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AWESOME Japanese-Learning Website: “Erin’s Challenge! I Can Speak Japanese”

16 Oct

Oh my goodness, I just found the BEST website for learning how to speak Japanese, called ”  エリンが挑戦!にほんごできます。/Erin’s Challenge! I Can Speak Japanese.” I might as well just stop blogging now, this site is so good. Do you all know about it, or am I the last one to discover it?

Erin’s Challenge is a free Japanese-learning website for beginners and more advanced students (perfect for those who will be visiting Japan as an exchange student!). It is made by the Japan Foundation (their website is worth a look as well). Their goal is to help people living overseas learn the Japanese language and learn about the culture too. The website has very helpful videos where “Erin”, a student from England, moves to Japan and slowly improves her Japanese. In addition to videos, there are manga, quizzes, and games to help you review what you have learned.

Things I love about this website: It is very easy to navigate, you can view the website in Japanese, English, or a bunch of other languages, the videos are high quality and the acting is great, the content is with the times and relevant, and it truly is helpful for both beginners and those who are mostly fluent! I also love  that the actors are Japanese, so you can hear REAL Japanese pronunciation.

Don’t just take my word for it, please go visit エリンが挑戦!にほんごできます。 /Erin’s Challenge! I Can Speak Japanese. I plan to show the videos to my children, and use the site to improve my own Japanese as well. Please come back and let me know what you thought!

Here’s a video that shows some of the features on this site:

There’s also a separate website by the Japan Foundation, “Japanese in Anime & Manga” that teaches you about Japanese words and phrases that are used in manga. Some of you might be interested in that as well!

Kids Wonder Project

13 Sep

Those of you with older children, you are going to be thrilled with today’s website. “キッズワンダープロジェクト/Kids Wonder Project” is a project aimed at helping children explore the exciting and wonderful world through enjoyable, educational games. Children can explore the deep sea, outer space, etc and discover little-known animals. I love that the narration is so clear (makes for great Japanese listening practice).

Here are some scenes from the Deep Sea adventures:

In the Deep Sea adventures, you take a submarine under water and search for sea creatures.

The website is created by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. I think they did a wonderful job!

If you are an older student/adult learning the Japanese Language, I think you will find this site enjoyable and educational as well. Let me know what you think!

PS I know I am very behind replying to emails recently. Please forgive me! Life is very busy for us right now.


10 Aug

Today I have another website to share with you: This website is made for preschoolers and up and has age-appropriate games for learning hiragana, katakana, numbers, etc. Check it out and see if you like it!

image from

image from

image from

Is anyone else totally sleep-deprived because of the Olympics? The athletes are so incredible and inspire me to be the best that I can be!


し:しりとり Shiritori Game

27 Jun

We are having an awesome summer! Swimming, picking strawberries, playing with friends, soccer, trying new veggies from the CSA… each day seems to FLY by. I am sorry I have not been posting as frequently this month. I also apologize for being slow in replying to comments and emails. Our life is busy, busy, busy!

A game that my daughter and I enjoy playing is Shiritori. It is a very popular Japanese word game. What I love about this game is that almost anyone of any age and skill level can play this game, and it doesn’t require anything but your brain! It is a great way to learn/review vocabulary. We like to play this game while driving in the car.

This is the simple way to play the game:

1) One person begins by saying a Japanese word (usually a noun).

2) The next person has to say a word that begins with the last kana of the previous word.

3) Next person does the same as #2. You keep taking turns thinking of a word that begins with the last kana of the previus word.

4) Words cannot be used more than once.

5) If you say a word that ends with “ん”, you lose!

Here is an example:

たいや–>  やま–>  まくら–>  らいおん(oops, you lose!)

There are other variations to the game to make it harder. You can read more about Shiritori Rules HERE (wikipedia).

And HERE are some printable shiritori games (

You can watch a video of us playing Shiritori at the top of this post. My 4-year old is better at this game than I am! I challenge you to play this game with someone today :).

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:


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?

International Flight with a Preschooler

15 Mar

image from fumira.jpAre you going to be flying with your preschooler in the near future? So am I, and I’m actually excited for it! My 4-year old has been looking forward to this trip to Japan for weeks. She’s big enough to sit in her own seat and not squirm out of her seat belt, old enough to be entertained with books and in-flight entertainment, doesn’t need help eating her food, and knows not to kick the seat in front of her. Awesome. BUT a 17-hour flight will still feel like an eternity, even for an eager 4-year old. Here are my ideas for busting boredom on the plane:


1. Fingerplays and hand-games, like “Paper-Rock-Scissors”, Niramekko (にらめっこ), Patty-cake, etc.

2. Let her use your digital camera to take silly pictures of herself (then pass it to their sibling for entertainment).

3. Do some stretching exercises together every hour.

4. Play “I Spy” with the in-flight magazine, or items in the plane.

5. Download educational apps/movies on your iPod/phone for her to watch.

6. Watch in-flight entertainment.


1. Bring a piece of yarn and teach her how to play cat’s cradle, learn how to braid, or make a bracelet/necklace.

2. Fold origami (print some instructions at origami-club).

3. Color Wonder or Water Wow (special markers that only write on special paper).

4. Sticker books (I love the Sticker Dolly series).

5. Preschool workbooks. On a 2-hour long flight we had recently, one workbook occupied her for the entire flight! If you search for “printable worksheets” on this website, you will find lots of links to sites that have free Japanese worksheets for kids.

6. Doodle with crayons on plain paper (endless possibilities: self-portrait, tic-tac-toe, make a maze for her to complete, etc)

7. Bring a roll of masking tape to make body art, artwork on paper, make a paper chain, etc.

8. Read a new children’s book or magazine together. Make sure to read it several times to get the most use out of it.

9. Make paper bag puppets (I love these). You could even use the barf bag.

10. Scratch pads are fun (Target has them in their party section for a dollar).

11. Bring a paint-with-water book and some q-tips to use as brushes. (I found some in the dollar section at Michaels)

12. Coloring books.

13. Make her a photo book with pictures of the people you will see on your trip, and help her learn their names.

14. Be creative with pipe cleaners: make animals, eye glasses, letters, etc.

15. Bring a deck of cards and play “Memory”.


1. Lollipops, starbursts, juice, or fruit snacks for the take-off and landing to help with ouchy ears. (I DO NOT recommend lollipops for kids younger than 3! Big sticky mess!)

2. Granola bars (I like the Cliff bars for kids)

3. Dried fruit

4. Pretzels

5. Animal crackers


1. A comfort item (stuffed animal or blanket), especially on a long flight

2. Spill-proof cup for drinks

3. Waterproof bib

4. Neck pillow (I have a tutorial here)

5. A change of clothes (and make sure to dress in layers)

6. Kid-size headphones (if they are not provided by the airline)

7. Wet wipes

Do you have any other tips for preschoolers? What have your experiences been like? If you have a toddler, be sure to check out my International Flights with Toddlers post for more ideas!

し:しょうがつ/ New Year’s in Japan

26 Dec

Here are some ways you can celebrate the new year (おしょうがつ) Japanese-style with your children:


1) Eat Osechi-ryori (お節料理), ozoni (お雑煮), mochi, soba, and sushi.

2) Ring bells at midnight to get rid of worldly desires.

3) Send New Year’s Postcards(ねんがじょう).

4) Give otoshidama (money) to children :).

5) Write a haiku about the new year.

6) Play games such as hanetsuki, spin tops, fly kites, karuta, and fukuwarai.

7) On January 1st, wake up early to watch the first sunrise of the year. Also, try to remember your first dream of the year.

8) Sing the New Year’s Song (lyrics HERE):

How do you ring in the new year?


20 Oct

に is for にんじん (carrot)、にじ (rainbow)、and にんじゃ(ninja)!

onigiri ninja's by Jo of A Bit of This and a Bit of That

What do you know about ninja’s? Me? Not much. I think they wear black outfits that only show their eyes, throw shuriken’s, and sneak around at night. I read about ninja’s on Wikipedia, and it seems that the ninja’s that the world knows is mostly based on folklore.

Folklore or not, kids LOVE ninja’s! Okaasan to issho /おかあさんといっしょ (a popular children’s program) has some really fun songs about ninja’s. Unfortunately, NHK us super-strict about their copyright laws so I can’t show you the original on my blog. You can watch some super-adorable kids dancing to ”しゅりけんにんじゃ” though:

HERE are the lyrics. The other ninja song on おかあさんといっしょ is ”しのびあし”. If you search for it on YouTube, you might get lucky and see how fun it is! My daughter and I love to sneak around the house with “Shinobiashi (Quiet Ninja Feet)”.

This summer, a movie about little ninja’s called Nintama Rantaro came out. Did any of you watch it? It is based off of this cartoon. Here’s the trailer:

I would love to watch it! I wonder if it will become available for viewing in the U.S?

Here are some ninja activities you can do at home:

1. Make an origami ninja.

2. Make a shuriken (that’s the pointy stars that ninja’s throw) out of origami. Watch a how-to video HERE.

3. Play a ninja game online.


Is anyone’s kid going to be a ninja for Halloween?

う:うんどうかい Undoukai

13 Sep

This Saturday my daughter is participating in her Japanese School’s annual Undoukai/ うんどうかい (Sports Day) for the first time. We are so excited! I am almost more excited than my kids… the last time I participated in an undoukai, I looked like this:

me and my mom, 1985-ish

Haha… I look so wanpaku/わんぱく.

An undoukai is like a mini-Olympics for kids. One of the events my daughter will be participating in with her preschool classmates is a bonodori /ぼんおどりdance. They will be dancing to the song “Mottainai Baasan/もったいないばあさん” which is based off of this book (I think it’s about a grandma who warns you to not be wasteful). Anyway, it is a CUTE little dance and easy to learn. You should try it!

They are going to be wearing jinbei’s /じんべい made out of garbage bags and duct tape. Can’t wait to see them! She’s also going to be participating in some races, ball-throwing, etc. I’m not an expert on undoukai so I’ll tell you more about it after this weekend. In the meanwhile, you can learn more about undoukai by following these links:

1. All about Undoukai from (in Japanese): Learn how to get the best pictures, making a special bento box for undoukai, see cool pictures of undoukai, etc.

2. Want to know what kind of music is played at a undoukai? This undoukai dance music CD from looks fun. You can listen to a sample of each of the songs.

3. has some printable machigai-sagashi worksheets (find the mistakes).

And here is a video of what an undoukai looks like:

Have any of you ever participated in an undoukai? What is your favorite event?

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