Japan and a daughter who loves it.

My 10yo is my sensitive and emotional child. She is passionate and stubborn, and a lot like I was at her age. She loves to dabble in anything new and exciting. When she sees something she likes, her first response is "I want to DO that!" Her interests are as varying as the weather. Yet over time, there have been a couple of passions that have never waned. She has loved ancient Egypt since she was four, and her love of the violin has only grown over time.
Lately, her passions have branched to another culture, Japan. This is partly because one of her best friends is from Japan. Their friendship was one of those rare, good rivalries where they encouraged each other to do their best. They even handled the boy/girl teasing they often received with grace.  The first time they had her at their house to eat, she came home beaming because her friend's mother teased her son that she had used chopsticks better than he did! When we brought her home from school, this friend was the one we were most concerned with loosing touch. The feeling was mutual and his family asked if we'd be interested in taking kendo lessons with them to make sure the kids saw each other regularly.

We googled kendo and watched a few videos. (This video is of two of her teachers). I wasn't sold on these crazy masked figures running around whacking each other on the head. My daughter wanted to try though.
So, Sunday morning we loaded up and went to a local high school's gym and watched. My daughter took to it immediately. She began going weekly and advanced quickly. The sensais would comment on her great posture and form. It wasn't long before she was the same rank as her friend. I've gotten better at watching too. What once looked like a bunch of angry screaming people in masks now makes sense. I can tell a good strike from a bad one and an advanced member from a new one.

Kendo has also introduced us to the Japanese community here in middle Tennessee. We have many Japanese friends and have been to several of their celebrations. When I walk into a room filled with people who look differently than I do, I become very self-aware. I know that most all of them, especially the children, can speak English in addition to the Japanese I hear. And I am all too aware that I can speak nothing but English. My daughter doesn't have this hesitancy though. She scans the room for familiar faces and darts off to join her friends. I was once approached by one of her teachers who wanted to know if my daughter had any Japanese heritage. I said no. He wasn't surprised but was curious as to how we became so involved with kendo. I told him the story and he seemed very pleased. He offered to help her learn as much as she wanted about Japan. Walking away from this conversation, I began to understand why I love kendo too. The people involved have always been so welcoming to us even though we are so extremely ignorant. Just this week, her friend came over for a play date and his mother brought us a poster explaining the Japanese characters for sounds, a katakana. Her daughter had been teaching my daughter how to write her name and some other words in Japanese. She will soon attempt to write notes to her Japanese friends using these characters.
So now when we go to the library, my daughter peruses the nonfiction isles for books on Japanese folklore, crafts, and history. She has a display of Ukiyo-e postcards and origami in her room. She's been making really good animals, flowers and boxes from this website. She dreams of traveling there to study someday when she is older, and, who knows, it may just happen.


  1. What a lovely story Jennifer. Its lovely the way you and your daughter have embraced the Japanese culture.
    Zoe x

  2. Thank you Zoe! I learn so much through my children and their interests.

  3. HI
    Thanks for following and I am following back. I lived in Okinawa as a child Dad was in the Navy) we learned so much about the Japanese culture, LOVE it. So glad you daughter has a good friend!!! Thanks for linking up to the NOBH and hope you link up often:)

  4. I just noticed your in Nashville. My husband has family in Clarksville and Nashville:)

  5. It is a small world! LOVE NOBH! thanks for hosting it!

  6. What a great story! Thanks for sharing. It's so neat that your daughter can take part in another culture like that. And I had to take a double take when I saw your name. I grew up with a girl named Jennifer Castro. (not you though) lol! Anyways, I'm following you now. Thanks for linking up to the NOBH! :)

  7. Thank you for the comment! No, my mother was not in a very original mood when she named me Jennifer. I had three in my class growing up. :)

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