How to teach children Japanese and Japanese teaching materials

How to teach children Japanese

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1 Get fairy tales and storybooks in Japanese from your local library or from here 

Children love shared reading time and regardless of language acquisition they will always remember the time they spent with you reading books.Try to find books with good illustrations. Look at the pictures with your child, point to things they already know in Japanese.

As you come across new words ask the child what they think it is. If it is illustrated, have them point it out on the page.Use different voices for different characters.If your child has a favorite Japanese story encourage him/her to play different characters making up the words from memory. Help your child to use his/her imagination to change the story or change the ending.

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2 Use puppets or turn your child’s favorite plush toy into a puppet that talks in Japanese

Kids love puppets and puppet play is great for motor skills. You can tell much loved stories through puppet play, either using the whole body or make a puppet theatre from a box and use hand or finger puppets. Finger puppets are also fun when singing songs.

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3 Go to the zoo and call the name of the animals together in Japanese

If you have any, look at some animal books together, then go to the zoo for the day. Ask your child the names of the animals he/she has learned and point out the new ones. This is a great place to add in adjectives and colours. When you come home, encourage your child to draw pictures of what he/she saw and talk about them together using Japanese.

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4 Play hide and seek by counting in Japanese

Hide and seek is a great game for practicing numbers. You could start with 1 to 10 and gradually increase. When your child knows them well you could count down backwards. When ‘seeking’ your child it’s a good opportunity to repeat words without it sounding repetitive.

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5 Play board games in Japanese e.g.: snakes and ladders, board games, family games

Dice games are always good for counting and also simple addition. Board games played with the whole family can be a time for relaxed learning. Just playing a simple board game such as snakes and ladders teaches a young child so much more than just language. They also learn rules of play, understanding goals and of course, that family games equal FUN!

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6 Play games by using flashcard games e.g.: Go fish, memory game

Flashcards are one of your most valuable resources in teaching language to young children. With multiples of the same cards you can play well-known games such as Go Fish or the ‘memory game’.

Very small children may struggle to hold too many cards, so play games that have the child match one card to another. Match a sound with a picture, or two cards that have the same sound, or two pictures that match, any way you choose.

Lay cards out on the floor or table and have your child touch the card as you call out words/sounds. Encourage your child to be the caller and you touch the cards. Keep it playful and fun.

 

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7 Have a progress chart that tracks the words and phrases your child mastered

A simple progress chart teaches your child clear goals and kids love stickers. Let your child know when he/she is approaching a goal, make a big deal of reaching the goals, be excited to getting the stickers out. Praise him/her for their achievement with a ‘great job’, a hug or a ‘high five’ (or all three).

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8 Listen to children’s songs in Japanese together or reward your child for memorizing a short one

Listen to children’s songs in the 2nd language whenever and wherever you can. Keep CDs in the car or put a CD on quietly in the background when you are doing something else. Add actions to the songs, this helps kids remember the words. If it suits your child’s personality, encourage them to ‘perform’ songs for you. You could have a special ‘song night’.

Here is a playlist of Japanese children’s songs

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9 Listen to pop songs in Japanese together or reward your child for memorizing a short one

Teach your child some catchy pop songs that you both like. Something with suitable lyrics and a good chorus are easiest to remember. Sing it around the house as you do other things, when your child tries to join in, model the language and encourage them to sing with you.

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10 Find cartoons in the 2nd language on Youtube or Amazon

Cartoons are a great way to engage kids in the 2nd language. Kids can figure out the story visually without worrying about not understanding every word. It’s easy to buy DVDs from Amazon in almost any language or, alternatively, look for them on YouTube. Let your child guide you to which cartoons they like best. Watch them together and you will know which language to reinforce.

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11 Have an annual/monthly goal check list

Make a checklist of goals or ideas of where you want to be with the language learning over a year. Break it down into monthly mini-goals.

It will be help you stay focused on where you are going and also a great way to look back and see how far you and your child have come.

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12 Create youtube playlists or find playlists suitable for your child’s level

YouTube is a super resource. You can create playlists of Japanese teaching videos, these days people post from all over the world.

They might be short tutorials, or craft ideas you can incorporate into your language learning, or children’s songs you can sing together. Look for playlists already put together by others with the same goal.

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13 Join online support groups (forums, facebook pages, twitter lists, multicultural blog groups etc.)

Join some online groups to exchange ideas and information. Support is invaluable too. Teaching Japanese can hit some hurdles, it is important to be able to connect with people who are having the same difficulties or have successfully navigated these hurdles. Facebook and Twitter are great for immediate connections. Online chat groups or forums can give you a sense of community and common goals.

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14 Visit the website of Japan’s ministry of culture

Have a look at the website and find interesting information about Japan. Read about traditional food, dances and costumes. Look at statistics such as population. Find some fun facts about the climate, holidays and customs. Talk about them with your child and follow their lead on which parts they are interested in. You can also get all this information and more here

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15 Go to public libraries and check all the available resources in Japanese

Libraries are an excellent resource. If they don’t have things things in Japanese ask the librarian if it is possible to order them. Also check out the noticeboard and see if there are any kids groups speaking Japanese in the area. You might make some new friends too.

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16 Make use of language learning DVDs for kids

Language DVDs come handy , especially fro busy parents, as they repeat useful words and phrases in a fun and interesting way Check them out, Look for something that is specifically for kids, that uses games and songs and has well-structured levels.

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17 Play CDs when driving your child to school

Always play CDs in Japanese when you are in the car. It could be songs or a kids’ language learning CD, whatever your child likes. Do it consistently so your child comes to expect the 2nd language in the car.

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18 Play streaming radio in the background at home or make use of Spotify, Lastfm, etc.

Nowadays, there are a lot of resources that help you play streaming radio through personal electronic devices and laptops, etc. All you need is tuning into one of the local radio stations and have the radio or the song list play in the background all day long. Even if your child does not understand what has been spoken or the lyrics of the songs he/she will get used to the new sounds and intonation patterns.

http://dinolingo.com/blog/Blog-Pictures/Alphabet-Book/Japanese/alp_book_Japanese_05_12.jpg

19 Make use of worksheets for beginners

There are a great many websites offering worksheets for beginners. Many are free and some you can pay monthly or a yearly fee. Kids love worksheets. Some may be simple coloring sheets (kids LOVE coloring), or sheets that help fine motor skills through pencil manipulation. Buy some stickers and put one on each sheet your child completes.

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20 Make use of Flashcards

There is no end to the fun to be had from playing games with flashcards even if you child is still too young to play a game that has structure and rules. You can make your own ‘games’ call out a card, have your child touch it/pick it up. ‘Hide’ the cards around the room and have your child find them and say what they are etc.

You can also put the flashcards up around the room. Change them each week in categories (animals/flowers/ fruit/etc. Look at them and say them often with your child. Ask them, “What’s this? / What’s that?”

Put them on your fridge with magnets or let your child do this.You call out the words and have them put them on.

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21 Get a picture dictionary to get started

A Children’s picture dictionary is a wonderful resource. Follow your child’s curiosity with it. Let him/her choose what he/she wants to know on any given day. Ask him/her more information about the words they do know. “What color is it?” “ Is it big or small? “ “Where does it live?” “What does it do?”

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22 Consider getting an alphabet book

Introduce your child to the shapes of letters with a simple alphabet book. This is especially useful if the Japanese alphabet is different to that of the 1st language. For young learners, get a very simple, ‘starter’ book, also great for fine motor skills and pencil control.

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23 Think about kinesthetic learning (learning by doing). Coloring books, sketchbooks or DVDs that children watch and dance are great!

The research is in that kids learn best by doing (don’t we all?).

Anything that gets kids moving their bodies or their hands helps them to learn. Watch DVDs together, make up dances, put on ‘shows’, even dress up. Encourage your child’s inner artist with a sketchbook. Color, paint, draw, and talk about the colors and your child’s pictures in the 2nd language. Coloring in pictures is a very relaxing activity (you should do it too!) Kids tend to be very relaxed when they are coloring, a good time to make some general chitchat in Japanese.

Mix paints and talk in Japanese about how colors are made.

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24 Consider getting a reading pen

The very latest translation tool. A ‘reading pen’ scans and translates. The translated text appears on a small screen on the pen and can also provide audio pronunciation of words or full sentences.

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25 Find some talking or singing plush toys

There are so many talking toys on the market these days. Try one that says greetings in Japanese (or multiple languages) or one that sings traditional songs/nursery rhymes from Japan.

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26 Make use of culture books prepared for little kids

Ready made ‘culture books’ are great for learning about different countries. Read them together, ask questions and encourage your child to ask lots of questions too. After reading one, you could make a simple one together using pictures from magazines, or encourage your child to draw pictures too. Gather information together at the library or from the internet.

27 Decorate your child’s room with learning posters (colors, numbers) or pictures from Japan (flag, the cities, etc.)

Get some large colorful posters to decorate your child’s room or the learning space you use. Point things out and ask questions, swap roles and have your child ask the questions too, this also helps model the pronunciation. Ask which is your child’s favorite poster and why?

Follow their lead on the things that interest them.

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28 Follow a simple syllabus prepared for kids

Use the simple syllabus prepared in your language learning system or make one yourself. Let your child know what it is so he/she can see what they will be doing. Children tend to do better when they know what is coming and what is expected of them.

29 Use stickers as rewards (stickers that say congratulations, wonderful, etc. in the 2nd language)

Kids love stickers! Use them liberally. Take praising your child as an opportunity to use the 2nd language. If you can find stickers with words of praise in the 2nd language use those and repeat the words a lot. Use a couple of words at first and add more as your child knows them.

30 Get some printed items related to the 2nd language: T-shirts, mugs, children’s silverware, etc.

If you have the opportunity to visit the 2nd language country buy goods with the language on. T-shirts, mugs and pens are useful as well as educational. Look for postcards, posters or bumper stickers with popular expressions on. Post these around your house.

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31 Arrange play dates or playgroups with other parents who want to teach their children Japanese.

Try to find other parents encouraging their children to learn Japanese, arrange to play together, go on picnics to the park or take a trip to a zoo or aquarium, great places to practice the language. Making new friends is of great benefit to you too!

 

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32 Video chat with friends and relatives who have a child that speaks Japanese

Encourage video chat with other children you know, that speak Japanese. It’s easy using Skype or Google Hangouts or something similar. Be nearby to help the conversation along. Be encouraging and resist the temptation to correct your child’s mistakes.

 

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33 Invite Grandma and Grandpa (who can speak Japanese) to stay over

Spending time with grandparents is valuable to all parties anyway but spending time with grandparents who speak Japanese is great for strengthening bonds and hearing natural language. Your child will come to associate Japanese with feelings of love and security.

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34 Hire a short-term or full time nanny or caregiver that speaks Japanese

If it is possible, consider hiring a nanny/caregiver/babysitter who speaks Japanese. Even a few hours per week would make a difference (and give you a little free time!).

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35 Cook Japanese recipes together with your child

Kids always want to be a ‘little helper’ in the kitchen. Cook some simple dishes from Japan together. Us the 2nd language for instructions, wash, cut, wipe, mix…. Name the ingredients in a natural way as you cook. Here are some Japanese recipes

36 Go to community centers, cultural centers and temples with your child

Local places of interest are stimulating for your child and cultural centers often have exhibitions or music/dance performances. Look out for anything from Japan. Community centers are a great place to meet people, look at notice boards for anything from people interested or connected in some way to, Japanese. You could even offer to do something yourself, give a talk about the country or a traditional dance etc.

37 Visit Japanese supermarkets and Japanese restaurants with your child

Go around a Japanese supermarket and point out the foods from Japan. If your child is unfamiliar with them, ask questions. “How do you think it tastes?” “ Do you think this is hard/soft/crunchy/sweet/etc.?” If possible eat in ethnic restaurants. Talk about the food, how it is prepared, where it comes from.

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38 Have a word of the day activity

Pick a ‘word of the day’, you or your child could choose it, or have your child pick it at random from a pile of word cards. If the word is a noun, look for it around the house and when you go outside. Talk about where it might be found. If it is a verb, find ways to do the action either really or mime it, see if you can spot other people doing it? Or use adverbs and spend some time doing everything in the manner of the adverb, slowly/quickly/happily/etc.

39 Play Japanese online language games (memory, click&tell, etc.) with your child

There are plenty of free online interactive language games for children. Find one that appeals to your child and encourage them to do a little every day. You can check out 3 different kinds of free Japanese online language learning games here

 

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40 Try Skype lessons for children (may not be advised for infants and toddlers)

Many teachers are offering language lessons via Skype. Ask around and see if anyone can recommend a teacher to you. Sit in on the lesson too so you know what language to reinforce between lessons.

 

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41 Read bedtime stories in Japanese to your child

Books, books, books. Kids love books and stories. Read stories in Japanese before bed. Often when kids have heard a favorite story many times they know the words. Encourage your child to help tell the story.

42 Play Japanese children’s games

Many children’s games are the same the world over, play kids games your child already knows in their 1st language but play it in the 2nd language. Paper, rock, scissors has many variations; play it in the 2nd language. Hopscotch, skipping games, clapping games etc. can all be played in any language. For more ideas have a look at the games in the different ‘countries and cultures’ at Dino Lingo (to the right of this post).

43 Get comic books & children’s magazines from Japan

Ask if a friend or relative overseas can send you comics or children’s magazines in Japanese. Children’s magazines usually have lots of fun facts in them that you can talk about and further research. They also have quizzes and puzzles that are lots of fun to do.

44 Go to a national parade of the target culture

You could try to find where there is a large community of people from the target culture. They will no doubt have special events to celebrate the holidays of their country of origin. Take your child to their parades and festivals.

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45 Have a personalized notebook specially used for learning the2nd language(Don’t forget to use it to have your child draw whatever you say in the 2nd language

Let your child choose the notebook at the shop and decorate it anyway they want to make it special. Say words in Japanese and have them draw pictures, or even write the word or the first letter, depending on what level they are at. Go back over the pictures every few days. Talk about the pictures and praise your child’s drawing skills.

46 Do local crafts

If you are a native speaker of Japanese think about the crafts you did as a child and do them with your child (think also about how happy you were doing this activity with your own mother/father or your friends). Don’t worry if you have forgotten how, look on the Internet to refresh your memory. Perhaps you could send something your child makes to grandparents or relatives overseas.

47 Use chatting apps (WhatsApp, Line, etc.) to talk with friends and family who have same-aged children

Chatting apps are mobile and easy to use. Chat with friends in the 2nd who have children about the same age. Encourage your child to chat with them and their kids too. Ask their kids about themselves, their day etc. and encourage your child to talk about themselves.

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48 Sing lullabies in the 2nd language to put your baby asleep

Lullabies are so soothing for baby and parent. Sing some Japanese lullabies to help your baby sleep. You can buy wind-up crib music at a baby store. Play the music and sing in the Japanese. Establish is as a routine and enjoy the time holding your baby and knowing you are soothing him/her.

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49 Consider homeschooling by getting an online curriculum

More and more people are turning to homeschooling these days and there are plenty of resources online. Do some research and find something that suits you and your child. Depending on the school hours where you live, it may be possible for your child to attend the local school and follow a homeschooling curriculum.

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50 Send your child to a summer camp where he/she can study Japanese in a short time.

Summer camp is a great experience for children. It is often their first extended time away from home and a chance to make lots of new friends and try a variety of activities for the first time. ‘Language’ camps for kids usually incorporate study with lots of games/crafts/activities related to the 2nd language culture. Look online or on the notice board in community centers and other public buildings.

 Japanese children’s books

magic sword, japanese children's books, learn japanese story for children

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Valentine’s Day In Japan  ( バレンタイン)

You know Japan has a very unique culture and that also applies to Valentine’s Day ( バレンタイン) as well.

First of all, unlike many other countries most people buy chocolate as a gift instead of all other possible gifts (e.g. perfume, jewelry, etc.) What’s more usually only girls buy a gift and boys just accept the gifts. It’s all even steven when boys buy a gift in return and that is 1 month after the Valentines day  ( バレンタイン)  that is March 14th which is also called the White Day (ホワイトデー, Howaito Dei).

Just as you might think this is a bit different, wait for this: girls also buy a pack of chocolate for other girls. Yes, whether its because they might feel shy to present chocolate to a boy they are interested in or just think there’s not someone special around them, most girls in Japan buy a valentines day gift (chocolate) on February 14th ( バレンタイン) to not to miss the opportunity of enjoying this day. Watch this Meiji (the largest choclate maker in Japan) to get the idea.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqDPK9Hr1Zs]

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Today is the 17th Anniversary of the Kobe Earthquake (Great Awaji Hanshin Earthquake in Japan)

About 17 years ago today (January 17th) 7.3 magnitude earthquake shook the most part of Kobe City claiming more than 6400 lives. The earthquake was the costliest (actually last year’s Tohoku earthquake costed more) up until the date as the reconstruction efforts exceeded 100 billion dollars and the port of Kobe which was the 2nd most busiest port in Japan was almost shut down forever. The  Japanese government declared the 17th of January as the National Disaster Prevention Day and Volunteerism Day to promote the spirit of helping others when disasters stike in Japan.  Additionally,  every year the local government holds the illumination ceremony for the memory of victims of the earthquake. You can watch a great NG coverage of the Kobe earthquake and also check out the video footage of Luminarie taken in 2011 below:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6S6U1HjqRY]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Vg8Xqux42E]

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Japanese Culture for Children– fun facts, food, music, language, Nihongo 日本: Japanese Culture interesting Facts

Food

          Unlike most other countries, Japanese food must be beautifully displayed as well as tasty so Japanese cooks take great care in arranging food on the table. Rice, the primary dish, is prepared in many different ways. The Japanese eat rice cakes, rice crackers, and mix rice in various dishes with red beans, fish, and vegetables. Rice is often formed into balls, filled with fish, meat or a vegetable and then wrapped in dried seaweed. Called onigiri, they’re popular for lunches and snacks. Rice is also made into wine called sake.

The next most important foods are noodles and pickled dishes.  Noodle dishes are eaten for lunches and snacks. Japanese love pickled foods and they eat pickles at every meal. Also important are soybeans. Tofu, soybean curd, is used in many different ways including making donuts and ice cream. Miso, a paste for flavoring soup and marinating fish, is made from soy beans and rice. Soy is also made into a sauce.

A common breakfast in Japan is a bowl of rice, a bowl of miso soup, a pickled vegetable and a side dish of fish. Dinners are similar to breakfast but have three side dishes. Each side dish needs to be cooked a different way. Two foods unique to Japanese cuisine are sashimi and sushi. Both are made from raw seafood. But sashimi is eaten dipped in soy sauce and sushi is combined with rice.

Japan’s traditional beverage is green tea which may be served hot or cold. It is also canned and sold in stores like soft drinks are in the west.

Clothes

The traditional Japanese garment is the kimono which is worn by both men and women.  However, in modern Japan kimonos are usually reserved for special occasions although one may see elderly women wearing them. Younger men and women prefer western dress as it is less expensive and more comfortable.

A kimono is fastened with a long, wide sash called an obi.The obi is wrapped around the waist and tied in the back. Young girls and single women wear a special type of kimono called a furisode which has long sleeves, is made from colorful fabric and tied with a brightly colored obi. An informal kimono called a yukata is worn at the beach, and at hot springs. Young women and girls often wear gaily colored yukatas to summer festivals.

Plain, black kimonos are worn for funerals by both men and women. Although today black suits are also acceptable. Brides in traditional weddings wear intricately embroidered white kimonos with    ornate headpieces. The groom’s kimono is made of black silk embellished with the family crest.

Kimonos are worn with flat thonged sandals called zoris or wooden plat formed sandals called getas.  Zoris may be made from rice straw or lacquered wood. Getas are always constructed of wood with two slats of wood fastened to the underneath part of the sole, one near the heel and the other near the arch. The 4 to 5 centimeters high slats keep the geta soles from touching the ground. Zoris are for formal wear while getas are worn with yukatas.

Festivals, Holidays and Celebrations

           The two most important holiday celebrations in Japan are New Year’s and Bon Obon. New Year preparations begin in mid-December when everyone cleans and decorates their houses, offices and buildings in anticipation of a visit fromToshigami, the god who brings the blessings of the New Year. Businesses send New Year’s cards to their customers and individuals send them to everyone they know. These are taken to the post office in December to be held for delivery on January 1. People also exchange gifts and give money to children. During the last part of December forget-the-year parties (bounenkai) are hosted. However, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are spent quietly with the family. On New Year’s Eve they listen to the 108 tolls of the temple bells which cleanse us of all sins and bring new life. While Westerners stay up until midnight, Japanese get up early to see the first sunrise. They also eat noodles to bring good fortune in the coming year.  New Year’s Day includes a visit to a shrine and a special family dinner.

Obon is the Festival for the Dead usually celebrated in mid-August. It is a Japanese belief that the spirits of the deceased relatives come back to earth to visit their living families during this time. Houses are cleaned in preparation for the visits. Lanterns are hung in front of houses to welcome and guide the spirits. Families also visit the graves, where they pray and place offerings of flowers, food and drink. Community dances called Bon Odori are held. Here people erect a high wooden structure (yagura) which houses the musicians. The dancers dance in a circle around the yagura. When Obon ends, the people place floating lanterns in various bodies of water  to guide the spirits back home.

Famous Stories

A famous story is about a god called Okuninushi who had eighty brothers. They all wanted to marry the same princess and undertook a journey to visit her. The brothers encountered a rabbit without fur and in pain. They told the rabbit it could get well by bathing in salt water but this only worsened the pain. When Okuninushi met the rabbit, he told it to bathe in clear water. When this was successful, the rabbit, who was actually a god, rewarded Okuninushi by letting him marry the princess. Another popular children’s story is about a parrot that rewards his kind master with a prosperous life but punishes the mean wife after she cut the sparrow’s tongue.

 

Children’s Games

           Japanese children love to play kendema and it is encouraged in elementary school as a means of developing eye hand coordination. Kendema is played with a ball on a string that is attached to a stick and three cups. The object of the game is to toss the ball into the air and catch it either on the end of the stick or in one of the cups.

Teenagers love to play board games such as go and shogi. Both are similar to chess but more complex. Unlike chess, there is no good computer program for Go. However, various organizations have offered high monetary prizes to the first player who develops a program that will defeat a champion.

Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

The spoken language contains honorific endings that show respect. The type of respect depends upon one’s age, gender and social status. Employees must show respect to a supervisor, younger people must speak respectfully to their elders and women need to be more polite than men. There is also a neutral language to use with strangers when you don’t know their social status.

Bowing is another way of showing respect. When Japanese people are introduced they bow instead of shaking hands. At the beginning of classes in school, all students stand and bow to the teacher who bows in return but the students must bow lower.

Values

In Japanese society the group is more important than the individual. Harmony is an important value so the Japanese do not like confrontations. Japan has a hierarchal culture which means that everyone has a place and must respect those who are above them. For instance, a student in tenth grade in a Japanese school would address eleventh and twelfth grade students as senpai. Students in ninth grade and below would be kohai.

Fun Facts

           Japanese teenagers have been creating their own words and the new Japanese dictionaries contain five pages of these. This mostly involves shortening words or phrases. For instance kimochi ga warui which means disagreeable has been shortened to kimoi. And using the name of a business can mean inviting a friend to go there. For example, dotoru would be an invitation to visit a Doutour coffee shop, deniru takes you to Denny’s and makuru to McDonald’s.

 

Famous Places

             Mt. Fuji or Fujiyama is one of the most popular destinations in Japan for both Japanese and tourists. Japanese refer to Fujiyama as The Holy Mountain and its name indicates everlasting life.

Kyoto is a city noted for its historical sites.  Over fifteen of these have been classified as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Kamakura, a town close to Tokyo, is the home of the famous Great Buddha, a 44 foot high bronze statue weighing 100 tons. At one time it sat in a wooden temple however when a massive tsunami ravaged Kamakura in 1945 the temple washed out into the ocean so now the statue sits out in the open air.

Important Note: This article was written by a person who is familiar with Japanese culture based on his or her personal anecdotal observations. Additionally, there are quite a few generalizations to make the article easier to understand for the children. Dino Lingo does not accept any responsibility for errors, omissions or subjectivity in the content of this post.

We are wondering what you know about Japanese culture…Why don’t you tell us what you know by leaving a comment below? (make sure your comment is written in a language that can be understood by small children)

Learn more about Japan

Japanese lessons for kids

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Japanese Culture for Children– fun facts, food, music, language, Nihongo 日本: Japanese Culture interesting Facts

updated.

Food

          Unlike most other countries, Japanese food must be beautifully displayed as well as tasty so Japanese cooks take great care in arranging food on the table. Rice, the primary dish, is prepared in many different ways. The Japanese eat rice cakes, rice crackers, and mix rice in various dishes with red beans, fish, and vegetables. Rice is often formed into balls, filled with fish, meat or a vegetable and then wrapped in dried seaweed. Called onigiri, they’re popular for lunches and snacks. Rice is also made into wine called sake.

The next most important foods are noodles and pickled dishes.  Noodle dishes are eaten for lunches and snacks. Japanese love pickled foods and they eat pickles at every meal. Also important are soybeans. Tofu, soybean curd, is used in many different ways including making donuts and ice cream. Miso, a paste for flavoring soup and marinating fish, is made from soy beans and rice. Soy is also made into a sauce.

A common breakfast in Japan is a bowl of rice, a bowl of miso soup, a pickled vegetable and a side dish of fish. Dinners are similar to breakfast but have three side dishes. Each side dish needs to be cooked a different way. Two foods unique to Japanese cuisine are sashimi and sushi. Both are made from raw seafood. But sashimi is eaten dipped in soy sauce and sushi is combined with rice.

Japan’s traditional beverage is green tea which may be served hot or cold. It is also canned and sold in stores like soft drinks are in the west.read more 

Clothes

The traditional Japanese garment is the kimono which is worn by both men and women.  However, in modern Japan kimonos are usually reserved for special occasions although one may see elderly women wearing them. Younger men and women prefer western dress as it is less expensive and more comfortable.

A kimono is fastened with a long, wide sash called an obi.The obi is wrapped around the waist and tied in the back. Young girls and single women wear a special type of kimono called a furisode which has long sleeves, is made from colorful fabric and tied with a brightly colored obi. An informal kimono called a yukata is worn at the beach, and at hot springs. Young women and girls often wear gaily colored yukatas to summer festivals.

Plain, black kimonos are worn for funerals by both men and women. Although today black suits are also acceptable. Brides in traditional weddings wear intricately embroidered white kimonos with    ornate headpieces. The groom’s kimono is made of black silk embellished with the family crest.

Kimonos are worn with flat thonged sandals called zoris or wooden plat formed sandals called getas.  Zoris may be made from rice straw or lacquered wood. Getas are always constructed of wood with two slats of wood fastened to the underneath part of the sole, one near the heel and the other near the arch. The 4 to 5 centimeters high slats keep the geta soles from touching the ground. Zoris are for formal wear while getas are worn with yukatas.read more 

Festivals, Holidays and Celebrations

           The two most important holiday celebrations in Japan are New Year’s and Bon Obon. New Year preparations begin in mid-December when everyone cleans and decorates their houses, offices and buildings in anticipation of a visit fromToshigami, the god who brings the blessings of the New Year. Businesses send New Year’s cards to their customers and individuals send them to everyone they know. These are taken to the post office in December to be held for delivery on January 1. People also exchange gifts and give money to children. During the last part of December forget-the-year parties (bounenkai) are hosted. However, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are spent quietly with the family. On New Year’s Eve they listen to the 108 tolls of the temple bells which cleanse us of all sins and bring new life. While Westerners stay up until midnight, Japanese get up early to see the first sunrise. They also eat noodles to bring good fortune in the coming year.  New Year’s Day includes a visit to a shrine and a special family dinner.

Obon is the Festival for the Dead usually celebrated in mid-August. It is a Japanese belief that the spirits of the deceased relatives come back to earth to visit their living families during this time. Houses are cleaned in preparation for the visits. Lanterns are hung in front of houses to welcome and guide the spirits. Families also visit the graves, where they pray and place offerings of flowers, food and drink. Community dances called Bon Odori are held. Here people erect a high wooden structure (yagura) which houses the musicians. The dancers dance in a circle around the yagura. When Obon ends, the people place floating lanterns in various bodies of water  to guide the spirits back home.read more 

Famous Stories

A famous story is about a god called Okuninushi who had eighty brothers. They all wanted to marry the same princess and undertook a journey to visit her. The brothers encountered a rabbit without fur and in pain. They told the rabbit it could get well by bathing in salt water but this only worsened the pain. When Okuninushi met the rabbit, he told it to bathe in clear water. When this was successful, the rabbit, who was actually a god, rewarded Okuninushi by letting him marry the princess. Another popular children’s story is about a parrot that rewards his kind master with a prosperous life but punishes the mean wife after she cut the sparrow’s tongue.

 click here to watch short Japanese stories.

Children’s Games

           Japanese children love to play kendema and it is encouraged in elementary school as a means of developing eye hand coordination. Kendema is played with a ball on a string that is attached to a stick and three cups. The object of the game is to toss the ball into the air and catch it either on the end of the stick or in one of the cups.

Teenagers love to play board games such as go and shogi. Both are similar to chess but more complex. Unlike chess, there is no good computer program for Go. However, various organizations have offered high monetary prizes to the first player who develops a program that will defeat a champion.read more  

Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

The spoken language contains honorific endings that show respect. The type of respect depends upon one’s age, gender and social status. Employees must show respect to a supervisor, younger people must speak respectfully to their elders and women need to be more polite than men. There is also a neutral language to use with strangers when you don’t know their social status.

Bowing is another way of showing respect. When Japanese people are introduced they bow instead of shaking hands. At the beginning of classes in school, all students stand and bow to the teacher who bows in return but the students must bow lower.read more 

Values

In Japanese society the group is more important than the individual. Harmony is an important value so the Japanese do not like confrontations. Japan has a hierarchal culture which means that everyone has a place and must respect those who are above them. For instance, a student in tenth grade in a Japanese school would address eleventh and twelfth grade students as senpai. Students in ninth grade and below would be kohai.

Fun Facts

           Japanese teenagers have been creating their own words and the new Japanese dictionaries contain five pages of these. This mostly involves shortening words or phrases. For instance kimochi ga warui which means disagreeable has been shortened to kimoi. And using the name of a business can mean inviting a friend to go there. For example, dotoru would be an invitation to visit a Doutour coffee shop, deniru takes you to Denny’s and makuru to McDonald’sread more 

 

Famous Places

             Mt. Fuji or Fujiyama is one of the most popular destinations in Japan for both Japanese and tourists. Japanese refer to Fujiyama as The Holy Mountain and its name indicates everlasting life.

Kyoto is a city noted for its historical sites.  Over fifteen of these have been classified as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Kamakura, a town close to Tokyo, is the home of the famous Great Buddha, a 44 foot high bronze statue weighing 100 tons. At one time it sat in a wooden temple however when a massive tsunami ravaged Kamakura in 1945 the temple washed out into the ocean so now the statue sits out in the open air.

Important Note: This article was written by a person who is familiar with Japanese culture based on his or her personal anecdotal observations. Additionally, there are quite a few generalizations to make the article easier to understand for the children. Dino Lingo does not accept any responsibility for errors, omissions or subjectivity in the content of this post.

We are wondering what you know about Japanese culture…Why don’t you tell us what you know by leaving a comment below? (make sure your comment is written in a language that can be understood by small children)

 

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Respect for the Aged Day in Japan: 3rd Monday of September Red Day

The third Monday of September in Japan is celebrated as Respect for the Aged Day (敬老の日). This day is also called the red day but it is because in Japanese calendar holidays are printed in red ink. With a population of more than 30% elderly or people who are older than 60, Respect for the aged day is considered special in Japan.

On respect for the aged day (Keirouno hi) grandchildren buy gifts for their grandparents and people call the elderly on the phone to show their respect. It is a national holiday in Japan and TV stations feature elderly during daily programming. Respect for the aged day was first celebrated in 1966 on September 15. In early 2000, Japanese government decided that some holidays must be moved to Mondays to create a 3-day vacation. Since then the respect for the aged day (けいろうのひ) is observed on the 3rd Monday of September.

There are also some unconfirmed rumors that these holidays are promoted by the government because Japanese people worked very hard and did not spend their money on goods.

Learn more about Japan

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Japanese Culture 101 Oyaji Gyagu (Old Man’s Joke) a.k.a. Dajare 親父ギャグ だじゃれ

Oyaji Gyagu means Old man’s joke. It is a pun type of joke that involves playing with words which most of the time is about using similar sounding words with different meanings. Dajare can be any type of verbal joke not necessarily oyaji gyagu (substitution of a Japanese word with another similar sounding word but written in different kanji).

Oyaji (old men) tend to make more of these oyaji gyagu perhaps because of their better grasp of different kanji. The reality is, most Japanese find oyaji gyagu not funny, though an oyaji gyagu might indicate the joke maker’s advanced Japanese capability. That is why foreigner’s might get away with making oyaji gyagu. Another footnote is the image of a peerson who frequently makes oyaji gyagu, that is,  kinda stubborn and someone who does not understand the listeners feelings and keeps going…read more 

Some of the famous oyaji gyagu 親父ギャグ are

futton ga futton da (blanket flew away)

bocchann ga kawa ni bo-chan (the boy fell in the river)

remonnno iremon (thing that you can put a lemon in)

arumi kanno ue ni aru mikan (orange on the aluminium can)

iran ha nonimo iran ( Iran doesn’t need anything)

The following are mostly oyaji gyagi and dajare mixed

あかちゃんはすごくおとなしい

なかなかなかないし

。。。

このいえはめっちゃくっちゃきたない、ごきぶりばっかりだよ

じゃあ、このいえのごきぶりのごきぶんがいいよ

。。。

わたしは南アジアのじゅうたんにきょうみがある

ごめんいらんのじゅうたんしかない

ごめんいらんのものはいらん

。。。

おおひさしぶり

ひさしぶりね

どうしよう?

ジブリみようか?

うんジブリはひさジブリ

。。。

あしたあいましょうか?

なんじ?

4じは?

いえ、4じのようじがある

。。。

私はこのホテルがすきだった

とくにまっくろなまくら

。。。

彼は長い間日本語を勉強してる

どうしてと聞いたら

ふむふむ(step by step)、とならってると言った

。。。

わたしはしごとのためにいつもにいがたにいく

じつはにいがたはにいがて

。。。

わたしはさいきんこのへんにひっこししました

きんじょさんにこのあたりのものがたりをいわれました

。。。

わたしにとって

そうりだいじんのそうりはだいじ

。。。

あのおみせがすきだけどたかすぎる

しょくぱんのねだんをみたときしょっくになった

。。。

けんきゅうのためにしんだいにいく。でもみちをのぼるはや

しんだいはしんどい。

。。。

大阪のおじさん:ふっとんがふっとんだ

わたし:タオルはたおれた

大阪のおじさん:れもんのいれもん

わたし:めろんはめろめろ

大阪のおじさん:さむい

わたし:かも しれない

。。。

ありまおんせんはどこにありますか?

ありまおんせんはありましかありません。

。。。

このへんでJRありますか?

はい。Jアル

。。。

わたしのすきなかしゅのすきなおかしはおかしい。

。。。

あなたはTRI-STATEがわかりますか?(New York, New Jersey, Connecticut)

しってるTRIーSTATEはあのチケットとそのチケットとこのチケットだけです

。。。

わたしはおおさかのおさかなすき。

。。。

Learn more about Japan
Japanese lessons for kids 

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