Channeling Chikubushima: The Power of Following Your Life Interests

Back in December of 2016, months before knowing the itinerary for this trip, I learned about the Japanese Buddhist goddess, Benzaiten. She is one of three female deities honored at the temple island of Chikubushima, and my personal favorite.

Benzaiten is the bestower of language and letters, a water goddess, a goddess of good wealth and fortune, and a patroness of music, poetry, learning, and art and everything that “flows.” How could I not love her?

So that day back in late December she become the background photo of my phone and personal “kami,” especially for the year 2017- The year I planned to learn Japanese, muster up the courage to take to go to Japan, and dedicate more time to writing, art, and music and finding my life’s “flow.”

The itinerary for the Goodwill Mission to Japan came sometime in June. Naturally, I sat at my desk and bawled like a baby as I read through the amazing things planned- a sake brewery tour and taste testing, temple and shrine visits, a ninja house, etc. So incredible!!!

By the time I got to the last day of the itinerary, tears blurred all the words into a puddle of letters. Afer gaining enough composure to read clearly again, my eyes were once again burning and buried in tears at what I saw:


I never thought incredible things like this could happen to me. And I believe they can happen to anyone if you learn to be a little less afraid and a little more curious.

“Pay attention to the things you are naturally drawn to. They are often connected to your path, passion, and purpose in life. Have the courage to follow them.” ~Ruben Chavez


Saginaw Asian Markets Mother’s Day Haul

Part of my treat for Mother’s Day weekend included a trip to the Asian grocery stores in Saginaw, Asian Market and Far East Market.  These are my happy places.

I like them both equally, so don’t make me pick a favorite. You’re not going to find a lot of English on packages, so sometimes you’ll have to buy things at your own risk. I may not know a lot of Japanese yet, but I know enough to recognize it on the packaging and get a decent idea of what the contents inside. The owners at both places don’t know much English, but seem happy to help if you have any questions.

asian marketFar East Market

In my experience, the folks in both stores are super friendly and helpful. The Far East Market is a bit small and crowded with merchandise, but it’s clean and relatively organized. You’ve really got to visit both stores if you visit. They do share some similar items, but I always find neat things to try (or just look at) at each of them.

On to the goods!

Anpan あんパン

Anpan is a baked sweet bread with sweetened red bean paste (あんこ anko). This popular Japanese treat even has a mascot with a picture book series and anime: Anpanman.


This anpan came shipped in from 168 Asian, which is the largest Asian market in Michigan, located in Madison Heights, MI (Detroit area). I’ve never been there (yet).  I scored this baby at the checkout area of Asian Market. It had no other label on it other than a plastic baked goods bag with 168 Asian written on it red letters. I only knew what it was from drooling over them on the Internet.

The bean paste is lightly sweetened and on the chunky side (which I like), and the bread was a super soft, fluffy dough with a nice sweet eggy flavor. It’s hard to tell from the image, but this baby was just about the size of a side salad plate. Delicious and filling.



Kit Kat  キットカット

I can’t eat American Kit Kat bars since they’ve added PGPR, which gives me migrane-like headaches. I scored the matcha flavor from Asian Mart and the Sakura/Milk Chocolate blend and the Butter Cookie at Far East Market. The Butter Cookie is actually the “bakeable” Kit Kat type, where you toast in the toaster over before eating it.




Bonito Flakes ぼにと

Bonito flakes are made from a dried and smoked type of tuna fish. I’ve never tried it yet, but can’t wait!!!! It’s a savory, smoky, umami packed addition with versatile uses in Japanese cooking.


Vegetables やさい

I bought purple sweet potatoes and baby bok choy. I plan on stir frying the baby bok choy with some tofu and other goodies. I’m thinking of some kind roasting the purple sweet potato with some kind of sweet miso flavored sauce.



Mochi Ice Cream もちアイス


Matcha Flavored Snack Sticks


Baked Rice Crackers


I mostly grabbed this last bag of treats because the packaging was adorable. What can I say, I’m a sucker for kawaii packaging.

If you ever get the chance, you should check out the Asian markets in Saginaw.

Thanks for reading!

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal.

ありがとう // Arigatou // Thank you!




Today’s Weather Is… {Japanese Lesson} + Free Worksheet


This week we’re learning about how to talk about today’s weather in Japanese.

This is the closet door in our dining room, where I’ve set up a little sticky note station for this activity. The kids enjoy fighting over who gets to put up the daily weather sticker each morning. 🙂 And because we live in Michigan, sometimes we get to change this out multiple times a day.

mich weather



Here are a few other places to learn weather related Japanese lessons:

My Weather – Japanese Pinterest Board

Japanese Vocabulary – Weather in Japanese – Tenki 天気   (perfect for younger kids)

Waku Waku Japanese – Language Lesson 17: Weather  (older kids, teens, & adults)

Japanese Weather & Word Vocabulary

Japan Meteorological Agency   (Has both English & Japanese)


I also made a worksheet for my older kids that I thought I’d share here for those interested. It’s nothing fancy. Just something I whipped up on Canva quick for my older kids. Click The Weather Is… to download the free printable .pdf worksheet.

The Weather Is...


See you later! またね! (matane!)

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal.

ありがとう // Arigatou // Thank you!






Tanuki: Japanese Raccoon Dog タヌキ

tanuki statue

The title I wanted to use for this article, “Tanuki: The Magical Canine with Gigantic Balls” was already taken by I mean, did you get a load of those things?


balls showing

There’s even a song about Tanuki balls:

The tanuki is an honest-to-goodness real animal that looks nothing like the figurine above. It belongs to the same animal family as wolves, dogs, and foxes, but is more racoon or badger-like in appearance.

Tanuki figures are said to represent prosperity, good luck, and cheer. They’re commonly found in front of bars and eaters, as well as in gardens. In Japanese folklore, the tanuki are portrayed as mischevious shape-shifters. THIS website has a ton of super interesting history and facts about tanuki.

As a 90’s kid, one of the coolest things I read about tanuki is that the racoon suit from Mario Bros. 3 is actually a tanuki suit. MarioWiki calls it a Tanooki Suit. And in the same way Mario needed the Super Leaf to turn into Tanooki Mario, the tanuki from folklore used leaves on their head to invoke their shape-shifting magic. Pretty neat, huh?

Many tanuki statues are made in Shigaraki (a town in our sister state, Shiga), which is know for it’s pottery and home to one of Japan’s ‘Six Old Kilns.’  (I’ll be sharing more about Shigaraki and its famous pottery in a future post.) Shigaraki is likely to be on the tour of the Shiga Sister State Trip, so you can pretty much guarantee I’ll be picking myself up a test-acular tanuki to bring home to Michgian.

I hope you enjoyed learning about tanuki and enjoyed my slightly adolescent sense of humor.

See you later! またね! (matane!)

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal. Arigato/Thank you!



Lake Biwa (琵琶湖), Japan’s “Michigan” Paddleboat

michigan boat
The “Michigan” paddlebaot (image from the go.biwako webiste)


Shiga Prefecture is home to Japan’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Biwa (琵琶湖). The lake takes up about 1/6 of Shiga, Japan, and according to wikitravel, the lake most likely gets its name from the Japanese stringed instrument biwa, which the lake’s shape resembles.

Back when Michigan and Shiga agreed to their sister state relationship back in 1968, an American style paddleboat was given the name “Michigan” to commemorate the newly made ties. Visitors can take a “Michigan Cruise” on the paddleboat, where they can choose from a from 60, 90, or 150 minutes cruise with music, a variety of foods, and an unforgettable tour of Lake Biwa. There’s also a sky deck for the ultimate Lake Biwa viewing experience.

According to the Welcome to Kyoto website, the cost to ride the “Michigan” is 2,000 Yen, which is a little less than $20 USD.  I’m guessing the longer rides cost more than that, but since my Japanese is still poor, I had a difficult time finding that information.

You can click HERE to read about one visitor’s experience, including some nice photographs taken while on the boat.

Lake Biwa is also home to one of the greatest fireworks displays in Japan known as Biwako Dai-Hanabi Taikai or “the festival of great fireworks,” which happens in early August. Over 10,000 fireworks are shot off during this magnificent pyrotechnic display. You can read more about it HERE.

FYI, hanabi taikai (花火大会)  means fireworks, sometimes a contest involving fireworks.


See you later! またね! (mata ne!)

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal. Arigato/Thank you!


Helpful Links: 

Travel Guide of Shiga, Prefecture, Japan:

Colorful Cruising on Japan’s Lake Biwa:

Lake Biwa