Our local art museum, Fukushima Prefectural Art Museum, has a simply wonderful exhbit.  It is wooden sculture carved in the 17th century by the Buddhist monk Enku.  Apparently he wandered around Japan and carved thousands of these.  Neato!

When I’m standing in front of something that is four hundred years old, I’m like,  “Oooooooooh it’s old really really old.”  With my mouth hanging open agape.   So yeah, it was impressive.



Of course we couldn’t take photos inside the exhibit but I asked permission to take photos inside the gift shop.


That’s Enku’s kanji on the sign:  円空


I myself was attracted to the cutesy cutesy stuff.  Kokeshi and daruma.


Senbei for the hubby!


I saw this necktie with kanji all over and wanted it.  I bought it for my cousin and he can wear it to church.  (Is it okay to wear Buddhist prayers to a Catholic mass?)  Anyway, ironically in Japan it is rare to find cool Japanese decorating clothing.  Engrish is common…..but Japanese?  Not so common.

I bought the same cousin a necktie with hiragana all over it.  Yeah, I think he’s got enough of the cool Japanese neckties!




Oh, Hina Festival!   So feminine!  So ladylike!  So elegant!  So refined!  So 上品! (jyouhin)

But I have a boy, so now for something completely different.

アルファベット表 【A4サイズ】

ABC’s.  My son is twelve now, but once upon a time he was a mere tot and did not know his ABC’s (or his hiragana’s).

He went to a private Christian preschool  (in Japanese) for a few hours a day, but I could not depend on them to teach him to read and write in English.

What I did was I looked at a lot of schooling sites, a lot of homeschooling sites.  (This makes sense, because basically I am homeschooling my son in English.)

Early on I did stuff like draw his name in the dirt with a stick and showed him the letters.  We did alphabet pages which he scribbled on.  I said things like “B!  B!  See the bear bouncing the ball?  Buh buh buh ball!”

I am not going to go into it all here on this blog, because other blogs and reading sites do it better.  But every morning we did alphabet practice (a tradition of Mommy Mommy Time that we still continue today.)

Here are some resources I found useful:

Our local library!  I used it as much as possible.  Other possibilities:  Books borrowed from friends, church libraries and so on.

Bob Books  We did not use this series actually, we used Animal Antics.  But it is the same sort of thing.  You can also find the same sort of thing on http://www.starfall.com/  It is just really easy sentences based on phonics.  To tell the truth, he outgrew this level of easiness EXTREMELY quickly, so it is not really worth spending a lot of money on.  You can even make your own books in the same style.  (ie. That rat is fat!  He sat on a mat!)

Book or printables for learning to write alphabet There is a variety of alphabet materials out there and I don’t remember what we used.  (Though despite that ABC chart above that I randomly pulled off a free site–I almost never used Japanese materials with crap katakana that teaches RED is pronounced レッド.)

I started doing the writing with my son once he calmed down a bit and could handle some writing.  He was a rambunctious youngster, I think this was around three?  Just kind of whenever you feel your child is ready.   My son will let me know when he has had enough of something.

Explode the Code Amazon says I ordered this in 2008, so when my son was four.  I got this series idea from Homeschooling sites (thank you, homeschooling Mommies!) and I really quite like it.  It satisfies something in me that strives for orderliness and common sense.    I skipped the “Go for the Code” books, based on internet advice.  (Too easy.)

There are SO MANY ideas you can get from the web.  We are really lucky in this day and age.

Some ideas:  Rip up origami paper and paste it to paper.  Either a design of your child’s choosing, or onto a letter of the alphabet or whatever.  I loved this activity because it is so easy and really keeps a child busy.

ABC’s chart:  can be printed from the net.  Sing the alphabet song and point to the letters.  Also, make sure the child hears the sounds of the letters.  Buh buh B.

Make sure that your child has reading materials and words in view.  His own little book basket, his own little greeting card from Grandma, etc.

Okay, that’s all I can think of!  Good luck in your multilingual journey!  Before you know it, your child will be twelve years old and you’ll go to his school and he’ll read a letter to you telling you how much he appreciates you and thinks you are cool for teaching him English!  Which is exactly what happened to me today!  (And you’ll be a blubbering mess.)
Happy Hina Festival!







Persepolis/The Day We Did Not See Prince William


I recently read the graphic novel Persepolis, both the first book and the second book.  It’s the story of a woman who grew up in Iran.  She is similar in age to me so I could imagine myself on the other side of the world at the same time she was adjusting her veil and dodging bombs.

Personally, I remember when the American embassy was taken over in 1979.  It was absolutely huge news in the U.S.  Mega News.  The Iran/Iraq War?  Don’t remember so much of that.  I do remember discussing it in class–we always read the Weekly Reader on Fridays.  (The Weekly Reader was a newspaper for children and geared to the school market.)

Then, later, much much later, I was in college, volunteering to help foreign studnets with their English.  I was told to meet a woman from Iran and help her.  I imagined a woman swathed in robes, veiled of course.  I was completely surprised when a sexy young woman greeted me!  She was wearing a tank top and miniskirt, lots of makeup.  Just way sexier than what I ever wear.

I asked her about it and she told me that in Iran, you had to wear a veil when you went out–but once you were at home, anything goes!  And of course, out of Iran, anything goes!  I was really shocked to hear that.  (The book Persepolis explains this dichotomy really well.)

And then, once I came to Japan, my Japanese student visited Iran and showed me a photo he took of the former American embassy.  There was a huge sign:  De@th to America!  So that drove home that, um, not everybody in Iran was as liberal as my sexy Iranian friend.

Around the same time, Afghanistan was overrun by the Taliban, and all women there were forced to wear burkas which covered their faces.  That to me was—–just WoW.  I couldn’t imagine women covering their faces.  Either being forced by society or choosing to do so.  UMMMM…..How can you see?  How the heck can you do anything?  (I guess that is the idea?)


This is our living room.  Very Americana.  And studious!  I wish we had more room.  But oh well!  I am blessed with what I have!


By the way, Prince William visited Fukushima Prefecture yesterday.  Last Thursday or Friday, my husband told me of the upcoming visit, and I figured out that Wills would visit Koriyama (the other large city in Fukushima Prefecture).

I want to go and stalk see Prince William, but my husband discouraged me, saying it would be blah blah blah and blah blah blah.   Plus, I checked my calendar and my son had a dental checkup on Saturday and plus there was a free clown show at Comu Comu.

So we go to the dentist’s office and they say, “You mistook the day.  It is next week.”  あらま

So then we go to see the clown show and guess what!!!!  The whole time I have been thinking the day was March 7, when actually it was only Feb. 28, and I was a whole week off and the clown show was NEXT WEEK!

Baka mommy.

So then I thought about still going to see Wills.  But I wasn’t sure when exactly he would come and I would have to wait for a long long long time maybe to catch a glimpse of him.  So we didn’t go.

I went to the library instead—and it was closed!!!!!!!  I was having a no good, horrible, terrible crap day.

So basically I regret that we did not try and go see Wills.  How often do I get to stake out royalty?  When my son grows up, he could have said, “I saw that English king way back when I was a kid.”  Now all he can say is “I watched G-Force on the Disney Channel.”

He’ll end up like my mom:  “I could have seen Kennedy, but I babysat instead!”

The would haves, could haves, should haves of life.101_5071

Kiddy Books



My son and I stopped by Book Off, the used bookstore.  I found these books for 100 yen each, in perfect condition and a real steal.  Yes, my son is way too old for them.  But they are so cutey cutey cutey cute that I just couldn’t say no.

We STILL have a bedtime routine involving stories and books.  My son insists.  I wonder how much longer this will last?  I am enjoying it while it does.

There are three steps to our storytime bedtime ritual:

  1. First I read to my son from some sort of book or books.  Not a complex novel, but something really light.  Last night we did a Jeremy Strong book.  I also do non-fiction.  Nelson Mandela is in line tonight.  Though I definitely still do little kiddy books.  You’re never too old for little kiddy books.
  2. Next, my son requests a fictional story created by me.  So every night, like Scheherazade, I try to think of a good story.  Occasionally I will think of it during the day and get it to all fit together properly, but usually I forget, so the story ends up being kind of haphazard.  I often say, “YOU tell me a story.”  But he doesn’t like that as much.
  3. After that, he requests that I tell him a story from my life.   Something happy, please.  I have waded through all my memories, and told him pretty much everything.

There you have it.  I guess the Reading Promise has nothing on me.  We do our fifteen minutes….and more.




The big deal TV show is currently “Massan” which I am sure you are totally aware of if you live in Japan, and especially if you are a western woman married to a Japanese man. It’s on for fifteen minutes every weekday morning on an NHK show called Asadora. (I think.) The show’s theme changes yearly (I think). Last year, it was about the translator of Anne of Green Gables, Hanako (which I just blogged about a few days ago.)

Massan is about a Japanese man married to a Scottish woman and their whiskey empire.  Click here to see the actor and actress all lovey dovey.

And this is them in real life:


I look at their real photo and wonder what she is thinking about.  She doesn’t really look happy, but it is just so incredibly hard to say because everybody had that severe non-smiling expression back then in photos.   Anyway, I admire her.  What a trooper.

The reason I don’t watch Massan is partly I have no idea when it is on and never sit my butt down to watch, but more because it bores me to death.  I watched a bit on a Saturday, and OH NO!  Ellie has to figure out how to make rice!  Full of gaijin gumption, she furrows her eyebrows and—Click.  I changed the channel.

Long ago, back in 2002, I tried to watch another Asadora show Sakura, about a Japanese-American  young woman who comes to Japan and SIGH!  has to choose between the hot Japanese guy or the hot American guy back home.  It bored me to tears.  (Besides being, um, the story of my life.)

So yeah, I’m just not into the Massan thing.  But it’s cool for us western ladies, isn’t it.





LOL LOL I was browsing around a bookstore and I saw this book.  Its title translates to something like:  “How a  Housewife Got her Son to Pass the Eiken Level One by Sixth Grade”  (Although the title ends with the word hanashi 話 which means “story” so is it possible this book is fiction rather than non-fiction?  I am not sure.)

Okay, so it’s how to get your child to pass the highest eiken level at a ridiculously young age.  Of course, I had to open the book and read the magic.

Here’s a schedule of the child’s day:


morning–breakfast, English TV

In the afterrnoon various activites, like um, a web lesson.

My Japanese wasn’t good enough or I wasn’t patient enough to read much of the book, but it’s pretty obvious that the way to get your kid to pass Eiken is to work at it.  Not give up.  Rah Rah Rah

A child passing Level One?  Would have to have a pretty intensive English schedule, IMO, and a pretty gung-ho kid.  I have a feeling it is extremely, extremely uncommon.



This is a really great POV about the Eiken from another American mom, Adventures of a Chiba Mom.  She has an amazing blog and I always learn a lot from it.  We did the eiken differently–her son started with Level 2 (a difficult level), while I started my son with Level Five.  (Which I previously blogged about.)  Mostly, I started him with Five because I was stupid and didn’t know how incredibly easy that level is.  However, I don’t regret it.  We are just working our way through the Eiken, one level at a time.  However, it would have been cheaper and less time consuming to start at a higher level.

My son took the speaking part of the Level Three test last Sunday.  Even though he is a native speaker, I went over the tests in this book.  The reason for this is so that he is prepared to answer “Do you like swimming?” with “Yes, I do.”  rather than, “Yeah, I guess so.”  And so that he will say “Pardon me?”  rather than “Huh?”  ;-)  There is definitely a method to this test that a kid needs to know.



On the right:  Regular karu snackies  (カール)

On the left:  UKARU snackies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!    (ウカール)

The verb “ukaru” means “to pass a test”.  So you–and by you meaning I–can buy ukaru snackies to guarantee with one munchy bite that all the knowledge in the child’s brain will exit down through their mouths or their mechanical pencils resulting in correct answers and 100%  scores!  And that, my dear readers, is how you pass the test!

Anne of Green Gables….and Hanako


It’s funny how certain western things just really take hold here.  Like Anne of Green Gables.  Japanese People adore her.  She is know here as “Akage no Anne” 赤毛のアン” —Red Haired Anne.

Japanese people do NOT know Little House books with Laura.  Sure, the Little House series is at the library and I am sure some people do read it…..but Laura is not known nearly as well as Anne.  I myself grew up reading the Little House books (and loved them.)  I didn’t read “Anne of Green Gables” until I came to Japan.

Here’s the story of how that came about:  I was teaching at the junior high in Chiba Prefecture and the English teacher asked me, “What’s a gable?”  I didn’t know.  (I just knew it was part-of-a-house-thingy.)  In those pre-internet days, I had to research it.  Now google tells me that a gable is ” : a section of a building’s outside wall that is shaped like a triangle and that is formed by two sections of the roof sloping down.”

A little bit later, I found the entire Anne series in English at the Narita City library.  (A wonderful library for books in English.)  So I read the first one….and loved it.  It’s just wonderful.  Really girly girly girly girl.  I eventually read the entire series, watched the movies (both Canadian with real people and Japanese anime) and watched “Road to Avonlea” (based on “The Story Girl” by L.M.Montgomery.)

Yeah, so I can see why Japanese people women love Anne of Green Gables.  Count me in the crowd.  I’m definitely a fan of Anne.



So I was at the Comu Comu library and I saw this charming little book, on the left in the middle.  “Akage no Anne to Hanako.”  It called out to me.

“Borrrrrrrrow me.   Reeeeeeeeeeead me.”

So I have been stumbling through the biography of “Anne of Green Gables” translator Hanako Muraoka.  In Japanese.  Let’s see if I actually finish it or not.

I want to write in the margins in pencil so bad it is making my fingers ache.