Back to the Past (タイムスリップ)

My husband came back from his business trip to the States, and brought this tiny box of raisins! …… Whoa! (I hadn’t seen this little snackage in over 30 years maybe! It whooshed me right back to …. elementary school in Hawaii!  

Time travel?!

Okay, maybe not really, but it was amazing how I was immediately “transported” to the past in Honolulu with our very American lunchboxes.


I remember how my mother used to pop in little boxes of raisins (like the other kids’s lunches) along with our lightly salted, soy sauce coated rice balls (which was very unlike the other kids.) While everyone had sandwiches and apples, we had our little taste of Japan, via our mom who was born and raised there.


It is quite different from the the “obento” that we see here in Japan, and (I suspect) how bento used to be way back when as well!


Typical kids’ “bento bako” lunch box for kids in the 70’s and 80’s, and sometimes still used (with the exception of renewed characters) today in 2019. This simple metal box was packed with rice and some side dishes like egg rolls or sausages, and wrapped simply with a large handkerchif-like cloth called furoshiki.

My lunch box was “Strawberry Shortcake” which was in full trend at the time. I loved the fact that we were on trend, but still able to have culturally familiar foods to give us subtle, comforting hints of “home.” It wasn’t such a big deal on the surface, but the “mom’s” touch always reminded me that I had a home to come home to, no matter how different it may be from other kids around me. 


How interesting how one item can open a well of memories that one never knew loomed in the tiny brain of ours.


One small step!!

The First Step!! 第一歩 !!

I cannot believe that after 2 years, the “book” is finally out! In 2019, I met an illustrator who (after hearing my idea on creating songs for young parents) told me that she would LOVE to help me make picture books for my songs!

2年で「本」がやっと出ました。2019年にイラストレーターの Junkoに出会い、ミッツの歌のアイディアの話を聞いて、是非絵本を描いてみたいと言ってくれました。

It was a new idea for me, and after seeing a sample of her illustrations, I JUMPED at the chance! I loved the way she captured the nuance of my song so poignantly and we were both so excited to start working together!


We made a sample book and started “testing out” the idea with mini workshops in the neighborhood. The parents LOVED it! We were ready to go into production… then COVID hit, and I had to shift gears!


After a year of adjusting, we are back on track and have started our adventures starting with a small booklet to sell in book stores and future workshops!






It went on the shelf yesterday! I’m very excited. Of course it rained, and of course the book store is not ready to open until the 10th of this month! (7 more days!) But here they are ready for a random customer wandering into the back gallery area.


Delightful Resource! Online Stories Series

I found such a delightful YouTube site!
The storytellers are brilliant, talented and colorful! It will help you on your journey of feeling the language known as English! Enjoy!

The Road to Independence

This has nothing to do with English learning…

Today, I went to Kamakura for an appointment. The station was really crowded.
At peak tourist season (with a festival taking place on the Kamakura shores,) crowds of people were walking steadily towards a narrow stairwell, BUT  at a snail’s pace!
There were all walks of people around me. Foreign tourists, local (Japanese) tourists, locals (like me, going to a lesson), children, families… everyone was very respectful of one another to make sure that there was no dangerous pushing going down the stairs. It was a bit frustrating, as I was already late for my appointment, but I kept calm and did not try to push ahead. 



In front of me, near the rail, a small boy of about 3 or 4 was walking slowly down by himself. At first, I was “Hmm. Who is he with…?” Then I immediately saw in front of him, his mother, carrying their second newborn looking ahead, walking step by step with the crowd. The boy was concentrating, being careful of each step. His mother was not looking even glancing behind her to make sure her boy was okay, which surprised me, but there was one tiny gesture that stood out to me.


私の左に、レールを小さいでで掴んで慎重に歩いている, 3・4歳くらいの男の子がいました。”一人かな?大丈夫かな?”と母性本能動き出した。よく見ると、彼のすぐ前に赤ん坊を前抱っこして、ぞろぞろ階段を降りている女性がいました。


I thought for a second that perhaps she was not his mother and looked around for someone near him who might be lost in the crowd. Then I looked down and saw that the woman in front of him was holding out her hand behind her, right near the boy’s head. The boy wasn’t trying to take her hand. He just seemed to concentrate on his walking, on the stairs, no desperation or hurriedness in his motions to catch up with mom right away. Ahh, I get it.



Of course, this was my interpretation, but I felt like this mom was being brilliant in letting him be “independent,” letting him do his thing even in this scary crowd of people. At the same time she was letting him know silently that she was there AT ALL TIMES. He knew she was there. She knew that he knew that she was there. And that was all they needed to get through this simple activity of going down the stairs at a crowded station.



What a beautiful small (natural) gesture between mom and child going through the process of “growing up” and learning to be on your own. We are alone. And yet there is always something in the wings to help. Heck, ”I” was ready to jump out to help if this boy had a hard time. Moms… I believe most moms want to help guide their kids into independence. At the same time, we are the first to jump out and want to protect them from hurt or danger. It’s not easy to know how to balance the extremes. 

This one mother’s gesture (as interpreted by me) was another sign how parents instinctively know how to let their children “be” while being there on the wings when duty calls. 


P.S. By the way, although I have not raised children in other countries, I can’t imagine this happening in a huge city overseas. Perhaps this is permissible because we are in Japan. Anywhere else, one would be afraid of a child being taken and would be seen as negligence. この行為も日本ならではのことかな、とつくづく思います。残念ながら、他の国ではこのように子供に「任せる」は(いつも見張ってない行動は誘拐の恐れがあり、)無責任と解釈されることもある。

Words, Words, Words!

What does it take to learn a new word? 

I just worked with one of my Junior High School private students. She has been learning English at school now for 1 and a half years, 3-4  hours a week. She still cannot converse in simple sentences like, “I like pizza with tuna fish.” but she seems to catch on  how sentences work. It’s hard to tell what she does and does not know. Most of the words I ask her the meaning of she does not know. Wow. simple words like “brush” or “work” or “grandfather.” Where do you start at this level without resorting to ramming random words according to categories like “family” and “verbs” and “school activities?” without boring them?  

In my years (since the 1990’s) of teaching English to people of all ages  here in Japan, i have found that students remember words that they have strong connections to. 

Of course, right? 

My son loves camping. He now knows all kinds of camping equipment words! Many of which are beyond my native English vocabulary! Uhh. I haven’t been camping in over about 20 years, so…. no. I’m not going to take up brain space until I need to.

When babies learn new words, notice how they become obsessed with that “one” or “two words” they are “working on.” Recently learn what dogs look like? All of a sudden they are noticing dogs all around them! The more they connect with the word, the more they “see” it, and voice it. 

Totally irrelevant, but when I’m thinking about getting new shoes, all of a sudden, I notice how cool everyone’s shoes are (and how dumpy-looking mine are…sigh.) 

For my super beginners. I start with objects. I don’t go to sentences. Not even the “I am happy” sentences.
The verb changes and transitions depending on who or what you are talking about will scare most insecure students away. 
No. I start with “dog” “cat” … and only things they see around them. 

How you slice and dice that new word? (because it’s pretty boring…. yikes!)

The black dog,
the thin dog,
the thin, hungry dog,
the barking dog,
the two-tailed dog at the park, 
the two-tailed dog chomping a steak at the park with a four-eared pig

Adjectives, verbs, prepositions are introduced, one by one, without scaring students away with conjugations.

All nouns need an article (a, an, the) or something to replace it with (like my, his, their, etc).
These rules rarely change with the number of objects or time frame.

The subject is not yet “doing anything” but the description of that subject is certainly cool and not boring (depending how colorful you can make that particular subject.) 

Another reason why I start with learning how to elaborate on nouns. 

In Japanese, the subject is rarely part of a spoken sentence. So Japanese speakers tend to leave out the instigator of sentences. 
Whether the subject is spoken or implied, the characteristics of the subject– whether it singular, plural, animate, inanimate makes a difference in how the rest of the sentence is formed. This makes for many easy mistakes in English.

車を洗った。Kuruma wo aratta. This sentence is perfect in Japanese; the subject is implied and need not be mentioned to make sense. 
In English, it translates as, “Washed the car.” This is the opposite of TMI. Not enough information. Japanese implies that the subject is I. or inferenced by the rest of the context. Of course, you may do the same with English, as an informal declaration for yourself when you are asked (for example), “What did you do?”
“Me? Washed the car!”
or when ordering someone to “Wash the car!” in present tense.

This linguistic difference is one of the first things that seem to “trip up” my students when they are trying to converse freely. (as opposed to answering test questions or doing drills–which they are often quite good at doing.) 

Since they are digging through their own emotions and unrehearsed answers (that are very attached to their Japanese way of perceiving the world), the “subject” of a sentence simply does not occur to them as easily. 

I often stick to the “nouns” and ways to describes them for a good 3-6 months of lessons (depending on how often I see them) ! 

They learn new words that are “relevant to them”  and learn how to describe them in interesting ways, with interesting verbs, adjective and adverbs, without worrying about switching things about constantly.



More later!