Novi Japan Festival (Michigan)

This year (2017) was our family’s first year going to the Novi Japan Festival. If you missed it this year, it’s usually held on the first Sunday in October from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Admission to the event is free, but some of the food and attractions are a small fee. You can tell a lot of work goes into making this event possible and enjoyable, and the folks who put forth the effort do a wonderful job!

Some of the events this year included wagashi making (Japanese sweets), origami, chopstick rubberband shooters, two types of tea ceremonies, Taiko drums and other traditional Japanese musical performances, a ball toss game (with candy for a prize) and my children’s favorite: wanage, which is a ring toss game where you get 3-4 rings for $1.00 and try to hit candy with your rings to win it. My kids scored a TON of great Japanese candy. Just be warned: the lines can be quite long at times for this one-but it’s well worth.

There were also a few beautiful kimono on display, which my daughter insisted having her picture next to. So cute! 🙂


There was a large number of Japanese speaking people, so this event is also a great time to try some Japanese speaking practice. And most of the signs had both English and Japanese, so you can put your reading skills to the test as well.

Overall, our family had a great time. The event was just the right length to keep the family entertained, but not burnt out. I was even able to catch up with some of the new friends I made during my Michigan-Shiga Sister State Goodwill trip.

A side note for mamas with special needs or sensory sensitive little ones: The main area was crowded most of the time, which may difficult for some children. The cafeteria area was less quiet and noisy, and a good place for taking a short sensory break.

LOCATION: Novi High School -24062 Taft Road Novi, MI 48375. There was plenty of room for parking (which is free) when we went, and everything was handicap accessible as well. As I mentioned, the event is a bit crowded at times, but everyone was incredibly courteous in the lines and what-not, so I’m sure folks would be accommodating to individuals with wheelchairs, etc.

COST: Admission is free, some of the games and activities were around $1.00, food at food court was between $6 – $7 and the drinks were between $1-$2 (takoyaki, yakisoba, ramune, sushi, water, tea). If your kids don’t Japanese food, you might want to eat before or after the event to avoid meltdowns or food drama. (click HERE for restaurants near Novi High School)


Perhaps we’ll see you at the Novi Japan Festival next year! If so, stop by and say, “konnichiwa!”  😉


Shiga Shar


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!




Dorayaki どら焼き (Sweet Red Bean Pancake Sandwich)

Dorayaki どら焼き

If you’ve ever watched the anime cartoon, Doraemon, you might recall Doraemon’s favorite treat “yummy beans,” which is actually dorayaki.


Dorayaki are sweetened pancakes with anko (a sweetened red bean paste made from adzuki beans) sandwiched between them.  The pancakes are squishy and a bit dense, similar texture to spongecake. And though you might not equate beans with sweet treats, anko tastes a bit like a lightly sweetened pudding or frosting (depending on how well you cook and mash your beans, of course).

In Japanese, dora means “gong,” which is likely how this treat got its name. And yaki in Japanese means “grill” or “to cook over heat.” In some regions of Japan, dorayaki is known as Mikasa, after Mt. Mikasa.

I think they look a bit like an Amish Whoopie Pie.

Amish Whoopie Pies by Thermo Vixens


As usual, my go-to recipe site for Japanese recipes is Just One Cookbook. So please visit Nami’s site to get the full recipe on how to make dorayaki. Her website is beautiful, easy to follow, and full of great Japanese foods.

Because I wasn’t sure where to get adzuki beans where I live in Michigan, I chose Michigan small red beans from our local grocery store. For any Japanese readers, my home region in Michigan is one of the largest produces of dry beans in the United States.


The results:

I LOVE DORAYAKI!!! If you don’t tell your kids that they’re eating beans, they’ll probably try and like it, too.

They’re fun to make and fun to eat, and tasty both warm or chilled in the fridge. Enjoy them with a warm cup of green tea, a cool glass of Royal milk tea, or a cup of coffee.

Before you take a bite, don’t forget to say, Itadakimasu いただきます, which essentially means, “I humbly receive” in Japanese. It’s sort of like saying a power grace before eating food.


Making dorayaki with my kids. A great cooking, math, and culture lesson.


Close up image of my finished dorayki. SO TASTY!

Thanks for reading and……

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!

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


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


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!