March 31, 2007

Naomi Kojima's Singing Shijimi Clams

I finally got my copy of Naomi Kojima's book, Singing Shijimi Clams, published by Kane/Miller Book Publishers. She did a great job writing and illustrating this cute story. It's about a witch who wants to make miso soup with clams. She gets clams, but thinks they are too cute to eat. I read a review that said her clams had the sweetest faces. I couldn't wait to see them. I agree with the review. Maybe you'd like to see them, too. Check your local library or bookseller. It's a really good book.

Kids Web Japan--miso soup

Kids Web Japan--An Introduction to Japanese Food

Kids Web Japan--How to Hold Chopsticks

Yamato Shijimi Clams (written in gold letters)

Today Big Sister did some errands for me. She went to the grocery store to buy food for dinner. She bought Shijimi clams. She had asked me a long time ago why we don't eat them often.

I was reminded again today. Shijimi clams need to be soaked in salt water for three hours before putting them in soup. Why? "Because they've been eating sand," said Big Sister. So we will soak them tomorrow morning and eat them for lunch.

They weren't singing or snoozing like in Naomi Kojima's Singing Shijimi Clams. But, I heard them squeal. They also rattled around a bit. Now I don't really want to eat them! I feel like the witch in the story!

Instant Miso Soup

Instant miso soup is sold at convenience stores. It is also sold like this. The longer package is the miso paste. The other packages are freeze dried things like tofu, spinach, leeks, etc. to add to the soup. Hot water is added. It's quick and easy. It's tasty, too. I bought this box for our emergency shed, but the expiration date is coming up. So, instead of wasting the soup, we're eating it now. We'll put the clams in this.

Kids Web Japan--miso soup

March 30, 2007

What a Difference a Day or Two Makes

The trees in our park are almost in full bloom now. Compare these pictures to the ones posted on the 28th.

These first two pictures are of the biggest tree in the park.

This smaller tree still hasn't fully bloomed.

This small branch was in the bushes. Maybe the wind blew it down. Remember the blossoms Little Brother rescued?

March 29, 2007


Big Sister and Little Brother went to the dentist. They actually had Colgate toothpaste for sale in the office.

March 28, 2007


Little Brother ran home from the park with these blossoms in his Dodgebee. You're not supposed to pick sakura blooms. (What if everybody did that?) He said these were on the ground. Someone's ball must have broken them off. Little Brother said he rescued them.

Note the shape of the petal.

Early Late Blooms

This is the biggest sakura tree in our park. From a distance it doesn't look like it is blooming.

Some of the blossoms are blooming. Little Brother found the blossoms under this tree.

The smaller sakura trees in the park weren't blooming at all. The trees are late this year. Papa said it's because the winter wasn't cold enough.

No Blossoms, no Leaves

This poor tree has a long way to go before it leafs out. It won't have any blossoms.

Japanese Maple Blossoms?

I had never noticed these blossoms on our Japanese maple before today.

March 27, 2007

The Shape of Sakura Blossoms

These are small paper sakura blossoms. They can be sprinkled on a tabletop for decoration or they can be used in making paper. Look at past posts of ume to compare the shape of sakura blossoms with the shape of ume blossoms.

P.S. In our neighborhood most of the sakura buds are still tight.

March 26, 2007

Onigiri Molds

These plastic molds are sometimes used to make onigiri. You fill the bottom part with rice. Then you put the top on and press down. You turn it over and push on the bottom. See the smaller triangular mold? It is upside down. You would push in the center to release the onigiri. It will (hopefully) slide out. The little yellow chick is also an onigiri mold. We used it for kindergarten. These molds come in other shapes, too.

Onigiri Option

Onigiri can also be made in plastic wrap. They will turn out round not triangular.

Cut small pieces of plastic wrap.
Place rice in the center of the wrap.
Wrap the rice pulling the ends of the plastic together.
Twist ends. A piece of ribbon is sometimes used to tie them together.
Cup the wrapped rice to make a ball.

These are easier to eat because the plastic is tied together. Onigiri are made this way here in Japan. I'll try to take a picture of this kind of onigiri.

Check the original posting. I added more info. about onigiri. You may have missed it.

Note: Whenever you clump rice together it is possible it could turn into a choking hazard. Onigiri are not a choking hazard. However, if you're doing it for the first time and you're crunching it all together you may get a gooey mess. You should be able to see each individual grain of rice. Watch out.

March 25, 2007

Leftover Rice


This is a ceramic container for leftover rice. Hot rice can be placed in the container. It can be put in the refrigerator. When needed, the container can be put in the microwave.

March 24, 2007

Homemade Onigiri

Little Brother went to a farewell party for his teacher today. His class went to a park. I made him onigiri or rice balls for his lunchbox. Big Sister made some onigiri for her lunch at home. Here is one she made. She sprinkled ume flavored sesame seeds in the rice before she molded this onigiri.

Short grain rice does better. Converted rice will not stick properly. Some recommend not rinsing the rice before making it. I rinse our rice but then I'm not too careful about measuring the correct amount of added water. In other words, a tiny bit more water than usual is added to the rice to cook it. The rice should be a little sticky but not mushy. Look at the following links for more information about

How to make onigiri:

Setsuko Watanabe's site

Bento Box

Store-Bought Onigiri

I bought this onigiri at a convenience store for lunch a long time ago. I took these pictures to show how it is wrapped. The seaweed is in a separate sheet of plastic so it won't get soggy. There are instructions on the outside. See the number 1? You pull down on that tab first.

Then you pull number two. Then number three. The plastic will slide out and away from the seaweed.

This is what an onigiri with shiny crispy seaweed looks like. Click to enlarge.

Here is another view. This onigiri has salmon in it.

March 23, 2007

Getting Ready for School

Today was the last day of school in our neighborhood. Little Brother brought home his report card. I have already posted about that. Click on the label below.

This picture was taken earlier in the month. Desks are sold at this time. There are displays of school supplies and randoseru (school bags) at this time, too. First graders are getting ready to start elementary school. Baba and Jiji bought Little Brother a desk before he started first grade. Big Sister got a desk when she was in second grade. She didn't have a room of her own until then.

See the cherry blossoms? School will start the first week of April. It will be cherry blossom time. In fact, they may be falling by that time.

March 22, 2007

Model Kitchen

It's now the season to go to the garden shop at the hardware store. I took a picture of this model kitchen inside the store. Of course, there are other choices. This is just basic. Except for the corner cabinet. I have never seen one of those here!

There is usually a big space between the counter and the upper cabinets. The cabinets are too high. We need a stool to get things from them. That is a dishwasher on the counter on the right. There is a water filter next to the sink. Look how big the sink is!

Click on the label below to see another kitchen and how some people wash dishes here.

Kids Web Japan--houses

March 21, 2007

Spring Equinox Bloom Report

Today was the spring equinox. It was a holiday for Little Brother and Papa. Big Sister graduated from junior high yesterday and will start high school the first week in April. So she was off anyway. The sakura or cherry blossoms will probably be finished by the time school starts again. Today, they were still tight in the bud. They will bloom here in Tokyo sometime in the next two weeks.

Kids Web Japan-- spring equinox

There is new growth on these bushes called Red Robin in English.

This wall of flowers is blooming. I don't know what they are, though.

The momokiku are about to bloom.

These are blooming, but I'm not sure what they are. Let me know if you know.

This Chinese Spirea near a neighbor's driveway is blooming.

The magnolia trees along the main road have been blooming for a while.

March 20, 2007

Graduation from Junior High

Today was Big Sister's graduation from junior high school. Here is a picture of the gym. The graduating students came in by class and filled the empty chairs in front. The eighth graders filled the chairs behind them. Parents sat along the walls. Everyone stood to sing the national anthem of Japan.

After the principal gave a speech, the curtain was opened. This mural was behind the curtain. It was made by the graduating class. The birds are made of folded origami cranes. The cranes were glued flat onto the paper to form the birds.

Here is a detail. Click to enlarge. I have seen pictures made of gold and silver cranes for weddings.

Students went to the stage one by one to get their certificates. First Big Sister bowed to the principal. He handed her the certificate with both hands. She received it with both hands. She stepped back and bowed holding the certificate out. Then she turned and walked off the stage. She turned to bow to the stage and then turned to bow to the teachers sitting along the wall.

The eighth graders sang a song. Students gave speeches. This picture is blurry, but I posted it anyway. I wanted to show you that speeches are wrapped in paper. See the paper with the folded ends in the girl's left hand? She had wrapped her speech in it. The other speakers did the same. The graduating class sang a song. Parents and students cried. I am glad I took a handkerchief.

Afterwards the eigth graders lined up along the walkway. As the graduating class filed through, they gave the graduates flowers.

Big Sister was given orchids.

Cake Shop

After the ceremony, Papa and I went to a cake shop. The shopkeeper gave us cups of tea and samples of cake. The design at the bottom of the cup is an ume blossom.

This is a chalky "cake" that is sold during this time of year. (Papa doesn't know what it is called or why it is sold.)We didn't buy any. It isn't our favorite.

We bought sakura mochi to celebrate Big Sister's graduation. We also bought some of these. They have black sesame seeds and bamboo charcoal powder in them.

Bandana Furoshiki

Little Brother didn't have room for his pencil case in his randoseru or school bag. He wrapped it in a bandana that he used to wear on his head in cooking class. It was easier to carry his pencil case home like this. He used his bandana like a furoshiki.

March 19, 2007


Little Brother brought this home from school today. For the last week or so, fifth graders practiced how to fold furoshiki. They wrapped their desk boxes or supplies boxes to carry home. The boxes are 23 cm x 33 cm. They carried them by the knot.

This is the last week of the school year. Little by little, they will carry their school stuff home. At the end of the year, they usually carry their school boxes home in a bag. Click on the label below to see the school box and other school stuff.

Note: Our children carried their school boxes in furoshiki on their first day of kindergarten and first grade. Jiji wrapped a box of cookies in furoshiki to present to the nurses at the hospital when Big Sister and Little Brother were born.

March 18, 2007

Ume Gummies

Ume this, ume that. I have posted several ume flavored snacks. The thing is, they're delicious. Many years ago when I first came to Japan, my students tricked me into tasting umeboshi, sour plum. I found out later it was a kind of joke. Others did it to foreigners, too, to see their reaction. Umeboshi is incredibly sour. Who'd know that?

Nowadays, there are many great tasting ume snacks. These gummies are sweet and sour. They have a bit of liquid in the center. They are not as chewy as gummy bears.

Look how well-made these gummies are! This is the shape of the ume blossom. If you want to draw an ume blossom, use this as a model. Soon, it will be sakura or cherry blossom time. I wonder if there will be sakura gummies this year, too. Yum.