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Being Bilingual May Boost Your Brain Power

8 Aug


Being Bilingual May Boost Your Brain Power

This NPR article is from back in April, but if you haven’t read it, it’s very interesting (though not surprising). I especially liked the quote, “Growing up bilingual is just as natural as growing up monolingual.”

Here’s another article on bilingualism from NPR:

Bilingual Babies More Perceptive to Nonnative Tongues

Just more proof that our efforts to raise bilingual children is definitely WORTH IT!

Is It Safe to Visit Japan?

20 Jul

Is it safe to visit Japan? Is it safe to take young children there?”… These are questions that I have been asking myself ever since the Earthquake. It has been nearly 7 years since my last visit to Japan and I am craving it… the people, the food, the atmosphere, the language, the cool products… and now that I am trying to raise bilingual children, I desperately want to expose them to the Japanese culture first-hand.

I’ve talked to a lot of people (mostly Japanese people) about current safety and they seem to fall into one of these two categories:

1) It is absolutely safe to visit Japan. The aftershocks are subsiding and the radiation levels are too small to worry about. The people in Japan are going about business as usual. We can’t let fear keep the country from moving forward. We need to support their economy by visiting. The naysayers are just trying to freak you out.

2) It’s not worth the risk. Nobody knows what harmful side effects the radiation can have. The government is not telling us the whole truth. Wait at least a few more years before going.

Japan just launched a new campaign/video with a band called “Arashi” to try and show the world that Japan is a safe place to visit:

Watching this video makes me REALLY want to go to Japan. That food–DROOL! You can watch more videos urging foreigners to visit Japan HERE.


If you are also contemplating visiting Japan, these websites are informative:

JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organization)‘s travel advisory website is frequently updated and currently says:

Can We Visit Japan Today? – YES!

The majority of regions in Japan including popular leisure travel destinations, are outside the areas affected by tsunami, earthquake and radiation, and received no disruption to infrastructure.  Everything in these areas continues to operate as usual.  The greater Tokyo area has already retrieved the usual condition, and there are no more periodical blackouts.  The other regions are unharmed, and safe and normal as before.

How is the Radiation Level? – NOT DANGEROUS!

Except for the proximate areas near the nuclear power plants, there is no dangerous level of radiation detected in Japan.  Tokyo is not within radiation contamination concern area, located over 200km (124 miles) away from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant facilities.  The radiation level in Tokyo is similar to that of New York City.  The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and other international organizations confirm that the radiation level in the atmosphere is within a reasonable safety level to human health.

Another article by Japan National Tourism Organization states:

Japan has once again shown the world how hard-working and determined it is with a super speedy recovery following the earthquake and tsunami on 11 March. Popular holiday destinations such as Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, Mt. Fuji, Nagasaki, Hokkaido and Okinawa are safe and well and waiting to welcome you.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office of Britain has a Travel Advice Page for Japan that currently says:

  • We advise against all but essential travel to those areas in north-east Japan most affected by the 11 March earthquake and tsunami. This includes those coastal areas of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures which suffered extensive damage. These areas continue to experience disruptions to residential, business and transport infrastructure. There is also a continuing risk of aftershocks. If your travel is essential, you should consult local contacts before travelling.
  • We advise against all travel to within a 60km radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility with the exception of transit through the area via the Tohoku Expressway and the Tohoku Shinkansen Railway. The Tokyo Metropolitan area and Narita airport lie outside this zone.
  • The situation in Japan outside of these specific areas has largely returned to normal and most visits are trouble free. 184,045 British nationals visited Japan in 2010. See General – Consular Assistance Statistics.
  • There may however still be some further disruptions to transport, power, communications and water and food supplies. For up to date transport news, please refer to JR East’s English site. For information about possible power cuts during the summer months, please check the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) website.
  • There is a continuous risk of earthquakes and tsunamis throughout Japan.  Latest warnings and advisories are published on the Japan Meteorological Agency website.

What do you think? What have you been told and what do you believe?  If you live in Japan, what are your thoughts?

Changes to NHK Kid’s Shows

15 Apr

I don’t know if you watch いないいないば〜、おかあさんといっしょ、and other NHK shows or not, but the end of March brought some new faces/characters!

First, Koto-chan is no longer the face of Inai-Inai-Ba. The new girl is Yuuna-chan(ゆうなちゃん). She looks super cute! Along with the new girl, there is a new opening (I like it!) and new dance.

Okaasan-to-issho/おかあさんといっしょ/With Mother also has new characters. Monolan-Monolan(モノランモノラン) was replaced by Poco-Potato(ポコポッテイト).

image from

Apparently, the character on the left that looks like a cow is a SHEEP. That’s confusing. But other than that, I think they are adorable, and I like them better than the previous characters. (Coloring page of the new characters here).

I was browsing the NHK Kids Website and wanted to point out some of their other shows in case you are interested.

There’s a show called Nihongo de Asobo/Let’s Play with Japanese/にほんごであそぼ. At first glance, it looks like it would be a great show for the beginning Japanese learner. But the little I’ve seen of the show so far (via YouTube), I think it is geared more towards older elementary children, or people who are already pretty proficient at Japanese. Some of their segments are hard to understand. This video is cute though… about big numbers.

The website also has a fun interactive karuta game. Just scroll down to the middle of the page where there is a purple button that says 絵あわせかるた and click the button.

Lastly, I am sooo curious about this new show called Design-Ah/デザインあ. It looks like a show about graphic design for kids. It makes me want to sign up for NHK TV. Check out this page. You’ll be intrigued too.

What are your favorite Japanese educational kid’s shows? Do you subscribe to NHK where you live, and is it worth the $?

Easy Way For Kids to Help Japan

30 Mar

I think we will definitely do this! Easy, creative, and a good way for kids to be involved.

Osh Kosh B’Gosh Cranes for Kids

Origami crane instructions here.

‘Hafu’ Movie

22 Mar

Hafu Film teaser (with Japanese subtitles) from Hafu Film on Vimeo.

I’m guessing many of you readers are “hafu”, or half-Japanese. Maybe your children, your parents, or husband are. If you aren’t, there’s a good probability that you know some “hafu” people. “Half-Japanese” people are other times referred to as “halvsies” or “hapa”. Either way, I’m not sure how I feel about my children being called “a half” of anything. They are a whole person of mixed race. Hmmm… I’m sure they will grow up having to explain to people all the time that “My dad is Caucasian and my mom is Japanese”.

ANYWAY, there is an interesting documentary due out in late 2011 called “HAFU“.  CNN wrote an interesting article about the movie last year. The film’s website describes the movie in this way:

“Hafu” is the unfolding journey of discovery into the intricacies of mixed-race Japanese and their multicultural experience in modern-day Japan.

I think it looks interesting and definitely want to go see it. I want to know what kinds of issues my children will face during their lives because of their mixed race. I hope their experiences will be mostly positive. Another ongoing project is the “Hafu Project”. You can check out the website to see pictures of mixed-race Japanese people and read their stories.

please help Japan…

14 Mar

I don’t feel right posting anything on this blog that doesn’t have to do with the earthquake/tsunami right now. As the days go by, the death count, the sad stories, the magnitude of the devastation, increases. Many people seem to be staying strong, hopeful, and calm, but I am sure that in reality, everyone is feeling a myriad of intense emotions from sadness to fear.

I feel so helpless on the other side of the world. I get to live in my warm house, with food, water, loved ones, electricity… just watching these horrible events unfold on TV.

Please consider donating to the Red Cross or other similar agency.

And as my friends in Japan tell  me, they are going to need help for a long time, probably up to a year or more. They say, “Please don’t forget us.”

Earthquake in Japan (じしん)

11 Mar

Today I’ll be thinking about my family and friends in Japan and Hawaii. I hope everyone is safe!!

All the phone lines have been down but my mom finally got through to her sister via email. Sounds like everyone in my family is ok. All the trains were shut down, so my 60+year old aunt walked home from work… one and a half hours! Others who don’t live that close to work are sleeping at their offices or waiting hours for a taxi. What a shock! I am having a hard time watching the news- it is so scary yet I can’t pull myself away from it. My heart goes out to everyone affected. My sister going to school in Hawaii is ok as well.

I hope all your families are ok too. I know some of you are planning trips to Japan soon… I  hope your travel plans won’t be affected too much. I wonder what the best way to help is?

Live from NHK:

Video clips at Ustream

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