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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 :).

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.

おいしい!!Mochi Ice Cream

8 Jun

One of my FAVORITE summer treats is MOCHI ICE CREAM. (In Japanese, they are called 雪見だいふく). If you’ve never tried them, you are seriously missing out. Yummy cold ice cream  wrapped inside chewy, delicious mochi- what could be better? Whenever I am at Trader Joe’s and feel like treating myself, I buy a box. I’ve tried most of the flavors and love them all, but must say that strawberry is my absolute favorite.

One thing that’s great about mochi ice cream is that unlike many other Japanese treats, you DON’T have to hop on a plane to Japan to eat them! There is an American company called Mikawaya that makes yummy mochi ice cream right here in the states. Their products are made 100% in the U.S.A using products from the U.S.A.

Just look at all these yummy flavors. YUMMM. I might have to make a trip to the store tonight just so I can eat these! Someone on Mochi Ice Cream’s  facebook page commented that mochi ice cream is now available at Costco! Pretty sure mine doesn’t carry them yet, but I hope they will! (A Costco-sized box of mochi ice cream? yes please!).

If you visit their WEBSITE, you can print a coupon for 75 cents off your next box of mochi ice cream. Awesome!

There are recipes on the web for mochi ice cream, but knowing how time-consuming and sticky mochi-making is, I’d rather pay a few bucks to enjoy them without all the work.


Of course, if you actually fly to Japan, there are many more flavors and varieties. I would love to try them all, especially kinako-mochi ice cream. And don’t even get me started on the hundreds of other kinds of Japanese frozen treats there are. They are so good and it kills me that they are not available in America! (You can drool over all the different kinds at this Japanese Ice Cream Database blog by みんとみんく).


What is your favorite Japanese summer treat?

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