I love Japan. I went there once, accompanying The Husband on a business trip. It was the trip of a lifetime for me and I’ve wanted to go back ever since. In fact, we were planning a trip to go back there when we became pregnant with Firefly. The trip would have to wait. Now I hope that our whole family will be able to travel there someday.
I absolutely fell in love with the Japanese culture: their beautiful gardens, shrines and statues, the emphasis on respect and loyalty, the preservation of tradition, the Sumo wrestling. Nevermind the Japanese mafia, the earthquakes and the fact that 127 million people are crammed onto an island the size of Montana. They have shopping, flowering cherry trees and sushi. What’s not to love?
So I was thrilled to “go on a trip” with my kids to Japan this week. Okay, that sounds like we all dropped acid. What I really mean is that we started out by reading the F.I.A.R. recommended book A Pair of Red Clogs by Masako Matsuno and that launched us into a full blown cultural exploration of Japan and its’ people.
The book is about a little girl who gets her first pair of new, wooden clogs. She accidentally damages them playing the Weather Game with her friends (flipping the shoe off the foot, the way it lands predicts tomorrow’s weather: right side up means it will be sunny, upside down equals rainy, on it’s side, snowy) and decides to trick her mother into buying her a new pair. In the end, she reconsiders and feels badly about trying to do so.
We also discovered a wonderful read-along book called Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog by Pamela S. Turner. Hachiko lived in Tokyo in the 1920’s and accompanied his master to the train station each morning, returning each afternoon to greet him when he arrived back at the station. After his master died at work, Hachiko continued to go to the train station every day, twice a day, for nine years. This has inspired us to discuss and explore the character trait of Loyalty.
We also decided mid-week to start planning for a Japan Festival at our house for next week. We are focusing on three things:
- What do people in Japan like to eat?
- What do people in Japan wear (modern and traditional)?
- What and how do they celebrate?
All week long, we’ve been jotting down answers to these three questions as we read through other books. Early next week we will go to a huge Asian market nearby and explore the food, housewares and restaurant stalls and purchase a few items for our festival. I really hope we find some wooden clogs to try on, too.
Here are some other fun things we did for our week with A Pair of Red Clogs.
- Watched YouTube clips of the Japanese National anthem, Sumo wrestling and poison puffer fish (a delicacy in Japan).
- The kids practiced sumo wrestling with Daddy. Except they didn’t have the outfits. It was hilarious. They stepped into the ring, took the sumo stance, sprinkled salt to ward off evil spirits and engaged in combat.
- Played the Weather Game with our flip flops in the family room.
- Learned about Japanese manners like bowing and watched YouTube clips of President Obama bowing when he met Japan’s Emperor Ahikito. Practiced bowing to each other.
- Read books about buddhism, including this and this.
- Put on a pair of Mommy’s high heels and clomped around on the bathroom tile, imitating the sounds of the wooden clogs in the book (koro, koro, kara, kara). Even Love Bug did this and it was hilarious!
- Learned about how weather really is predicted by checking out various books at the library and watched videos of various types of weather here.
- Made red clogs out of red foam sheets and pipe cleaners.
Next week: More of Japan with Grandfather’s Journey.