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Back-to-School, Japanese-Style!

9 Feb

 

In Japan, a school year ends and a new one begins in the spring. For my children who attend Japanese School on Saturdays, they have graduation in March and begin their new grades in April. This means that back-to-school shopping happens in February for me! Here are some items that we purchase for Japanese School, that’s different from what we purchase for American School.

1. Randoseru. In Japan, when a child begins first grade, they buy a backpack (usually leather) that is meant to last them for all their elementary school years. These cost anywhere from $100 to $1000!! Since my kids will only be using them once per week, I opted for the less expensive option. I bought this one. I can’t wait to see my son wearing it on his first day of school!

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2. Pencil Case (Fudebako). At my children’s American School, everyone shares supplies so there’s no need to have your own supplies box. But at Japanese School, everyone brings their own. Younger students love these fancy cases with their favorite characters on them (click on the photos to be taken to where you can buy them). My daughter who is almost 9 is past that phase so I got her one without any characters. I recommend looking for items that are Made in Japan.

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3. Suito (Water bottles). Now, I know we take water bottles to American schools too. But I really love the ones made in Japan with the flip-top lids and straps so it’s easy for kids to carry to school and onto the playground. There are so many fun varieties! I personally got my son the Stars Wars one.

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4. Bento Boxes and Supplies. I think part of the reason why my kids still tolerate going to Japanese School on Saturdays is because they love lunch time. Monday-Friday, we make them a traditional American lunch (sandwich) but on Saturdays, I spend extra time making them onigiri, tempura shrimp, tamago-yaki, etc. When I first started, I was totally clueless so this book (Just Bento Cookbook) by Makiko Itoh was a lifesaver.

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There are a lot of other supplies– shitajiki, compass for math, triangular ruler, etc that I’ve had to purchase for Japanese School over the years. You can CLICK HERE to see all the supplies I’ve found on Amazon (I’ll be updating/adding things soon). I love that all these items are readily available for purchase online! Yes I am an Amazon Affiliate which means I receive a small portion of purchases (but you don’t pay more than normal), but I would never recommend anything that I don’t personally love! I’m hoping I’ve saved you some time by having all these products on one page.

Happy Back-to-School Shopping!

“Friends” by Aiko Ikegami

15 Apr

 

It is no secret that our family is obsessed with books, both English and Japanese. We go to the local library every week and come home with piles of books. I often do my research online beforehand, looking up the most recent award-winners, reading Amazon reviews, etc so I know what I’m looking for.

A few weeks ago I walked by the “New Books” section at the library and this pretty book caught my eye:

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It is “Friends”, by Aiko Ikegami. I was lured in by the cover illustration, and when I saw that the author was Japanese, the book immediately went into my library bag.

We were pleased to find that not only were the illustrations beautiful, but the story was wonderful as well. Here is the synopsis:

A girl from a faraway place begins her first day at school. She doesn’t speak the language and she looks different. She just doesn’t fit in. But one day, she makes an unexpected friend–a squirrel! Then a rabbit joins them. Soon the girl’s fuzzy woodland friends are followed by human ones and school becomes more fun! When a surprising new student joins the class, the girl and her new friends know just how to make him feel at home.

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I don’t know about you, but I can relate all-too-well to being the new kid at school. I moved around several times as a child, and can tell you that it is nerve-wracking to begin life at a new school, and especially in a new language. My children have never moved, but they got a taste of this feeling when we visited Japan last summer and I enrolled them in school for a few weeks. My kids were shocked at how different everything was. The food–the routines–the discipline–the bathrooms–the language– ! But the wonderful thing about children is, they are great at making friends, even with a cultural or language barrier. This book shows how easy it is to reach out to someone new and help them feel welcome.

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I highly recommend this book for all children. It is simple and short but can help you begin a conversation with your children about what to do if a new kid joins their class- or might help ease their worries if THEY are the new kid. I was thinking it would be nice to have several copies on hand to give out to any new kids in my children’s classes. How thoughtful would it be to gift them a book like this with a hand-written note? Might be wise for teachers to have a copy as well.

One last idea– this would make a sweet farewell gift for a Japanese student returning to Japan, or an exchange student. You could include a message about how you’re glad to have become friends!

Anyway, I liked the book so much that I looked up the author/illustrator online. She has a website at: aikoikegami.com. I was thrilled to discover that she lives in the same city as my parents and immediately sent her a note telling her how much we enjoyed her book and if we could meet someday.

Aiko was kind enough to send me a signed hardcover copy of her book to give away to a blog reader! If you would like a chance at winning this book, simply leave a comment on this blog post saying who you’d give this book to and why. (Book giveaway only open to U.S. residents). I’ll announce the winner on Monday April 18! (Don’t worry if your comment doesn’t appear right away… sometimes it takes me awhile to check and approve the comments!)

Giveaway is now CLOSED! I used Random.org, and the winner is commenter #1!!

“G”, please email hiraganamama@gmail.com within a week to claim the book! Thank you everyone else for commenting!

Thank you, Ikegami-san! We look forward to reading your future books!

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“Friends” by Aiko Ikegami can be purchased at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Happy Holidays, Love Hiragana Mama

12 Dec

hiraganamama

No matter what you celebrate, we hope you are having a joyful holiday season full of family and friends.

2013年もよろしくお願いします。

Toilet Training

24 Jul

I am going to be MIA from the world for the next few days because I’ll be teaching my son to do this:

Wish us luck!! (We are following the 3-Day potty training method. It worked great for my daughter, hopefully it will work for my son. I’m so ready to be done with diapers!)

You can read about some Japanese methods for toilet training HERE, HERE, and HERE (sorry, all in Japanese).

Busy busy!

18 Mar

This past weekend we celebrated my daughter’s birthday with a “My Little Pony”-themed party! We had a great time, but now that it’s over, it’s REALLY time for me to finalize all our plans for our trip to Japan. This past week, I secured our cell phone rental, confirmed our seat assignments on the plane, looked up train routes, decided to rent a CARES system instead of taking a car seat, and inventoried my omiyage. Can’t believe it’s almost “go-time!”. If I’m with-it enough, I’ll try to have some blog posts ready to post while we’re gone, but if not, you all might have to sit tight until we get back to see anything new on the blog.

In the meanwhile, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog by email (link below) or something like Google Reader so you don’t miss out on anything! 🙂 I really appreciate all the kind comments I get on this blog and LOVE to hear about how this blog has helped you. ほんとうにありがとう!If you have any friends who might benefit from my site, please let them know about Hiragana Mama. Thanks!

Happy Holidays!

23 Dec

Happy Holidays! Love, Hiragana Mama and Family

Thank you for your support!

A New Look!

15 Dec

Yes, you have arrived at Hiragana Mama! I decided to change up the look a little bit. Can you tell I have no graphic design skills? Let me know if you like this new look, if I should go back to the old theme, or if you would like to help me make my site look better! ありがとう〜! And yes, it is “snowing” on my blog 🙂 Keep reading  below for a post about sending New Year’s cards in Japan…

Win 2 Tickets to Tokyo Disney

19 Sep

Tokyo Roomfinder is currently holding an essay contest for 2 tickets to Tokyo Disney. They are looking for personal essays about your experience with the earthquake in Japan. From their website:

We welcome heart-warming experiences following the earthquakes in Japan. You may want to write about when the earthquakes hit, when you went to Tohoku for volunteer, when you raise fund for support, what you have seen in the TV…,etc and any experience will be okay. You can attach photos with your writing.

Please visit their site for more information.

Japanese Hairstyles

4 Jul

So… this post has nothing to do with educating our children, but I thought a lot of you Asian-mama’s might be interested.

I went to get a hair cut this weekend. And every time I go get a haircut,  I visit the website http://www.rasysa.com/ for inspiration. It is seriously the best website for hairstyle inspiration!!!! You can browse by season, hair length, etc and there are hundreds of pictures to look at. You are almost sure to find a style that you like.

Before I discovered this site, I would look at People or InStyle magazine for inspiration but I couldn’t really tell if a hairstyle on a Caucasian girl would look good on a Japanese girl like me.

So anyway… if you have been contemplating getting a haircut… check it out!

This picture was my inspiration and my hairstylist did an excellent job replicating it on my hair 🙂

from rasysa.com

There’s even a hairstyle simulator (you can “try on” hairstyles online) if you know enough Japanese to navigate through the instructions.

そ:そーめん、ぞうさん

13 Jun

The words that came to my mind first when I thought about words that begin with そ were そーめん/somen and ぞうさん/zousan.

image from misaki.rdy.jp

Somen is a summer staple in Japan! I start craving these cold noodles as soon as the weather gets above 80 degrees. They are delicious, easy, a big hit with kids, and refreshing on a hot summer day. The basic ingredients you need are somen noodles and dipping sauce. Then you can add your favorite toppings, such as:

shiso leaves

chopped green onions

myouga

sesame seeds

grated daikon radish

mandarin oranges

Check out this page by oisiso.com for inspiration 🙂

There’s also something called nagashi-somen, which translates to flowing-somen. Somen is sent down on a “waterslide” made out of bamboo trees while people sit on either side and pick up the flowing noodles with their chopsticks. Not sure how sanitary this is, but it looks fun! You can buy an electric somen machine for your home too 🙂

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Did you know that elephants say “Pao~/パオ〜” in Japanese? Cute.

Here is an elephant coloring page, and video+lyrics of the famous zousan song:

ぞうさん ぞうさん
おはなが ながいのね
そうよ かあさんも
ながいのよ

ぞうさん ぞうさん
だれが すきなの
あのね かあさんが
すきなのよ

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