Archive | May, 2012

Sumo-themed Birthday Party!

30 May

I have an AMAZING birthday party to share with you today! One of my readers, Karen, shared some details and photos from her son’s SUMO-themed birthday party with me. Karen is a Nikkei Sansei with 3 kids, who are almost 6; 3 years old; and 10 months, respectively.

My kids would have loved to be guests at this party. Here’s the sumo party details in Karen’s own words:


the birthday boy enjoying his pizza 🙂

Our son, Will, just turned 3 years old on May 9th. He is an avid sumo (and sports) fanatic. We asked him a few months ago about what kind of birthday party he would like, thinking he would pick a football or baseball or basketball party. He did go back and forth for a couple days, but then one day, he said in his determined fashion, “I want a SUMO party.” And that stuck.

are her kids cute or what?

Last summer, we started subscribing to Japanese TV through our cable service. We watch a lot of the kids’ shows (Okaasan to Issho, Pitagora Switch, etc.), but in July when the Nagoya Bassho started, Will fell in love with the sport. Maybe it is that the sport is pretty straightforward (for a then 2 year old) — the wrestler who doesn’t get  pushed out of the dojo or who doesn’t fall to the ground is the winner. Maybe it is the gyouji’s calling the action — “Haiya haiya haiya!”  my son yells in imitation as he stands transfixed by the match or as he leaps around his “pretend dojo” in our shower. Maybe it is the larger than life sumo rikishi, as Will quickly identified his favorites (Hakuho, Baruto, Harumafuji).

“Pin the Mawashi on the Sumo Rikishi”

After we decided on the sumo party theme, my husband found a lot of sumo-related gift bag items:  sumo rubber ducks, sumo trading cards from Japan and Sumo party games. These included cut-outs of a sumo wrestler and geisha for the kids to take pictures with and a wind up sumo game.   A friend in Tokyo went to Ryogoku Kaikan and picked up some tegata by his favorite wrestlers, Hakuho and Baruto. We came up with a variation of “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”: “Pin the Mawashi on the Sumo Rikishi” and then sewed a felt sumo wrestler with Emperor’s Cup, mawashi, yokozuna belt, and ceremonial garb modeled on Baruto’s.  We made some posters of information on sumo and photos so parents could learn something about the history and traditions and fun facts about the sport. A sumo cake by a local bakeshop was a tasty treat.

sumo cake!

love this cake!

On May 12, after weeks of continuous rain, we finally got a gorgeous, sun-drenched, spring day for the party. The Natsu Bassho, fortuitously, was running in Tokyo.  We set up the felt sumo wrestler outside and the sushi and pizza and cake inside.

no Japanese party is complete without sushi 🙂

As the party came to a close, we watched matches from the Natsu Bassho downstairs with the remaining guests. Will jumped up and down on the couch and yelled, “That’s Harumafuji, Harumafuji, Harumafuji!” Or “That’s Baruto!” “He’s an ozeki!” “Hakuho is the yokozuna!”

Karen’s husband ordered these photo props, and they were a huge hit!

I first came to love watching sumo with my homestay grandma back in Nagoya 20 years ago, but I have to say it is pretty cool to enjoy it with your own kids and family. I hope Will continues to enjoy sumo in the years to come! In the meantime, I love finding him flipping nightly through the pages of his favorite wrestlers printed out from the banzuke of the Japan Sumo Association and asking all about them.

They did an art project with the sumo wrestler hand prints in which the children dipped their hand into poster paint and overlaid it onto the sumo wrestler’s handprint. Cute!

They made posters about sumo info and hung them around the house and on the outside of the house so guests could learn about the sport.

“Pin the Mawashi on the Sumo Wrestler”– I LOVE this so much! Karen is certainly very artistically talented.

Much more fun and interesting than “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”


Karen, thank you so much for sharing these ideas and pictures with us! I love my talented readers! I am feeling really inspired to watch some sumo with my children now.

If any of you have questions about this party, you can email Karen at {}.

Have you ever thrown a Japanese-themed birthday party?

Things To Do In Japan With Kids: Visit Miyajima

27 May

It only rained one day (out of the fourteen) while we were in Japan. That rainy day was the day we had planned to go to Miyajima, an island right by Hiroshima. The rain was coming down pretty hard but we decided to go anyway, and I’m so glad we did! We purchased ponchos at the train station (500 yen each)… well worth the price this day. We first hopped on the ferry (free with the JR pass) to get to the island. The kids LOVED this short boat ride.

Miyajima/Itsukushima is famous for:

1) The Torii

2) Itsukushima Shrine

3) Momijimanjyu (delicious pastries in the shape of a momiji-leaf)

4) Wooden Rice Scoopers (there is a rice scooper there that is GINORMOUS– as big as a truck!)

5) Deer everywhere! ( I guess there are monkeys too, but we didn’t see any)

6) Anago-meshi

7) Oysters

Despite the rain, the deer really were everywhere.

We escaped the rain for a few minutes to enjoy some age-momijimanjyu. So good!

Because of the rain, the island had a mysterious fog covering it, which looked pretty cool. Here is the famous Torii gate of the Itsukushima Shrine. During low tide, you can walk up to it! It looks pretty awesome in person.

The Itsukushima Shrine was packed with tourists trying to escape the rain. It is very beautiful. There was even a traditional wedding going on inside.

There’s probably a lot more things to do in Miyajima, but we only stayed for a little while. If you are going to be in Hiroshima, it is well worth a little day trip! I thought it was great for  my kids too. They enjoyed the deer, the funky souvenir shops, momijimanjyu and anago-meshi, seeing the huge Torii gate, and riding the ferry. A special thanks to our dear friends who braved the rain with us!

Have you been to Miyajima? Maybe when it was sunny? 🙂

Check back soon for more adventures in Hiroshima, plus ideas for your next birthday party (Anpanman-themed and Sumo-themed parties!).

Buying Japanese Children’s Books, DVD’s, etc.

17 May

“Dog Loves Books”, by Louise Yates

Over a year ago, I wrote up a post about “How to Get Japanese Children’s Books.” It has been one of my most popular posts, so there must be many of you out there searching for books for your children! A year ago, it was very difficult to find Japanese books online. I am here to tell you that it is now easier!

I have been browsing eBay recently and have been pleasantly surprised to find that there are now many more people selling Japanese children’s books, DVDs, other educational materials, and toys… and at pretty decent prices.

To search on your own, just go to and search for “Japanese Children’s Books”, “Japanese Children’s DVD’s”, “Kodomo Challenge”, “Anpanman”, “Hiragana Charts”, or whatever it is you are looking for, and you’ll probably find stuff. I should probably go through the stuff I don’t need anymore and sell them on eBay too! (the American version) still lacks a great selection, but you can see the ones that I have found HERE. One of my readers, Louise, emailed me to let me know that a book she has written called “Dog Loves Books” is now available in Japanese. It looks adorable! Good job Louise! (Amazon Japan) is the best place to buy Japanese children’s books and DVDs. They will now ship to most countries outside the U.S., and shipping costs are more affordable than they used to be. has written a good post about other online retailers that sell Japanese Children’s Books.

If you and your children enjoy Japanese children’s magazines like ベビーブック and たのしい幼稚園, you can order an issue or subscribe for 6months~year at They also have subscriptions to “Kodomo no Tomo“, a company that sends you children’s books each month. I have a local friend who does this for her daughter and they really enjoy receiving new books each month.

Don’t forget about Benesse’s Kodomo Challenge program too (with Shimajiro). Read my post about it HERE.


Whew! Did that help anyone out there? Have you made any cool discoveries lately? Where do you buy your Japanese books?

P.S. I am not getting paid by anyone to advertise their stores or products!

Things To Do in Japan With Kids: Anpanman Museum

16 May

While we were in the Yokohama area, we spent a morning at the Anpanman Children’s Museum. To say that my kids enjoyed this place would be an understatement. They could have spent days here! It is the perfect place to go if you have a toddler/preschooler.

Admission was 1000 yen per person (about $11?), including kids. The admission gets you into the museum. If you just want to shop/eat there, it is free. (Warning: The food and products there are expensive. 5000 yen for a child’s T-shirt? No thanks!)

There were a lot of cute photo-ops everywhere! I’m not including my cutest pictures on this blog though, because I’m not comfortable sharing too many photos of my kids with the world :).

Unlike Disneyland, we didn’t have to wait in line forever to get a picture with a character. We got to give high-5’s to Melon Panna-chan, Anpanman, and Baikinman!  I would give yourself at least 2 hours to explore the Anpanman Children’s Museum. It would be a great place to go on a rainy day (but it’s about a 15 minute walk from the train station).

In addition to the museum in Yokohama, there are also locations in Sendai and Nagoya.

Have you been to the Anpanman Museum? Do your kids love Anpanman as much as my kids do? My son loves it so much I am throwing him an Anpanman-themed birthday party in a few weeks.


ははのひ、おめでとう Happy Mother’s Day

11 May

Hiragana Mama and family in Kyoto

Happy Mother’s Day weekend (haha no hi), everyone. Whether you are a mother or not, I hope it is a wonderful weekend. I will be reflecting on my past few years as a mother and how much my heart has grown with the addition of my two little ones.

One of my favorite Mother’s Day songs includes the words, “Dear Mother, all flowers remind me of you.” So I thought I would post some pictures of the beautiful cherry blossoms (sakura) we saw while we were in Japan. If my children think of these beautiful sakura flowers when they think of me, I will be one happy mama 🙂

sakura in Tokyo (Gotanda)

sakura in Miyajima

sakura in Hiroshima

sakura in Kyoto


The flower associated with Mother’s Day in Japan is the carnation. For Japanese Mother’s Day coloring pages and printable coupons, click here.

“Smile Pretty Cure”… my thoughts

8 May

My sweet 4-year old has graduated from Japanese shows like Inai Inai Baa/いないいないば〜 and Okaasantoissho/おかあさんといっしょ (cry!). She’ll tolerate Anpanman/アンパンマン. Most recently (due to influences from friends at Japanese school), she is really into the Pretty Cure/プリキュア series. Have you heard of the show? If not, check out the info on Wikipedia. (Official websites here and here). It is all the rage among Japanese preschoolers!

My daughter, getting sucked into the Pretty Cure section at a toy store in Japan.

As her mother, I am not sure what to think of this show.  The problems I have with Pretty Cure are:

1) It’s not very educational. Sure, watching the show might help improve my daughter’s Japanese a little bit, but they also often use made-up words and spend a lot of time transforming.

2) The girls don’t dress very modestly (short short skirts, bare midriffs, etc). Plus, I don’t really want my daughter idolizing “14-year old” girls who don’t represent reality at all (huge sparkly eyes, super-skinny, colored hair, etc.). Why are the main characters of a show geared toward really young girls teenagers, anyway? **I noticed that in the most recent season, Smile Precure, all the girls are wearing shorts under their short skirts and there’s no bare midriffs. I wonder if a lot of parents complained about the outfits from the past few seasons (in the very beginning, they wore shorts as well)? It’s a good change!**

3) The show is a huge marketing tool (like the Disney Princesses). It is obvious they are using the show to sell their products.

4) I know people obsessed with anime/Japanese girls watch shows like these and the thought grosses me out.

Those things being said, I don’t think watching the show occasionally is going to ruin my daughter. I think it does teach things like the importance of being a good friend, and to not give up. I read a few manga series as a young girl myself (like Sailor Moon and RayEarth) and I turned out fine (haha). One of my motherhood/life mantras is “all things in moderation”, and I think that may apply in this situation as well. I’m fine with her watching Smile PreCure with friends but I’m not going to give in to her obsession and let her watch it every day.

her favorite preschool magazine features the PreCure characters

The show has actually given me opportunities to teach my young girl about reality vs fantasy. Just the other day, she looked at me with big eyes and said, “Mom, are my eyes sparkly, like the PreCure girls?” and “I wish my hair was a different color.” I told her that she is beautiful the way she is, and that the characters on PreCure are not real. It is impossible to look like them. I need to talk to her about the importance of dressing modestly too, soon.

We need to tell our daughters that they are beautiful, every day (same goes for sons). Even at this young age, the “world”‘s influence on them is so powerful. We need to tell them they are beautiful, powerful, intelligent, and can be happy and successful in this life without superpowers and sparkly eyes :).

Do you have any thoughts? Do you let your kids watch/read anime, like Pokemon or Pretty Cure?

Here’s the “Group Transformation Scene” from Smile PreCure. Can you see why little girls love it? 🙂 It is pretty entertaining.

P.S. One of my blog-friends is having a giveaway at her blog, Little Japan Mama! Hurry over and enter!

Hiragana Chart Winner

5 May

Three reasons to celebrate today:

1) The winner of the Hiragana Chart Giveaway is Steph! Please email me at to let me know where I can send your chart 🙂 I’ll get it in the mail next week. Thanks to everyone else who commented. I have some wonderful readers! I wish I could get all of us together for a playdate. (If you didn’t win but still need a hiragana chart, don’t forget about my post about free printable hiragana charts!)

2) Today, May 5th, is Children’s Day! Give your kids some extra hugs for me and check out my posts about Children’s Day for ideas on how to celebrate.

3) “Hiragana Mama” hit 100,000 visits this week! これからも、がんばるね!I’ll try to keep posting useful, relevant information for Japanese-learners (especially our youngest learners).

And since so many of you enjoy the YouTube videos I find, here’s a random, cute video:

Happy Weekend!

Things To Do In Japan With Kids: Visit the Meiji Jingu Shrine

3 May

If you are going to be in Tokyo, be sure to visit the Meiji Jingu Shrine! It is a spacious, peaceful park in the middle of the city with lots of trees. My children enjoyed being able to run free without worrying about bumping into other people. I enjoyed the Japanese atmosphere and many photo ops.

My little one enjoyed taking pictures too, with her new birthday gift:

I wish I would have read THIS page on the Meiji Jingu website about shrine etiquette before visiting. I’m afraid we weren’t very respectful as a result of not being informed. If you are planning to visit any shrines in Japan, be sure to study up on proper etiquette first!

{Next time we go to Japan, I would love to hire a professional photographer to take family pictures for us.}

To end our visit, we treated ourselves to vanilla, sakura (cherry blossom), and tofu-flavored ice cream (the store is located right by the entrance). The tofu flavored one was interesting… a bit weird at first, but then it gets better :).

The Meiji Jingu Shrine is super close to Harajuku, and also close to Shibuya and Omotesando. I’d say 1~2 hours is a good length of time to check the place out.


In case you missed it, I’m having a little giveaway this week! Just one more day to enter!

こ:こいのぼりII (Koinobori)

2 May

This Saturday is Boys Day/Children’s Day, a Japanese holiday. We started the week by making paper koinobori. I thought a simple color-cut-paste koinobori would be appropriate for my young kids this year. You can make one too by visiting Nurieyasan HERE and printing the size koinobori you want.

My daughter’s favorite color is “rainbow”, so this is how she colored her koinobori:

My son doesn’t have an attention span, so his went mostly uncolored:

I think they turned out so cute! If we have the time this week, I’d also like to try making THESE origami koinobori by Zakka Life, THESE koinobori wafer snacks by Camo’s Handmade, and THESE koinobori sandwiches from CookPad. They all seem really simple to make!

Other related links:

1) Past posts I’ve written about Kodomo no Hi (Children’s Day): HERE and HERE and HERE

2) Beautiful photographs of koinobori at Omiyage Blog.

3) Follow my Kodomo no Hi Pinterest board.

Things To Do In Japan With Kids: Visit the Tire Playground (たいやこうえん)

2 May

My grandpa lives near a really cool playground, called Taiya Kouen (たいやこうえん) which translates into “Tire Playground”. I played here when I would visit my grandfather as a little girl, and it hasn’t changed much since then. It is about a 15 minute walk from the Kamata Station (you’ll see lots of trains on the way there– bonus!). If you are in the Tokyo area and your kids need to release some pent-up energy, this is a GREAT place to go! I highly recommend it for any child ages 2 and up.

It was a gorgeous Sunday when we visited. It was nice to see so many families enjoying the beautiful day together. (It was especially great to see the usually-busy fathers having fun with their children)

Tires, tires, EVERYWHERE!

I enjoyed starting up conversations with other parents, and seeing my children interact with other little children.

Japanese Summary: 子どもたちを蒲田駅の近くのタイヤ公園に連れて行きました。おじいちゃんが近くに住んでいるので,私が小さいときも,ここで遊びました。とってもいい天気の日曜日で,子ども連れの家族がいっぱい遊んでいました。簡単に2時間が過ぎてしまいました。

Do you have a favorite playground in Japan?

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