Mia & her little sister Ayla at the Katsuoji Temple

My friend Mia (age 8) is half Japanese and half African-American and every summer she visits her relatives in Japan for one whole month.  She also gets to practice speaking Japanese when she is there, which is super cool.  Read my interview with her below to learn some of the Japanese words she taught me and some other interesting facts about her trip and about Japan.

GRAY: Where are you in the above photo?

MIA: I am on the stairs in front of the Katsuoji Temple with my little sister.  At the temple there is a bell you can ring and  incense, too.  [According to Mia’s mom, after ringing the bell, you are supposed to go to the main temple to pay your respects and then wave the incense over your body to purify yourself.]

Interesting fact: Katsuoji is known as ‘the temple of good luck at winning or games’. It is popular with anyone hoping to succeed with a difficult task.

Mia pulls on the ropes to ring the temple bells

Mia pulls on the ropes to ring the temple bells

Interesting fact:
 At the temple you can find red wooden Daruma Dolls, which are known as good luck charms and can supposedly help a person “win” in something, like a game or a test. At some temples, Daruma dolls are bought in the beginning of each new year without pupils painted on. A wish is then made and one of the doll’s pupils is painted on. If the wish comes true, the second pupil is also added, and the doll is returned to the temple at the end of the year to be burnt.

Daruma, good luck charms, outside a temple in Japan

Daruma, good luck charms, outside a temple in Japan

G: What other things do you see a lot of in Japan?

M: I saw a lot of cherry blossom trees and temples, and a mix of modern buildings with really old structures, some of them originally built back in the 6th century!

Beautiful Cherry Blossoms. Photo by

Beautiful Cherry Blossoms. Photo by

Interesting fact: The famous cherry trees in Washington D.C. in the United States originated in 1912 as a gift of friendship to the People of the United States from the People of Japan.


G: How long is the flight to Japan from California?

M: Long! About 11 hours from California to Japan and 1 hour from Tokyo to Osaka. I left L.A at 1:00 a.m. and fell asleep the whole way.

G: What things are really different (besides the language) in Japan compared to the United States?

M: The surroundings and, of course, the language.

G: What is your favorite thing to do in Japan?

M: I liked going to the Japanese temples.

G: What is your favorite Japanese food?

M: We ate a lot of sushi and noodles. My favorite dishes were ramen and strawberry sundaes.

Interesting Fact: Japanese people attach great importance to the appearance of their food. Moms make kids “Bento Box” lunches. Part of the fun of making a Bento Box lunch is creating a neat and fun or beautiful arrangement of food.

G: Can you teach us three new Japanese words that kids might like to know?

M: Sure.

1. matane (ma-ta-nay) – see you later

2. oyasumi (o-yah-soo-mee) – good night

3. ohayo gozaimasu (oh-hah-YOH go-zigh-moss) – good morning

See the chart below or click on this site to hear how some of these words are pronounced: Kids Web Japan Language Lessons.



More interesting facts about Japan and Japanese culture:

  • The Japanese name for Japan is “Nihon” or “Nippon” which means “sun origin” and sometimes is translated as “Land of the Rising Sun.”

  • Japan is part of an island nation surrounded by the Sea of Japan to the East and the Pacific Ocean to the West.

  • Japan is made up of 6,852 islands.

  • The highest point in Japan is Mount Fuji, which stands at 3,776m (12,388ft).

  • There are over 127 million people living in Japan, which gives it the tenth largest population in the world.

  • Human life in Japan dates back thousands of years.

  • Ancient warriors of Japan were known as Samurai. They were very skilled fighters. Their main weapon was the Katana, a sharp sword with a slight curve to it.

  • Origami originated in Japan and is the traditional Japanese art of paper folding, which started in the 17th century AD.

An origami paper crane. photo by Andreas Bauer/Wikimedia Commons

An origami paper crane. photo by Andreas Bauer/Wikimedia Commons

If you would like to learn more about Japanese culture or language, KIDS WEB JAPAN is a neat site that shares what Japanese kids do in their every day lives and gives language lessons, too.

Have a question for Mia about her trip to Japan? Ask it below in the comment section. And, make sure you JOIN to get our free weekly newsletter highlighting cool things for kids to do, make, and see. Coming soon: My friend Josy’s trip to Kenya!