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Discovering Japan 1

Our world map is one of the most utilised item at home. I would love to bring them and explore all of the possible places in the world some day, insyaAllah. While waiting for every opportunity to come, we will be exploring the world without having to hop onto an aeroplane. One of which is through books.

Two months ago, after we have explored quite a bit about the world – the different ways they get their drinking water, the different cultures and even different types of footwears, we chose our first country to focus on. We decided on Japan.

It had been an enriching experience ‘travelling’ to Japan as each author brings us through their stories, masyaAllah. After each book, Umar writes a book review and draw a scene out of his favourite part of the book. Then, Umar jots down all the words that is related to Japan in a page that I named “The Word Splash”.

This was his first word splash. He picked Japan-related words from the stories. At the same time, I wanted to show him that he can make art with everything and anything, including words.<3

We started off with Allen Say’s The Favourite Daughter. It was about a girl, Yuriko, who wanted an American name to avoid being teased. This speaks volume to me because I hated my name because my classmates called me “Godzilla”. We talked about respect and drawing boundaries with jokes.

Kamishibai man by Allen Say was one of my favourites. Indirectly, it tells us the beautiful Japanese form of story telling. It is mobile with illustrative story cards. The stories that were told contained a moral lesson or two. The Kamishibai art slowly loses its appeal as television became a popular household item.

Umar enjoyed the book that he gave it all the stars it deserves. 😀

After a book review, he picked a part from the story he likes most. In Kamishibai Man, Umar likes when the Kamishibai Man gave sweets to everyone.

Working on his first word splash to make it look more interesting.

Crowboy by Taro Yashima is an extremely heartfelt book about a boy who lived extremely far from school but yet, made an effort to be in school everyday despite having a teacher who scolds him and no friends to play with. His life took a positive turn when a new teacher came in and noticed his talent. Alot of lessons could be drawn from this story alone from looking at everyone with kindness to believing that there is talent in all of us. Some of which we might have yet to discover.

Hachiko by Yan Nascimbene is a sad story about a loyal dog. It would wait for his keeper at the train station from work daily even after he died at his workplace. The kids were reminded that keeping a pet is a lifelong commitment because animals, like us, have feelings too!

If you need to know what is my favourite book for our Japan series, it would be The Perfect Sword by Scott Goto. If you have boys who always enjoy pretending to fight with an ‘invincible’ villain and sometimes cannot tell you what they are fighting about, THIS IS A MUST READ. 😀 It tells you that a real warrior does not need to use a weapon all the time. All problems need not be solved through fighting or arguing. A weapon, if it falls into the wrong hands, will give more destruction than peace.

The Bicycle Man by Allen Say is dated during post World War II when American soldiers were stationed in Japan. It brought us to a picturesque view of a school up in the mountains, subhanAllah. By now, you should have figured out that Allen Say wrote quite an extensive collection of children’s books with Japan as his theme.

I enjoyed seeing his Word Splash’s design progress. He took the initiative to pick different colors and creating different types of fonts as he goes along. MasyaAllah.

Our most recent read is Sadako and The Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr. This is an extremely sad book about a girl who was born lively and atheletic but lived a short life of 12 years. She was diagnosed with leukemia or commonly known in Hiroshima as the “atom bomb disease”. An increase of leukemia was observed in young children several years after the bombing. 🙁 It was a good conversation starter to discuss about the many (long term) effects of war and its negative consequences on many aspects especially children.

The book ended with the mention of the people’s wish at the base of Sadako’s statue:

This is our cry, this is our prayer; peace in the world.

We explored folktales too. One of which is The Magic Fan. Folktales are interesting because it often speaks about the culture and traditions. Folktales will contain lessons on character traits and core values.

Other books includes:

Tea With Milk by Allen Say The Way We Did It in Japan by Geneva Cobb Manjiro: The Boy who Risked His Life for Two Countries by Emily Arnold Mccully

Stories have strong influence, especially to young minds, and creates a deep impression too. It can help to add meaning to our everyday moments, insyaAllah. Occasionally, when I need to reason out why an action is not encouraged, I used one of the stories to illustrate my point.

Besides books, thanks to technology, we watched a few episodes of BBC Earth – Wild Japan! It has only been 3 episodes but we learnt alot, masyaAllah. It includes the Japanese Atlas moth, the crab that grew into a giant and an ancient underwater “pyramid”!

We are excited too to expand our learning on Japan. Till next time, insyaAllah! 😉

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