children

Why are some Japanese preschools banning awesome, adorable character bento?

Considering how much Japan loves food and cute things, it’s no surprise that the country is in the middle of a chara-ben boom. Chara-ben, bento boxed lunches with their contents arranged like popular characters such as Hello Kitty and Doraemon, are a hit with adults and children alike, as parents seem to be having as much fun making them as their kids are eating them.

But not everyone loves this trend of culinary creativity, though, as some preschools and day care centers have started banning chara-ben.

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Proceeds from gourmet New Year’s meals to be donated to help feed undernourished children

As a nation of die-hard foodies, Japan is always on the lookout for a memorable meal. We’re just a couple of months away from New Year’s, when Japan dines on some of its most opulent dishes of all as part of the multi-dish osechi meals that are traditionally eaten at the beginning of the year.

Recently, more and more families have begun purchasing their osechi rather than making their own, and we imagine quite a few have been tempted by the Mickey Mouse and Frozen versions we talked about last month. If you’re willing to hold off on satisfying your inner child for the sake of the world’s less fortunate actual kids, though, you might be interested in an osechi set that helps raise funds for charity group Table for Two.

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Adorable three-year-old Filipino boy absolutely kills it on the drums【Videos】

Martin Cruz hails from Iselin New Jersey, is a killer at playing church music on the drums, and is just three years old! Watch four videos of this little guy owning that kit after the jump.

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Gundam creator isn’t making his new series for you, doesn’t care if you don’t like it

Gundam creator Yoshiyuki Tomino always seems to be seething at someone. Recently, he had harsh words for the anime voice acting industry, and now he’s gnawing even further up the arm that’s connected to the hand that feeds him by setting his sights on a new target: all adult Gundam fans.

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Ninety-nine problems, but looking like a 5-year-old playa ain’t one of them

Preschool. That tender age between three- and five-years-old where kids cry whenever they are separated from their parents but change moods instantly when something entertaining happens. They are only beginning to discover the crazy mad, mad world around them. It’s like they don’t have a care in the world! They can eat what they want, wear what they want, and do what they want! They should cherish these worry-free years before they start encountering the real world problems of an elementary school first grader…right?

 Well…we hate to break it to you but…

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Father posts six-year-old daughter’s anime character drawings online, net users not convinced

Many kids love drawing and playing with colors. Some even drive their parents insane with constant doodles on the walls, tables, and practically any flat surface within proximity. But some are more talented than others, and there’s no doubt that there are child prodigies who can draw better than some adults.

Recently, a proud Japanese dad posted pictures of drawings his six-year-old daughter created of her favorite anime characters. The detailed drawings quickly caught the attention of internet users, with some commenting that the drawings were too good to be created by the hands of a six-year-old! Could this young girl be a budding artist? Check out her drawings after the break!

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Japanese NPO creates Let It Go parody for serious cause, doesn’t stop it from being completely silly

We have more Japanese “Let It Go” parody shenanigans for you, this time courtesy of a serious organization, the Alliance for Raising Children. Watch their governors throw themselves into recreating Elsa’s soul-searching ballad while prancing around in suits in various random locations, having way more fun than the bemused-looking kids singing in the background.

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Schoolkids in China receive “anti-drowning” lessons

Before you read the title of this post, was your initial reaction to the photo above? If you’re anything like us, you probably assumed that it was some quirky new trend going on at schools in China (remember those metal “vision safeguarding” bars on the desks, anyone?); perhaps some experiment in synchronised face-washing or a way of keeping sleepy students alert in the afternoon.

The truth, though, is rather more unnerving: these kids are being taught a valuable lesson about water safety.

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Post World Cup cheer up: Shinji Kagawa and Hiroshi Kiyotake take on 55 kids at once

For anyone who’s still struggling to accept Japan’s elimination from the World Cup at the group stage, we’ve got a little video clip here to brighten your mood. While it was originally broadcast on New Year’s Eve half a year ago, it features two of Japan’s top football athletes finding themselves in an amusing situation with none of the stress from the World Cup.

How would you like to see international stars Shinji Kagawa and Hiroshi Kiyotake taking on 55 elementary school kids at once?

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7-year-old turns cash into “art”, parents decidedly unamused

How did you first learn about the value of money as a child? Did you save up your allowance in a piggy bank until there was enough to buy a cool new toy? Or how about taking care of the neighbor’s cat for a small reward?

Or maybe you were never actually taught how to spend your cash wisely, and to this day keep a tall stack of credit card bills around in case you need to blow your nose.

Speaking of money going down the drain, that’s pretty much what one Japanese 7-year-old was found guilty of the other day. He was given a 1,000-yen note, worth roughly US$9.80, and told to “use it however you want.” While most other kids would have jumped for joy and rushed to the nearest toy store, this kid had a much more…creative idea.

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Kids today get all the best toys! “Sketch Aquarium” turns doodles into lifelike swimming fish

Remember all those toys you had as a kid that seemed so cutting-edge at the time? They probably don’t seem quite as exciting any more with all the advances in technology over the years. In fact, you’ll be willing to trade your Furby in a heartbeat once you see what these Japanese kids get to play with nowadays!

Take the “Sketch Aquarium” for example - a play area where children can foster their creative skills by designing a fish and then interact with it in a virtual tank. I wonder if adults are allowed in, too…

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Pirates, poems, and cows all appear on Japanese parents’ top 10 manga picks for kids

The common logic is that children shouldn’t waste their time reading comic books, but it’s a little hard for parents to lay down that blanket rule when mom and dad used to be, or maybe still are, avid manga comic fans themselves. After all, how can you tell your kids they can’t read Bleach when you’ve got a trip to the bookstore penciled in on your schedule whenever a new volume of Attack on Titan gets released?

As more and more adults hang on to their love of comics, the question seems to have shifted from “Is it OK for your kids to read manga?” to “Which manga do you want your kids to read?” with a recent poll providing some interesting and informative answers.

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Gadgets before flowers – Japanese moms reveal what they really want for Mother’s Day

Although the association of carnations with Mother’s Day began in the United States and stretches back over 100 years, I grew up never really being conscious of it (likely due to some combination of being a terrible son and having little interest in historical events that didn’t involve swords).

In Japan, though, most people are aware that carnations are a symbol for Mother’s Day, and a bouquet of the flowers is by far the most common gift given on the holiday. But while mothers across the country appreciate the gesture, one survey says there’s something they want even more: electronics.

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The greatest wish of underprivileged “pig-shed” sibilings is to have a bright lamp

It was Children’s Day in Taiwan on April 4th, and while many children probably wished for new toys and games or a day of fun and play, a pair of underprivileged siblings living in Nantou County of Taiwan wished for nothing more than a really bright light so that they could study, and for it to rain less so that they could sleep on dry beddings.

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Japan ratifies child abduction treaty, but some parents may still be left behind

This week, Japan became the 91st signatory to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which provides protection for children under 16 from being taken from their country of residence by one parent against the wishes of the other. However, the convention does not work retroactively, so parents whose children have already been taken are urging the Japanese government to stand by provisions of the treaty in their cases as well.

A group of left-behind parents organized a march in Washington, D.C., on Monday to hand-deliver 28 applications for assistance reuniting with their children to the U.S. Department of State and to submit a petition for the return of abducted children to the Japanese embassy.

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Little store managers take over FamilyMart in Taiwan, hilarity and tons of cute in store【Video】

Help! Somebody shrunk the store managers at the FamilyMart convenience stores in Taiwan!

We kid you, but it’s true that these adorable children were store managers at Taiwan’s FamilyMart! The “Little Store Manager Experience Camp” run by the convenience store franchise chain allows children to experience a day as a store manager, and though they were pretty good at their one-day “job”, they were even better at what kids do best – being irresistibly cute! Check out what the experience camp had in store for them after the jump!

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Halfway to adulthood: New Japanese festival for 10-year-olds gets parents talking

Japanese children enjoy many rite-of-passage celebration and age-specific holidays. This week it was Girls’ Day (hina matsuri) on March 3rd; next up in May will be Children’s Day (kodomo no hi). Another children’s holiday comes along in November: shichi-go-san, for children who have turned 3, 5 or 7 that year.

Once Japanese young adults turn 20, they have a special holiday to celebrate the beginning of adulthood, too. Coming of Age Day (seijin no hi) celebrates those who have reached the Japanese age of majority by turning 20 the previous year. And now growing in popularity is the “halfway to adulthood” festival, held when a child is 10 years old.

So what is this new(ish) celebration, where did it come from, and what does its burgeoning popularity tell us about Japan today?

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Japanese parents react to the technological prowess of their digital-native kids

One day when I was a pre-kindergarten kid, some relatives were visiting our house. At one point the grownups’ conversation turned to something outside my realms of interest, which at the time consisted of giant robots and dragons, exclusively. I grabbed a video cassette and stuck it into the VCR (probably to watch cartoons about giant dragon-shaped robots).

My aunt saw this and expressed her surprise that I could do it all by myself, but to me, on the difficulty scale it ranked somewhere below that pesky toilet thing my parents kept recommending I learn how to use. My aunt saw me mastering a new, cutting-edge form of technology, but to me, I was just hitting some buttons to start the cartoon I wanted to see.

This sort of thing happens every day, and I’m not talking about me amazing someone with my mental capacity (that only happens about once every 12 months – can’t wait for April!). The wondrous gadgets that change the way adults work, play, and live are just ordinary tools in the eyes of their kids, no more awe-inspiring or intimidating than a refrigerator or pair of scissors. Recently, Twitter users in Japan shared the moments when they realized their children were digital natives, and couldn’t imagine life without the high-tech conveniences their parents will never take for granted.

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Why deciding whether or not to help a crying girl is complicated in Japan

Last week, I was riding the train home from one of the luxurious adventures that define my jet-setting expat lifestyle (swimming at the public pool, which had been half-filled with elderly women doing water aerobics). As I sat down on the bench seat, I noticed a girl sitting opposite me, wearing the uniform of either a middle or high school student.

After a few stops, a man in his 30s entered the car and without hesitation sat down next to the girl and began talking to her. The girl turned her face away and did her best to ignore the man, yet, undaunted and now leaning closer to her, he continued jabbering away, occasionally pausing and waiting in vain for some sort of response. At this point there were at least a half-dozen other people on the train watching this uncomfortable scene unfold, and yet no one had made a move to intervene.

This internal struggle between lending a helping hand and not getting involved in others’ business isn’t an entirely unusual problem in Japanese society, as illustrated by a recent Twitter debate that flared up over one man’s quandary about how far to go in helping a distraught little girl he saw wandering the streets alone at night.

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Japanese experts and expats react to parenting norms from around the world

I was on the subway one morning during one of my very first trips to Tokyo when I spotted two unaccompanied elementary school-age girls riding through downtown together. How could two kids who weren’t old enough to drink even a sip of coffee without freaking out be traversing the country’s densest urban center all by themselves?

In Japan, though, very young kids commuting to school without any kind of adult supervision isn’t anything unusual, and as such no one paid the two unaccompanied tykes any mind.

Likewise, sometimes things that seem like the most natural way of raising kids to parents overseas might seem totally bizarre to Japanese adults, as this collection of reactions to parenting around the world by Japanese experts and expats shows.

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