A little hope in Japan’s politicans…

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Today, at an Autumn Garden Party hosted by the Emperor and Empress of Japan an actor turned politician, Taro Yamamoto, handed the Emperor a letter in an unprecedented move. It is not forbidden to hand the Emperor a letter during one of their bi-annual Garden parties, but somewhat of an unspoken rule.

Taro Yamamoto has often been in the news since the Fukushima Nuclear disaster due to his passionate anti-nuclear views. He is especially known for raising concerns for the children of Fukushima. The letter he gave the Emperor supposedly outlines the perils of the continuing crisis at Fukushima and his worries for the health of people in the area. He is receiving a lot of criticism for his daring move and is being accused of trying to use the Emperor for his political goals. I would think, and this is just an opinion, that those who are in favour of nuclear energy are making the most noise. I, for one, am excited by his bold action. It has instilled a little hope that there may finally be some progress and proper steps taken to curtail the debacle that is Fukushima.

I wait with bated breathe to see how or if the Emperor responds or takes a stronger standing on the Fukushima situation. Currently, the Emperor holds a more symbollic role than an actual imperial ruler, but he has the power to be more influential.

The following article incorrectly refers to Yamamoto as a Lawmaker.

Japan lawmaker breaks taboo with nuclear fears letter for emperor – World | The Star Online.

Liebster Award Nomination

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I have been itching to come on the computer all week, to share my exciting news from last Sunday. Last Sunday night, just as I was planning to turn in for the night, I saw a surprise comment I could not leave till the morning. It was from the most wonderful and effervescent blogger at Through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole , a foreigner in Japan, blogging about  fashion, make-up, food, life and much more. I find her blog  so versatile and personable and I love her style of writing.  So I  was overwhelmingly psyched that her comment was informing me that she had nominated me for the Liebster Award. I was so stoked I wanted to write straight away, but thought it best to wait till the next day. Wouldn’t you know, Murphy’s Law decided to intervene (mainly 3 sick kids and visiting rellies) and, well, here I am a whole week later.

I have copied the idea and rules behind this award straight from Through the Looking Glass and Down the Rabbit Hole’s Liebster Award post.

The Liebster award is intended to give some exposure to small blogs with less than 200 followers. The rules are as follows:

1] Link back to the blogger who nominated you
2] Answer the 11 questions given to you by the blogger who nominated you
3] Nominate 11 other bloggers with less than 200 followers
4] Go to the blogs you nominated and notify them of your nomination
5] Give your nominees 11 questions to answer.”

My answers to the questions from Through the Looking Glass and Down the Rabbit Hole;

1) What was the last thing you bought?

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You know you’ve been in Japan too long when you not only like “canned coffee”, but drink it daily! It falls into the genre of “canned coffee”, but as you can see its clearly bottled! It’s hot. Yes, I drink hot coffee out of cans or bottles from a vending machine. I never thought I would, but sure there you are!

2) What’s in your handbag?

Ah, the handbag.  Purse, keys, tissues, diary/organiser, lip gloss, mascara, loose coins, hand sanitiser, a nappy and one sock.  This is a good day, as a mother of three small kids there’s often a lot stranger things in there!

3) Tea or coffee?

See number 1!

4) What are you most looking forward to at Christmas?

Having my immediate family in the same room for the first time in 7 years. We all live in different countries and between pregnancy and all sorts of other stuff it is 7 years since all 6 of us have been able to get together. Related to this, I am also looking forward to seeing nieces and nephews I haven’t seen for 2.5 years and to meeting 2 new nieces!

5) If you could choose a wardrobe from any given decade and century what would it be?

I think I’d have to step into “Gone with the Wind”. I always loved the dresses they wore, I wanted to be Scarlett O’Hara when I was too young to realise how messed up she was!

6) What was the last book you read?

Wow, I had to really think about that, its been so long. I love reading books, I just don’t get the time anymore. It was The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

7) Name the first 5 items you see right now if you open your fridge.

Beer, tofu, yoghurts, kimchi, natto.

8) What was your favourite childhood story/book and do you still like it or have you grown out of it?

I loved a lot of books as a kid, I struggle to remember what was my real favourite. A lot of books I read as a kid I re-read as an adult and enjoyed.

9) When socks disappear, where do they go?

Ah, this one I can answer… the aliens use them to fuel their space ships. LOL!!

10) Give us a description of what you see when you look out the window this very moment.

Emmm… its night time and we’ve the shutters closed.  So right now, I can see myself reflected in the glass. A very pretty sight indeed!! 😛

11) What does blogging mean to you?

A RELEASE from the daily grind of being a SAHM to 3 small kids (4, 2 and 1 year old), in a rural area with limited opportunities to meet up with mamatomos and my friends here (Hi C.L.A.M!!), so far away from my first home, family, lifelong friends and my bestie soul mate(http://fionasjapanesecooking.blogspot.jp/) , in a country that challenges me everyday often in ways unimaginable…

Now to my nominations. First, just let me say, I don’t know how any of these blogs have less than 200 followers, because they are all awesome and deserving of more. Please check them out. To the nominees; I recommend you take your response to this in three parts as it is quite time consuming doing this in one fell swoop. You could break it into three posts; ① about your nomination and the answers to the questions you were given, ② the questions you want your nominees to answer and ③ your nominations and letting the nominees know about their nominations.

1. http://kajapan.org/ is a truly unique and innovative blog, run by a small team representing a larger group of 300+ foreign women from all over the world all living and raising children in Japan.

2. http://easycraftsforchildren.wordpress.com/ because it really is a practical website of crafts that (my) children can manage and really enjoy.

3. http://ensummerfield84.wordpress.com/page/2/ because this dedicated blogger showcases interesting places and customs in Japan with his awesome astute photos.

4. http://bentoandthegeek.wordpress.com/ because I love her colourful bentos.  {Off to the fridge now to get something to eat after looking at her latest bento!}

5. http://rbbaileyjrblog.wordpress.com/  because he’s a fellow Saitama-jin blogging about parenting and other things of interest.

6. http://recycledreadsaustin.wordpress.com/about/ because they use recycled materials  for crafts and so do I!

Hereafter all these bloggers I am nominating have something in common; they are all written by foreign women raising children here in Japan. I love the honesty. The emotion. The humour. The turmoil. The real life each of these blogs portray.

7. http://elemenopart2.wordpress.com/

8. http://hamakkomommy.wordpress.com/

9. http://chrysanthemummum.wordpress.com/

10. http://beingamominjapan.wordpress.com/

11. http://becomingsherilyn.wordpress.com/page/2/

To these wonderful bloggers, my questions are;

1. What was your favourite age?

2. Who is the last (music) band or performer you saw live?

3. What are you wearing right now?

4. What was your favourite toy as a child?

5. If you could have a super power what would it be!?

6. What is your favourite poem?

7. What type of kid were you in school?

8. Do you read a newspaper?

9. What is your worst habit?

10. If anything was possible, who (alive or dead) would you like most to go drinking with (or have a meal with for any non-drinkers)?

11. If money, time, commitments weren’t an obstacle, where in the world would you like to be right now?

I look forward to reading your answers!

Phew I deserve a drink after that, so I off I go. Kampai, Slainte, Cheers!

2 minute easy paper cup craft – Ghosts

I got this simple Halloween craft idea from our local jido centre, which is like a free children’s community centre. All you need is a papercup, scissors, a black marker (or black paper and glue) and a piece of string or wool or a cut elastic band for hanging. You can use strips of coloured paper, as per photo, for extra effect.You will also need glue if you wish to do that.

Simply cut about an inch into the paper cup at regular intervals. Bend the cut strips up a little. Draw on eyes. We decided to glue on paper eyes. I let my 4 year old and 2 year old do the first steps themselves. I obviously recommend you supervise the cutting part. For the hanging hole I suggest an adult cuts the hole in the top of the paper cup. My 4 year old was able to thread the string through. I tied it in a knot inside the cup, but you could use tape to secure it. The kids cut their own strips of paper to add and glued them on themselves.

Both 2 and 4 year old really enjoyed this craft. 4 year old was able to follow my example easily and his finished ghost was far better than expected. He was chuffed with himself and both kids were delighted with their paper cup Halloween ghosts!

Kawagoe Festival in photos

4 year old had his first trip out with this Baba (Japanese for Grandmother) this weekend to the Kawagoe Autumn festival. I didn’t make it myself this year, more’s the pity, but here are some photos I’ve taken over the years.

Toy’s Kingdom, おもちゃの王国、Karuizawa

We visited the Toy’s Kingdom during the summer, while staying in Karuizawa. They have a huge marketing and advertising campaign this year and its working; I would never have known about the place otherwise. It is a nice place for young children and it’s quite reasonably priced.

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They have different packages you can avail of. We wanted to stay in one of their hotels with unlimited access to the Toy’s kingdom amusement park, but as they were booked up we stayed in another hotel nearby. We bought two free passes and two entrances, our one year old was free. The free pass does not cover all activities and the rides it does cover weren’t of particular interest to my toddlers, so I would actually recommend for children under 4 that you just purchase the entry ticket. The entry ticket covers the playrooms and small outdoor play areas. You can then purchase tickets separately for the rides you would like to try.  One turn on a ride is approximately 300 yen; some are 200 and some are 400.  An entry ticket and paying for 4 or 5 rides works out cheaper than buying a free pass.  Fishing is not covered by either an entry ticket or a free pass.  … Yes, their system is a little confusing!  This year there are lots of discount tickets available in many different places, including online. Keep an eye out for flyers in shops, they usually have a coupon attached.  The normal price for an entry ticket is 1000 yen for adults and 800 yen for children 2 years old and up.  Discounts are usually 100 to 200 yen off this price. The free pass price for adults is 2,800 yen and 2,600 yen for children.  Most of the coupons offer 500 yen off these prices.

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The kids loved the playrooms.  Then 3-year-old son loved the “Tomica” room; wall to wall of cars and trains. 2-year-old daughter loved the mamagoto (playing house) room; kitchens, cookers, shopping, dolls etc.

 

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My one year old also enjoyed the mamagoto playroom as it has a section suited to small babies with Anpanman toys. She also enjoyed the little play area outside this playroom with small slides and push-along-cars.

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There is an athletic area that is suited to older preschool and primary school children. This is covered by the free pass, but not by the entry ticket. The kids have to put on elbow and knee pads and helmets for this area.  My kids tried it out too, but it was a little beyond their level and they packed it in fairly quickly.

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They have a number of different amusement rides, most of them are suited to children of all ages. The one thing I found hard is that even with safer rides such as the carousel they require children younger than 4 be accompanied by an adult per child. At one point, my husband had gone for a roam and my son and daughter both wanted to get on the carousel with me, but they wouldn’t allow it. We had to wait for him to come back. When we were in FujiQ earlier in the year, both children were allowed come on the carousel with me and that was a bigger and faster carousel.  There are also a few battery cars, a paddling area (in the summer), a sandbox, beetle “fishing” and other activities dotted throughout the park.

There are a number of eateries, all over priced and drenched in fat! You can bring in your own food and there is open green areas where you can picnic.  There is only one feeding room and designated baby changing room. There are quite a few toilets, some with smaller toilets for children.  There are coin lockers. You can rent a buggy for a day.

One thing I really liked is that you can come and go from the facility once you have your ticket. We left the park after lunch to go for a drive and we were able to go back in on the same ticket.  Parking is free.  The surrounding area is also very pleasant and there is a little shop and bakery as you come into the resort with a lovely lake out back.

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One thing to note is that this amusement park operates VERY differently during Winter.  Please see the website for further details.

URL

http://www.omochaoukoku.com/karuizawa/index.html

Address

2277 Omae, Tsumagoi, Agatsuma District, Gunma 377-1512

群馬県吾妻郡嬬恋村大前細原2277

Phone

0279-86-3515

Opening hours

Monday to Friday 10.00 -17.00

Saturday/Sunday 9.30 – 17.00

GW/ Summer holidays 9.00 – 17.00

 

Bracing ourselves for the strongest typhoon in 10 years

I’ve been watching the updates on typhoon number 26 on and off all day. For most of the day, it looked menancing enough, but nothing to get too concerned about. Then this evening the media started to report it as expected to be the largest typhoon in ten years. Now I am duly worried.

There was a strong typhoon a month ago, that was quite frightening. The winds are predicted to be stronger and the rain heavier for typhoon number 26 or typhoon Wipha as the foreign press are calling it. We sustained a little damage to the exterior of our house during the September typhoon, so we are bracing ourselves for potentially more severe damage.

We got a note in 4 year old’s backpack from preschool today, to say that school is out tomorrow due to the expected force of the typhoon. The media is saying that there will most certainly be delays on public transport and international flights. Power shortages and outages are expected in the worst hit regions. If previous public response to natural disasters is anything to go by, the shops will most likely be sold out of essential items by midday tomorrow.

Its always good to prepare for the worst, just in case. Thankfully, we will get the brunt mid-morning so any potential power outages won’t severely effect us immediately. We do have our torches to the ready and plenty of food in just in case things continue through the night. There are concerns about how this will affect the already crippled Fukushima power plant, but I’ll worry about that if/when it happens.

Stay safe!

Halloween Books for kids

There is a wonderful list of Halloween books available on the kajapan.org website. The list of the best English books about Halloween was compiled from the suggestions of the wonderful Moms behind the KA website.

http://kajapan.org/general/halloween-book-collection/

Preview


Goodnight Goon


Room on the Broom


What’s in the Witch’s Kitchen


Go Away, Big Green Monster

 

See the full list at http://kajapan.org/general/halloween-book-collection/

Halloween goods at Daiso 100 yen store

There’s a great selection of Halloween goods at Daiso, one of the better known 100 yen shops in Japan. A 100 yen shop is roughly equivalent to a one pound/ euro / dollar store. They carry a huge range of goods most of which are quite decent quality. I took these photos covertly with an old mobile phone so the quality isn’t great, but you get an idea of the range available. One thing to note about Halloween produce in Japan; its stocked early, but they also take it off the shelves early too. I’ve been caught out a couple of times by waiting to the week before Halloween to shop for these seasonal items. This particular Daiso is in Wakaba Walk in Sakado.

Meet the pets!

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Our latest addition to a long line of wildlife pets is Kaeru-kun. Kaeru (カエル) is the Japanese for frog, and that’s exactly what he is! It is a popular hobby of young children in rural Japan to find and catch all sorts of wildlife. They keep them in pet tanks which can be bought at home and/or gardening stores.

Kaeru-kun joins 4 pet crickets and 2 pet grasshoppers.

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Thankfully, beetle season is over, but in the height of summer we had 12 beetles at one stage.  This is one of the biggest beetles we had on my husband’s hand.

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I am also grateful that zarigani fishing season is over. Zarigani is similar to a crayfish and they are abundant in rivers in the countryside. Here’s a zarigani the kids caught last summer. At least these monstrous things aren’t brought into the house, they release them back into the river after catching.

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There are other insects and animals kids in Japan like to catch, but at the moment my son is most interested in crickets and grasshoppers. He spends much of his preschool day out in the fields with his teacher catching all sorts of things. Some they let go off, some they keep, some he passes on to his classmates.  They are cheap pets, because the crickets eat cucumber and the grasshoppers eat grass. We have to research what to feed the frog and how to get our hands on it. If you are familiar with frogs a few tips would be most welcome!

Easy paper and wool Halloween wreath for kids

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This one is time-consuming, but it was worth it for the reaction of my kids to the finished product. They were so excited and delighted that I couldn’t get a good photo as they wouldn’t let the wreath out of their hands. I had planned for us to make three, but one was enough as I ended up doing most of the work! They lost interest as it was time-consuming, but they came back to it when it was time to put the finishing touches to the wreath.

We made the mini spider wreath using brown and orange wool, pipe cleaners, goggly eyes and part of a paper plate. I recycled material used for a previous craft, paper plate spider webs and bought both wool and pipe cleaners at the 100 yen store.

I cut a rim out of the discs I had cut out of the paper plates for the spider web craft. I wanted the wreath to be small as I knew the larger size would be too much for my 2-year-old, and has it turns out for my 4-year-old too. Simply wind the wool around the circular ring. It takes longer than I anticipated, even working with a small frame. We used two colours for a bit of fun.
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The kids then added pipe cleaners by wrapping them around the spider, two each side to make 4 legs each side. You could glue or stick them, but I find with young children the easier the better. We added two eyes from a pack of 30 I bought for 100 yen at Meets, a 100 yen shop. 4-year-old cut an elastic band and I weaved it into a piece of wool I had intentionally left hanging around the spider’s bum! The next step would be to stick it to the front door,but be warned your kids might not let you get your hands on it again. Tonight our spider wreath is sleeping with our wildlife pets at the kid’s request!
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