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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!

くれよんのくろくん A Cute Story About a Black Crayon

8 Oct

One of my favorite things about my daughter attending Japanese School is that we have access to their library! I’m actually a library volunteer so I get to see all the new books and DVD’s as they come in. This week, one of the books we borrowed was called “くろくんとふしぎなともだち” (The title translates to “The Black Crayon and the Mysterious Friend”). Both my 2-year old son and 4-year old daughter were completely attentive as I read this book to them.

I think it is so appropriate for the black crayon to be the star of these stories! With the amount of drawing we do around here, we go through the color black very quickly. I think crayon companies should include at least 2 blacks in every box (Crayola, are you listening?)!

This book is actually just one of a few in the くろくん series by なかやみわ (Nakaya Miwa). We’ve read the original くれよんのくろくん and it was wonderful too. I highly recommend these books for toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary-aged children! Here is a YouTube video of gemstonerecordsjp reading it out loud :

What are you favorite children’s books lately? I would love some recommendations.

こぶたぬきつねこ Neverending Shiritori Card

25 Sep

My daughter came home from Japanese School last week with a very clever card! Using the children’s song/shiritori “こぶたぬきつねこ” (pig-tanuki-fox-cat), they created a “never-ending card”. Here’s my daughter demonstrating how it works:

If you’re not familiar with the song, here are the lyrics:



(the second line is the sounds that the animals make)

Cute and clever, right?!? She has such a creative preschool teacher. (Another lady made something similar out of fabric, here).

Here’s how you can make your own neverending card (or “Fabulous Folds” card, according to Stampin’ Up):

And some videos of こぶた、たぬき、きつね、ねこ (kobuta,tanuki,kitsune,neko):


Teruterubozu: Rain, Rain, Go Away!

7 Sep

Tomorrow is Undoukai Day (similar to a Field Day) at my daughter’s Japanese School. Everyone has been practicing hard for the athletic events and dances for a few weeks. Unfortunately, the weather forecast is calling for rain tomorrow– oh, no!

Obviously, the weather is out of our hands, but my kids and I made some teru teru bozu (てるてるぼうず)this morning hoping and praying that the rain will go away. Teru teru bozu is a “sunny-weather-monk” that Japanese children have been making for decades in hopes of good weather. I guess it’s a kind of good luck charm. There is a Japanese children’s song that goes along with this (usually only the first verse is sung), but as you can see, the last verse has a dark twist.

てるてる坊主 てる坊主
あした天気に しておくれ
いつかの夢の 空のよに 晴れたら

てるてる坊主 てる坊主
あした天気に しておくれ
私の願いを 聞いたなら
あまいお酒を たんと飲ましょ

てるてる坊主 てる坊主
あした天気に しておくれ
それでも曇って 泣いてたら
そなたの首を チョンと切るぞ

If you need the English translation, this YouTube video does a good job:

Are you hoping for good weather this weekend too? Here’s how we made our teruterubozu:


For one teruterubozu, you will need:

1 paper towel

1 tissue

some yarn or string


Directions: Crumple the tissue into a ball. Place the balled-up tissue in the middle of the paper towel, then fold down the paper towel around the tissue to form a round head. Use the string to tie around the neck. Use markers to draw a face on your teru teru bozu. Hang it near a window and hope for no rain!

Other ways to make teruterubouzu HERE and HERE. I also sewed one out of pellon and fleece (seen in the first picture at the top of this post)… maybe I can hang it in my car.

Have you ever made a teru teru bozu? Did it work?

Spring: The End and Beginning of a Japanese School Year

21 Mar

This Saturday, my daughter finishes her first year of Japanese School. She has two more years of preschool, then will be in the first grade. When I look back at what my daughter was like one year ago, I can’t believe how much she has grown! Sending her to Japanese School has been one of the best decisions we have made.

This video is for those of you sending your child to Japanese School for the first time. It is bittersweet to see them grow up!


19 Sep

My daughter had her first undoukai last weekend and had a blast!!

Before the students began their races and other events, they warmed-up their bodies with Radio Taiso/ラジオたいそう. It was really cool to see the entire student body (and teachers) moving together. My parents taught me these exercises when I was young (and of course I thought it was so stupid back then) but now I see the benefits of this warm-up exercise. Everyone in Japan, from preschoolers to senior citizens, seems to know these routines. It is, after all, the “Anytime, Anywhere, Anyone” exercise.

Try it before your next work out, or right after you wake up in the morning. People swear that it will give you a good start to your day. Instructions for the exercises found HERE.

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?

Name Labels for School

22 Jun

When we received our school supply list for Japanese school, we were told to label EVERYTHING with our child’s name. I thought, since we’re sending her to Japanese school, it would be great to label all her stuff with her name written in Japanese… and I definitely did NOT want to hand-write her name on all 24 crayons, 12 markers, etc. So I searched for a company that would make them for me :).

When it comes to name labels, some companies charge an arm and a leg for personalized labels! Ridiculous. Luckily, I found a great store on Etsy called GloriasSticker. Her labels were just what I needed. Small, could be personalized in hiragana (and many other alphabets), and only $3.99 plus 90 cents ($1.49 for other countries) for shipping. PLUS they are so cute! I ordered a set of Hello Kitty labels. I asked the store owner to print half of the stickers with my daughter’s name in Japanese and the other half in English. They arrived quickly and stuck on her school supplies really well!

image from GloriasSticker

image from GloriasSticker

image from GloriasSticker

image from GloriasSticker

Anyway, I just wanted to tell you about them because I thought her store was a great find! They would also make a great gift for a child you may know that’s starting school soon. I hope you will share with me any “great finds” that you know of!


*Just FYI I have not received anything from GloriasSticker, this is completely unbiased and my own opinion. I just knew that some of you would love this for your kids and wanted to share!

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