Shimajiro (Benesse) has some of the best Japanese videos for kids on the internet!
Here is a video that’s perfect for Setsubun (which is tomorrow!)
Shimajiro (Benesse) has some of the best Japanese videos for kids on the internet!
Here is a video that’s perfect for Setsubun (which is tomorrow!)
Recently, I frequently find myself gifting Japan-related things! For example, my daughter took a bag full of Japanese candy for a birthday party. For Christmas, my older kids are getting a Yokai Watch DVD set and my toddler is getting a Mel-chan doll. It is a good way to be unique! Here are some gift ideas for the Japan-lovers in your life:
Melissa and Doug Sushi Slicing Set (a fun alternative to “traditional” food!)
Kendama Toy (great for all ages!)
Yakusen Bath Roman Bath Salts (Japanese bath salts are sooo relaxing)
Making Tape Gift Box (the mt brand from Japan is simply the best. I use it for everything!)
Mitsubishi 100 Colors Colored Pencil Box (my kids have this set and it is awesome. Every color you could ever want, durable, and the color glides onto paper so smoothly)
Nintendo Hanafuda Card Game (great for older kids, teens and adults)
Yokai Watch Karuta (for your Yokai Watch fanatic)
Kracie Pop N Cookin Candies (oh so-unhealthy but so fun to make and eat)
Go to my online Amazon store to see more ideas!!
My friends at Tuttle Publishing sent me another book to read and review: “Once Upon a Time in Japan” by NHK. The book comes with an audio CD. We recently went on a little road trip and listened to the stories on the CD. My 5-year old and 7-year old listened very attentively and were completely immersed in the stories. I enjoyed the stories as well! I thought I knew most Japanese folktales but there were a few stories I had never heard before. The book is a nice quality hardcover and the illustrations are very nice (there are 60 full-page color illustrations!). The book will be published November 3, 2015.
Here is the book description from Amazon:
Bringing Japanese folk stories to the English-speaking world, this book presents eight stories from the popular NHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation’s popular radio series Once Upon a Time in Japan. Each story is brilliantly illustrated by a talented Japanese artist. The tales recounted here are among Japan’s oldest and most beloved stories. Entertaining and filled with subtle folk wisdom, these retold stories have been shared countless times in Japanese homes and schools for generations. Like good stories from every time and place, they never grow old. Kids (and their parents!) will enjoy hearing these stories read aloud on the accompanying CD.
The fairytales and classic stories in this collection include:
Would you like to win a copy of Once Upon a Time in Japan? Then simply comment on this blog post telling me what your favorite Japanese story is. Or if you don’t know any, just comment what your favorite thing about Japan is! One comment per person. One winner will be chosen at random on Friday October 30, 2015 and receive a free copy of this book! This giveaway is open worldwide. If you don’t win the giveaway or just can’t wait to check out this book, you can preorder the book through Amazon (at a great deal) HERE!
Reclaimedmama is the winner of this giveaway! Congrats! I will be emailing you shortly.
*Sometimes it may take awhile for your comment to appear.
There’s a popular show in Japan called “Monitoring／モニタリング“. It’s a show that monitors human behavior using hidden cameras (“If ____ this happened to you, how would you react?”), and is supposed to be funny.
I wouldn’t say that everything on the show is appropriate for little children, but one segment I would recommend for kids is “If your pet/an animal/something that usually doesn’t talk started talking to you, what would you do?”. I’ve shown my kids these episodes on YouTube and they can’t get enough. It’s a great way for them to hear how other kids in Japan talk.
Here is one to get you started!
Last year I introduced you to Benesse’s Challenge Touch/Kodomo Challenge program on this post. The program is for elementary aged children and offers a monthly downloadable curriculum. Many of you were just as interested in this program as I was.
This summer when I visited Tokyo, I happened upon their new Aoyama Area Benesse in the Shibuya/Omotesando neighborhood. The one in Aoyama is the flagship store, but there are locations all over Japan. These “Area Benesse” offices can help you answer questions about Benesse programs and products, sign up for services, try out materials, etc.
When we entered the building, we were immediately greeted by very friendly staff. One staff member helped my 7 and 5-year olds get started on some activities while I asked another staff member questions.
The biggest question I had was, “Can we use the Challenge Touch program in the United States?“.
The answer was yes… and maybe. Yes, as long as you have reliable internet connection, you can use the Challenge Touch tablet and download the monthly curriculum anywhere. The only problems you then face are:
We decided to take the risks and sign up to do the Challenge Touch program for one year. I thought the pricing was very reasonable. With the exchange rate the way it is now, it came down to about $25 per month (and the tablet is free as long as you continue the program for at least 6 months!). I also signed up for the insurance program, which was only about $15 per year. If you sign up for insurance, if your tablet breaks, you can get a new one for around $30 (otherwise I think they said a new tablet costs about $300).
A few days after putting in our order, our package arrived. In it was our tablet computer and some paper educational materials like workbooks and a kanji dictionary. (They actually sent us materials for the wrong grade at first. I contacted them and they immediately sent me the correct grade level).
We charged up the device, entered our login information, and then downloaded our first month’s program. It was pretty easy! (If you don’t know Japanese well, all of this might be difficult to navigate. The program is designed for children grades 1-6 who can speak Japanese already, not for adults learning Japanese for the first time).
The program was very easy for my second-grader to figure out on her own. She had a lot of fun playing with all the features. She completed her first two assignments in Kokugo (Japanese) and Sansu (math) and declared it was awesome. The program does a really great job at keeping kids motivated and having fun while learning. We are currently going on month 3 of using the program and she still loves using the Challenge Touch every day.
Other things we love about the Challenge Touch program:
My kids normally use headphones as well when doing benkyou (study) on the Touch. We highly recommend this one! It is sized perfectly for kids’ heads, had a durable cord, and I don’t have to worry about the volume being turned up too loud. Headphones are a must for us because with 3 kids running around our little house, it can get quite noisy and hard to concentrate.
Bottom line is that we are so glad we took a chance and decided to try the Benesse Challenge Touch program. I can see us continuing for the next few years, and may even get a second device for our son when he begins first grade. I hope that someday soon they will make the program downloadable for iPads– wouldn’t that be nice?
Read more about the Kodomo Challenge program HERE and feel free to contact them if you have any questions. They are very nice!
I am NOT affiliated with Benesse and have NOT received any free products or compensation for writing this review.
Have you all started your back-to-school shopping yet? We have enjoyed our summer but I can’t wait to get back to the school routine (and have some peace and quiet in my house– ha!).
Something that (I feel) is far superior in Japan are school and office supplies. The pencils and erasers my kids use at their American school are always breaking/doesn’t erase well. We went to an office supply store while we were in Japan and I was in heaven! So many high quality supplies, and designed well too.
I came back to the U.S. and was pleasantly surprised that many Japanese school supplies are available on Amazon! And you can’t beat the free shipping. I gathered some of my favorite items into my Amazon store for you here. I’ll keep adding as I find more:
My 7-year old daughter and I highly recommend these MONO erasers. She chooses these over her cute, character-shaped erasers every time because they WORK!
My son would go crazy over this Yokai Watch Bento Box. I would buy this for him if I hadn’t just recently purchased a Super Mario one for him in Japan! (My kids are currently obsessed with this show… maybe I’ll write a post about it later).
And it’s time to kick it into high gear with our Japanese studies. I find that my kids’ Japanese gets worse once the school year begins because they are immersed in English so much of the day. Thankfully, there are now a lot of Japanese-language materials available online now, like this Hiragana Practice Board.
What back to school supplies do you like the most? Are you excited for your kids to go back, or do you wish summer could last a little longer?
There are SO MANY apps for teaching Japanese these days! Our current favorite is called: ”わかる！算数 for iPad” by GAKUGEI Co., Ltd. (“I See! Math”) I downloaded the app for 1st grade ($4.99) and 2nd grades ($5.99). Both of my kids (ages 5 and 7) love working on their math skills with this app. The children first learn a new concept (addition with carrying over, telling time, etc), practice, then take a quiz. The animations are cute and rewarding. My kids have been using this app daily for about two weeks and they don’t seem to be tired of it yet. I am pretty fluent in Japanese, but sometimes struggle explaining new math concepts in Japanese, so this program has been a great help. My kids are learning how to tell time, identify shapes, solve story problems, measure in centimeters, etc., in Japanese!
Here are the links by grade:
You can try out I See! Math for FREE (trial version) before you decide if you want the full version or not. There is also an option to switch the entire app over to English if you’d like. You can view all the apps created by Gakugei HERE. What are your favorite Japanese apps for kids these days?
NOTE: I was not asked by anyone to write this review, and I did not receive any free products or compensation. I bought this app after doing my own research and this is all my honest opinion🙂
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. 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!
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. 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!
I recently came upon the realization that I really need to work on my children’s vocabulary. So one night while they were sleeping, I used masking tape+marker to label items around the house in Japanese! When they woke up in the morning, the kids had fun discovering what I had labeled in the kitchen, living room, bathroom, and bedrooms. I think this will help us learn some new words and use them in context. The labels are an eyesore, but I plan to remove them once I’m confident we have mastered the use of that word.
If you would like to do the same, just walk around your house and write down the things that your kids would not be able to name in Japanese. There may be some words that you’ll have to look up in a dictionary! Use a permanent marker to write the word on masking tape, and stick it on the corresponding item. When everyone in the family has learned the word, you can remove the masking tape.