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Books About Japan by Tuttle Publishing, and a GIVEAWAY!

17 Apr

IMG_7931 I recently received a few books to review from Tuttle Publishing (thank you!). I was happy to do so because we already own and love “Japanese Celebrations” by Betty Reynolds (blogged about it back in 2011 here) so I was excited to see what else they had to offer.

Did you know that: “The Tuttle Publishing Company was established in 1948 in Rutland, Vermont, and Tokyo, Japan, and is today regarded as a premier publisher and seller of books rooted in Asian culture, language, and history…Today, Tuttle publishes 150 new titles each year in focusing on Asian Languages, Asian Food & Cooking, Gardening & Flower Arranging, Crafts & Origami, Children’s Books, Martial Arts, Asian Literature, Games & Graphic Novels, Asian History & Culture, Health & Fitness, Self-help & Eastern Religion, Asian Art & Collectibles, Interior Design & Architecture, Travel Guides, Maps, and Business Books.​” source WOW! I had no idea they specialized in and published so many books about Asia. There’s over 100 books about Japan alone.

The book I’d like to highlight today is “Cool Japan Guide” by Abby Denson. This one was a surprise favorite. I’m typically not super into comic books, but this one was very informative and fun to read. IMG_7933 Our family is going to Japan again soon, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed thinking about what to pack, what to see, how to get around, etc. This book did a great job of compiling a lot of helpful travel tips! Abby explains what to pack, how to get and use a JR Pass, what to see and eat, manners when using a Japanese bath/onsen, what a homestay is like, etc. I would highly recommend this book to anyone preparing to travel to Japan for leisure/business or for a homestay. It might also make a great gift for someone who loves Japan!

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image from abbycomix.com

The day after receiving this book, I caught my 7-year old daughter reading the book. She loved the comic-book style and enjoyed learning about what to expect in Japan. My father, who is Japanese, picked up the book one day and asked if he could borrow it. IMG_7942 I know we can get a lot of free information online these days, but there is definitely something special about flipping through an actual book. I feel like I learn so much more.

Anyway, would you be interested in winning this book from Tuttle Publishing? They have generously offered to send “Cool Japan Guide” to a Hiragana Mama reader (sorry they had originally said any book, but the company just told me in order for this to be open worldwide, it has to be just this book). To be eligible to win, please visit Tuttle Publishing and write a comment below saying which book(s) look the most interesting to you! Please also include an email address so we can contact you if you win. For a bonus entry, please share this post on Facebook or pin it on Pinterest, then comment saying that you did so. The winner will be announced Sunday April 19. Good luck!

*****the giveaway is now closed*****

CONGRATULATIONS, adriperezvieira! You are the winner of the free book (chosen using random.org). You will be contacted shortly. おめでとうございます!

Everyone else, you can get free shipping over $50 at tuttlepublishing.com, or their titles are available via Amazon.com. Thank you for reading!

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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.

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!

Things To Do in Japan with Kids: Visit Hiroshima

14 Jun

One of my best friends lives in Hiroshima, and I had never been there before, so we used our JR pass to spend 2 days in Hiroshima! It was about a 4~5 hour ride on the shinkansen from Tokyo (felt like NOTHING after our 17-hour flight).

Hiroshima was a beautiful, clean, and modern city. There were quite a few tourists but it was nowhere near as congested as Tokyo. I highly recommend going during cherry blossom season if possible. They made the city even more gorgeous!

We of course went to see the Atomic Dome, which is just a short drive from the Hiroshima Station. I felt all kinds of emotions as I gazed at this structure. A haunting reminder of what war can do, in the middle of a beautiful city. It is difficult to imagine that this city was horrifically bombed at the end of WWII just over 50 years ago.

The Atomic Bomb area was a great place to stroll with our children (but if you have a toddler, I highly recommend bringing a stroller). The area has spacious sidewalks and feels like a giant park. My little girl enjoyed collecting sakura (cherry blossom) petals and throwing them into the air.

The above statue is of Sadako and her paper cranes. If you have not heard of this story, you must look it up! You can buy the book on Amazon, or any other major bookstore. This monument honors Sadako and thousands of other children who were victims of the bombing in Hiroshima.

Within an easy walk from the atomic dome and peace memorial is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The museum contains artifacts, stories, videos, etc and aims to help visitors understand the dangers of nuclear weapons. It is hard to walk through the museum without getting emotional.

We strolled through the museum pretty quickly because a lot of it is not appropriate/boring for little kids. There are a few “rest areas” in the museum though, so if there are 2 adults, you can take turns looking at everything.

Not necessarily a “fun” place for kids, but I would still say it is a must-visit place, especially if your children are older than mine (mine are 2 and 4). Excellent for teenagers.

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Some of the other things we did in Hiroshima during our short stay was: take the ferry to Miyajima, shop at UNIQLO (love love love!), eat Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, and go shopping at a department store. The top floor of the department store had a huge play area for little kids. I’m guessing it’s designed so that one parent can get their shopping done while the other lets the kids run around. The play area looked really fun so we decided to try it out. My daughter had a blast (unfortunately for my son, he was asleep in the stroller and missed out on the fun). There were ball pits, giant slides, dress-up, a sandbox, video games, etc.

Fun, BUT, very expensive!!!! We must have missed the fine print because we were expecting to pay about 1000 yen for a little under 2 hours but it ended up costing over 4000 yen! Crazy. I would NEVER pay that much again. SO, if you see a cool department store playland, make sure you have the workers tell you exactly how much you will be charged BEFORE you decide to do it. If money grows on trees for you, do it, it looked really fun (I can’t remember the name of the place, sorry)!

Things To Do in Japan With Kids: Anpanman Museum

16 May

While we were in the Yokohama area, we spent a morning at the Anpanman Children’s Museum. To say that my kids enjoyed this place would be an understatement. They could have spent days here! It is the perfect place to go if you have a toddler/preschooler.

Admission was 1000 yen per person (about $11?), including kids. The admission gets you into the museum. If you just want to shop/eat there, it is free. (Warning: The food and products there are expensive. 5000 yen for a child’s T-shirt? No thanks!)

There were a lot of cute photo-ops everywhere! I’m not including my cutest pictures on this blog though, because I’m not comfortable sharing too many photos of my kids with the world :).

Unlike Disneyland, we didn’t have to wait in line forever to get a picture with a character. We got to give high-5’s to Melon Panna-chan, Anpanman, and Baikinman!  I would give yourself at least 2 hours to explore the Anpanman Children’s Museum. It would be a great place to go on a rainy day (but it’s about a 15 minute walk from the train station).

In addition to the museum in Yokohama, there are also locations in Sendai and Nagoya.

Have you been to the Anpanman Museum? Do your kids love Anpanman as much as my kids do? My son loves it so much I am throwing him an Anpanman-themed birthday party in a few weeks.

 

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.

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!

Things To Do In Japan With Kids: Visit the Tire Playground (たいやこうえん)

2 May

My grandpa lives near a really cool playground, called Taiya Kouen (たいやこうえん) which translates into “Tire Playground”. I played here when I would visit my grandfather as a little girl, and it hasn’t changed much since then. It is about a 15 minute walk from the Kamata Station (you’ll see lots of trains on the way there– bonus!). If you are in the Tokyo area and your kids need to release some pent-up energy, this is a GREAT place to go! I highly recommend it for any child ages 2 and up.

It was a gorgeous Sunday when we visited. It was nice to see so many families enjoying the beautiful day together. (It was especially great to see the usually-busy fathers having fun with their children)

Tires, tires, EVERYWHERE!

I enjoyed starting up conversations with other parents, and seeing my children interact with other little children.

Japanese Summary: 子どもたちを蒲田駅の近くのタイヤ公園に連れて行きました。おじいちゃんが近くに住んでいるので,私が小さいときも,ここで遊びました。とってもいい天気の日曜日で,子ども連れの家族がいっぱい遊んでいました。簡単に2時間が過ぎてしまいました。

Do you have a favorite playground in Japan?

Things To Do In Japan With Kids: Use Public Transportation

1 May

I am sure many parents of little boys will agree: Boys LOVE vehicles of all kinds. My daughter thinks they are fun too, but my toddler son gets SUPER excited about anything with wheels that goes “vroom vroom!”. So as you can imagine, a trip to Japan made his eyes sparkle! We rode airplanes, lots of trains, shinkansen (bullet train), taxis, buses, a ferry, and some vehicles made just for kids at amusement parks.

Here’s my kids seeing a Japanese train for the first time:

And here’s their reaction every time a train whizzed by:

Their reaction is completely priceless (to me), and just seeing them enjoy the trains alone made the whole trip worth the effort.

We even braved the train during rush hour one day on the way to Disneyland. We were all squished up against one another and could barely breathe, which made for a memorable experience! (Note: strollers are not fun to have during rush hour!)

We really enjoyed riding the Shinkansen (thank you, JR Pass!). Unlike on an airplane, you are free to move around whenever you want, there’s lots of areas to explore, and there are yummy bento boxes for sale. And I can’t forget to mention that the scenery outside is fun to look at too! How awesome would it be to have Shinkansen’s in America! It would surely make traveling to see relatives or going on vacation a lot of more fun for kids.

My son loved the trains so much we made sure to buy him some goodies from the Sanrio Shinkansen line, including a bento box and accessories. We also got him a diecast shinkansen, which he loves to play with! (Click here for some free printable shinkansen papercrafts from Sanrio, and click here for a shinkansen coloring page perfect for Children’s Day!)

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In case you missed it, I am giving away a hiragana chart this week! Go to the post below for details 🙂

Hiragana Chart Giveaway

30 Apr

みなさま、おひさしぶり〜!We are back from a FABULOUS trip to Japan and (sadly) back to normal life. It was a whirlwind trip– we hit up Tokyo, Hiroshima, Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nagoya, Hakone, and Yokohama in 2 weeks (I know, we are crazy). We saw lots of friends and family, ate tons of mouth-watering Japanese food, saw gorgeous sakura everywhere, and had the time of our lives. What I want to say to all of you out there is, “Don’t be afraid to go to Japan with young children. It is a blast, and worth the extra effort to take them there!” My daughter is already begging to go back. I’ll be sharing what we did with our children in Japan over the next few weeks.

I also want to thank my loyal readers out there who frequent my blog. Your insightful, kind comments always make my day. I know a lot of you out there are just like  me, trying really hard to teach your children Japanese. SO, I have a little giveaway this week. I am giving away a waterproof Hiragana Chart to one lucky reader. I will ship to anywhere in the world except for Japan (because if you live in Japan… you are already a lucky duck). All you have to do to enter is to leave a comment and answer one of the following questions:

1) Why are you passionate about learning Japanese/ teaching your children Japanese?

2) What is your favorite/ most useful post on Hiragana Mama?

The winner will be selected randomly and announced on Saturday, May 5th, which just happens to be Children’s Day! I will contact the winner to see where I can send the prize. Sorry it is such a little giveaway (I don’t make any $ on this blog)! But these charts are hard to come by in the States. My kids love practicing their hiragana while taking a bath with their chart. Here are some pictures I took of the Hiragana Chart I’ll be giving away:

 

 

 

I didn’t take the chart out of the package to take the photos. But we have a similar bath chart, so here you can see what it kind of looks like:

At 60 x 42.5cm, it is a pretty large chart. It just sticks to the wall of your bath with water. Good luck, and check back for posts about our trip to Japan 🙂 Thanks for reading, and please share with your friends!

 

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