79 Days Until My Japan Trip

79 days left until my Japan trip.

The realty of the trip sank in a bit deeper about 10 days when when I received the itinerary and flight information for the trip in my inbox. The itinerary is incredible. Temples, a ninja village, a sake brewery, shopping, museums, and more.

This is pretty much how I looked after I read through the info.

steve martin cry

No joke.

Next week I’m applying for my passport, which I’m sure will also make me cry.

Part of me is scared something is going to happen and I won’t be able to go. It’s been an insane few weeks personally, and it appears the insanity won’t be ending any time before my trip. I hope that things get a bit more sorted out before I have to leave so my husband and kids will be okay without me for 10 days.

For now, I’m going to do my best to be positive and take one day at a time.

 

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!

LET’S CONNECT AT THESE PLACES TOO  🙂

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I also write on this blog HERE.

 

 

Half a Day on a Plane?! {Why I’m Not Worried about the Long Flight to Japan}

14 hour plane ride (1)

I’ll be 35 this September when I board the plan to Japan. It’s been almost 15 years since I stepped foot on a plane, and that trip was just a couple hour flight to Florida from Detroit, Michigan.

Not only have I not flown in over a decade, I’ve only traveled a few hours away from my small Michigan town a few dozen times throughout these years. And when I did, it was always a half-day or so trip with my husband and kids. Never alone.

But in roughly five months, I’ll be sitting on a 14-ish hour flight with people I don’t know, staying in foreign country for 11 days, four of them living with a Japanese family I’ve never met.

nervous meme

 

Naturally, I’m a bit nervous.

But mostly, I’m looking forward to it.

sayonaura

 

My entire life is pretty much devoted to my husband and kids. I honestly can’t remember the last time I got to read, eat, study Japanese, sleep, or just use the bathroom without someone needing something from me.

 

 

pantry mom
I feel your pain, Pantry Mom.

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I have a great life, but after spending the last 15 years nearly non-stop birthing, wiping, cleaning, feeding, teaching, and all the mothering and wife-ing duties in-between, I’m going to enjoy not having to cook, clean, or care for anybody but myself on that half-day flight (and the rest of my trip, for that matter).

 

relax

 

I know being away from each other will be difficult, but I also know that opportunities like this don’t always happen a second time around. As nervous as I am, I’m thrilled and thankful to have a chance to pursue this awesome opportunity. The truth is,

There will never be a “convenient” time to pursue your passions or dreams, especially when you’re a mother. 

I know it sounds cliche, but I really think this is going to be a life-changing trip for me. And I hope it inspires my children to enjoy life, be open for new adventures, and embrace opportunities as they arise.

 

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!

LET’S CONNECT THESE PLACES TOO  🙂

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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 Tofugu.com. 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!

 

 

How to Send Your Michigan High Schooler to Japan

2016 hs ms exchange

According to the Michigan-Shiga High School Exchange Facebook page, the 2016 high school exchange program applications are now available. The program is put on by the Japan Center for Michigan Universities (JCMU), and is a great way to strengthen the bonds between Michigan and Shiga. It’s definitely something I’ll be looking more into once my kids are old enough.

You can also read more about the program on their website HERE.

The program is for:

*High school students in grades 9, 10, or 11 who are interested in going Japan

*Families willing to host a Shiga student in your home and help them attend school for two weeks in August/September

*Teens and their families interested in learning more about Japanese language and culture

*Families who can budget around $3,800 for the program, plane ticket, spending money, and a passport.

If this sounds like something you and your high school student would enjoy, click the links above for more info or to print out an application. Applications must be postmarked by 3/11/2016. Only 15 students are accepted, so don’t wait too long to send in your info.

 

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 considering donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal. Arigato/Thank you!

How to Count to Five in Japanese & Two Free Worksheets

Count to Five

 

A few years ago I found these cool dry erase marker boards pictured above, and they are one of my favorite homeschool tools. They allow you to put traceable worksheets underneath a clear dry erase board to save you paper and make learning easier on the go. If you don’t have these boards, a simple plastic pocket page  works just as well.

Another fun way to use these worksheets is to simply print them up and use watercolors to trace the kanji. This is also a good small motor exercise for children. Of course, you can always just use markers or crayons if you’d like, too. And adults are free to use these too, I’m just sharing how I use them as a part of homeschooling my children.

How to Count to Five in Japanese 

Here’s quick phonetic run-down of the pronunciation of 1 through 5 in Japanese.

ONE: ichi (ee chee)

TWO: ni (knee

THREE: san (sahn)

FOUR: yon (yone)

FIVE: go (go)

For the worksheets, just click and it will open up a .pdf for you to print and save. If you have any problems or questions, feel free to post them in the comments section.

1-5 number writing practice sheet

kanji 1-5

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. Arigato/Thank you!

Royal Milk Tea ロイヤルミルクティー

Royal Milk Tea

Disclaimer: I’ve never actually had “official” royal milk tea, since Japan (and the surrounding countries) is one of the few places in the world you can drink and buy it. And since Uva tea leaves and Hokkaido milk are not exactly common grocery items here in the US, I’m doing my best to come up with an American-ized version of royal milk tea until I can go over and have the real thing. 🙂

So what is it?

Royal milk tea is the creation of Lipton Japan. It is a blend of tea, milk, and sweetener that is typically served cold, but can also be enjoyed warm. Vending machines and cafes all over Japan serve it, and one of the most popular brands is Tea KADEN Royal milk tea, which I’ve heard is absolutely oishii おいしい (delicious).

Royal Milk Tea ロイヤルミルクティー

Recipe:

3 cups boiling water

1.5 cups milk (whole)

2 T honey (or sugar, if you prefer)

2 Black tea bags (I use Newman’s Royal Black Organic)

2 Darjeeling tea bags

Instructions:

Bring 3 cups water to a boil. Turn off the water, but leave the pot and the burner, and steep the tea bags for six minutes. Remove tea bags and stir in honey and milk. Pour into large mason jar and chill fully before drinking (unless you’d like it warm).

The Verdict

We all really enjoyed the tea, and will definitely make it often. It’s good both warm and cold, but we all prefer it super chilled. It sort of reminds me of a tea-based iced coffee.

If you didn’t care for my version, Nami of Just One Cookbook has another version you can try.

 

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 considering 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: http://www.biwakokisen.co.jp/en/

Colorful Cruising on Japan’s Lake Biwa: http://www.martinpro.com/casestory/casestory.asp?id=747

Lake Biwahttps://www.ana-cooljapan.com/destinations/shiga/lakebiwa

Michigan-Shiga Sister Cities

There are seventeen sister cities between Michigan and Shiga Prefecture, Japan. Garden City, Olivet, Portland, and St. Johns are unofficial sister cities, but still included in the Michigan-Shiga sister city friendship.

Is your city one of them? Did you know that before you read this or not?

 

sister cities list

 

Thanks for reading!

As always, 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. Arigatou/Thank you! ~Shiga Shar

The Oldest Sister State Relationship in the U.S.

oldest sister state rltnshp

Last month we decided to start studying Japanese language and culture and as a part of our homeschooling. It only took a few days of practicing the language and exploring the culture for me to fall in madly love with all things Japanese.  I found myself staying up way past my bed-time practicing Japanese, watching tourist videos, and dreaming of one day visiting this far away land.

Since actually going to Japan seemed like a far-fetched desire (especially for a stay-at-home mom with five kids), I scoured the web for any kind of Japan themed trips here in Michigan to satisfy my wanderlust and double as a homeschool field trip.

One of the things I stumbled across during my search was the  Michigan-Shiga Sister State Program website. Up until this point, I had no idea our state had any kinds of connections with Japan. And I certainly didn’t realize that we’d been sister states with Shiga, Japan since 1968, making our partnership the oldest sister state relationship in the United States.

How cool is that?!

The best part of discovering the Michigan-Shiga Sister State Program was finding out about the Goodwill Mission to Shiga, Japan.  Every odd numbered year, residents of Michigan have the opportunity to spend 11 days in Shiga, Japan. Five of those days are spent living with a host family, fully immersed in Japanese culture.

Again, how cool is that?!

I don’t quite know how it’s going to happen just yet, but I’ve got to find a way to go on the next trip. The cost of the 2015 trip (which seems quite reasonable) was around $3,000, which should be about the same cost in 2107. That means I have about a year and a half to come up with a few grand and sharpen my Japanese skills if I want to go to Shiga in 2107.

This blog will serve two purposes:

1) To share my love of Shiga and Japan, including sharing facts, tasty recipes, language learning tips, and more to get you guys just as hooked on Shiga and Japan as I am.

2) To serve as a fundraising platform. For those of you who find this blog helpful and informative, it would be super awesome if you’d consider donating a few bucks (or more if you’re so inclined) toward helping me get to Shiga.

 

Sayonara  さようなら,

Shiga Shar