You may have noticed that we love Japan in our home! My children have learned a lot, but still they crave more knowledge about this most unique and welcoming of countries. All About Japan: Stories, Songs, Crafts, and Games for Kids is a most wonderful book that has a wealth of information in it for all ages.
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We were so pleased to have had Tuttle Publishing send All About Japan to us. We have shared with you other books from this series: All About Thailand,and All About the Philippines. These are all excellent books that contain such a wide variety of information so that children can really feel like they’ve learned a lot after reading them.
Reading All About Japan with Tristan and Kallista brought back so many memories from my time in Japan, and experiencing the festivals, travelling, history, and daily life….as well as the questions I had about the country. I was forever asking my coworkers questions – I’m sure if this book had been around then, that they’d have given me a copy!
This book would actually be a great idea for English language classrooms to have nearby; for the teachers to learn about Japan, and to use it as a talking point with the older students to find out what they like about Japanese life and….so that the teachers can ask the more advanced students the questions they have!
The main sections of All About Japan are:
- Introducing Japan
- Everyday Life
- Holidays and Celebrations
- Language and Culture
- Resources and Index
The book follows the lives of Yuto, a 10-year-old boy who lies in rural Japan, as well as Momoka, a 12-year-old girl who resides in Tokyo. It’s nice to see how their lives are the same in many respects, but how they also differ in the homes they live in, schools, and transportation.
There are a couple of short stories included that we found interesting; Tanabata, being one of them. Takaoka, in the prefecture of Toyama was known for its big Tanabata celebration with the streets covered in bright decorations, but I never did quite pick up quite what the celebration was about…and now I know!
The Sapporo Snow Festival (Yuki Matsuri) make it into the book. This was the first overnight trip I took in Japan, and it was a bit of a challenge that year as the weather was so mild the snow and ice sculptures were quickly melting. My children perk up every year when they hear this festival mentioned on NHK World TV. It truly is amazing how many countries from around the world come together and compete for the best sculptures.
There are recipes for Okonomiyaki and Onigiri in the book; both of which my family enjoys and asks me to make. They always gravitate towards the Okonomiyaki at the Japanese Society events, and Onigiri is easy to make at home and is perfect for a snack or lunch for work, school, or a picnic…or a fun way for leftovers. There’s also a recipe for the unique Mochi Rice Flour Cakes that are popular in Japan.
Several festivals are briefly described, such as Hina Matusri (girl’s day), Sakura Matsuri (Cherry blossom viewing), Kodomo-No Hi (Children’s Day), Tanabata, O-Shogatsu (Japanese New Year), O-bon, and many more.
I loved seeing The Traditional Art of Kabuki presented in this book. It often seems a bit like an ‘older generation’ art form, but it’s so exciting and colourful, that I always highly recommend it to anyone heading to Tokyo. There you can purchase tickets just to see one act of the play for a great price, and if you love it as much as me, then you’ll see another act, then on a later trip get a ticket to the whole performance, including the meal, and truly immerse yourself in the arts of drama, dance, music, and history dating back to 1603.
If you’ve ever watched Mr. Baseball with Tom Selleck, you’ll know there are differences in etiquette when it comes to bathing, and this book explains it nicely (seriously-I never did like that movie, but when it was on TV after about 5 months of living in Japan, I watched it and really could relate to it).
Kallista had a fun time singing The Song of Frogs on the train as we were heading into Belfast for a Tiny Life meeting. And the children were very interested in the Japanese ‘alphabet’ charts, going through the pronunciations, and seeing how the addition of a little ” to a character changes its sound.
As you can see, there is a lot of information about Japan in All About Japan, that really is applicable to everyday life there. It isn’t just history or stereotypical things of interest, but modern life as it’s lived; with its traditions interwoven into the fabric of society. This is one of the things I loved about Japan; how the traditional merged beautifully with the ultra-modern. I often called it a land of contradictions. And I love it!
This book had the perfect timing for us. We were at the Japan Society of Northern Ireland over the weekend. It had been rainy for the days before, but Sean had made a teru teru bozu the night before and alas, the day of the meeting was hot and sunny (we sat outside in the Japanese garden to eat our curry rice).
When Sean showed the kids how to make their own teru teru bozu, which are usually made during the June rainy season in Japan, I asked if I could get in on the fun, too! These are fun and easy; and after the group of kids (and adults) made some, the weather on Sunday was even hotter and sunnier than it had been on Saturday! I kid you not! It was so nice to take something that was mentioned in a book we’re reading and find it used in everyday life!
I have recommended this book to a few people since we’ve had it, and indeed, it would be great for families who want to learn about world cultures; schools, nurseries, daycares, and childminders.