or Janie and Jack (or any store, really).

* Sticker Dolly books. I LOVE these!! Great quality and so adorable. I recommend this one.

* Disney princess stuff.

* T-shirts (perhaps from Old Navy?)

* “Where’s Waldo?” books.

* Goldfish crackers, fruit snacks, and other “American” snacks.

* Things that go along with American holidays, such as egg-dyeing kits for Easter, Halloween candy, etc.

* Your favorite children’s books or music CD’s.

FOR ANYONE:

* Girl Scout Cookies! Those definitely can’t be found in Japan, right? I think the Thin Mints would be a hit.

* Chocolate-covered pretzels.

* Gourmet flavoring for popcorn.

* Tea and coffee (I don’t drink either, so I don’t have any recommendations).

* If going before the winter holidays, I hear American Christmas ornaments are a hit. Hallmark has a million to choose from!

* CD of music played by your local orchestra.

* Think local! What is unique to your area?

PEOPLE WHO YOU’RE REALLY CLOSE TO:

* For my aunt who is going to be helping us a lot in Japan, I thought I would make her a photo book of our trip to Japan and send it to her after our trip so she can recall the fun we had! I have used Shutterfly, Snapfish, and Blurb, and they are all great.

* For my grandpa, I am going to give him a framed family photo.

* It might be fun to put together a CD of your favorite music for a special friend.

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WHEW! I hope this list helps someone out there, because I did A LOT of thinking to come up with things that might be well-received by  friends and family in Japan! I’m also going to take a stash of gift wrap, gift bags, and tissue paper so I can wrap these gifts nicely after we arrive in Japan. I know it’s not REQUIRED to give everyone a gift, but it sure feels good to reciprocate the kindness that everyone shows to us when we visit.

And yes, you may say that omiyage adds bulk to your luggage, but after you give them all away, you’ll have more space for all the fun things you buy in Japan :). OH, also, it’s a good idea to not take anything that takes up a lot of space. Most Japanese homes are very limited on space. So something that can be consumed or used up is best. Also, be careful with chocolates in the summer, as they may melt.

Do you have any great omiyage ideas? If you live in Japan, what are some things you love to receive from overseas? アメリカから欲しいお土産は,何ですか?Don’t forget to check out my post about what to buy in Japan, here.

Is Raising Bilingual Children Worth the Costs?

19 Feb

image from fumira.jp

Are you wanting your child to become bilingual? Get ready for fun… adventure… frustration… joy… and spending money 🙂 I wrote the following for In Culture Parent magazine about raising bilingual children. Bilingual education doesn’t have to be expensive but in many cases, the things you want to do for your children does cost money. Of course, our children are worth every penny (at least that’s what I try to tell myself), right?

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“I am the daughter of born-and-raised-in-Japan parents and also a proud American citizen. I grew up bilingual because both of my parents spoke only Japanese at home, but at school, I only heard English. I think this is one of the most ideal ways to become bilingual—to be immersed in one language half the time, and in another the other half. I was very lucky; being bilingual has helped me in my education and given me neat volunteer and work opportunities. Although my English is ten times better than my Japanese, I am grateful for the rusty bit of Japanese that I know.

I am now married to a so-white-it’s-almost-blinding husband, who only speaks English, and together we are attempting to raise bilingual and bicultural children. It is both easier and harder than we anticipated. Oh, and more expensive.

Raising bilingual children is easy because little children are naturally just amazing. Their brains are super sponges. They hear a word once, and they’ve got it. It’s locked into their brains. No need to teach grammar or use flashcards—all you have to do is talk, and they just get it. My daughter (now three) was slower to begin speaking than some of her peers. She didn’t say her first words until she was nearly 18 months old. We attribute this to her listening to two languages and trying to figure it all out. By the time she was two, you could never get her to shut up. She would turn to my mom and blabber in Japanese, then turn to my husband and blabber in English. We were floored. We did it! She’s bilingual! We are awesome parents.

After awhile though, my daughter figured out English was easier. She learned that most of the people around her speak English, not Japanese. And because of the lack of necessity, she started to speak more English than Japanese. I was terrified. What do I do now? Is it all downhill from here? I put forth extra effort to speak more Japanese in our home (hard), made her watch Japanese shows on YouTube and organized more playdates with Japanese friends. It kind of worked. Her Japanese got a little bit better.

But I knew more was needed. This is where money comes into play. I enrolled her in the local Japanese School ($$$). I bought many Japanese children’s books ($). We found a Japanese music teacher ($). We want to take her to Japan for a few weeks ($$$). And maybe someday, if we have any leftover money after all that, we will get cable ($) so she can watch more Japanese children’s shows on TV.

Some may say all those extra things aren’t necessary: “Just try to speak Japanese more at home.” That may be true, but remember, my Japanese is not great. I don’t want her to learn poor Japanese. Plus, I really want to take advantage of these early years when the brain learns the quickest. I have a feeling that once she starts attending school full-time, it will all of a sudden become much more challenging to keep up her Japanese.

I don’t want to be a “Tiger Mom” and have my kids hate to learn Japanese because I’m pushing too hard (I know I hated studying Japanese when I was young). I hope I can help my children realize the value of bilingualism at an early age and that I will be able to find fun ways to teach them the language and culture. Raising bilingual children isn’t always easy and it can be expensive, but its rewards are absolutely priceless.”

 

{This is a re-post of an article I wrote for In Culture Parent magazine last August}

ANA’s “IS JAPAN COOL?” Campaign

17 Feb

Have you already seen this video? I love it! So many of the things I love about Japan are showcased. Visit All Nippon Airway’s “Is Japan Cool?” WEBSITE, and enter to win a pair of tickets to Japan, which would definitely be cool!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

14 Feb

origami heart wreath I made in 2011

Happy Valentine’s Day, Dear Readers! Are you doing anything special? We are leaving the kids with a babysitter and going out for some fondue… yum!

Check out my valentine’s posts from 2011 HERE and HERE.

Also, one of my friends who is a teacher in Japan shared this on facebook this morning. Those of you who are familiar with Valentine’s in Japan might appreciate it. It is a note that a middle-school teacher wrote to her students in preparation for the stresses of Valentine’s Day (sorry I don’t have time to translate it right now for all you non-Japanese readers):

note to students about vday

 

Tokio Heidi/ 東京ハイジ

10 Feb

I’ve shared their Printable Karuta before, but I want to highlight Tokio Heido again. Tokio Heidi is, according to their website, “東京ハイジは、イラスト、アニメ、映像、ウェブサイト、グッズ、絵本、などを作っている姉妹クリエイターです。” (translation: Tokio Heidi is a pair of sisters who create illustrations, animations, movies, websites, goods, books, etc.).

I recently discovered that they have a YouTube channel with the most adorable Japanese videos! Here are a few of my favorites:

Click HERE for more Tokio Heidi!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed all the videos this week. Next week, I plan to blog about good omiyage (souvenirs) to take to Japan. If you have any great ideas, send me an email (hiraganamama {at} gmail {dot} com) and I’ll share your thoughts and mention you in the post! 🙂

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は:はみがき/Hamigaki (Brushing Your Teeth!)

9 Feb

Japanese videos about brushing your teeth:

And click HERE to learn all about brushing your teeth with Shimajiro!

Japanese Children’s Sign Language Videos

8 Feb

Videos by Kodomo Challenge. (I have been notified by a reader that the second video is not sign language)

Kodomo Challenge Videos

7 Feb

These are my favorite Japanese videos from こどもちゃれんじ/Kodomo Challenge’s ShimajiroPR YouTube Channel:

Shimajiro and Mimirin (しまじろうとみみりん) sing about stripes:

A song about body parts (からだをあらわすことば):

A song about turning 5 years old (5さいのうた):

A song about holding hands (てとてをつないで):

New to the Kodomo Challenge Program? Read THIS post.

Can’t get enough from Hiragana Mama? Follow me on Pinterest or Twitter!

Kodomo Challenge Hiragana Video

6 Feb

One of the best hiragana videos on YouTube. Enjoy! I’ll be sharing a lot of videos this week.

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