Browsing articles from "September, 2012"
Sep 28, 2012

10 Early Years Tokyo Schools For Kids & Tots

If you’re planning to move and have children, especially young ones, finding a home within distance of the school you’d like them to attend is always a high priority.

In order to help you make your decision easier we’ve brought together 10 English speaking schools. So without further ado, and in no particular order here are the schools, there websites, and a little about them:

International School of the Sacred Heart • Hiroo

Following kindergarten this is an all girl’s school, but prior to that they offer a great system that also emphasizes computer literacy at a young age.

In talking about their program the school’s Principal emphasized their extended classrooms:

We have an extensive Open Area which extends the classroom experiences allowing the children to experience dramatic play, painting, handcrafts, water and sand exploration and practical life activities…

Visit ISSH’s website

J’s International School • Azabu-Juban

A great early years school for “Little Lambs, Busy Bees, Ready Rabbits, & Clever Cats!”

If their fun naming style doesn’t tell you about them then hopefully one of their student’s parents can:

…You all made me feel so comfortable because I knew that Kai was enjoying his days. Sometimes he would even complain, “How come I never get to stay late!” When your child doesn’t want to return home at end of an already long day, then you know he’s had a great day!

Visit J’s website

Joy to the World American International School • Bunkyo-ku

A great international school that even offers a Summer in Hawaii program!

About their pre-kindergarten program they had this to say:

Pre-Kindergarten has two main goals: first, to guide students in their transition from home life to school life, and second, to provide students with the social and academic skills needed for Kindergarten. These goals are achieved with careful consideration of each students needs and abilities

Visit Joy to the World’s website

Sesame International Preschool • Hiroo

Sesame stands for: Smile Esteem Spirit Appreciation Manners Equality

In writing about what makes them different they said:

…what sets Sesame apart are our kind hearted teachers. Almost all of our student’s parents comment on the home-like feeling… We believe that children are only limited by a lack of experiences and benefit most from an increase in opportunities…

Visit Sesame’s website

Alpha Kids Square, Club, & Academy • Tokyo, Kansai, & Kyushu

Alpha is a large children’s pre-school that also leans towards being a day care provider.

In their Mission Statement they say:

We provide the following that help “healthy growth of children”, “social prosperity”, and “prosperity of employees and families”.
●The substantial childcare and early educational programs
●Esteem of child’s individuality and promotion of creativity with help from our staff members…

Visit Alpha’s website

Bilingual Kids International Preschool • Sakurazutsumi & Sakai

BKI is very proud of their Reggio Emilia approach to education and development of children.

In regards to what sets them apart they had this to say:

…we do not assume what your child may like to learn about, we simply uncover their interests and then follow them to wherever they may lead us! Our school truly believes that “The mind forgets, but the heart always remembers!”

…with our Head Office/School located inside a beautiful, green, leafy park

Visit BKI’s website

ASIJ Early Learning Center • Roppongi

ASIJ is one of the most well known international schools in Japan with their main campus located in Chofu, but their “Early Learning Center” being located in the very accessible Roppongi.

In a message from their director she described their approach as follows:

…Children are encouraged to explore, manipulate, create, and construct things in their environment. The cognitive and social development of children is best encouraged through collaboration with others, discussion, discovery of the “how” and “why” of actions, and developing personal meaning through the application of what is learned…

Visit ASIJ’s website

The British (Primary) School in Tokyo • Shibuya

This great school offering a curriculum from 3 years of age all the way to graduation all using the British method of education.

The head of the primary school had this to say about their curriculum:

…with the wealth of extra-curricular activities, we strive to develop potential from within, encouraging each student to grow in confidence, flourish academically and develop a life-long love of learning

Visit BST’s website

The Montessori School of Tokyo • Azabu-Juban

This is one of the premiere schools in Tokyo offering an education in the Montessori method.

In describing their method and classrooms they had this to say:

When you walk into a Montessori classroom, the first thing you will notice is that everyone is busy and interested in what they are doing. One child is counting beads, others are working together on a puzzle map, and in the corner of the room a teacher is introducing a small group of children to a new language activity.

Visit MST’s website

Komozawa Park International School • Todoroki

A preschool and kindergarten located next to one of Japan’s biggest parks.

In talking about the benefits of being so close to the Olympic park KPIS had wrote this:

We strongly believe in the value of free play, and Komazawa Olympic Park serves as a large open classroom where our students enjoy the freedom of running, tumbling, and playing around as well as climbing trees. The fallen leaves, twigs, and rocks provide natural materials for our students to stimulate their creativity,

Visit KPIPK’s website

Sep 20, 2012

Watering Hole: Home-brew heaven in Yoyogi

Japan’s homebrew hero Ichiri Fujiura and his wife Michiko Tsutsui, a former manager at Vivo, have pooled talents to bring thirsty Tokyoites a new addition to the jibiru circuit. Watering Hole promises a nice marriage of domestic and international selections, with big hitters such as Stone and BrewDog alongside local breweries like Isekedoya and Harvest Moon.

The nineteen taps—handmade by Fujiura—plus two hand-pumps mix creative choices and crowd-pleasers. Beer styles run the gamut from pilsner to barley wine, with something to satisfy every taste. Better yet, next year the couple’s adjacent brewery, Tharsis Ridge, will add its own craft beer to the lineup. Most pints run ¥1,000-1,300 yen; a better deal than the half-pints, which start at ¥750. The indecisive can spring for a beer flight for ¥1,000.

To start, I opted for Beer Buddy’s New Zealand IPA, a hoppily crisp beer that suited the weather perfectly. My partner went for Nihonkai Club’s Bohemian Style Pils, and ended up with a glorified Ebisu. Not bad, but not great. We quickly moved on, ready for something heavier. Epic Brewing’s Rio’s Rompin’ Rye and Ballast Point’s Tongue Buckler seemed to fit the bill.

At 10 percent ABV, many bars serve the latter in a smaller snifter or tulip glass. Watering Hole gives you a pint. This alters the flavor slightly, emphasizing the hops more than the sweetness, and it proved the favorite. Epic’s Rye, on the other hand, seemed heavier and cloudier than on a previous tasting. We asked if it was the bottom of the keg.

Let me tell you: this staff knows their stuff. We found out how long the keg had run, that it was from the middle, and that it was a live beer, accounting for the taste change. Even more impressive was the friendly, helpful manner of the answer. These are people who love their beer.

On our way to being sozzled, we deemed it an appropriate time for food. The menu is small but varied. The organic green salad (¥700) is fresh and generous, but the dressing underwhelming. We wished we’d ordered the sausage (¥600)— we salivated every time the sizzling platters went out. The fried hops (¥350) come with a warning on the menu—“bitter!!”—but the flavor is nuanced. They paired nicely with the heavier-bodied Rye; less so with the already complex Tongue Buckler.

Luckily for jibiru fans this bar lives up to its name, offering a good range served by helpful staff, and decent food alongside. Skip the water, and drink more beer.

Menu: Japanese & English
Price Range: Half-pints from ¥750; pints from ¥1,000
Smoking Rules: Nonsmoking seats available
Seating Tips: At the bar or by the window
Pros: Nice selection and good location
Cons: Over-priced half pints
Address: 5-26-5-103 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku
Tel: 03-6380-6115
Station: Yoyogi
Hours: Open daily 3-11:30pm

Sep 14, 2012

“Please Do It” Public Transportation Guide

If you’ve lived in Japan for sometime you’ve doubtless seen these PSA posters, but f you’re new to Japanese public transportation they provide a great crash course on what to do and what not to do, with some being a little too much and others being too obvious.

This is probably the golden rule and one to not be broken, absolutely do not talk on your cell phone in a train or subway. Keep it on the platform or of course at home.

This is a growing problem, and unless you have the greatest taste in music one that you’ll want to be aware of. You might even want to do some tests at home with your headphones to see what’s the loudest you should go on the train.

The meaning on this one is likely “No diving into the train,” but maybe this one would be better suited for those that dive into a rush hour train after getting a running start. Still don’t delay the train by running through closing doors.

The eating is a clear no go area in public transportation in Japan, but the main one in this is the backpack, which you’ll find far less common in Japan, and maybe for this exact reason. The solution to this problem comes later…

Even if you’re sick with love priority seats are for the elderly, injured, parents, and people who look like they just need them. If you sit down when no one is around and they’re empty just make sure to remain aware of just where you’re sitting. In fact no matter where you’re sitting it’s not uncommon for people to offer their seats to the elderly and those in need.

This one was touched on in the last three, but seriously no eating on the train. No elbowing people in the face while doing, and most definitely absolutely no ramen.

And now for a master poster with nearly every “bad” action on it, including sitting on the ground, especially near the doors. Doing makeup (not completely sure about this one but it’s one that’s being really stressed lately. Eating and messiness. Lastly one that smartphones have helped solve a lot, the dreaded large format newspaper reading rider.

And now we take a turn for the positive, starting with a sequel to the backpack problem before, and showing the proper method for carrying a bulky bag on the train.

Also despite it possibly being less common to see in Japan, due to the more reserved culture, please don’t hesitate to offer help to those who may need it.

This one may be easy to brake on accident and take some practice, but make sure not to sit wide, not to place anything on the seats, and the part that takes practice is being able to spot the mostly invisible grid of seats.

There's many more of these posters, in fact 36 total on Gakuranman’s blog,so whether you’re interested in seeing the pictures, reading the text, or learning more about Japanese public transportation manners make sure to head over there.

Sep 7, 2012

Family Table: Several kid-friendly eateries that are adult-friendly, too

Pierette Near Futako-Tamagawa station, kids will want to pirouette with joy at Pierette (4-15-30, Seta, Setagaya-ku;, a massive indoor play complex produced by educational toy importer and retailer BorneLund Ltd. Multiple zones—the cyberwheel, air castle, circuit and baby gym, among others—are designed to amuse and captivate kids up to age 12, while the Garden Café provides sustenance and refreshment before and after energetic bouts of play. Adults can rest assured that all menu items have been tested for potential allergens, and choose from either a Japanese or Western set (¥980) as the kids tuck into their own curry (¥530), or a special basket of goodies (¥630). Various admission charges apply.



Courtesy of Baby King Kitchen

At first glance, the wooden toys, miniature slide, “library” books and indoor swing suggest kids rule the roost at Baby King Kitchen (2F, 3-2-15 Koenji-Kita, Suginami-ku;, but a stylish interior comprised of leather sofas, burnished wood and chalky walls ensures visiting adults will also feel right at home. At ¥1,100, the children’s lunch plate is pricier than many items on the grown ups’ menu, but when a hamburger, fried egg, cocktail wiener sausage, battered shrimp, rice, salad and dessert are up for grabs, even the fussiest of eaters will be placated.



© Yoshitaka Matsumoto

Kids’ meals are all grown up at Aussie chef Bill Granger’s Odaiba outpost (Seaside Mall 3F, 1-6-1 Daiba, Minato-ku;, where worldly whippersnappers feast on adaptations from the adults’ menu. If the grilled salmon with beans and mash doesn’t appeal, wean your child on sophisticated versions of kid-friendly staples such as the wagyu burger, chicken schnitzel with garlic mashed potatoes and for budding vegetarians, spaghetti with cherry tomatoes, ricotta, spinach and Pecorino. All are available with a choice of four desserts for ¥1,100.


It’s not your everyday café restaurant that boasts its own playground, but such is the case with Dear Kids Café (1-25-3 Kamishakujii, Nerima-ku;, a cavernous and brightly colored tot-friendly space where children can amuse themselves with rubber balls, climbing equipment and a slide while parents tuck into pizza, pasta or a salad, and a beverage or two. A small surcharge of ¥350 is levied on children aged between 1-6 years for the first hour of playground use, but if one of the special kids’ meals (¥580) or pizza, pasta and sandwich are ordered, the hour becomes free.



Don’t let the name fool you—the Tokyo Baby Café (B1F, 4-5-12 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku; is as much for parents as it is for kids. Apart from luxe amenities such as spacious changing areas and nursing rooms, the café is stocked with picture books and toys galore, allowing parents to relax because their children are playing safely and not causing mayhem. The menu caters for customers of all ages, and a limited number of Oisix-sourced organic lunch sets are available daily. Exclusively for the under-seven set (accompanied by parents or guardians) and pregnant women, the Tokyo Baby Café charges ¥500 per half hour for use of its facilities on top of any food and beverages ordered.



Courtesy of Sun2Diner

A relaxed and easy vibe, stroller-friendly interior, non-smoking area and BBQ goodies galore have all helped make Nakameguro burger and grill restaurant Sun2Diner (Ogawa Building 1F, 2-43-11, Kamimeguro Meguro-ku; a finger-licking family favorite. Children are also in for a special treat with their very own Kids’ Plate (¥650) including mashed potato, pancakes, scrambled eggs, drinks and vanilla ice cream. Time your visit right and you might also get to see some old school animation along the lines of Tom and Jerry on the venue’s TV.



Daikanyama is home to numerous baby and children’s shopping outlets, and after an energetic morning (or afternoon) of retail therapy, mamas and papas are advised to take a relaxing break at Chano-ma, housed in the same building as the Unit nightclub (2F Za House Bldg, 1-34-17 Ebisu-Nishi, Shibuya-ku; From11:30 am until 5pm the venue runs an extended “Chano-mama lunchtime,” a space in which parents can enjoy eating organic food from Hokkaido while their babies lounge, play and nap on the spacious canvas-covered tatami seating area. Changing facilities are top notch and Chano-ma also organizes “Happy Birthday photo sessions” for the junior set.