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BOOK GIVEAWAY: Once Upon a Time in Japan

24 Oct

IMG_7164My friends at Tuttle Publishing sent me another book to read and review: “Once Upon a Time in Japan” by NHK. The book comes with an audio CD. We recently went on a little road trip and listened to the stories on the CD. My 5-year old and 7-year old listened very attentively and were completely immersed in the stories. I enjoyed the stories as well! I thought I knew most Japanese folktales but there were a few stories I had never heard before. The book is a nice quality hardcover and the illustrations are very nice (there are 60 full-page color illustrations!). The book will be published November 3, 2015.


Here is the book description from Amazon:

Bringing Japanese folk stories to the English-speaking world, this book presents eight stories from the popular NHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation’s popular radio series Once Upon a Time in Japan. Each story is brilliantly illustrated by a talented Japanese artist. The tales recounted here are among Japan’s oldest and most beloved stories. Entertaining and filled with subtle folk wisdom, these retold stories have been shared countless times in Japanese homes and schools for generations. Like good stories from every time and place, they never grow old. Kids (and their parents!) will enjoy hearing these stories read aloud on the accompanying CD.

The fairytales and classic stories in this collection include:

  • The Wife Who Never Eats—the story of a man who learns the hard way the evils of stinginess.
  • The Mill of the Sea—the story of how a greedy man was responsible for the saltiness of sea water.
  • The Monkey and the Crab—the crabs teach a tricky monkey a lesson in fairness and honesty.
  • The Magical Hood—an act of kindness reaps great rewards.
  • Sleepyhead Taro and the Children—a story about what can be accomplished at the right time, and with the right help and the right spirit.
  • The Fox and the Otter—how a fox pays the price of deceit and selfishness.
  • The Gratitude of the Crane—a story about the rewards of kindness and the danger of curiosity.
  • The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter—a girl who starts life very tiny turns out to be big in many ways.


Would you like to win a copy of Once Upon a Time in Japan? Then simply comment on this blog post telling me what your favorite Japanese story is. Or if you don’t know any, just comment what your favorite thing about Japan is! One comment per person. One winner will be chosen at random on Friday October 30, 2015 and receive a free copy of this book! This giveaway is open worldwide. If you don’t win the giveaway or just can’t wait to check out this book, you can preorder the book through Amazon (at a great deal) HERE!


Reclaimedmama is the winner of this giveaway! Congrats! I will be emailing you shortly.


*Sometimes it may take awhile for your comment to appear.

Japanese Back to School Supplies!

6 Aug

Have you all  started your back-to-school shopping yet? We have enjoyed our summer but I can’t wait to get back to the school routine (and have some peace and quiet in my house– ha!).

Something that (I feel) is far superior in Japan are school and office supplies. The pencils and erasers my kids use at their American school are always breaking/doesn’t erase well. We went to an office supply store while we were in Japan and I was in heaven! So many high quality supplies, and designed well too.

I came back to the U.S. and was pleasantly surprised that many Japanese school supplies are available on Amazon! And you can’t beat the free shipping. I gathered some of my favorite items into my Amazon store for you here. I’ll keep adding as I find more:


My 7-year old daughter and I highly recommend these MONO erasers. She chooses these over her cute, character-shaped erasers every time because they WORK!


My son would go crazy over this Yokai Watch Bento Box. I would buy this for him if I hadn’t just recently purchased a Super Mario one for him in Japan! (My kids are currently obsessed with this show… maybe I’ll write a post about it later).


And it’s time to kick it into high gear with our Japanese studies. I find that my kids’ Japanese gets worse once the school year begins because they are immersed in English so much of the day. Thankfully, there are now a lot of Japanese-language materials available online now, like this Hiragana Practice Board.


What back to school supplies do you like the most? Are you excited for your kids to go back, or do you wish summer could last a little longer?

Books About Japan by Tuttle Publishing, and a GIVEAWAY!

17 Apr

IMG_7931 I recently received a few books to review from Tuttle Publishing (thank you!). I was happy to do so because we already own and love “Japanese Celebrations” by Betty Reynolds (blogged about it back in 2011 here) so I was excited to see what else they had to offer.

Did you know that: “The Tuttle Publishing Company was established in 1948 in Rutland, Vermont, and Tokyo, Japan, and is today regarded as a premier publisher and seller of books rooted in Asian culture, language, and history…Today, Tuttle publishes 150 new titles each year in focusing on Asian Languages, Asian Food & Cooking, Gardening & Flower Arranging, Crafts & Origami, Children’s Books, Martial Arts, Asian Literature, Games & Graphic Novels, Asian History & Culture, Health & Fitness, Self-help & Eastern Religion, Asian Art & Collectibles, Interior Design & Architecture, Travel Guides, Maps, and Business Books.​” source WOW! I had no idea they specialized in and published so many books about Asia. There’s over 100 books about Japan alone.

The book I’d like to highlight today is “Cool Japan Guide” by Abby Denson. This one was a surprise favorite. I’m typically not super into comic books, but this one was very informative and fun to read. IMG_7933 Our family is going to Japan again soon, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed thinking about what to pack, what to see, how to get around, etc. This book did a great job of compiling a lot of helpful travel tips! Abby explains what to pack, how to get and use a JR Pass, what to see and eat, manners when using a Japanese bath/onsen, what a homestay is like, etc. I would highly recommend this book to anyone preparing to travel to Japan for leisure/business or for a homestay. It might also make a great gift for someone who loves Japan!


image from

The day after receiving this book, I caught my 7-year old daughter reading the book. She loved the comic-book style and enjoyed learning about what to expect in Japan. My father, who is Japanese, picked up the book one day and asked if he could borrow it. IMG_7942 I know we can get a lot of free information online these days, but there is definitely something special about flipping through an actual book. I feel like I learn so much more.

Anyway, would you be interested in winning this book from Tuttle Publishing? They have generously offered to send “Cool Japan Guide” to a Hiragana Mama reader (sorry they had originally said any book, but the company just told me in order for this to be open worldwide, it has to be just this book). To be eligible to win, please visit Tuttle Publishing and write a comment below saying which book(s) look the most interesting to you! Please also include an email address so we can contact you if you win. For a bonus entry, please share this post on Facebook or pin it on Pinterest, then comment saying that you did so. The winner will be announced Sunday April 19. Good luck!

*****the giveaway is now closed*****

CONGRATULATIONS, adriperezvieira! You are the winner of the free book (chosen using You will be contacted shortly. おめでとうございます!

Everyone else, you can get free shipping over $50 at, or their titles are available via Thank you for reading!

Japanese Children’s Clothes from Uniqlo

26 Jul


When we visited Japan last year, I visited a Uniqlo store for the first time, and loved it! Their clothing is inexpensive without sacrificing quality. They have great basics as well as more fashionable items. Over the past year, several more stores have opened in the U.S. (mostly along the coasts) and they have opened their online store. The clothing for adults have been hit-or-miss for me (the sizing is hard for me to figure out) but I highly recommend the kid’s clothes from Uniqlo!


Here are some children’s shirts I ordered most recently. They were all $5.90 on sale. I tried to get some gender-neutral ones so both my son and daughter can wear them.  They fit great and wash well– great for playing in! I love that Uniqlo collaborates with different companies and designers for their designs. Many Japanese characters (Rilakkuma, Sanrio) are featured on their clothing.


My daughter is loving this Koala’s March (コアラのマーチ) T-shirt.

Just thought some of you readers might be interested! If you have a store near you, I am jealous!

App GIVEAWAY: LinguPinguin Japanese!

25 Feb


This giveaway is now closed. Winners were announced in THIS POST

I have a wonderful Japanese-learning app to share with you today. We recently downloaded the “LinguPinguin English/Japanese” app  by Elevision Film on our iTouch and my kids have been loving it! It is easy enough for my 2-year old and interesting enough for my almost 5-year old to play with too. It is like an interactive English-Japanese dictionary for children. You choose a topic, such as “Animals”, then when you click on a picture of an elephant, it will say “Elephant” if you are in English mode, or “ぞう” if you are in Japanese mode. The animations are really cute! After children have learned the words, there is a quiz they can take. Here are some screenshots:





Click HERE to watch a video of the app in action. There are many different versions of the app available (Japanese, French, Chinese, etc) : Click HERE to visit the Lingu Pinguin website and see all the different languages available and read more about this app.

At just $1.99, I think it is a GREAT deal for a quality app. You will definitely get your money’s worth.

We all love FREE though, right? So Lingu Pinguin has generously offered to give away two promo codes for the Lingu Pinguin app! Yay! To enter the giveaway, simply comment on this blog post sharing why you or your children want to learn Japanese. Then come back Wednesday morning, February 27, to see if you won! Promo codes will be emailed to the winners. (App is for iPhones, iPads, and iTouch).

Have a great week, everyone! またね!

Dino Lingo Japanese Review

29 Oct

Have you all heard of Dino Lingo ( I had seen it online and was curious about how effective the program is at teaching children Japanese, so I was thrilled when Dino Lingo contacted me and sent a free Japanese set to try out and review.

Here’s a brief description of the Dino Lingo program from their website:

  • Dino Lingo Japanese for Kids is an award-winning language teaching program pedagogically designed for small children.
  • This program consists of 5 DVDs, flash cards, posters, books and the parents guide.
  • After watching the DVDs several times and playing with the flash cards, most children can easily name everyday objects and understand basic phrases in Japanese.
  • Dino Lingo Japanese for Kids is suitable for all children between the ages of 2 to 7 years old.

My package arrived quickly and looked like this:

I received a set of 5 Japanese language learning DVD’s, plus some flashcards. Here’s what each DVD covers:

DVD 1 – Let’s Count: Numbers and colors / 35 min.
DVD 2 – Let’s Eat: Food, fruit and vegetables / 35 min.
DVD 3 – Let’s Play: Toys, house items, vehicles / 35 min.
DVD 4 – Let’s Jump: Verbs, actions and nature / 35 min.
DVD 5 – Let’s Learn: Family, body parts, and clothes / 35 min.
Daily conversations, greetings and animals are included in all five DVDs.

There are flashcards for numbers, colors, animals, body parts, etc. There are even more Japanese-learning products to choose from online such as workbooks and posters. My daughter, who knows most of her hiragana, got right to work reading all the words on the flashcards.

Of course, my children wanted to watch the DVD’s right away. My son was excited about all the dinosaurs and vehicles used in the show. They liked the first DVD enough to where we watched it twice in a row. I noticed my 2-year old son saying the Japanese words out loud the second time… so repetition works!

Here are some things I liked about the DVD’s:

– Lots of repetition which is great for younger learners

– I can tell a native Japanese speaker is saying the words

– Kept the kids’ attention

Some areas I thought could be improved upon were:

– The graphics/animations are not up to par with other children’s shows (don’t expect Disney quality)

– I thought there were some wasted minutes between segments with unrelated animations

Here’s a sample video of what the shows are like:

Overall, I am thankful to Dino Lingo for creating this program for teaching children basic Japanese. There really isn’t a lot of resources out there for teaching kids Japanese right now! This set is a great option for a family who wants to expose their children to other languages at a young age (Dino Lingo offers DVDs in MANY languages other than Japanese too). It might be wonderful for a family planning to host a student visiting from Japan, or a bilingual family who wants to expose their children to as much Japanese as possible. I think these DVD’s would also be great to show at a bilingual/immersion language school.

Simply watching these DVDs will not make your child fluent in Japanese (there’s not much conversation in the videos). It is more for building vocabulary. It may not be the  best option for families where the parents are native Japanese speakers (that would be like showing Dora the Explorer to a native Spanish-speaking family).

If you are interested in Dino Lingo, there is a Halloween special going on right now! Enter the code TREAT10 at checkout to receive 10% off your oder :) This deal expires on November 1st.

ありがとう、Dino Lingo!

Animal ABC Karuta for iPad (FREE for 2 days!)

17 Oct

Karuta is one of the most popular games in Japan. The game helps children learn their kana in a fun way.

A San Francisco-based illustrator from Tokyo, Yuki Yamagata, contacted me to let me know that she is releasing an Animal ABC Karuta game for the iPad. Since it is brand-new, the app is going to be free for download today and tomorrow (October 17-18, 2012)!! What a deal!

Here is a description of Animal ABC Karuta:


ABC Karuta introduces a Japanese traditional card game to English learners!

~ABC Karuta arrives as an amazing animal alphabet app~


ABC Karuta is a fun way to learn English for kids and adults. Yuki Yamagata, a San Francisco based illustrator, created a series of beautiful “kawaii” animal illustrations for cards A to Z. The rules are simple; players listen to an alliterative phrase, and then pick the matching card. This app beautifully combines traditional Japanese games, Karuta, with whimsical English speaking animals, resulting in an imaginative and exciting new way to learn the English language. Try it now!


ABC Karuta start out by tapping Karuta dog to hear fun alliteration phrase: for example, Calico Cat Carries Chocolate Cookies, Mother Monkey Makes Millions of marshmallows and so on. Then a player finds the illustration cards matches the phrase they hear. Once you get the right cards, it’s going to be shown in their collection page! 

– ABC Karuta is available on iPad in the app store for $1.99, starting October 17, 2012.

– A Cute Collection of Cuddly Creature Cards Campaign!

Download ABC Karuta app for FREE! Two days only, Oct 17th and 18th, 2012.

– Best for ages 4-up.


Published by: Project KYUN at SmashBooth, Inc



Yuki Yamagata (illustrator):

Karuta (Japanese card game):


If you have an iPad, be sure to snatch up this cool game asap! I don’t own an iPad, but I plan to download it anyway just in case I get an iPad in the future (Santa, are you listening?). If you enjoy this game, please leave her some positive feedback.

Also, be sure to check out Yumi Yamagata’s personal website. Her illustrations are just beautiful.

Thanks Yuki! I hope you will come out with some Japanese-learning games in the future too :)

Be sure to visit Hiragana Mama often, or sign up for the email list (bottom of the page), so you don’t miss great deals like this in the future!

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!

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!

Buying Plane Tickets to Japan (for a family)

19 Jan

One of the first things you need to do once you decide you are going to Japan is to buy plane tickets! And if money doesn’t grow on trees for you (like me), looking at the ticket prices can be pretty nerve-wracking. Especially when you are traveling as a family. $1500 times 4+ people?? Those numbers can get pretty scary :).


this looks so much like my little family :) (from

Here are some tips that I have for trying to get the lowest fares (and other booking tips):

1) As soon as you start thinking about going to Japan, start checking prices. Check on several different sites… for example, we diligently watched prices at,,, and a few others. That way, you’ll start getting a good idea of what the average ticket price is, who’s usually the cheapest, etc.

2) Decide the dates you want to be in Japan, and decide if those dates are flexible. Then check plane ticket prices for your ideal dates, and also other dates you would consider. Sometimes, a day or two earlier or later can mean a huge difference in ticket price. Usually, flying out/in on a weekday is less than on a weekend.  Find out if there are any major Japanese holidays during that time. If you can avoid holidays, your ticket will be cheaper.

3) Call airlines and travel agencies and talk to a real person instead of only searching online. Sometimes you can get a better deal on the phone (but sometimes it’s cheaper online).

4) Be aware that if you book your tickets through a travel agency or at a discounted price, restrictions might be put on your ticket (no refunds, no changes, no early seat reservations, etc). If you don’t want to deal with those hassles, consider paying a bit more and booking directly through the airline company. We bought through a travel agency and was disappointed to find out that we can’t put in seat requests until one month prior to our trip. That makes me nervous!

5) Keep in mind the time change and the time you’ll be traveling when planning your vacation. Japan is 13~14 hours ahead of us, which means you will lose a day or two on the way there (at least from the midwest, where I live), and possibly another day on your way back. So you might be on vacation for 14 days, but in reality that means you only have 11 whole days in Japan. When we booked our tickets this time, I wanted to leave Japan on a Saturday evening, but after I bought our tickets, realized that we would be arriving back to the states on Saturday but leaving Japan on Friday. That was a painful realization! Don’t make my mistake! (I don’t like how Japan uses the 24-hour clock… 23:00? Gets confusing to me).

6) If you are taking young children, I recommend paying for their seat (it’s usually discounted) instead of going the free-lap-child route, especially if your child is not a little baby. On a domestic flight, it might be worth saving the money, but on a long international flight?!? I think you’d be crazy to think your 18-month old can sit on your lap for 17 hours. Flights these days tend to always be full, so you can’t always bank on having an empty seat next to you either.What is your sanity worth? (If you DO have an infant, request a bassinet asap! Many airlines can provide you with one in the bulkhead seats).

7) Take into account taxes and other fees when comparing prices. Some sites include them, some don’t. That makes a huge difference!!

8) Are you willing to travel to a different airport? We found that sometimes, if you are willing to drive 2 hours to the next closest airport, you can save over a thousand dollars (per family)on plane tickets. Likewise, are you willing to fly into several different airports in Japan? For us, the difference between landing in Tokyo Narita or Tokyo Haneda was huge! And those two airports are less than 2 hours apart from each other by train.

9) I don’t know if this is super important to you, but I really wanted to fly ANA or JAL. JAL of course was very expensive, but Continental/ANA was surprisingly affordable. They are known for their good service and child-friendliness. I am sure it depends from flight to flight though. It just seemed to me (from reading many online reviews), that customers were much happier on those two airlines.

10) If traveling with kids, consider their schedule. Will flying red-eye or flying during the day be more ideal? Can your kids handle two layovers or are you willing to pay extra to only have one layover? We are flying during the night, hoping that our kids will sleep for the majority of the flights.

11) Don’t force yourself to go to Japan if you haven’t saved enough money. Japan is awesome but not worth you going into debt or living outside your means. Buying plane tickets is just the tip of the iceberg.  Food, lodging, and transportation AFTER you get to Japan is not cheap either! If going to Japan is your dream, save, save, save so you can fully enjoy the trip without too much stress.

Any of you seasoned travelers out there have other tips?

As for our family, we ended up booking online through They were a few hundred dollars cheaper than other airlines at the time we booked our tickets.  Another well-known travel agency is (you can also use IACE and JTB to book Japan Rail Passes, rent a cell phone, etc. More on that later).

One last tip… after you have bought your tickets (and your heart has stopped racing from the excitement), don’t look at airline prices anymore. Just start planning your stay in Japan and make it a trip to remember :).

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