Bowing Out: The FIFA World Cup Has Eluded Us

Dear Friends,

It is with deep remorse that I bid this thread adieu. As sole blogging-rep for Japan in this, the fabulous Multicultural Kids Blogs, World Cup Project, this is my last. (Not to say I won’t be reading everyone else’s). This is one serious site to gleam from the countries and cultures who are/have competed for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. There is nearly a blog for every country. These are savvy women, and a few men, who live the bicultural/bilingual, sometimes trilingual life. (Lucky me–I am very inspired).

worldcup pic

Japan is out after losing 1-4 to Columbia. So…we’ve been out for three days now and I hadn’t said a word. Not even “boo”. I didn’t mean to be a sore loser, or anything. Honestly, I didn’t even realize that game was being played until I saw dozens of screaming comments on social media while I was riding the train. Can I claim busy mom? Well, anyway, Japan is out. The respectful thing for me to do is bow. Bow goodbye, bow in thanks, bow bow bow. This is very Japanese of me.

You know, not all Japanese bows are so overt or so deep. A bow here can even be a very casual dip of the head. It’s like a 1950s hat tilt. You are acknowledging someone else. Here are some situations for a small, pleasant bow:

1. You see your neighbor and want to wish them a good morning. Bow. 

2. You see the mail-person and feel thankful for his work. Do it. 

3. Gosh, the men collecting garbage are so terrific. Bow. 

4. You think the young woman in the elevator should get off before you. Go, bow. 

5. Another mother has purposely left the daycare gate open for you. Bow.

6. You’re about to tuck into your soba lunch or any food. “Itadaki masu”! and a small bow. 

7. Someone hands you a fork. You need that fork. Boy, you are thankful for the fork. Bow. 

8. Your husband introduces you to a co-worker or new friend. That’ll be one or more bows with some specific Japanese phrases, “Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu” coming up!

9. Today was the first day of swimming. You loused up and left the clean and dry, mandatory swim cap hanging in the bathroom. The teacher graciously offers another solution so that your girl can swim. Bows of “I’m sorry, how embarrassing”, mixed with rigorous nods of thanks. Pheew, tomorrow you’ll get that cap in the bag. Gotta cool it with the bows so your neck doesn’t get all crinkly-stiff. 

You get the picture. I find myself bowing to people in cars when they let me cross. I bow to crossing guards, librarians, and police men. I bow to my kids’ daycare teachers. I probably bow to my eyelids while I sleep. It is utterly engrossing. And elegant. It is like a plie or curtesy for your head and neck.


A pic from a recent performance my girl & I attended. Bows are graceful, fluid, & sometime imperceptible, unless you are looking.

Maybe two months ago, I realized my 1 year old guy, was bowing to people! And in the right situations! Well, I’ll be. He has been interacting and communicating with people–teachers, family members, people in the neighborhood for some time now. Usually he’ll bow when saying hello, goodbye, or accepting food or a treat. Maybe this polite mannerism has been going on far longer than I realize even now. Once I finally realized what was going on, his bow was clear as day. He’s probably also fluent in Russian and I just don’t know it.


One of 4 hopeful passport pics to submit for your guy’s Japanese passport. Unusable cuz he’s probably BOWING.

I’m willing to bet my new awesome heart shirt that all Japanese people would exchange bows at the end of a sports game. The winner would of course bow, not to seem stuck-up, but to extend courtesy and respect to a worthy opponent and all the person represents. The one conceding or walking away without the medal would absolutely bow to show respect and deference to the skillful opponent. Unless, of course, he is a sore loser, and we won’t have that, will we.

The thing to do, is bow.

In the most fitting of words,

Sayonara. Mata ne! (Goodbye and see you later, alligator!)


World Cup: How Do You Say, “GO! FIGHT! WIN!”

Today’s FIFA World Cup post, in friendship with Multicultural Kids Blogs, is brought to you by the letter “L”, for language.


worldcup pic

Language, my friends, bridges gaps, repairs seams, & cheers on friends as they make their mark on the world.

Language colors the words to a song. Your language tells where you were born, tells people to stop and go.

Your language is the music box to your soul. (I swear, I really AM this cheesy. I could write for Hallmark with my eyes closed). It’s what Queen Ursula was after. In it are all the nuances that make you YOU. Dialect, accent, tone. The history of 1st words you ever learned.

Today I sat observing a Japanese class at a nearby language school in Tokyo. (I’ll be starting there soon, so language and my desperate need is showing up in what I’m writing, of late). I was taken aback when the sensei led me in; what a raucous party. It was part MTV Spring Break and part United Nations. They were making jokes with the teacher, answering questions, practicing one-on-one, but with loud laughter running all over the walls. Fun, fine. Normal. Until I realized, rather learned, that not one of them speaks English. They are from Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Mexico, …it is their new language, this Japanese, that is the only option, and also the route to knowing these warm people, these new friends.

It hit me–learning this language is for a broader picture. It is deciding to go “all in” within your community, to lay down roots and not just flail. Not stay suspended in our own abilities and our own bubble. We need community. We need to grow our voice. Sometimes that looks like cheering.

So, dear ones. In honor of Language, in honor of Japan playing Greece, Thursday 7 pm, here is a little Japanese primer.


On the window of a bistro I passed today

Pronunciation cheat sheet:

*When you see an “i”, pronounce it with a Spanish “i”, or “ee”.

* When you see an “e”, pronounce it like “cafe”. (So “sake”, the alcohol, is pronounced “sakai”, like “cafe”.


Of course, the above sign says, “GO!”, but it is so common to hear this word:

GANBATTE! がんばって–Translated, “Do your best! Go for it!” (And a whole host of like directives)

You see this with GANBATTE KUDASAI! , the addition of “please”, for a more polite feel.

So someone will encourage another with a hearty, “ganbatte kudasai!” and the recipient will reply, “Gambattemasu!” (I will do my best!)

Or if it is a team effort, everyone will chant, “GANBATTEMASHOU!” (like “ganbahteemashow“. We will do it!!!)

For “Don’t give up,” try, “AKIRAMENAIDE.”

OMEDETOU! おめでとうございます。–Translates to, “Congratulations!”

To be more polite, you’d add, “Gozaimasu” for “Omedetou gozaimasu!”

Maybe you already know “KONICHIWA”? Good afternoon, but also spoken at the first time you see someone that day.


Phrases and Idioms:

“What a small world!”, like if your friend knows someone you know, say, “SEKAI WA SEMAI”, literally “The world is narrow”.

“Let’s watch the soccer game tonight!” translates to, “Kon’ya wa terebi de sakka (socccer) minyo yo.”


Here is a pretty goofy/cute video with more Japanese sports vocabulary. Only the names of sports, actually.

Here is a fantastic primer of Japan National facts in the form of a fun video! You’ll learn some facts & hear Japanese language.


Also, a word to the wise, keep your eyes on Keisuke Honda. The whole world is watching #4.


In other recent developments, my daughter has now relinquished her Samurai Blue shirt. “Not girly enough”, she surmised.

I’ll try a little cutting and tailoring to perhaps better fit her temperment. Maybe I’ll have that ready by the next World Cup. In lieu of the shirt, I guess we’ll know her or her team by her voice, by her sweet & strong cheer.

All best,



Japan’s Game & Father’s Day: Win Win

Here I am, teaming up with Multicultural Kid Blogs in our multifaceted, culture-rich look at The FIFA World Cup. I feel a bit like a blogger interning at Sports Illustrated for Kids! Very fun to have a turn, as I am our featured blogger for Japan. (No pressure…um) 😉

worldcup pic

It’s game day for the Land of the Rising Sun. Japan plays Cote d’Ivoir today, Sunday the 15th, also Father’s Day. We’ve gotten a bit serious about how we will watch, see exhibit a, b, c, and d.

We will be hosting a little block party of sorts, watching with a wonderful family who are French and Japanese. This unique combo of Father’s Day and the 2014 FIFA World Cup call for some interesting snacks, non? The house will ring with French and Japanese mixing in with English, squeeles of kids running around, while the FIFA World Cup commentators do their thing.

Japan’s team is often referred to as Samurai Blue.

Japan team

Japan knows how to be fierce as well as cute.


Back to the party. What to eat? Well, if I were really looking to be in WC party mode, I would arrange all the Japanese faves–from sushi to cold somen (noodles) to okonamiyaki (a kind of street pancake with loads of cabbage, egg, pickled ginger, and smoked tuna flakes on top. Many of the foods Japan is know for are seafoods, like the ubiquitous sushi, sashimi, smoked squids and a variety of fish cooked in a variety of ways. We are an island in the Pacific, after all. Actually, the technical word is an archipelago, a string of islands from snowy Sapporo, nearest Russia, to the white sand, tropical Okinawa.


I’m there, in lime green Tokyo, wearing my Samurai Blue with my family and all of Japan. (PS We lost tonight).

We are in the midst of warm, humid rainy season, so one could get pretty excited stocking up on icy-cold drinks and snacks for these games. A Japanese snack or lunch table can include popular sodas like Calpis or a household lemon drink, CC Lemon. In humid June heat, mugicha is the usual summer drink. Cha means tea, mugi is barley; so this is refreshing, non-caffeinated barley tea. Babies, kids, adults– everyone grows up barley tea.

We went all out to bridge the French component with… so much cheese. So much. cheese. Also smoked salmon, capers, and lots of nibbles.

Seeing as our Japan/Cote d’Ivoir game falls on Father’s Day, we are doing a nice brunch of waffles in our waffle iron. Hot, fluffy waffles and a nice cool spoonful of whipped cream are spot-on. Also, our friends will bring a lovely quiche.

With our screen and projector on loan, piles of prints from Multicultural Kids Blog’s World Cup activity pack, everything is in place. Very exciting! ($6.95 bought me a whole download of awesomely relevant sheets from mapping the teams of the world to tracking the score and uniforms of today’s game!!) I will post some of the kiddos’ great work later this week.

Here is the activity pack link, pre-k to grade 4. Truly great!


Did you read my last World Cup post? Here ya go!

Will post more later. So many pics.
Go Samurai Blue!!

Fully Your Heritage/ World Cup for Kids, Intro

My family’s World Cup Experience, scribed for Multicultural Kids’ Blogs


Starting Thursday, thirty-two nations will come together for FIFA World Cup 2014, in hot hot Brazil. 

It is a chance, of course, to see favorite players, the world’s best. Soccer is definitely our family’s cup of mate. My husband is a soccer player, so what if he’s unofficially retired at 35? Soccer love is eternal. He will forever be the handsome soccer player I snagged, the guy with the great quads. (Being that I’m American, I call it soccer, not futball). 

Now that we have little ones, now that we live in Tokyo, now that we all naturally want to root for our countries, for our heritage, the FIFA World Cup holds such meaning and great opportunity for teaching. 


This tee-pee works as our family’s net. Let’s hope Elmo is a solid keeper. 

Just two days ago, our daughter, Kariin, sidled up to her papa, just as he settled into his swiveling office chair. It was the final sendoff match for US against Nigeria. She saw our American flag, saw Nigeria’s waving, and then the songs started. “What are those songs?” 

Aha! What a teaching moment and the games haven’t even started! My guy told her about national anthems and how each country has one. The players and fans all sing it. He promised to teach her ours. “Am I a little bit American?” She sometimes thinks she’s just a bit, or maybe not reeeeally American, since we live here in Tokyo. Since she is also Japanese and speaks the language. 


What an opportunity for her to learn her song, to step into her nationality. She can cheer for each team, each of her countries, can sing each song boldly, with the loud spunk of all her three and a half years. I ran off to fetch her double passports and show her, prove to her that the eagle, stars, and stripes, along with all the writing, validate her Americanism. We look at both passports and within a minute, she is remembering, grinning, “I am both!” 

Now, for the AnthemsThis is a nice little grouping of national anthems, featuring You Tube clips and musical assessments from singers and songwriters in the biz. The writer of this article and compilation assesses that throughout the course of The FIFA World Cup, “Thirty-two national anthems played a total of 128 times over the course of the tournament”…comes out to be roughly three hours and twenty minutes of anthem-singing. Holy Moly Anthemoly. What a chance to teach our kiddos their anthem, or anthems, depending on how many countries and nations they represent! That’s how I felt, anyway, before actually showing my daughter a couple of patriotic songs. She thought it was boring and wondered if we might watch a Frozen song instead.

Back to my enthusiastic, teacher-tirade: A country’s melody and lyrics can say a lot, as well as spur on our players. It is about feeling part of your heritage, feeling the right to hold your head up and sing. Of course, nothing is stopping any of us from learning the other teams’ national anthems. Heck, all those hours of anthems may put dozens of them in our heads, all at once. We’ll be sining “God Save the Queen to the tune of Nigeria’s anthem, whistling Ireland’s tune during the coin toss, and then ending with …”and the hooooome of the brave.”

Let’s not go nuts.

fifa pic

This must be the best workout album, ever, featuring Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez, & Claudia Leitte’s Ole Ola.

If you and your fam are interested in something modern, something with a beat, look no further. Here are some pretty serious videos all vying to be your favorite FIFA World Cup Anthem” for 2014.

There is the Pepsi-made song, something from Samsung, & those yoghurt people at Activia, to name a few.

Coca-Cola did something pretty darn awesome, taking one song, The World is Ours, & bringing it to local artists to contribute their local sound to weave more than thirty versions into the whole.

Presenting, Ole Ola, the “official FIFA party song”! The samba dancers are of course, racy, just a heads-up, parents. I thought my girl would be totally blown away. Nope. “Boring”, she sighed. “When is Frozen coming on?”

I’m looking forward to seeing my daughter step into greater clarity and pride as she cheers on two nations, as she cheers on a world coming together to play a game. I’ll tell her Queen Elsa is due to make an appearance at half-time. 

Peace Out Soccer Fans,