Friday, March 4, 2011

"where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry". Luke 4:2

Working with children is one of the most fun parts of my job here.  In the Mitsuba pre-school classes I help with not only are the children adorable, it's so much fun to learn about Japanese culture along with the kids.  Mitsuba is a Christian nursery school but along with teaching the kids songs and stories about God, they also teach them about important Japanese cultural events.  Its great for me because I get to learn about and participate in so many different aspects of Japanese culture that I wouldn't get a chance to experience if I was only working with adults. 

In February for example, we celebrated Setsubun (part of the spring festival) on February 3rd by having our own Mitsuba Mamemaki (bean throwing) ritual!  The premise behind this ritual is to get rid of the devil or bad spirits in your home and life and welcome in luck with the new spring.  Literally, a member of the family (or teacher in your school) dresses up in a devil mask and you throw beans or peanuts at them which drives out the devil and brings you good luck and happiness.  After, you eat one peanut for each year you've been alive.

In Mitsuba we read a story about Mamemaki and then each kid made a devil mask.  At the end of class we took a picture of all the kids in their masks and then there was a surprise visitor!  The devil came in the room and took pictures with the kids and then we all threw peanuts at him.  It was chaotic but a lot of fun!

I love the eyes on these two masks!

The kids did a great job!

Throwing peanuts at the world's cutest devil!

One of the other great things about Mitsuba is that it's a great place to practice my Japanese!  The week I learned how to say "sit down please", "don't do that" and "don't eat yet" in my Japanese class was the most useful one yet!  I've also learned so many animal, vegetable and color names in Japanese as well as a ton of Japanese children's games and songs. 

Everything I say to the kids is in Japanese and I can understand about 40-50% of what they say to me when they ask me a question or when they tell me about something that they are holding.  I get totally lost however when they start babbling to me in 2-year old speak.  I wish I could understand because I'm sure it's adorable!  Some of the kids get the fact that I speak a different language but don't quite know what to do with that.  One little boy doesn't speak to me at all because he doesn't think I can understand.  He likes me though and will play with the trains with me almost every morning.  But he communicates by pointing and taking my hand to drag me places.  Even when I speak to him in Japanese he answers by nodding or using improvised sign language!  Almost all of the kids can understand me when I speak but one little girl yesterday laughed and said "omoshiroi" (interesting) when she couldn't understand what I was saying.  The best though is one of the youngest boys in the group, I think, has a lot of trouble understanding my accent and for a few months no matter what I asked him or said to him he would respond "ni sai" (I'm two)!  It was so cute to ask him if he liked his snack and have him answer "I'm two years old!"


  1. Hahahaha those devil masks look like an evil Ernie.

  2. Christen, I have been following your blog since day one along with 5 other YACers. Amanda Akes is my daughter, that is how I have access to your blog. You and your family have been in my thoughts and prayers all morning! I was so relieved to hear that you are safe. My prayers continue for all the people who are victims of the quake and tsunami. God bless you and continue to keep you safe!