We just discovered an adorable new Japanese show on Netflix, stop motion Rilakkuma and Kaoru! You can watch it in English or Japanese (or a few other languages), and as it takes place in Japan, you'll notice tons of places and customs you recognize if you've ever been to Japan or happen to be a Japanophile, fan of Japanese Anime / Manga fan, etc.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links - you don't pay more but we earn a little commission on products you purchase to help fund the blog
Trailer in English:
Trailer in Japanese:
Official website by creators San-X (in Japanese).
You can load up on adorable Rilakkuma wears over at shopkutame.com (affiliate link)!
Love all things Japan?
Don't miss the Japan Playlist on our YouTube Channel - featuring our Japanese product reviews and unboxings, our travels to Japan, cooking Japanese food with our kids, and more!!
Do you love Japanese food? Sushi, okonomiyaki, ramen, tsukiyaki, tamagoyaki, onigiri, gyoza, curry rice, karagi... It's SO delicious, but depending on where you live, it can be hard to find a good authentic Japanese restaurant near you! But you're in luck!! You can make most of it at home, pretty easily, and without much skill!!
My Japanese husband (not a chef in any way shape or form) has recently started a series on our YouTube channel where he uses kits and mixes found at local Asian markets (or on Amazon - some affiliate links are included below) to make our favorite Japanese Dishes at home! He tries to get our kids involved, which always adds a bit of hilarity!! Now, my husband does not know his way around the kitchen, neither of us are chefs, we don't do a lot of cooking. So... you can trust these videos are suitable and inspiring for beginners! Have no fear, just watch, enjoy, and try yourself!!
Bonus: These videos are great if you're trying to LEARN JAPANESE (or if you're Japanese and trying to learn English, like my husband)! We hope you'll have fun picking up some useful words and phrases!
Below are the "Learning Japanese while Learning to Cook Japanese Food" videos he's done so far! Comment below with what Japanese foods (or activities, such as origami) you'd like to see him and our kids do next!!
Buy the okonomiyaki set, including the flower, sauce, kewpie mayo, bonito flakes, and dried seaweed on Amazon (affiliate link)
You can find some Japanese curry mixes on Amazon here (affiliate link).
Some of the products he used (affiliate links):
Here are some of our other Japanese-culture blog posts you might enjoy!!
Japan Candy Box Unboxing & Tasting
My husband was born and raised in Japan, and I spent 5 years over there myself (2 years before meeting him and 3 years together). Our oldest child has visited twice and our twins just once so far, when we went in the summer of 2017 (don't miss our great 4-part video series of that trip to Japan here!!). So, when Japan Candy Box reached out for us to do an unboxing, we were totally psyched!! Watch it below, have some laughs, be inspired to try something new, see us demo and try out 2 of the crazy interactive candies at the end, get your own Japan Candy box with my affiliate link here! And ENTER TO WIN YOUR OWN JAPAN CANDY BOX in the app at the bottom of this page - it's open WORLDWIDE (giveaway ended Nov 13, 2018)!!
Enter to win here, and don't forget to leave us a comment to let us know what you think about Japan Candy Box, our video, our silly kids, Japanese culture, or anything else!!
If you're searching for a unique Halloween Costume, or an easy Cosplay idea for your next Comic Con, I've got a suggestion for ya! Kigurumi hooded onesie costumes from Kutame! From dragons and sharks to unicorns and pandas, they have a massive selection of costumes! You'll even find some Japanese ones such as Gudetama, Korilakkuma, Rilakkuma, Mega Man, Shiba Inu, and Pink Gloomy Bear. Not only does Kutame have tons of Kigurumi, they also have Pusheen, blind boxes, mugs and other great gifts.
And are you ready for this?! We're giving away a $150 store credit (US residents only; good for 2 - 3 Kigurumi costumes), and have a 20% off coupon code for everyone else!! Just read on and enter to win at the bottom of this blog post!! (giveaway ended)
They are SUPER soft, and warm (made of 100% polyester, SAZAC's signature soft fleece), machine washable (just turn them inside out), and because they're so loose fitting they allow for plenty of layering underneath which makes them the perfect choice for Trick-or-Treating in chilly locations! Another thing that makes Kigurumi so great is there's no guessing game when choosing your size. They're meant to be loose fitting, and only come in 2 size options for adults: "regular one size" (what hubby and I got, we're both about 5'8") and "extra tall size" (for those over 6') and 2 size options for kids: 3-5 years old (what we got for our just turned 3 year old twins) and 5-9 years old (what we got for my small almost 6 year old son).
You can see that they're quite big on my kids, but the elastic wrists and ankles are great. Kind of harem pant style. Loose, comfy, and lots of fun to "monkey around in" as my son mentions in our HILARIOUS unboxing video, watch it here!! I can see them being a great costume during pregnancy and postpartum, as well, since they're so roomy!
Here are my husband and I modeling our "regular one size" Kigurumi. I got the "colorful skeleton" (only available in regular size) and he got the "skeleton" (available in regular & extra tall size), both have pockets and retail for $59 on shopkutame.com (don't forget to use code "USJAPANFAM" for your 25% off!!)
Here's our son in his Japanese monkey costume, with pockets, retailing for $45. He's almost 6 years old and about 43 inches tall, wearing the "5-9 year old size", it's also available in 3-5 year old size. I'm so happy he chose this costume, not only is it adorable and kinda hilarious with the red butt, but about 10 years ago his father and I actually drove out from our home in Yokohama to see the Japanese snow monkeys in the mountains of Nagano, lounging in the steamy natural hot springs! It was quite an amazing experience!!
Here are our twins modeling the pink unicorn and blue unicorn costumes. They just turned 3 and are about 36" tall, wearing the size 3-5 years (also available in 5-9 years). Both have pockets and retail for $45. The hoods were a bit difficult for them to manage at first, but after playing around in them for a while they figured them out. It's fun to pull them forward and be totally in character, but do make sure you and your kids can see well when necessary, or know to take their hoods down when crossing the road! Safety first!!
Suffice it to say, we are all totally in love with our new Kigurumi onesie character costumes, and think you will be too!!! US Residents can get 20% off their orders with code USJAPANFAM at shopkutame.com and can also enter to win $150 credit in the Rafflecopter box below. Don't forget you can earn more points daily with certain actions such as tweeting, watching our videos, and commenting on blog posts! The giveaway will end at 11:59 PM EST on Monday, October 15. Good luck to all, and be sure to comment below with your thoughts on these costumes, Japanese culture, or a fun Halloween/Costume-related story!!
We recently journeyed from our happy home in NYC (with our 3 kids under the age of 5, including twin toddlers) to Japan for 10 days to visit my husband's family in the rural valley of Yamaguchi-cho Nishinomiya (about an hour from Osaka). We lived (barely) to tell the tale!
In case you missed it, I'm embedding our 4 ten-minute long YouTube videos below for your viewing pleasure! (Links at very bottom to products and other things mentioned / recommended in the videos!)
Featuring our 30-hour travel day to Japan via 3 flights (2 of which got rescheduled during our travel!) and the beginning of a horrible stomach bug (i.e. me being puked on for 4 hours of our 2nd flight, yippee!)
Featuring our first few days in Japan (with no clothes, thanks to our flights being rescheduled our luggage didn't catch us for 3 days!!), a tour of a 7-11 convenience store (I LOVE Japanese "Combini"), the beautiful scenery of mountains and rice fields near my husband's home, and a typical experience at a "kaiten" (conveyor belt) sushi restaurant! (The nasty stomach bug that hit our youngest on the flight returned to hit 3 more of us the night after our sushi adventure, and 3 more family members in the next couple of days...)
Featuring our adventures after recovering from the stomach bug, including a fun afternoon at the Anpanman Children's Museum in Kobe (Anpanpan is a Japanese superhero just about EVERY Japanese toddler is OBSESSED with, including all 3 of my kids), a nature walk near my husband's home (we found frogs, kiwi, tomatoes, pumpkin, a praying mantis, and more!), shopping at the mall (always a tricky endeavor with toddler twins!!!), library and children's play center, and how amazing a typical Japanese public toilet is (with electric bidet toilet and child seat on the wall to contain your little one while you do your business!)
Featuring our visit to neighboring natural hot spring town of Arima Onsen, a big family and friends BBQ at my husband's home (and my first odd and exciting experience with "Nagashi Somen" / "flowing somen noodles" / "water noodles"!!), a tour of the amazing bathrooms and nursing rooms at Kansai International Airport, and our 24-hour door-to-door travel home back to NYC, including our sweet ride with the kid-friendly car service Kidmoto that provides top of the line car seats and drivers TRAINED to install them properly (get $20 off all rides using code "USJAPANFAM"!!)
So, the stomach bug put a major damper on our time, taking us out of commission for a good 2-3 days. On the bright side, it kept us more local and relaxed, giving us more chance for good quality family time rather than running around trying to jam in as much touristy stuff as possible! We plan to take the kids every 2-3 years, and eventually they may start going and spending summers over there, even going to local public schools for a month or so! That's the plan, anyway... we'll see how things pan out!!
So, what do you think? Did you enjoy following along with us!? What's the furthest you've traveled with your kids? Any hilarious horror stories, or fabulous tips to share?? Leave a comment below!!!
Here's a fun and catchy YouTube video through which you can learn the many "aisatsu" (greetings) you'll use and hear every day! You'll also learn some other handy vocab and a few of the vowel characters in the hiragana alphabet - score!
Here's my attempt at a translation:
1) a i u e "Ohayo" - "Good morning"
2) ka ki ku ke "Konnichiwa" - "Hello / good afternoon"
3) genki ni aisatsu shitemiyou - let's try these cheerful greetings (??)
4) asa okitara, "Ohayo gozaimasu" - when you wake up, "Good morning"
5) onaka peko peko, "Itadakimasu" - when you're hungry, "Let's eat / bon apetite"
6) onaka ippai, "Gochisosama" - when you're full, "That was a great meal" (sorry, we don't really have a phrase for "gochisosama")
7) genki ni gakkoui, "Ittekimasu" - when you leave for school, "I'm taking off"
8) tomodachi ippai, "Konnichiwa" - lots of friends, "Hello"
9) shukudai wasurete, "Gomennasai" - forgot homework, "I'm sorry"
10) keshigomu karite, "Arigatou" - borrowed an eraser, "Thank you"
11) mata asoboune, "Sayonara" - let's play again, "Good bye"
12) ouchi ni tsuitara, "Tadaima" - get home, "I'm home"
13) papa no omukae, "Okaerinasai" - dad came home, "Welcome home"
14) omiyage moratte, "Arigatou" - you got a gift/souvinier, "Thank you"
15) ashitamo asobozou, "Oyasuminasai" - let's play tomorrow too, "Good night"
16) a i u e - "Ohyao" - "Good morning"
17) ka ki ku ke "Konbanwa" - "Good evening"
18) genki ni aisatsu tanoshine - cheerful greetings are fun!
My son is 19 months and starting to speak English, he even knows a few letters of the English alphabet (O, P, B, C). It's all very exciting but at the same time a little sad that he's not doing any of these things in Japanese yet. It's no surprise as my workaholic husband does not even have a fraction of the amount of time with Kenzo as I do, as a work at home mom. So, I've been trying to find ways to supplement his Japanese exposure with none other than... YouTube! Ha!
So, this post will start my "Learn Japanese" series in which I'll recommend a video, book, or product that I love that helps kids and/or adults to learn Japanese in an easy and fun way.
Japanese does not have an official alphabet song, as we do in English. They have do have a specific order for their 46 phonetic sounds (visually you have to learn two sets: one set in Hiragana and one set in Katakana, which makes 92 characters to memorize, not to mention the Kanji characters, of which you need to know at least 1,000 before you can read a newspaper, sheeeesh!).
We recently came across a really adorable YouTube video that showcases a fun song for the Japanese alphabet. We LOVE LOVE LOVE it, and so does our son. He already tries to sing along. He always howls along with the dog at the end "Wa-O-N" part! So cute!!! Here's the video, with the Hiragana/Katakana chart below if you are interested!
A Day at Spa Castle
A variation originally posted on Mommy Nearest
Jacuzzis, saunas, pools—always a good time but not really anything extraordinary, right? But did you know there’s a place up in Queens that has taken these water elements to a whole other level. Meet Spa Castle. Not only will you be blown away with all of the cool things to do there, but you’ll also feel like you’ve been transported directly to Korea. Talk about an exciting family adventure! Here are some features of Spa Castle I found especially noteworthy:
Uniforms and Bracelet Charge Cards
After admission, men and women are sent to opposite locker rooms to change into uniforms; you'll be given a bracelet to wear that acts as a key to your locker and also your account for charging food, drinks and treatments. (It kind of made me feel like I was in a sci-fi movie like The Island, but it’s really nice not to have to carry around your wallet—or worry about your kids getting food on their clothes during lunch.) While they stored our stroller in the back employees-only room, keep in mind that children over 3 feet are required to go to their respective locker rooms, and no shoes are permitted past the locker room.
Yep, the hot baths on the first floor do not allow the use of bathing suits or towels. Buck naked, wash off, and in you go. Many Americans may not be quite up for this, but don’t worry, there’s plenty else to do if you decide to skip it!
There are seven themed saunas on the second floor—and they're all pretty darn amazing. You’ll find six hot ones (LED/Color Therapy, Gold, Jade, Far-infrared, Loess/Yellow Stone & Mud, and Mineral Salt) and one cold one (Ice Land). Each one conveniently lists the current temperature on the outside of the door—temps ranged from 48°F to 187°F when we visited. You'll probably want to avoid taking small children in to most of the saunas, with the exception of the Ice Room which my little guy loved. He got to touch snow… INSIDE! How fun is that!? I lasted all of five minutes in most of them (I'm a wimp when it comes to heat), but it was really cool to jump in and out and try them all. My favorite was the gold sauna—it really makes you feel like royalty—in a room surrounded by gold.
Don't get confused—these are not swimming pools. The tubs are full of imported jets from Korea and Japan, combining the health benefits of hot water immersion with Asian acupressure. There are tons of spots to sit, stand, or lay down in and get various parts of your body massaged by jets of water, which range from firm to feeling like you’re getting hosed down by a fire fighter. (I kid you not!)
You shouldn’t have too much of a problem finding food to please every palette—they have everything from a huge salad bar and American staples (think chicken fingers and hamburgers) to Korean food. There's even a Starbucks and a frozen yogurt stand. There were no children's menus, but they did have high chairs.
If you’re really looking to go all out, there are a bunch of extra treatments you can shell out for, such as body scrubs, massages, and facials. Click here for a full list of services.
Some Things to Consider If You Bring a Baby or Toddler
Children under 4.5 feet are not permitted in outdoor pools on the top deck (except for the small kiddy pool). This was hugely disappointing to me, but I understand. The pools aren't for swimming—they are filled with powerful massaging jets, currents, steps and built in chairs. It’s not the place for a small child, even if you’re carrying them (one small misstep and you’d both be underwater). That said, I definitely saw some smaller children in there, so I’m not sure how strict they are about it.
I’m not saying don’t take a baby or toddler to Spa Castle, I’m just saying it will restrict you a wee bit. My 18-monther certainly didn't have a lack of action. He had a blast in the kiddy pool and play room while my husband and I took turns watching him and visiting the other pools individually.
During my son's nap (they actually have a sleeping area, with heated flooring and mats, where he took an amazing one hour snooze), my husband and I took turns visiting all of the saunas. Imagine my surprise when I came back from my free time to find both of my boys snoozing away...
Spa Castle has changing tables and a play room (both great!), but I would have loved if they had some child care services. My husband and I will probably consider leaving our son with a sitter for our next visit, so we can experience the spa as a couple rather than tag teaming a majority of the time. Maybe next time we'll check out their newest Manhattan premier location, expected to open in September or October 2014. It'll be on the 8th-10th floors of 115 East 57th, and for ages 16+ only!
*Disclaimer: Although I did receive tickets, food, and drink free of charge, I was not compensated in any other way to do this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and completely unbiased.
I was in Japan for the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown. Despite being a couple hundred miles away from the epicenter, it was certainly the most terrifying day and subsequent weeks of my life. The aftershocks were relentless, you never knew what was just a rumble or what could be the next big one. People worried one even bigger than the original could occur in Tokyo or Yokohama (where I was), or even that Mt. Fuji might be triggered to erupt. We had a "go-bag" in the entry way, learned how to take super speedy showers (can you imagine not only being trapped inside a collapsed apartment building but being trapped NAKED? HA!
One thing I wasn't too concerned about was the radiation. I thought we were far enough away, and I believed reports that things were under control. And I have to say that after moving back to the States that following summer (now 3 years ago), I rarely think back about that time or how the recovery efforts are going. Out of site, out of mind, ya know? But after just viewing this video about the situation in Fukushima, I am nauseated. I'm just sick thinking about those poor families, what they've been through and what they've yet to go through. Please take a moment (OK, actually 13 moments, it's quite a long documentary) for this:
The butterfly experiment at around 6 minutes in the video is what struck me the most. How the 2nd generation after radiation exposure or contaminated food consumption is in bad shape, but the 3rd generation is even worse. Like, WHAT? Epigenetics folks, this stuff is crazy! I remember at the time of the melt down, my husband mentioned something about people discriminating against those from Hiroshima, even in our generation, and this will likely happen to those from Fukushima. I couldn't understand this before, but now I kind of do. Even if you weren't yourself contaminated, your DNA (and your yet to be conceived child's) might still be effected, gravely. This is terrifying! And even worse is the government's cover up of it. Ugh. Japan... SERIOUSLY?? >_<
No, a public Japanese-English bilingual school doesn't exist in New York City... yet... but could be in the works!! Just saw this posted in one of my Facebook groups:
We are in the process of gathering a list of families that are interested in being a part of the first ever Japanese dual-language program in a New York City public school. If the idea of your child learning and speaking both Japanese and English from K-5 is appealing to you, please fill out the information below for our list. This list will help us in getting support from the Dept. of Education and other organizations that we are looking to partner with in making the program a reality.
We have been very lucky to have found two possible partnership schools in District 14. At this point, it is paramount that we show them in person just how much interest there is in starting a new dual-language program in Brooklyn! This vision is not just to benefit families interested in studying Japanese; dual-language programs have been known to transform school communities. Our efforts to bring more dual-language programs is part of a larger effort to improve and provide for more high quality choices in our very own public schools. Our decision to move forward with Japanese in D14 is because 1) Williamsburg and Greenpoint has the 2nd largest Japanese population in Brooklyn and 2) how is it possible that Japanese dual-language programs do not exist in all of DOE?
If you have time to come (with or without your wee ones) either tomorrow / Friday of this week to PS 147, we urge you to please come! We would love to have your support in droves! If you can also come next Wednesday to PS 196, they have invited Councilman Antonio Reynoso to address our wishes for schools in our district. What an opportunity to let decision-making folks know now what we want for our kids in the near future!
OPEN HOUSES (General, not just for the J-E Program):
Thursday and Friday, 3/20 & 3/21 at 9am PS 147 325 BUSHWICK AVENUE
BROOKLYN NY 11206 Map Phone: (718) 497-0326
Wednesday, 3/26 at 9am PS 196 207 BUSHWICK AVENUE
BROOKLYN NY 11206 Map Phone: (718) 497-0139
Finally, fill out this Google Docs form if you'd like to be kept in the loop by the movement's organizer, Lanny Cheuk! If you're like me and have no idea what school district you're in, you can find out here!
I can't say I'm not terribly bummed they're pushing for District 14. I mean, Williamsburg/Greenpoint is like another state when you're way down in Bay Ridge!!
About Me ^_^
I'm a NYC metro area mom blogger living in NJ with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1). This blog is chock full of product reviews, family travel guides, and giveaways galore! It's also home to Bay Ridge Families, and several guides focused on kid-friendly activities and guides to South Brooklyn, Hudson Valley, and New Jersey, as well as family-friendly destinations beyond the NYC area (check the menu bar!)