Now What?

June 16 was the last time I posted. That means that a ton of things have happened since that post, including my trip to Japan, which is what I’m going to focus on since that is what this poorly neglected blog is all about. 🙂

The first thing I can tell you is this…..

happiness japan


Have you ever felt like something was missing from your life but you couldn’t quite put your finger on what?

It’s not like I wasn’t happy before my trip, but there was this elusive longing in my heart for something else.

What bothered me most about this feeling was the thought that I might never discover the reason or remedy for this mysterious feeling. I always wondered if I’d just go the rest of my life having this sort of strange lingering insatiable void.

You guys, this is going to sound super cheesy, but I’m just going to go ahead and say it (although, I’m sure you’ve already figured it out by now):

the mystery void was a Japan-shaped hole in my heart.

japan heart



Now What?

“You can’t be in two places at the same time.” Chuck Brooks

I know you can’t be in two places at once, but half my heart is in Shiga, Japan, and the other half is here in Bad Axe, Michigan. It’s a strange feeling to say the least.

If my husband wasn’t in the midst of purchasing the business next door to us, we’d be scheming up how to move our family to Shiga. That’s the honest to goodness truth right there, too. Maybe one day. 🙂

Shiga Shar

The next best thing to being able to live in Shiga is sharing my love for all things Shiga and Japan with my family, friends, and community.

In addition to trying to blog more regularly here, I’m going to be opening up a shop next door to my home, where along with selling secondhand books and vinyl records, I’ll be selling Japanese and Asian-inspired items, hosting hangouts to learn more about Japanese food, arts & crafts, culture, and language.

I plan on posting a few more pics and stories about my time in Japan in upcoming weeks. Until then,

またね!(See you later!)

Shiga Shar



Drinking Beer & Learning Japanese with Nomitalk


I wouldn’t normally advise drinking while learning Japanese, but I think I’ll make an exception for Nomitalk, a new YouTube series for those who enjoy language and libations.

I love the natural feel of the Nomitalk videos, which feature ordinary conversation in ordinary settings with native Japanese speakers. The two videos I watched included a trip to a takoyaki bar and a walk through Yoyogi Park for Hanami. I’d never heard of a takoyaki before and didn’t realize people could sit and openly drink during Hanami. Interesting.

The Nomitalk videos are appropriate for all learning levels since they’re captioned in Japanese, romaji, and English. If you’re in the JLPT N5 learning range like myself, you’ll recognize a lot of the words, and actually be able to understand them since most of the speaking is slower, casual speech.  Perhaps that’s due in part to the alcohol. 🙂

alcohol aliens

If you’re looking for some high-quality edu-tainment, check out Nomitalk. You can find them on:




If you’d like to read more about alcohol and drinking culture in Japan, check out:

Drinking Alcohol in Japan by Tofugu

Drinking Culture in Japan

As for me, I’m not much of a drinker, but I do appreciate a nice craft beer or tasty cocktail once in a great while. I’m pretty curious to see what Japanese beer and alcohol tastes like, and hope to sample a few things during my visit in September.

japan beer


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!






How to Afford a Trip to Japan When You’re Not Rich

Saving for Japan

I’m not wealthy. Not even a little bit. The main reason our family of seven survives on a modest single income and some babysitting or freelance writing income here and there is a combination of careful budgeting, simple living (cooking from scratch, thrift store shopping, self-sufficiency practices, etc.), and a bit of good luck.

I’m a firm believer that if you want something bad enough, you can and will make it happen. I really really REALLY REEEEEALLY want to go to Japan. Really bad. And I know that my family is not in the position to afford it without some serious planning and dedicated saving.

I understand that my savings ideas and plan may not be the right fight for you, but I thought I’d share my strategy to inspire other average-lower income folks to seek out creative and clever ways to save up for a big trip, vacation, or special thing you want to do this year. Life is short. Start living it!


There are two income tax returns before my Japan trip, and I’m hoping to be able to put aside a nice chunk of change from each one toward my trip. However, self-employment and income taxes can be a tricky thing. So *fingers crossed* for nice returns!


Solid meal planning not only saves money on groceries, it prevents the expense of unnecessary take-out or dining out trips. I’m guessing I can save around $100 each month with tighter meal planning. That’s approximately $1,000 in savings for the year I can put toward my trip.

Normally, I’m a pretty decent meal planner and smart grocery shopper, but I definitely slacked a bit over the last six months or so after losing my father to cancer this summer and losing our beloved family bulldog in the Fall after she got hit by a car. I truly hope this new year is much kinder to our family.

Pinterest is my favorite meal planning tool. I also keep a notebook with 30 tried and true meals (along with a side-dish list) where I pick about a couple weeks worth of meals at a time and shop accordingly.



I hate price matching in the busy check-out lane, so I use the Wal-Mart Savings Catcher app (free). All I do is scan my receipt after every shopping trip, and I’m sent the difference in cost on any items offered for less by competitors in the area.

The image above is a screenshot of my account. I would have more total rewrads had I been more diligent about scanning my receipts last year. The $12.28 now available is my savings as of January 1st, though, so yay!!!

You can use coupons along with Savings Catcher program, too. In fact, Wal-Mart will price match coupon items based on their price before the coupons, saving you even more money.



Through random Internet searching for homeschool and personal writing projects, I earn free Amazon gift cards every month from Swagbucks. When I keep up with the daily earning tasks and bonus tasks, I can usually earn around $12 to $20 in Amazing gift cards each month, which doesn’t sound like much, but adds up to nearly $200 a year in free easy money.

Swagbucks also has gift cards for Ebay, Walmart, and other places. I personally choose Amazon because I save them up to pay for vitamins, homeschool supplies, birthday gifts for the kids, etc.

Want to earn Swagbucks, too? Join for free and get 150 Swagbucks if you use my referral link:


If I bribe my kids with a cut of the money, I think I can get them to help me set up a yard sale this summer and earn a few hundred bucks. Everybody has stuff laying around they don’t want or need, and a yard sale is a great way to earn extra cash.


A few years ago we signed up for satellite after taking a nearly 3 year hiatus. The contract is up in a couple months, so we’ll be canceling it once again, saving us about $75 a month. I figure I can put aside at least $500 of the saved money toward my Japan trip. What “luxuries” could you cut out (even for just a short period of time) to get what you want?


Any other ideas you’d like to share? Leave them in the comments below. 🙂

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.   ありがとう, 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!

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