Tuesday, December 3, 2013

せっけんさん Sekkensan (Mr Soap) Japanese Kids Song (with subtitles)

Sekkensan (Mr Soap) is a Japanese kids' song that my three-year-old daughter is learning in Japanese preschool. She and my older daughter are singing it on this video. I subtitled it three ways ... in hiragana, romaji, and in English. The song is about the wonderful smells of soap and the association with one's mom! Grammatically, it's more like phrases than sentences, so it's easy for even the youngest children or Japanese beginner student to learn.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fall Festival, or あきまつり for Kindergarteners

I love the Fall Festival, or あきまつり, my daughter's school puts on every year. She goes to a bilingual Japanese-English school here in Michigan now, which is connected to the Japanese immersion preschool she went to for two years. Anyway, at the fall festival, all of the kids get to wear kimono or happi coats and carry around an omikoshi outside, chanting 'wasshoi, wasshoi.' I think that means heave-ho or something like that. An omikoshi is the thing you see in the picture below. It's like a portable Shinto shrine, but the teachers don't exactly delve into the details of what it is. They say, 'Hey kids, let's decorate the omikoshi!! Ok, now let's carry it!' It's lots of fun.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Field Trip to the Post Office (郵便局の遠足)

Please have a look at the video below, which shows a journal entry for my three-year-old, who is learning Japanese. The purpose is for me to read it to her so she can remember the different things she did at her Japanese school and can express those things by herself eventually. Journals are a great way to learn a foreign language because they are personal to you and therefore are more accessible as a memory than just a dialog from a textbook. Thus, it helps your long-term retention of new vocabulary. Plus, it's fun.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Week 1 Japanese Kids' Songs

At 11 pm this evening, my three-year-old daughter started singing the "te o tatakimasho" song. In fact, there are four songs she's been singing constantly this week, and here they are.

Teku Teku (clip clop)

Hajimaru Yo (Here we go)

Gu Choki Pa (rock paper scissors)

Te o Takakimashoo (let's clap our hands)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

What ... these six-year-olds don't clean up their American classrooms? Why Japanese school children clean their schools.

When asked, my Japanese friend told me what surprised her about American elementary schools in America was that the children don't clean. And by clean she means washing desks and shelves with a rag, sweeping the classrooms and hallways with brooms, older kids doing periodic cleaning of bathrooms, etc. In Japan, students clean the school like this starting in elementary school and continuing through their high school years. For about 15 minutes a day, it's おそうじ (o-souji) time, or cleaning time. Students, teachers, even administrators drop everything, pull out the buckets and mops, and give everything a good scrub with soap and water.

The practice comes from Buddhist traditions that associate cleaning with morality. The Japanese school curriculum goes beyond the core subjects and also strives to teach cooperation, a sense of responsibility, and public morality. Doing daily cleaning is seen as contributing to this. If you've ever seen how clean Japan is - the graffiti-free subways, the litter-free streets, the tidy neighborhoods whether rich or poor, you will understand this a little bit more.

My daughter's Japanese school here in Michigan only does a one おおそうじ (oosouji), or big cleaning, before the end of the year.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Three おべんとう obento lunches

Obento 1 (for こどものひ Children's Day). Imitation crab, rice, carrots, rasberries, grapes, broccoli

Obento 2. Hotdog, onigiri with nori and furikake, carrots, rasberries

Obento 3. Family Obento: Coldcut sandwiches, apple slices, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, carrots

Monday, July 15, 2013

First day of Japanese Summer Camp

It's the first day of Japanese summer camp here in Michigan, and both my six-year-old daughter and three-year-old daughter are old enough to go this year. It's a full-immersion environment, so I am eager to see how my youngest one enjoys it and makes friends.

Of course, I wanted to make them a cute obento (お弁当) for their first day. This is plain rice (ごはん) with nori (のり) "waves," fish-shaped omelet (たまごやき), broccoli (ブロッコリ), clementines (みかん), and grapes (ぶどう). A typical kids' lunch in Japan with five colors. Healthy and easy to make ... IF you have a rice cooker. I used a food coloring marker for the fish eyes and smile, which I'm sure will bleed and look terrible by lunch time. It's better to use a hole punch and nori to make little details.

I buy the obento boxes (お弁当ばこ) from www.jlist.org. They have a great selection of boxes, much better than our local Japanese store, and good prices as well. The heart one is here, but I can't find the other one anymore. Since the items are shipped from Japan, you do have to pay international shipping, but it's not that bad.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Reading Japanese Is Easier Than English

"Japanese is easier to read," says my five-year-old daughter reading her Nontan ノンタン library book. And it is!

English has crazy spelling rules that can be broken (ex: sight, site, cite, psyte, seit ... ok, i made up the last two), hundreds of sight words to memorize, and lots of frustration for beginning readers before they can read a book on their own. The Japanese language has a hiragana alphabet chart to memorize. Once you do that, you can read a children's book. By yourself! Yes, it gets more complicated than that afterwards, but for beginners learning to read in Japanese is straightfoward. If you take the letter "su" す and add the letter "shi" し, you get sushi すし. The names of the letters are the same as their sounds. Spelling is a breeze. None of this "H says hhhhh. T says tttt. S says sss" nonsense. In fact, there are no such things as spelling bees in Japan because it would sound like this: Spell the word "sushi." "Hmm, SU, SHI ... sushi." Boring.

If you don't yet have a hiragana chart, here are some cute ones from hiragana mama's blog. Start memorizing!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sports Day (運動会) with 98% parent attendance!

Parents outnumbered the students for our recent Sports Day, which is called Undokai (運動会) in Japanese. In Japan, this is a huge event, so of course at our school it is as well. All but two students in our school of nearly 100 students had their parents there to watch them participate in different sporting events. Many kids had both parents and there were a few grandparents in attendance as well. Our elementary school is a dual-immersion bilingual Japanese-English school with roughly half Japanese families and half American families. Thus, the Undokai events included competitions from both cultures.

Here are pictures of the three-legged race, a typical American game, as well as the たまいれ (tamaire), a Japanese beanbag toss game in which two teachers hold laundry baskets or something on their heads and two teams (white and red teams) try to get as many beanbags of their team's color as possible into the baskets before the time is up. The whole crowd joins together to count the beanbags at the end ("ichi...ni...san..."). The school had us parents do several tug of war games against the other parents and a crazy balloon pop race in which we raced to sit on balloons and pop them. We were exhausted by the end, but it was lots of fun.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

No Nestle Quik for Lunch

One time my daughter came home from school without her Dora thermos. She had mistakenly put someone else's Dora thermos in her backpack. When I went to wash it, I noticed inside was mugicha, which is a kind of barley tea. It seems like such an adult drink to me, unsweetened barley tea, but here it was, in a Dora thermos for a three-year-old. The preschool, like schools in Japan, tells us to only send water or "ocha" おちゃ (any kind of Japanese tea) for the kids to drink with their lunch each day. Absolutely nothing sweet. No juice, no sweet tea, etc.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Is It Possible to Make an English-Japanese Bilingual Yearbook?

Since my daughter's school is very young, they have never had a yearbook before. So I've decided to head the yearbook committee. The problem is that none of the easy-to-use, print-on-demand online yearbook creation companies can handle Japanese characters. Why, you ask?
"(The multitude of characters in the Japanese language) cannot fit in the 256-character code space of 8-bit character encodings, requiring at least a 16-bit fixed width encoding or multi-byte variable-length encodings. " (Wikipedia)
Or put more simply, when I type in Japanese on the yearbook layout software, nothing shows up. *sigh* There are yearbook companies in Japan, like sotsuenalbum.com, that can easily handle Japanese characters, but I can't navigate the sites very well and the shipping would be crazy expensive. So I may just have to photoshop each and every name onto the pictures beforehand. Lots of work.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Japanese Momotaro Story and Momotaro Song

It was a special day at my daughter's Japanese-English kindergarten. High schoolers came to perform the play "Momotaro" (Peach Boy), which is a popular kid's story in Japan. In the story, an old lady finds a little boy inside a peach. Crazy.

She came home happily singing the Momotaro song, which I had never heard of before.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A few favorite Japanese kids' songs - with some listening practice

Ton Ton Tomato-chan (Pow-Pow Little Tomato)
Listen for the use of と to mean "with," as well as very child-like pronunciation of あそぼう (let's play) and かくれんぼ (hide and seek).

Omocha No Cha-Cha-Cha (Toys Cha-Cha)
Listen for さよなら (goodbye) and こんにちは (hello).

Anpanman No Okao (Anpanman's Face)
Listen for the use of the honorific お in the body parts. おめめ instead of め for eyes, おくち instead of くち for mouth, and おはな instead of はな for nose.

Inu No Omawarisan (Doggy Cop)
Listen for どこ (where) and ~ても form of verbs ('even when').

Donguri Koro Koro (Acorn Rolling)
Listen for いっしょう に あそびましょう (Let's play together).

Genkotsu Yama No Tanuki-san (The Badger From Genkotsu Mountain
Listen for また あした (see you tomorrow).

Monday, April 22, 2013

First Graders Walk to School (Mostly) on Their Own

My Japanese friend has decided to take her six-year-old son to Japan for a few weeks starting this month to experience first grade in a Japanese school. Her biggest worry is him walking to school without her. In Japan, most elementary school kids don't ride a school bus. They follow a sixth grader "hancho" (group leader) and walk in small groups to school, mostly on their own. And guess what, that is where we get the term "head hancho" in English.
Sometimes children living in the same neighborhood go to their school in a group. In places where there's a lot of traffic on the roads, parents and school employees take turns watching at the crosswalks to make sure the kids can cross safely. Children are taught to raise their hands to let car drivers see that they're crossing; sometimes they also get special flags to use at the crosswalks. And certain elementary schools have their younger pupils all wear the same sort of brightly colored hat when they're on their way to or from school to make it easier for drivers and others to see them.
From: Web Japan

Friday, April 19, 2013

American Flag Origami Even a Five Year Old Can Do

My daughter is now five and has been doing origami since she was three, so she is pretty decent at the easy ones. But I was surprised when she picked up this latest one I showed her after only being shown once. It's a 3D puffy heart. It's not that hard, but kindergarteners often get frustrated when the paper won't cooperate. My normally codependent five-year-old was surprisingly independent and motivated with this origami, which was neat to see.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Omochitsuki お持ちつき : Japanese for 'Let's Help Five-Year-Olds Pound Rice With a Giant Mallet'

Every Japanese elementary school has a giant wooden mortar and a hugely heavy mallet for this fun activity called Omochitsuki おもちつき, which is translated as rice pounding. Omochi is cooked rice that is so banged up that it resembles dough, and my daughter says that's her favorite food. Yeah, I know ... did she even consider chocolate? This beginning-of-the-year activity is fun because everyone gets a turn at pounding the rice with the sledgehammer thing, regardless of age. And you end up with an edible product. Bonus! When I lived in Japan, my host family took me out to the grandma's town in the countryside where they cooked the rice in stacks of bamboo steamers over an open fire for the event. When it was done, the whole neighborhood took turns pounding the rice, but with two people doing it at the same time with some kind of rhythm. A little nerve-wracking, but it was fun.