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Olympics ♥

16 Feb

I love love love love love the Olympics. I am not much of a TV-watcher, but for two weeks during the Olympics, I lose a lot of sleep due to staying up late trying to watch as much as I can! When I was a college student back in the day, I had the opportunity to volunteer as an assistant to the Japanese Team during the Salt Lake Olympics. My job included driving members of the team to various events and other places, translation, and general assistance. I often worked inside the Olympic Village and had to try hard to control the urge to not take pictures or ask for autographs when I saw Michelle Kwan, Apolo Anton Ohno, etc. If the Olympics ever come to you, I highly recommend volunteering!

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One of my blog readers requested that I post some links about the Olympics and here’s what I’ve gathered so far :).

1) Official Website for the Japanese Olympic Committee: http://www.joc.or.jp/english/

Go here to see the names of all the different events in Japanese: http://www.joc.or.jp/games/olympic/sochi/sports/

2) A great summary of the Sochi Olympics for children (in Japanese), by Yahoo Kids: http://topic.kids.yahoo.co.jp/article/sochi_olympic/

3) “What is the Olympics?” for children, in Japanese (with furigana): http://www.lib.adachi.tokyo.jp/kids/toshokann/siraberu/siraberu_back/sirabveru0807.html

4) Q&A with future Japanese Olympians, also by Yahoo Kids: http://topic.kids.yahoo.co.jp/mag/olympic2020/

Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu, the Japanese athlete that has probably received the most screen time (I think he is amazing!):

As most of you already know, Japan is hosting the 2020 Olympics. If you are able, GO! Japan always does an incredible job hosting big events, public transportation is awesome, and uh… what’s not to love about visiting Japan? If you can’t get tickets to the regular games, I recommend the Paralympic Games too. I’ve been to a Paralympics Ice Hockey game, and it was incredible.

Look at this adorable bento box that Shirley of Little Miss Bento made! My kids would love it if I made them bento that looked this cute (and yummy).

Tokyo Olympic 2020 Bento

What events and athletes have you been following?

Things To Do In Japan With Kids: Visit Kyoto

9 Jan

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I’m itching to visit Japan again. Oh how I wish I could be one of those people who can go every year! I was looking through our Japan Trip 2012 pictures and realized I never shared pictures from our day in Kyoto.

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Kyoto would be a wonderful place to visit as a couple, by yourself, or with friends… but it is also very kid-friendly. There are many things to see and do and it is very walkable. Not to mention just GORGEOUS! You can’t fly all the way to Japan and NOT see Kyoto. We only had one day to spend in Kyoto, so we went to see Kiyomizudera and the surrounding area.

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(not super stroller-friendly)

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If you visit Kyoto, be prepared to eat a lot of delicious food and buy beautiful souvenirs.

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Would you pay a thousand dollars for this Totoro stuffed animal?

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Kyoto is one of my favorite places in Japan to visit. Next time, I would love to spend several days there… perhaps in the fall to see the 紅葉 (leaves changing colors).

I’m going to start saving my pennies so we can go to Japan again! Does anyone in Japan want to offer my non-Japanese speaking husband a job? LOL.

DIY Training Chopsticks (トレーニングはし)

10 Oct

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Recently, we took the kids to a Japanese restaurant, where they ordered a bowl of ramen. I was delighted when the waitress brought them some training chopsticks. As I studied the chopsticks, I realized it is super easy to make yourself! It took me a few tries to get the tension just right, but it WAS really easy. So the next time you go out to eat at an Asian restaurant, just take along a rubberband (or hair tie) and you are ready to make your own training chopsticks in just a few minutes!

I made you a short video so you can see exactly how it’s done:

After I published my video, I saw that a few others have made similar videos. You can watch them all to see which technique works best for you ;)

Please share with your friends who have children, or adults who have yet to master the art of using chopsticks!

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P.S. Eating Japanese food with a fork is silly. Learn to use chopsticks! (past post about training chopsticks here)

Click HERE and scroll down to see how to use real chopsticks.

2013 Kodomo No Hi /こどもの日!

5 May

Happy Children’s Day! I know I am late getting this post up… sorry! I hope everyone had a wonderful day. I am so grateful for my own children who bring so much fun and love into my life, and for all the other children I know!

Today we invited some friends over for a special Okosama Lunch (lunch for children).

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This year’s Okosama lunch(お子様ランチ) featured shrimp fried rice, potato and beef croquettes/korokke, and purin for dessert.

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At Japanese School, they made kabuto hats out of newspaper:

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And lastly, I want to show off my awesome mom. She teaches at a Japanese preschool (wish she lived closer!) and always comes up with the best ideas for crafts. For Kodomo No Hi this year, she and the children made these paper bag koinobori. She said she just used brown paper bags from the grocery store. I want to try making these next year!

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For  more Japanese Children’s Day ideas, just search “Kodomo No Hi” in the search toolbar to the right! :) Lots more ideas on my Pinterest board as well. Thank you for reading!

2013 Koinobori Crafts

30 Apr

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This Sunday, May 5 is Boys Day/Childrens Day (Kodomo no Hi) in Japan.

Our family celebrates by:

- Displaying Koinobori (previous posts with more info HERE and HERE)

- Making a samurai hat out of newspaper (planning to post about that soon)

- Eating Okosama Lunch (previous lunch HERE. this year I plan on making fried rice, ebi-fry, korokke, and purin)

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Craft #1

Since we don’t have giant koinobori (こいのぼり) windsocks to display outdoors, I decided to make a small koinobori bunting (ガーランド) to display inside our house. I made one koi for each member of our family. This little banner reminds me how much I love my little family!

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To make your own, you will just need:

- felt

- googly eyes

- glue gun

- embroidery thread and needle

- glitter glue

- ribbon

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I don’t have a pattern… I just free-handed it. Cut out your koi shapes, glue on the eyes with a glue gun, add scales using glitter glue, and embroider if you desire and attach a ribbon for hanging. Easy! Took me less than 2 hours, not including drying time for the glue. I think mine would look better if I had rainbow colored string or ribbon to string my koinobori.

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There are so many cute koinobi garland ideas online! Here are a few that I thought were especially cute:

Origami Koi Garland from DekiruNavi (would work double-time for Cinco de Mayo too!)

- Another koinobori felt garland idea, found on Rakuten. I love the pom-poms!

- A super simple and colorful koinobori garland by maki maeda’s blog

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Craft #2

In my craft stash, I found pieces of chipboard I had purchased at a craft store (Michaels) for less than a dollar per pack awhile ago. They turned out to be the perfect shape for making koinobori! My daughter decorated hers using oil pastels.

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What crafts, food, or activities do you have up your sleeve for Kodomo No Hi (こどものひ)?  Please share (and send me photos)! Check back soon for more posts about Boys Day!

Kodomo Challenge Video

9 Jul

Here’s another great Kodomo Challenge video starring Shimajiro :) This episode has Japanese greetings, food, colors, vehicles, songs, and more. Enjoy!

Click on the “YouTube Videos” category under “Topics” to see more Japanese children’s videos.

Anpanman-Themed Birthday Party

5 Jun

My party may pale in comparison to Karen’s Sumo Party, but a few weeks ago, we celebrated my son’s birthday with an Anpanman party!! My son doesn’t say too many words yet, but he does know how to say “Anpanman”!

 

Party games are tricky with 2-year olds. They can’t follow directions really well and their attention spans are really short. So I decided to just do some things that my son naturally likes to do:

1) Throwing: We threw balls at Baikinman (I made him out of a cardboard box) and tried to knock him over. It was a hit!

2) Hide-and-Seek: I hid little Anpanman and Baikinman figurines under cups and had the kids guess where they were.

3) Hitting: I bought a generic pinata from Target, pasted some Anpaman pictures on it, and filled it with candy. They had a great time hitting it!

For food, I made some Anpanman-character cookies using sandwich molds I bought while we were in Japan. We also had “An-Punch” (fruit slush punch). I would have loved to make actual anpan too (anko-filled bread) but I was not that ambitious :). We also had some finger foods for the adults. We ordered a blank ice cream cake from Dairy Queen and I decorated it myself.

My kids wore the Anpanman shirts we bought at the Anpanman Children’s Museum in Yokohama.

Guests were sent home with these treat bags, filled with snacks, Anpanman candy, and little Japanese kaleidoscopes.

I bought these balloons in Japan and had the local party store put helium in them.

It was a quick, simple party but my son was THRILLED. Being the second child, he doesn’t get the spotlight very often so he really enjoyed his special day. Thanks to our friends and family, and Anpanman, for this fun birthday!

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:

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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.”

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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 {kmaruyam@umich.edu}.

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!).

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.

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

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