This is Little Guy. He is almost 19 months old, and is wearing his first backpack. 🙂
We gots this backpack as a welcoming gift for subscribing him to Benesse’s distance-learning series. He likes to wear it all day, and gets upset when we have to take it off.
Anyhow, Benesse is a company in Japan that specializes in distance-learning, and we decided our kids would enjoy that more than the strict, stodgy Japanese classes offered at the consulate. Older Japanese who grew up in America have warned us that the schools are difficult and not very fun.
A subscription to Benesse for a toddler costs several hundred dollars a year, but each month they send us DVDs with cartoons featuring Shimajiro and his friends. Shimajiro is a young tiger and well-known Japanese cartoon character. Each month’s shipment also includes nice quality-toys, sometimes also stuffed animals, etc. It’s actually a great deal for what we pay.
When Princess was about 18 months old, we subscribed her as well. She has been doing her monthly schoolwork for Benesse every month since then. She would now be in the 3rd grade in the Japanese-school system, and so her monthly books (which use a character named Korasho instead of Shimajiro) teach her 3rd grade math, Japanese language (kokugo 国語), science, etc. We still have many of her toys when she was a little girl, and now Little Guy enjoys them.1 🙂
I’ve seen some half-Japanese kids grow up in the West lose their Japanese cultural and language skills once they get to grade-school. Princess still reads and speaks Japanese well and enjoy Japanese TV daily, but her writing skills are starting to suffer a bit. Kanji (Chinese characters) is hard to remember if you don’t use it daily. It’s a tough challenge for Japanese parents, or any immigrant parents: how to keep interest in foreign culture into adulthood especially when materials and exposure are limited.2
However, Benesse really helped her a lot, and we have many happy memories of the monthly shipments of toys and books. Further, she is pretty far ahead in American schools because she’s already learned some of the math and science already.
So, we’re pretty excited to see Little Guy start the same journey. 🙂
P.S. If you notice, Little Guy’s hair is really curly. We’re not sure who’s DNA that is. My hair is wavy like Ronald Reagan, and my wife has some wavy hair too, but nothing like Little Guy.
1 Sometimes I read through the old books because I learn more Japanese. ;p
2 Seattle is a pretty good place to raise biracial Japanese kids because we have Japanese bookstores, markets, and such. Also the community is large enough to be supportive. During our time in Ireland, the community was much smaller, and the materials were very limited. When we visited London, we often bought many books and such for Princess (and for myself 😉 ) because Dublin just didn’t have enough.