Category Archives: Parenting

Preschool playgrounds in Japan

In my experience of Gunma, Ibaraki and Saitama, most preschools in suburbia Japan, have some form of outdoor play area. Most of them have at least a slide and/or swings, and some are a full on playground with a combination of equipment.  Thankfully, our preschool is one of the latter.

The main piece of equipment in my kid’s preschool’s playground was designed and made by Dino World in Fukui prefecture, hundreds of kilometres away. It is a combination piece for kids in the preschool age range. The Dino World brand is part of the Dinosaur museum in Fukui, which is said to be one of the best dinosaur museums in the world. We have yet to visit, but at least a little part of the museum has come to us. 🙂

Apart from the Dino World combination unit, there are swings, monkey bars, horizontal bars, tunnels and a sand pit. Hours of fun guaranteed.

Has anyone a post like this for another country? I’d love to see what preschools are like around the world.  What are the playgrounds like in your kid’s preschools?

Preschool playground

Children’s shoe fitting, Saitama

I remember the joy of finding a Clarks shoe shop in Tokyo, Omotesando, only to find out that they don’t do the children’s range in Japan. Like so many Irish (and British?) I grew up, figuratively and literally, in Clarks shoes! I wanted to be able to give my children the same start in life with the right fitting shoes, but lo and behold in Japan proper shoe fitting is something that is severely lacking. Yes, you can measure your child’s foot in some stores with a measuring board, but it’s not the same as having a Clarks’ clerk measuring both the length AND breadth of your child’s feet.

HOWEVER, the new lalaport with all its paraphernalia, is bringing us a step closer (pun intended!) to good fitting shoes for children. They have a contraption (pictured) that electronically measures the length, breadth and circumference of feet.  They even print out the results and hand them to you with the recommended shoe size for your child and information on the back about feet and shoes sizes.  The only thing is, that unlike Clark’s shoes, their shoes do not come in different width sizes, just length. The free print out, and the double points I received on my member’s card for having a Lalaport Kids Club card, made up for that little misdemeanour!

The website for the chain store is http://www.genki-kids.jp/

Moonstar 2

Family friendly Japan 

Nursing room

A comment by the lovely And Three To Go on my “These are brilliant” post , made me realize that Japan is not synonymous with being “family friendly “. Here in the Kanto plain* it definitely deserves that accolade.  I have found living and travelling in Japan with young children to be very easy and efficient. Due to the number and standard of services and utilities provided for free in both public and private places, it is very easy to spend time out and about as a family, even with a newborn.

Pictured is one of many Baby rooms you can find in many locations throughout Japan.  You can see the taps for washing your hands. Paper towels are provided for free. This particular room has two nursing booths, where you can feed your baby in private, if you wish to do so, by drawing over the curtain. If you are bottle feeding the note on the wall says that you can receive boiled water from the staff. Often these rooms have instant boiled water taps or a burco in them. I have found that the rooms are always spotless and well maintained. 

I like that when we go out the door we know that wherever we end up there will, most likely, be some convenient family facilities available to us in our family friendly Japan. ????

*Kanto plain is the area around and including Tokyo. It is made up of the prefectures of Tokyo, Kanagawa (Yokohama), Chiba, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Gunma and Saitama.

These are brilliant!

We go out to eat a lot as a family, but with a newborn it can be challenging. Most of the aisles in restaurants in our part of Japan are too narrow for our Out and About buggy or our Graco double buggy, meaning we have to carry the baby.  There are restaurants with tatami floors where you can lie a baby beside you, as we have done in the past, but these come with other issues and concerns. We have eaten in some hotels that actually provide Moses baskets or some form of day bed, but for a casual meal out we prefer to go to a family restaurant. Therefore, dinner often involved hubby or I either taking turns holding the baby, or one of us wearing them in a baby carrier trying to coordinate hand to mouth without spilling too much food on the baby.  That is until serendipity led us to a family restaurant with bassinets for newborns or babies who are not yet mobile. It only took to our fourth child to discover these convenient gems, but better late than never. This particular bassinet was enjoyed in the Bamiyan on route 406 in Higashi Matsuyama. Unfortunately, not every Bamiyan has them, as we discovered at the weekend when the kawagoe branch staff had no idea what we were talking about!

If there is a place you like to go to while dining with a small baby, please do share in the comments. ????



Free Resources for Setsubun

(Written January 2015) February 3rd is Setsubun in Japan, which marks the end of winter. A common tradition associated with this ancient festival is mamemaki or beanthrowing. Most families carry out this fun tradition at home, but you can also visit a temple or shrine to do it with a crowd. In Tokyo, there are temples that have famous people, often sumo wrestlers, throwing the beans from a dias out to the excited crowd. Most preschools and children community centres also mark the day with some fun crafts and activities.

The purpose of the festival is to rid your house of demons and welcome good luck for the coming year. Hence, we chant oni wa soto, fuku ha uchi “demons out, good luck in” as we throw beans out the door or at the head of the household who dresses up as a demon. To this end kids often make oni masks for the ceremony and/or for playing dress up.  If you eat the same number of beans as your age it is believed you will have good health for the year. You can read more about the festival on the KA International Moms website http://kajapan.org/general/setsubun-chasing-the-oni-away/ or on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Setsubun

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Yesterday, in preparation for the festival next week, the kids and I talked about setsubun. 5 year old remembers it from the last 2 years and (just turned) 4 year old is learning about it in school. They make masks and holders for the roasted beans.  We will make them at home too. We practised some origami to hold the mamemaki roasted beans, there’s a link below to make your own. The beans are easy to come by in Japan at this time of year. Many shops sell commercialised mini-packs of roasted beans or nuts some with flavours. I bought ours from a home delivery shopping service, Coop. We will make demon masks next week. I wanted to share some of the setsubun and mamemaki teaching, craft and activity resources available online. Whether you are living and/or teaching in Japan, or a Japanese living abroad, or just looking for something to do with the kids on February 3rd, you will find something fun among these free setsubun art and craft resources. Most of these ideas are most suitable for toddlers and preschoolers.

Japanese Oni ; devils, demons, trolls or ogres

Japanese demons are depicted with 1 or 2 conical horns on their heads. They are often red in colour. They usually wear tiger skinned pants.

Oni Masks

 You can draw your own, or you can use the free print outs in the links below to make a mask for setsubun. There are a number of ways you can turn the free print outs or a hand drawn oni into masks. First colour (where necessary) the demon and cut it out. If you want to make a mask that covers the face you can stick a rectangular strip of paper to each ear and tape the open ends around an elastic band.  For a “mask” that is worn above the face, as per photo in mamemaki section, you can simply stick the cut out to a head band or even a cap or make your own band out of paper.

Oni Colouring pages

Free print-outs

Huge selection of coloured setsubun print outs: http://putiya.com/html/season/02gatu/season02.html

Oni Origami

An easy origami Oni (Demon) for toddlers and preschoolers
http://www.origami-club.com/season/2/fuku-oni/oni/index.html

Mamemaki holders

Mask that sits on the head and mamemaki holder made out of a milk carton cut in half

Mask that sits on the head and mamemaki holder made out of a milk carton cut in half

Milk carton setsubun mamemaki holders
One of the most popular and easiest kid’s craft for mamemaki holders is cutting a milk carton in half, piercing a hole in each side and using pipe cleaners as a handle. In the right hand (your left!) of my son in the photo to the left.

Paper cup setsubun mamemaki holders
One of the more original mamemaki holders I saw was on Hiragana Mama’s blog; a decorated paper cup.

Origami mamemaki holders
This year we are using origami boxes. This origami box paper craft is one of my favourite practical uses of origami.  You don’t need origami paper as this easy to make box uses rectangle shaped paper such as an A4 sheet of paper.

 

These are just some ideas and resources you can use to enjoy the Japanese February 3rd end of year festival by chasing away demons.  You can read about our setsubun last year, 2014,  here.

Koala class, breastfeeding and Christmas decorations at my maternity hospital

PIC_3747LO#4 had “koala class” this past Thursday. Koala class is conducted for the newborn at my maternity hospital 2 weeks postpartum. Basically, the midwives check Mammy and babies progress. They physically check on baby too. Mom’s physical isn’t until 4 weeks postpartum. At the class they address any concerns you have and check how breastfeeding is going. If the staff feel that your LO needs further examination you get called to see the Doctor who comes to the room half an hour after the class starts and sees people in turn. This check up is free. 🙂

Baby chilling at the koala class. You can see the baby weighing scale in the background, for checking how much baby is getting each feed and for also checking their general weight.
Baby chilling at the koala class. You can see the baby weighing scale in the background, for checking how much baby is getting each feed and for also checking their general weight.

I could tell from the newly found double chin that LO was putting on enough weight, but it was great to get it confirmed. She’s already 4 kilos (approx. 8lbs8oz), that’s up 600 grams since the day she was born. I am delighted as often 2 weeks in, the baby is just returning to their birth weight. She is breastfed and I don’t have a baby weighing scales, but I could check on Thursday and she’s getting about 100 grams from me in one feed. It is easy to breastfeed in Japan as it is widely supported  and encouraged with many free facilities and services for breastfeeding Moms in public spaces.  The midwives at the koala class offer great guidance for new Moms and provide useful tips for veteran Moms on breastfeeding (among other) issues. They also check that the baby is latching on correctly and getting enough milk each feed.  Koala class lasts about 2 hours. There is no present with this class, but sometimes you get a free sample of something. This past week we got a  3 pack sample of Merries nappies. 🙂

Free sample of nappies and a booklet about newborns.
Free sample of nappies and a booklet about newborns.

I met two of my friends at the koala class, but in keeping with the Japanese tradition of postpartum confinement for a month, they headed home straight after the class.  My husband and my 3rd child met me in the foyer and we took some photos at the lovely Christmas tree on display, before we too headed home.

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Day 0 of postpartum hospital stay; presents galore

Maternity goods for the birthing mother plus baby wipes

Day 0 is the day you give birth. Regardless of what time of the day you give birth, day 0 ends at midnight on that day. On day 0 the presents start before you even give birth. On being admitted to the hospital you get a huge bag full of essentials for the birthing mother. It also includes baby wipes.  You get two packs of Pampers newborn nappies for the baby too, which you will find at the bottom of the baby cart.

Big bag of goodies

After giving birth you have a rest period of 2 hours for a natural birth (3 hours for an epidural) in the LDR room (labour delivery room). After that you have sometime with your newborn outside the nurse’s office. If you have family waiting to meet the new arrival it is at this stage they will get to first meet the baby. After this period you are brought to your room. The room is full of goodies. 🙂

The contents of the big bag of goodies

My favourite within the big bag of treats is the toiletry bag. I got one for each of my children and used them until they were worn to threads. They have great pockets and compartments so rather than using them as toiletry bags, I actually used mine as an organiser within my baby bags, for holding wipes, cotton, food sachets, gauze, vaseline etc etc.

Toiletry bag

Also, within the big bag of goodies you will find a bag full of toiletries.

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Beautifully wrapped bag of toiletries provided by the maternity hospital for each patient

It includes beautiful soft cotton face towel and hand towel.

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It also has everything you need for your 5 day stay. Such as a toothbrush, toothpaste and cup for rinsing. A hair brush, a hair clip, a hair bobbin, ear buds, face wash, face toner, face cream, cotton pads, a body sponge, a cup and drinks (herbal tea, green tea, black tea and soup).

Cup and herbal tea, black tea, green tea and soups.

Within the room you will find a nursing cushion, also yours to take home. I got one on each child and found them to be really high quality. They come with a detachable cover for washing and you can wash the cushion in the washing machine on a gentle cycle and it will keep its shape.

Nursing cushion

Depending on what time of day you gave birth, a member of the “room staff” may call with your “congratulations on the birth of your baby” present. The present has been different for each of the kids. This time it was a beautiful “memorial box” (memory box), a hand sewn piece of gauze, parchment paper to write your baby’s name on for the naming celebration and some Keiai cookies! This was my first time to get a memory box. It is used to house the piece of the umbilical cord you receive shortly after giving birth (for more information please read my article on this unique Japanese custom), which comes in a matching little wooden box (I do have one of these for each child). It also contains a case for storing your child’s baby teeth and the set comes with all you need to print your child’s hand and foot impressions.  It is one of my favourite pieces from all the presents we’ve ever gotten from keiai. 🙂

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The dinner I received in my room after giving birth.

Dinner in room day 0
Dinner in room day 0

Keiai Hospital official website: http://www.keiaihospital.or.jp/

 

DISCLAIMER: I had the most wonderful pregnancy and birthing experiences at Keiai Maternity Hospital, but before choosing any maternity hospital I recommend that you check it meets your personal requirements.

Day 4 in a maternity hotel

“Day 4” was the fifth and final day of my postpartum hospital stay for a vaginal birth on baby #4 (as the day you give birth is day zero). On the day you get released the hospital treats you to a hairdo in the hair salon on the 3rd floor. It involves a wash, head massage, hot towel treatment and blow dry. My appointment was at 9.30am giving me time to have an hour long sleep before it. It was much needed as I was up more than normal with little girl during the night. At least I remembered to take a photo of the garden illuminated by night, it just didn’t turn out well enough to post!

Part of the room
Part of the room

After my hair appointment I collected baby from the baby room and went to the last “nursing class”. Each day you are asked to join at least one session of group nursing, so the nurses can monitor your progress with breastfeeding. There are two main sessions each day at 1pm and 4pm, but on day 1 and day 4 for natural births, (day 3 and day 8 for caesarean) there is a session at 10am. You don’t have to arrive exactly on time, sometime in the hour is fine and up to 15 minutes early is also okay. We got some free samples on our last session. It was back to the room after, to put on make up and get changed and to gather all the presents and bags to come home with us.  Above the sleeping and sitting area of the room after the clean out. The sofa doubles as a bed, which you can pay to have made up for your spouse or family member to stay. If they do stay there is a family shower room separate to the shower rooms for patients. Each patient is also entitled to three “present dishes”; 3 free meals for a person of their choice, during your stay. You can use them or pay for meals for guests.

Fuji View where meals are served
Fuji View where meals are served

I used my “present dishes” on the lunch on day 4 with my husband and our 2 year old. MIL was supposed to use the 3rd present meal, but in the end she couldn’t come for the meal. I opted for a “children’s plate” for my 2 year old. There are 5 choices including an onigiri plate, curry or spaghetti. I opted for the latter. The portion size was very decent. A child of up to 10 would be happy with the size I think. It came with soup, salad and a dessert. Her table mat was a colouring page with colouring pencils available on lend. She also received a special treat of sweets in a plastic shaped pumpkin container as day 4 was Halloween.

Japanese noodles, lunch on day 4
Japanese noodles, lunch on day 4
Kids plate
Kids plate

She wasn’t the only one to receive a present; as luck would have it, every table in the Fuji View Lounge had a parcel at it. Inside was a lovely Halloween babygrow for newborns. That wasn’t the last present either. When you get discharged you receive a beautiful “birthday” cake, the professional photo taken of the baby on day 1 or 2 with a CD copy, and baby is wrapped in Keiai’s famous baby towel. We said emotional goodbyes and there ended a wonderful five day stay in a maternity “hotel”.

Halloween present
Halloween present
2 year old insisted on looking after the cake, so it got a little battered on the journey home! It still tasted delicious though :-)
2 year old insisted on looking after the cake, so it got a little battered on the journey home! It still tasted delicious though 🙂

The official website of Keiai hospital is http://www.keiaihospital.or.jp/

DISCLAIMER: I had the most wonderful pregnancy and birthing experiences at Keiai Maternity Hospital, but before choosing any maternity hospital I recommend that you check it meets your personal requirements.

Day 3 of a maternity hospital stay in Japan

Day 3 of a 5 day stay for a normal natural birth in Japan, the last full day (“birth”day is counted as day 0). The day of the facial and foot massage. Also, the last physical check-up for Mama, before discharge.

Buffet breakfast day 3
Buffet breakfast day 3

I took a selection of tastes for breakfast again on day 3. After breakfast I took a nap, waking in time for my 9.30 appointment in the beauticians, where I had a foot massage and facial complements of the hospital. The facial included a chest and head massage. It was wonderful.

Waiting area for the beauticians and hairdressers.
Waiting area for the beauticians and hairdressers.

Lunch today was my 2nd favourite meal throughout my 5 day postpartum stay in the hospital (standard for a natural birth). It was Italian cuisine and included bite size tastes of various Italian cuisine. I didn’t get a photo of the soup.

La zuppa di oggi. (Not pictured). Boeuf au vin rouge braise en sauce pour quelques heures, servi avec des legumes de saison. Il mio piatoo di asagne in una piccola speciali. Frutti de mare, samonkisshu. Insalata di stagione
La zuppa di oggi. (Not pictured). Boeuf au vin rouge braise en sauce pour quelques heures, servi avec des legumes de saison. Il mio piatoo di asagne in una piccola speciali. Frutti de mare, samonkisshu. Insalata di stagione
Italian lunch dessert. Dolci Misto Caffe Pane
Italian lunch dessert. Dolci Misto Caffe Pane

On day 3 you are requested to hand in the outfit that you want your baby to wear home on discharge on day 4. You can bring something from home or you can use the vest and one of the two outfits that are gifted on day 2 (in the goodie bag pictured in day 2 account). Keeping in line with her older brother and sisters, I chose one of the gifted outfits. The designer is one of my favourite for newborns; “Helianthus“.

Outfit for baby on her release from hospital, gifted from the hospital
Outfit for baby on her release from hospital, gifted from the hospital

In the afternoon, those of us who were getting discharged the next day had our last physical examination before leaving the hospital. This includes bloods, urine samples, weight and blood pressure check and an internal exam.

Dinner that evening was my 3rd favourite of the stay. Named “Creative Japanese cuisine”. It was as artistic as it was delicious.

創作日本料理 Creative Japanese Cuisine
創作日本料理 Creative Japanese Cuisine
Creative Japanese cuisine
Creative Japanese cuisine
“Creative Japanese cuisine”

The dessert, Japanese wagashi, was from a famous wagashi store in Kawagoe.

Dessert of dinner on day 3 from a famous store in Kawagoe
Dessert of dinner on day 3 from a famous store in Kawagoe

After dinner, I had my last shower and last use of the massage chair in the refresh salon. Once again I fell asleep before the nurse made her rounds and I was thankful that she didn’t disturb me as I knew from the following day, it would be a long time before I’d be so rested again!

Halloween Ornament
Halloween Ornament

THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE FOR KEIAI HOSPITAL IS: http://www.keiaihospital.or.jp/

FOR INFORMATION IN ENGLISH, WRITTEN ON THIS WORDPRESS BLOG IN 2012:

Keiai Ladies “Hotel!”, Saitama. General Information

Disclaimer: I had four wonderful birthing and pregnancy experiences at Keiai Hospital because it suited my needs. I always recommend you check that a maternity hospital meets your needs and requirements before you sign up to it.

Day two of maternity hospital stay

Day two brought more delicious food and even more amazing presents. It was also the day I got a professional massage in my room.

Breakfast everyday is buffet style. They have a great selection of Western and Japanese breakfast foods. The breads are particularly delicious and varied.  The breakfast I chose on day two;

A mix of Japanese, Europeanand Irish breakfasts
A mix of Japanese, Europeanand Irish breakfasts
This illustration indicates where to find Mt Fuji on a clear day.
This illustration indicates where to find Mt Fuji on a clear day.

I mentioned yesterday that meals are served in the Fuji View restaurant. It is so named, because on a clear day you can see Mt Fuji, which is about 160kms away from the hospital! The photo above shows you where in the window to look for Mt Fuji. I couldn’t see it in the afternoon on day one, but I sat with it in view on day 2, photo below.

View of Mt Fuji 160km away from maternity hospital
View of Mt Fuji 160km away from maternity hospital

After breakfast I got to choose a present from a selection displayed on the 4th floor. I chose the Summer Soft Bath Chair and a “baby’s 1st year” album.

More presents from the hospital.
More presents from the hospital. “Summer” Soft bath chair and album

Lunch on day 2 was sushi.

More sushi was brought throughout the mealtime.
More sushi was brought throughout the mealtime.

After lunch we had a meeting about getting discharged on day 4.

Hospital discharge meeting on the 5th floor
Hospital discharge meeting on the 5th floor

We received a light snack during the meeting.

Snack served at the
Snack served at the “hospital discharge” meeting

We were presented with a bag of goodies.

Bags of presents lined up for patients
Bags of presents lined up for patients

The contents of the bag of goodies!

Even more presents and free samples
Even more presents and free samples

The very delicious dinner on day 2 was Contemporary French cuisine served with cranberry juice. This was my personal favourite out of all the meals, not least because the dessert was an explosion of sweet delights. I didn’t get a photo of the 3rd course “Parfumee au Herbes avec Coquille Saint-Jacques Deux Sauce avec Petits Légume!

Contemporary French cuisine. Hors d'oeuvres.
Contemporary French cuisine. Hors d’oeuvres.
Contemporary French cuisine. Filet de Poisson fraisen Poeler
Contemporary French cuisine. Filet de Poisson fraisen Poeler
Contemporary French cuisine. Filet De Boeuf en cro te a la wellington
Contemporary French cuisine. Filet De Boeuf en cro te a la wellington
Contemporary French cuisine. Corbeillede Fruits de Saison, Cafe pain
Contemporary French cuisine. Corbeillede Fruits de Saison, Cafe pain

After dinner, having thoroughly enjoyed my massage in my room in the morning, I decided to leave LO#4 in the baby room to try out the electric massage chairs. These are housed in the “Refresh Salon” on the 3rd floor where you have your shower. They have had this facility since I had my first child 5 years ago, but I never made use of it until this stay.

Electric massage chairs in the refresh salon
Electric massage chairs in the refresh salon

After “refreshing” I picked baby up from the baby room and we went back to our room for the night. A nurse pops in every night at 9pm to see if you are alright. I must have drifted off after feeding little one as when I woke next it was close to midnight! The end of a very enjoyable day. 🙂

THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE FOR KEIAI HOSPITAL IS: http://www.keiaihospital.or.jp/

FOR INFORMATION IN ENGLISH, WRITTEN ON THIS WORDPRESS BLOG IN 2012:

Keiai Ladies “Hotel!”, Saitama. General Information

Disclaimer 2015: I had the most wonderful birthing and pregnancy experiences on all four of my children at Keiai Hospital between 2009 and 2014.  However, I always recommend that you check that a hospital matches your personal needs and wants for pregnancy and birth before signing up to it.