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Hinamatsuri Activities Roundup!

20 Feb

Hinamatsuri poster. Hina dolls illustration from

Hinamatsuri (ひなまつり), or Girls Day, is just around the corner (it is always on March 3rd!). We can’t afford a nice Hina Ningyou/Dolls set (nor do we have room for one), so I designed and printed up an 8×10″ poster to display in our living room to remind us of this Japanese holiday. I just googled “free Hinamatsuri image”, then added text to  my favorite image using to create my poster. You could also do the same thing using Photoshop.

I’ve blogged about Hinamatsuri activities to do with your children many times in the past. Click HERE for all my past posts about Hinamatsuri/Girls Day.

I’ve also been pinning cute Hinamatsuri ideas on Pinterest. Click HERE to view my Hinamatsuri Pinterest page!


I hope those links will help get you prepared to celebrate this popular holiday. What will you be doing to celebrate?

How We Celebrated Setsubun!

5 Feb


Oh my goodness, last week was so busy I barely had time to breathe! I meant to put up this post last week but…. obviously I never got around to it.

Anyway, the week leading up to Setsubun was a lot of fun. We began by drawing and coloring oni faces using oil pastels. Oil pastel crayons are the coloring material of choice at preschools in Japan. I love them too because the colors are bright and the color slides effortlessly onto the paper (only downside is that it’s not very washable… parental supervision is important for young kids).



To draw your own oni, begin by drawing the outline of the face. Then add horns, or “tsuno”. In Japanese cartoons, ogres usually have yellow, striped horns. Then add some curly hair and other facial features. I love how creative my daughter was with her oni.

We invited some friends over for a Setsubun Playdate. The children colored oni masks that I printed onto cardstock from KF Studio.




We then made boxes to hold our beans out of origami paper.


I didn’t want to be cleaning up beans in my house to I had the children toss their beans out the door, saying “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!”.

We finished the playdate by making maki-sushi and eating them facing the lucky direction of the year.


My daughter also learned about Setsubun at her Japanese preschool. They made these cute oni boxes using a milk carton and construction paper. Can you tell my daughter turned her oni into a princess?


Did you do anything to celebrate Setsubun this year? What’s the next Japanese holiday you are looking forward to?

Setsubun 2013

27 Jan


There’s only one week left until Setsubun(せつぶん/節分)! Do you have your supplies ready to celebrate this fun Japanese holiday with your children? (Unfamilar with Setsubun? You can read about it HERE, and see my past posts about it HERE, HERE, and HERE). Setsubun is next Sunday, February 3rd.

Here’s my suggestions for how to celebrate Setsubun:

1) MAME-MAKI (Bean-Throwing)

Materials Needed:

– dried beans (traditionally roasted soy beans, but you can also use peanuts, marshmallows, candy, etc).

– A box to hold your beans (you can make one out of origami HERE )

– Oni Mask (make your own or print one out, see my past posts)


– Designate one person to wear the oni mask.

– Everyone else throws beans at the oni, saying “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!”

– Everyone eats their age+1 in beans, for good luck.

Here’s our little family last year:

2) Eat Ehou-Maki

Materials needed:

– Ingredients to make a sushi roll (rice, sheets of nori, filling such as smoked salmon)

Just Bento has a great Ehou-maki recipe HERE.


– Facing the lucky direction of the year (in 2013 it is south-south-east), eat your entire ehoumaki (futomaki) in complete silence.

3) Other Activities:

– Fold an Oni and Fuku out  of origami. Below is a great tutorial by Daily Origami. If it looks too advanced, click HERE for other options).

Read more about Setsubun (in Japanese) HERE.

Today we worked on making homemade oni masks. Tutorial coming soon!

じゅうにし: Jyuunishi, the Japanese Zodiac Animals

15 Jan

あけましておめでとうございます!How did you spend your New Years? My children and I ate mochi, played karuta, and watched a little bit of 紅白歌合戦 (Kouhaku Uta Gassen).

One of my daughter’s first homework assignments from Japanese School this year is to complete a worksheet about the 十二支/じゅうにし(Jyuunishi). This is something that I’ve never thought to teach her and something I don’t know too  much about either. So of course I used the internet to look for the best resources to teach my daughter about the Jyuunishi.

I think I will begin by showing her a video of the story behind the jyuunishi animals. Here are a few of the best ones on YouTube (I love the 日本むかし話/Nihon Mukashi Banashi series!):

I also downloaded the story of the Jyuunishi on my iTouch for 99 cents via the “Koehon” app (for iPhone and iPad). If you don’t already have this app, I highly recommend it! The app itself is free. Once you download the app, you will have access to 250+ picture books, most of them Japanese!! This is a pretty huge deal, if you ask me, since paper copies of Japanese children’s books are not readily available in the U.S. Most of the stories are only 99 cents. You can either read the text yourself or listen to a pre-recording. Visit the official Japanese Koehon website HERE. (BTW, there are LOTS of NEW, great Japanese apps for kids now. I will do a separate post on those later.)

If you don’t have an iPod/iPad, you can visit Xuite’s website to listen to the story of the jyunishi (in Japanese) then print off the provided worksheet to complete.

Here’s another video to help you remember the order of the animals:

Then I will help my kids figure out what animal year they were born in, and read to them their “personality traits”. You can find those HERE and HERE (this website has a fun animal-matching flash game at the bottom).

Then, I will teach them that 2013 is the year of the SNAKE(へび). We might color one of the snake coloring pages by My daughter made paper plate snakes (instructions HERE at “Crafts and Art for Children) at Japanese School.

If you have any other ideas, please share!


(You can read more about Jyuunishi on Wikipedia, HERE. It is basically the same thing as the Chinese Zodiac Calendar).

An Origami Christmas

21 Dec

Are you on a budget? Do you love DIY projects? Do your kids need something to keep them busy? Try folding paper to make beautiful decorations, ornaments, and gifts. Have you seen the amazing origami paper crane Christmas tree at Rockstar Diaries? One of my friends didn’t have a tree topper so they made one out of origami paper. It looked awesome! Just type in “origami wreaths” or “origami Christmas” on Pinterest and you will find beautiful projects like these (Next year, I want to make a wreath out of newsprint!):


For Valentine’s Day a few years ago, I made an origami heart garland (see it HERE).

Lot’s of origami tutorials and inspiration here:

1. Origami Club

2. Daily Origami

3. Origami Fun

Do you like to DIY for the holidays? Or would you rather buy everything from a store?

Japanese Christmas Music Videos

20 Dec

I guess I was really just kidding when I said I wouldn’t be posting anymore in December! Haha.

A very cute Japanese Christmas song that we don’t have in the U.S. is あわてんぼうのサンタクロース/Awatenbo no Santa Claus. Lyrics can be found HERE.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in Japanese is also pretty popular (another cute version HERE):

And a Christmas song from the always fun Shimajiro:

Try singing these songs with your kids today!

DIY Paper Yoyo’s for the Holidays!

12 Dec

I volunteered to be in charge of a Christmas craft for a playdate this week. I looked on Pinterest for craft ideas and didn’t see anything that I liked ( I needed something easy enough for 3~5 year olds, inexpensive, quick, and not messy). I looked at the materials I already have and thought and thought. Then I came up with this idea (inspired by something I saw on a Japanese children’s show… I think it was “Shimajiro’s Wow”?). Paper Yo-yo’s!


I don’t know about you, but I have TONS of wrapping paper. I bought a roll at Costco last year, and I think there’s enough paper to last me my entire lifetime. This craft will make use of some of that paper. I hope you will try this craft with your kids– it is very easy, fun, and only takes 3 materials!


Materials Needed:

1) Wrapping paper (or any other kind of long paper)

2) Tape (I think double-sided would work great)

3) Disposable chopsticks (or any other sturdy stick)



1) First, cut your wrapping paper into a long, skinny strip. Mine was about 3 inches by 3 feet (but it does not have to be exact). In the photo, you can see that I cut many strips– one for each child.


2) Break the disposable chopstick in two (where you’re supposed to break it). Place the chopstick on one edge of the wrapping paper with the top of the stick lining up with the top of the paper.


3) Tape the chopstick down with tape.


4) Carefully and tightly begin rolling the paper onto the stick, being sure to keep it lined up straight as you go.


5) When you have wrapped the entire length of the paper onto the stick, unwrap and re-roll (to ensure that the yo-yo works well).



6) When you let go, it will look like this:


7) And you are done! To use, gently flick your wrist as you hold the bottom of the stick, or hang upside-down to “bounce” the yo-yo in the air. If you spin out the yo-yo too powerfully, the paper can unravel and you will need to roll it again. Isn’t it fun?


Please let me know if you make these paper yoyo’s. I think they would make great birthday party favors and classmate gifts as well.

I also want to rave about the awesomeness of masking tape. It has come in so handy for the holidays! You can use masking tape to secure your yo-yo when not in use, keep your roll of wrapping paper from unraveling, wrapping gifts, taping holiday cards to the wall, etc. The great thing about masking tape is that it will not damage paper or the wall when you peel it off, and can be re-used. has the cutest masking tapes ever! (I am not sponsored by them, I am just in love with their store/blog– so pretty!)


Thanks for reading, please share/pin this post if you enjoyed it!


Summary in Japanese:


Happy Holidays! Plus Favorite Posts and Sites.

19 Nov

image from

Can you believe the holiday season is upon us? I just put up a homemade wreath on our front door and am looking forward to turkey dinner with close family and friends this week. I love this time of the year, and I especially love that my husband gets some time off from work and we get to spend a lot of time together as a family! Because of that, I will probably not post anything new for the rest of 2012 (um, just kidding). I am going to leave you with some holiday links, my favorite posts, and my current favorite websites. Click on the “***” to go to the sites. See you in 2013!


1. Decorate for the holidays using origami! ***


1. Send a New Year’s card, Japanese-style: ***

2. A past blog post about ways to celebrate the new year like the Japanese: ***

3. Printable, Japanese-themed calendars for 2013 (they are adorable!): ***


1. Setsubun isn’t until the first week of February, but for those who like to plan ahead, here is a past blog post about it: ***


1. How to survive a long plane ride with a toddler! *** (reader favorite!)

2. Ideas for souvenirs to take to Japan: ***

3. The yummiest homemade purin recipe! ***

4. Is the cold weather making you think of sunnier days? Or maybe you live somewhere that’s currently summer? Check out my How to Have a Natsu Matsuri post: ***

5. Since Obama just got re-elected, this video is worth watching again: ***

6. How to Begin Teaching Your Child Japanese: ***


1. ***

2. Honda Kids ***

3. Links to LOTS of great printable hiragana practice sheets ***

4. Ready Steady NihonGo! ***

5. Erin’s Challenge: ***


1. Blog post with a lot of great links to websites that teach you  how to play traditional Japanese children’s games: ***

2. Ekaki-uta’s (Drawing Songs) are fun for all ages! ***

3. Japanese Fingerplays… a great way to pass the time on the drive to grandma and grandpa’s house! ***

4. Play karuta! ***

5. DOZENS for Japanese videos for kids via YouTube: ***

How will you spend the rest of 2012? I’d love to hear from you. Readers comments give me the motivation to keep up this blog! 

20 Kid’s Halloween Costumes Inspired by Japan

19 Oct

Cutest Totoro EVER, by “you and mie”

What are you/your kids going to be for Halloween this year? My kids are dressing up as the Little Mermaid and Spiderman. They are super cute! I was also thinking that, to be unique, it would be fun to dress up as something inspired by Japan for another Halloween. Here are some things/characters that I thought of that would make great costumes!

1. Chibi Maruko chan

2. Hello Kitty (my daughter was Hello Kitty 2 years ago)

3. Domo kun

4. Totoro

5. Kiki

6. Anpanman

7. Doraemon

8. Rilakumma

9. Peko chan

10. Kamen Rider

11. Sazae-san

12. Mario/Princess Peach

13. Shinkansen driver

14. Sakura (Cherry Blossom) tree

15. Pretty Cure

16. Cooking Mai

17. U-tan

18. Ninja

19. Sumo wrestler

20. Sushi (I’ve seen a lot of great sushi costumes online this year!)


Do you have any more ideas? Click HERE, HERE, or HERE for my previous posts about Halloween in Japan.

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.

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