May 1st 2019- Welcoming a new era in Japan.

On the 30th of April 2019, the current Emperor of Japan will step down. His son will take his place on the first of May.

An emperor hasn’t abdicated in over 200 years, so this will be a huge event in Japanese history. Usually emperors hold their title until they pass away. The Emperor does not just a hold position of respect and power. It is a holy title.

The word in Japanese for emperor , 天皇陛下 (Tennou Heika) means His Majesty the Heavenly Sovereign.

The first emperor, Jimmu, was the legendary descendant of Ameterasu the sun goddess and the storm god Susano.

So the Emperor of Japan is revered as a descendant of heaven.

This April 1st at 11:30am , people all over Japan were sitting in front of their TV screens and huge monitors in Tokyo to watch as the name of the new era was announced.

There had been so much speculation about what the era would be called in the run up to the announcement. Companies ran contests to guess the name and social media was full of people sharing their ideas and hopes for the new era.

This is the 31st year of the Heisei 平成 (achieving peace) era. The preceding era was called Showa 昭和 (enlightened harmony).

Era names are often chosen from old Chinese texts. The kanji (Chinese characters) chosen must be easy to write and to remember, as the era name is used often in documents, drivers licenses and daily life!

The announcement was made, and the new era name is..Reiwa! 令和。

Rei means auspicious or beautiful and Wa means peace or harmony.

(I heard that a few people felt that Rei which can also mean “order” sounded a little harsh, but the majority are happy with the meaning of a peaceful harmony)

Many people were surprised by the slightly unusual decision. The kanji were chosen from a classic Japanese text rather than Chinese. The text is a book of poetry called the “Manyoshu” – Collection of Ten Thoisand Leaves.

The particular poem describes plum blossoms and gentle breezes in early spring.

Prime minister Abe said : “The era name represents a culture being born and nurtured by people’s hearts coming together beautifully,” he said.

As for me, I think it sounds beautiful!

I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of little girls born this year have “Rei” or “Wa” Kanji in their names!

I’m excited and hopeful about the new era. The dawn of Heisei was a little sad as it came after the death of Emperor Showa. The Heisei Era saw the Japanese economy boom and then slump, and sadly many natural disasters occurred.

The new era is being welcomed with joy and positivity. With the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and World Fair in Osaka there are many things to look forward to.

I hope Reiwa will be remembered as a peaceful and prosperous age in Japan.

Fuji Family xx

Bilingual Family Trip- St. Patrick’s Day in Tokyo and “Kawaii” Harajuku Cafe

New Video here 💕☘️

We went to Tokyo to see the St. Patrick’s Day Parade! The parade takes place on Omotesando street in Tokyo, near Harajuku. It was set up by the Irish Network Japan, to introduce Irish culture to Japanese poeple. The parade has run annually since 1992 and has been growing every year.

Along with the “I Love Ireland” Festival that is held in Yoyogi park over the same weekend, it has become the largest Irish event in Asia!

Yoyogi Park where the festival was held

When my Mum, Aunt and their friend came to Japan 6 years ago (Has it been THAT long?!) we went to the parade in all our green glory (for those who don’t know, on St. Patrick’s Day you must wear green!!) and had a fantastic time. I’m sure you could spot (or hear) the crazy Irish tourists a mile away.

Irish in Tokyo

The parade showcases the Irish culture which is flourishing in Japan. Groups from Toyko and all over the country participate. Irish dancers, rugby clubs, even “Oi Ocha” a Green Tea company walked in the parade this year (I think it’s because it’s green?!”. Throw in some guys in leprachaun suits, some giant Guinness beer cans, marching bands andfor some reason a Samba dance group, and you have quite a party!!

Niall Horan of One Direction’s Japanese fan club!

This year, I really wanted to go with hubby and Seán. The festival runs over the weekend, so we decided we would go on the Sunday, the 17th which was St. Patrick’s Day. We took the bullet train from Shizuoka station. I much prefer train journeys to car or bus journeys, and train journeys in Japan are extra special as you can marvel at the beautiful countryside, and if lucky get a stunning view of Mt. Fuji.

The bullet train is, of course, super fast and super convenient. Even the Kodama (“Echo”) which is the slowest of the many types ( There are also Nozomi “Wish”, Hikari “Light”, Mizuho “Harvest” and Sakura “Cherry Blossom”) reaches a speed of 285 km/h (175 mph). There are bathrooms, changing tables and even a room where you can nurse babies.

It took only about an hour and a half to get to Tokyo. After arriving at Tokyo Station, we got took a train on the famous Yamonote Line (which travels in a loop around all of the main Toyko spots) to Harajuku station. If you are traveling on the Yamanote Line, make sure you take a train going in the direction that will take you to your destination quickest. It goes both clockwise and anti- clockwise.

The Parade attracts 50,000 spectators each year.

There are also parades held in Kanagawa, Chiba, and Fukui Prefectures. Matsue City in Shimane Prefecture, once home to Irish writer Lafcadio Hearn who was one of the first Westerners to write about Japanese culture and its folk tales, has its own Irish Fesival too.

Irish Red Setter wearing a lovely Shamrock outfit
Tokyo station looking pink!
Have you heard of/ever seen these Yoyogi Park dancers?

We are yummy Irish food from the stalls at the festival. I wanted to try Irish stew from Tokyo restaurant “Kyojin no Stewhouse” run by the lovely Irish giant Alan. (Check them out!

Unfortunately their food was so popular it was already sold out! But hubby got a Maggie’s Leap beer and I got a Guinness Chocolate brownie, which we both enjoyed thoroughly. We definitely want to visit the stewhouse next time we are in Tokyo.

Alan was so friendly too, he has even written a book of Irish folktales which is published in both English and Japanese!

On our second day in Tokyo, we went to a very special “limited time only” cafe in Modi (a shopping mall in Shibuya), called “Sumikkogurashi Book Cafe!”

We LOVE Sumikkogurashi.

Seán looking delighted with his new friends!

They are cute characters (animals who each have their own story and like to hang out in corners because they are shy. For example, the blue lizard above is called “Tokage” (Lizard), but he is actually a dinosaur in disguise. He ia afraid humans will capture him if they find out he is a dinosaur. There’s also a polar bear who doesn’t like the cold, and a ball of Tapioca that was left at the bottom of a milk tea drink (Aww..).

They are so cute, and the cafe was lovely. We had pancakes and a lunch set (omurice- ketchup and rice omelette). It was pretty good (expensive though, but you pay for the atmosphere and the chance to sit with the big cuddly Sumikkogurashi toys). Hubby got a drink with a cotton candy on top!

This was a “pop- up” limited edition cafe, of which there is almost always going on somewhere in Tokyo. This one was in MODI Shibuya, in HMV & Books. Currently running themed cafe’s include Detective Conan in Harajuku and Hello Kitty x Crayon Shinchan in Hokkaido and Nagoya (full list here

Mmm pancakes!

There are also permanent themed cafes, sich as the Pokem on cafe, Alice in Wonderland and the Kawaii Monster Cafe. There are also robot themed, ninja themed and prison themed restaurants in Tokyo.

After lunch, we took a walk around Harajuku. Harajuku is the birthplace of “Kawaii” – cute. It is always bustling with people, and the center for cute fashion (think anime characters/ lolita). Harajuku fashion is particularly popular with young girls. On Takeshita Street, you can find cute fashion stores galore, and sample the food culture of Harajuku. I am pretty sure the food you will see most is crepes! People holding crepes, colorful display os every kind of stuffed crepe imaginable, photos/ signposts advertising the best crepe shop in the vicinity. Crepes are closely followed byy Tapioca drinks, colorful ice creams and cotton candy in popularity. Harajuku is a pastel- coloured wonderland.

We really enjoyed our Tokyo trip. Getting to see the parade, eating at a cute cafe and walking around Harajuku. However, we went to Tokyo during the spring vacation, so there were crowds of children, families and young people everywhere enjoying the break. Which is great! But with a baby it’s not ideal to be winding your way through crowds. I was worried about Sean the whole time, I wondered if he would be nervous with all the people around, and was anxious someone might bump into us unexpectedly. So, personally, I would not recommend Harajuku during vacation or weekends if you habe a small baby. Unless you are willing to chance it! I just couldn’t really relax! A part of me was in fact quite relieved to return to quiet, peaceful Shizuoka.

Says the girl who has stayed in a 3000 yen capsule hotel and taken the first train home in the morning after a night out.. Shows my age, I guess! And that I’ve become a mum.

On the way back, we picked up rice balls at a shop in Tokyo Station, apparantely the absolute favorite of a member of AKB48! They were really good.

Bilingual Education with Anpanman! Japanese Toy Review 日本のおもちゃを使って英語で遊ぼう♡

img_7183Anpanman is arguably the most popular character for babies and young children in Japan.

He is a super hero whose head is made of Anpan, bread filled with sweet red bean paste. He can help people regain strength by feeding them bread from his head…

Anpanman is huge in Japan, there are TV series, movies, toys for babies and children, video games, arcade games, clothes, stuffed toys, kids plates and cutlery, snacks, curry, pasta…

You name it and there is probably an Anpanman product of it.

My son, who hadn’t even had Anpanman toys until recently is already crazy about him, he always points to his face in the shops, recognizes his name, and we have a feeling he has already said “Anpanman”!

I think it’s his big smiling face that makes him so appealing to children.

In Anpanman’s world there are a variety of characters,

His enemy, Baikinman (Mould Man), his little sister Melon Panna (Melon Bread), Akachan Man (Baby Man) who gains strength by drinking milk, Dokin chan who is Baikin Man’s girlfriend.

There are also Curry Pan Man, Shoku Pan Man (White Bread Man), Cheese the Dog, and many many more!









Seán got an Anpanman balloon recently, and loved it, but as always happens eventually, it deflated.

So we decided to buy him a new Anpanman toy and review it! We wanted to see if it worked as an educational tool. Since we are living in Japan, and Seán will be most likely attending all Japanese schools in future, I have to try hard to expose him to as much English as possible.

The toy we chose from babies ‘r’ us is the Anpanman Twirling Rolling Tower. It comes with colorful balls to roll down the spiral tower, and plays fun music including the Anpanman theme song.

We use the toy to teach him colors and “give me”.

English is becoming more and mire important in Japan , with the Olympics in Tokyo and World Expo in Osaka coming up in the near future.

Elementary schools are starting English education from an earlier age, and making it more of a priority in the curriculum. When I taught elementary school, the class was “foreign language activity” , which was great to introduce kids to other languages and cultures, but now it will be a proper school subject. Which is great too. Just hopefully it won’t become like Junior High and High school “rote learning” English which leaves a lot to be desired!

People are interested in starting kids off early learning English.

Sean can already understand many English and Japanese words! So I strongly believe that it’s important to foster a bilingual brain from a young age. Babies really take everything in and learn at a fast pace.

Sean loves his new toy and he’s doing a great job looking at the colors and following instructions, so I give the toy my seal of approval 👍🏻

The top 5 must try foods at the Kawazu Sakura Festival!河津桜祭りの食べ歩きベスト5!

As well as looking at beautiful cherry blossoms, there are many festival foods to be tried at the Kawazu Sakura Festival.

We tried a LOT of them, and chose our best 5 to introduce in our new video.

Here it is!

Many of these can be eaten at any festival in Japan, but there are a few special ones too.

What are our must- try festival foods?

Number 5 – Odango! お団子

Odango are balls of mochi on a stick.

Mochi is a kind of paste made from mochigome or mochi rice. The sticky paste is rolled into balls and put on a stick. It’s then dipped in a sweet sauce called tare.

There are usually three or four balls on a stick of dango. In Japan in the past, the number three was considered lucky so older, more traditional sweet shops will sell dango with three balls.

Hubby’s tip! Find a store selling “Three

balled” dango to get a taste of history! There are also different ways to prepare and serve dango in different parts of japan. Three colored dango 🍡 from Kyoto are pink, white and green.

Number 4 Ama senbei! 海女せんべい

Senbei is a Japanese rice cracker, but this senbei is about 10 times the usual size! “Ama” 海女 means “Sea Woman”, and it was a profession in Japan years ago.

The Ama‘s job was to dive to the ocean floor to collect shellfish and other seafood to sell.

These Ama senbei are from Shimoda and come in flavors such as shrimp, squid, sazae (shellfish) and Sakura!

Senbei is a Japanese rice cracker, but this senbei is about 10 times the usual size! “Ama” 海女 means “Sea Woman”, and it was a profession in Japan years ago.

The Ama‘s job was to dive to the ocean floor to collect shellfish and other seafood to sell.

These Ama senbei are from Shimoda and come in flavors such as shrimp, squid, sazae (shellfish) and Sakura!

Number 3 Ichigo Daifuku. いちご大福

These are also made from mochi.

Ichigo means strawberry and Daifuku means great luck!

There is anko (red bean paste) and a strawbery inside. Seán tried the strawberry too.

The word Daifuku 大福 means “Great Luck”. But if you use different kanji (Chinese characters) it can also mean “Big tummy”. In the past people ate Daifuku because they kept you full for a long time!

Number 2 Sakura Ice Cream!


Side note! Personally my favorite ice cream ever is Teddy’s ice cream in Dun Laoghaire in Dublin where I’m from!

But after trying this Sakura ice cream I must say it’s a close second.

It’s cherry blossom flavored.

What does cherry blossom taste like you ask? Hmm. Difficult.

It has a slightly salty taste. I think you’ll have to try it yourself to fully understand!

The ice cream also contains little pieces of mochi.

I was really pleasantly surprised with this ice cream💕

And it looks super cute too.

Number 1- Sakura Taiyaki!

I am a huge Taiyaki fan, so this was always going to come high in the list.

Taiyaki is like a pancake shaped like a fish (a “tai“- red snapper) and filled with anko red bean paste.

Usually Taiyaki is the same colour as a pancake and served freshly cooked so it’s lovely and warm.

This Taiyaki is pink and filled with pink Sakura flavored anko! This festival really has Sakura everywhere!

There is a kind of saying in japan that there are two kinds of people; those that eat Taiyaki head first and those that eat it tail first.

My husband was told as a child that if you eat from the head first it will make you smarter!

Also highly recommended

Hubby tried Nihonshu (Japanese sake) and Ayu no shioyaki (Roasted salted sweetfish) which he adored.

I also had a festival favorite chocobanana.

And, on the way home, as if we hadn’t eaten enough, a must do when traveling in Japan, tachigui soba “standing up soba”. Soba are buckwheat noodles and one of my favorite Japanese foods.

Stand- up soba shops are common in train stations in japan, you can grab a bite before your train!

Soba can be eaten hot or cold and are in a special tsuyu soup. There can be a variety of toppings on top, like tempura, soft boiled egg, fried tofu, nori seaweed.

We ALSO ate konnyaku (I think it’s called Konjac!) which is made from a root vegetable like a potato. It’s crushed and mixed with water and left to set, and becomes like a jelly.

Which is put on a stick! Then it’s covered with miso (a paste made from soybeans). It’s very low in calories and good for your digestive system, so you can buy lots of konnyaku snacks and sweets, like konnyaku jelly which has 0 calories and comes in a variety of flavors!

Check out our new video to see us eating our way through the top 5 foods at the festival!

Kawazu Sakura Festival 2019 – 河津桜祭り 2019

We went to the Kawazu Zakura Festival, which runs every year from the 10th of February to the 10th of March. Sakura means cherry blossoms, and spring when the cherry blossom trees bloom is one of the most beautiful times to be in Japan. Japanese people talk of “Wabi Sabi“, which is a similar to the English “fleeting beauty” or transience, or the idea that beautiful things last only a moment before being gone. The idea comes from the Buddhist teaching of sanbouin (the three marks of existence), mujou (impermanence), kuu (suffering) and ku (emptiness or absence of form).

Cherry blossoms are a perfect incarnation of this concept, as they bloom and are beautiful for a short space of time, before falling to the ground. Japanese people enjoy the cherry blossom season and the beauty of the flowers, knowing that they are impermanent, like everything is. Japanese people look forward to the season every year, and when the trees bloom, they do Ohanami (flower viewing) in parks or near rivers, wherever cherry blossom trees are to be found.

The end of March/ beginning of April when the trees bloom coincides with the end of the working year, school year and fiscal year. Students graduate alongside the blooming and falling petals, and people enter into a new phase of life, whether it’s a new school, new grade level, new job. So the cherry blossoms have a huge significance here in Japan. There are countless graduation songs about cherry blossoms sung at ceremonies every year (that would bring a tear to the sternest of eyes), and companies and friends hold Hanami parties, sitting under the trees eating, drinking and bonding. Hubby and I actually got engaged after taking a walk under the cherry blossom trees🌸💕

Kawazu Town is located in Shizuoka Prefecture where we live, and is in the eastertn part of the prefecture, on the Izu Peninsula.

Izu is well known around Japan for having delicious seafood, onsen (hot springs) and lovely beaches. My husband’s grandparents live in Izu, so we go there quite a lot. It is a popular holiday destination for all Japanese people, and even the Emperor has a place there he visits in the summer. Shimoda at the southernmost point of Izu is super popular with surfers as it has beaches that are not too crowded and great waves.

Kawazu is home to the earliest blooming type of cherry blossom tree in Japan, in February compared to the usual April, and every year tens of thousands of people come from all over Japan to see the beautiful pink blossoms. You can even see the 60 year old ancestor tree from which all of the Kawazu Zakura trees came from. There are over 150 stalls, selling festival food of all kinds, special “sakura” sweets, and you can even purchase your own Kawazu Sakura sprig to bring home and grow yourself.

We left Shizuoka station at around 7am and took a train to Atami Station. If you are traveling from Tokyo you can take the Shinkansen “Bullet Train” from Tokyo station to Atami station. At Atami station, there is a ticket office where you can purchase a ticket for a train to get you to Kawazu station. Around this time of year there are many deals, offers and day trips you can take. You can also reach the festival by regular train. We opted to take the Resort 21 train which travels from Atami Station to Shimoda station all the way at the southern part of Izu Peninsula. This train is a little more expensive than the regular JR train. It has seats that face the window, so as you travel down the eastern part of Izu, you can look out at the sea and see the many islands that make up Izu. Our train was red and designed like a kinmedai (red snapper fish) which is a fish caught in Izu and a speciality in the area. The seats had cute fish characters on them.

There is another train called the Odorikko “The Dancer” named after the book “The Izu Dancer”. I think it is more expensive and has to be booked in advance. I can’t recommend enough getting to the train early and snagging a good seat (if you want the ocean view), about 10 minutes after we had sat down a huge group of tourists spilled onto the train and many of them were left standing.

At Atami station we picked up Ekiben or station lunch boxes. You can get ekiben at most train stations in Japan to eat during your journey, and some stations sell special lunched with ingredients from the local area or famous cuisine. Hubby got raw red snapper and aji sushi and I got cooked eel, red snapper and salmon on rice. We ate our lunch on the train on the way to Kawazu, looking out to sea. How romantic! They were delicious and a great way to sample Izu’s famous seafood.

About an hour later we arrived at Kawazu station. It was quite crowded depite being a weekday and there were quite a few tour groups being rallied by their guides. Just outside the station we got our first glimpse of the Kawazu Zakura in full bloom. The weather was beautiful, we were so lucky. Seán kept pointing at the flowers, so we like to think that he thought they were pretty too.

Walking from the station to the main festival area by the river takes just 5 minutes, and the trees line the little road on the way to the river. There are some stalls here, selling things like Himono (dried fish), and ume youkan (plum jelly) .

Then when you reach the river you will see the double line of cherry blossoms like a tunnel you can walk through.

There are festival foods galore to be sampled. I personally love Taiyaki, a warm pancake-like sweet in the shape of a tai (aforementioned red snapper fish) filled with anko (red bean paste). At the Kawazu Zakura festival everything is Sakura related, so the taiyaki is pink, and the anko is too! The sweet paste inside also has cherry blossom leaves in it, and is “sakura” flavoured, I think it has a slightly salty taste.

Sakura ice cream was yummy too!

You can also get Ama Senbei, actually this was my first time trying it. Senbei is a rice cracker and an Ama (literally “sea woman”) is a woman whose job it was to dive to the bottom of the sea to collect shellfish. The Ama senbei is huge, and comes in different flavors, including ebi (shrimp) ika (squid) sazae (horned turban shellfish) and, you guessed it, sakura!

Hubby also got nihonshu (Japanese rice alcohol) and Ayu no shioyaki (salt roasted sweetfish on a stick) which he said was meccha umai (totes yummy) and I got an old favorite festival food choco banana (chocolate covered banana on a stick. Seán tried some of the banana!).

All in all a wonderful day and a highly, highly recommended Japanese festival! My favourite so far.

We made a video of our trip to the festival!


Check out our channel

2019: A new blog, and the KonMari effect.

Hello! Dia Dhuit! (Hello in Gaeilge, Irish)

My name is Lian.


Book, Dog, Coffee, Sweets- lover.

Wife of a kind, super- organized minimalist Japanese hubby.

Mum of a little dinosaur, 10 months old, called Seán Isami.

Living in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, home of Mt. Fuji, fragrant green tea fields and Chibi Maruko-Chan.

Writing the first sentence of a brand new shiny blog feels strange.

I’m sitting at my personal computer (Do people say this in English? I’m not sure, maybe it’s ‘Japanglish’ which I have been using increasingly in the past while). My laptop.

My husband and son (Seán, just turned 10 months old) are taking a nap. I am going to seize this rare opportunity to do something productive.

I have been mulling over starting a blog since I came to Japan (8 years ago, hohoho) but never got around to it. I am that kind of person. But, for some reason, today is the day I do it. It’s my New Year’s Resolution, a month and two weeks late.

My other resolution is to get organized, having read Marie Kondo’s book “The Life- Changing Magic of Tidying Up” (Cue a surprised giggle/snort of disbelief from my Mum). I will openly admit to my unorganized nature. It is something about myself that I hate, also my tendency to worry too much. MArie Kondo is a Japanese woman who came up with a method, the KonMari method, of getting your life/head in order through decluttering, reducing your possesions by throwing away/donating the things that don’t spark joy in your heart. The book promises to change your life. I think it has worked for me thus far (read the book last week and have started implementing her methods. I’ll come back to this later. Or maybe not.

When I was a teenager, I kind of got the ‘Japan bug’, not from anime or manga (though I am a big Studio Ghibli Fan), but from reading a book called ‘Across The Nightingale Floor’ by an author called Lian Hearn.

Sidenote: I absolutely love to read, something I haven’t had much time to do recently.

Admittedly, the initial reason I picked up this particular book was that the author had the same name, with the same spelling, as me. I had NEVER met or heard of, anyone with my name! The spelling is really unusual, it is usually ‘Leanne’, ‘Lee-ann’ or some variation.

But the book fascinated me. It is a fantasy novel (acutally a trilogy) set in a fictional land with strong echoes of Japan’s feudal era, and focuses on the adventures of a hero with a strange power.

Here is the blurb (From “A land of incomparable beauty torn by civil war. An ancient tradition undermined by spies and assassins. A society of rigid castes and codes subverted by love. “

I fell in love with the story, the characters and the setting. The idea of the Nightingale Floor ( A wooden floor in a castle that ‘sings’ like a nightingale when walked on to alert the inhabitants of an intruder) was so intrigung to me. As was the beautiful imagery of the Japanese landscape, conveyed so beautifully by Hearn. I hadn’t been as enraptured with a book series since The Lord of The Rings.

The fact that this fantasy setting was based on Japan made me determined to visit someday. I watched some Japanese movies and dramas, and found that I loved the language, too.

I don’t want this first blog post to become long- winded, so I may stop here for now!

Anyway, I applied for the JET Programme in my last year of University ( where I studied Neuroscience) and was offered a place in Shizuoka Prefecture. From then, with Mt. Fuji and green tea fields as a backdrop, my life in Japan started. And the rest is history (or for another blog post).

By the way, I was blown away when I got to walk on an actual nightingale floor in Kyoto! They really exist.

Happy New Year!

And as they (we?) say in Japan, ‘Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu’ (Please treat me well/ Let’s have a good relationship).

I hope you find something interesting/ worth reading in my blog!


Lian xx

Seán’s first Sakura!