Change Is Necessary! It ain’t just good!

How do you change when it’s so easy to stay the same?

In A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, Daniel H. Pink revealed six attributes that are needed for success in the 21st century.  Pink gives recovering lawyers, misguided accountants, and forlorn engineers skills to being successful today.  Pink says, “The future belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind: designers, inventors, teachers, storytellers-creative and emphatic “right-brain” thinkers whose abilities mark the fault line between who gets ahead and who doesn’t.”  In today’s world you can’t just sit and wait to be directed.  You have to be willing to take risks and challenge deeply entrenched beliefs.

Just think about old Chris Columbus, way back in 1492, he had to challenge the notion that the world was flat. He had to make a new map. He had to create new landmarks.  He had to create a new legend.

Today we are being asked to do the same.  We can’t sit back and wait for direction or believe in the old way of doing things.  We have to constantly change and create new pathways for the future.

Here are my six attributes to help you create change:

  • Be memorable!
  • Be daring!
  • Be fearless!
  • Be refreshing!
  • Be adventurous!
  • Be yourself!

Check out Daniel H. Pink’s book! Go get creative!

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Saving for Your Children’s Future *Announcement

Saving for your Children’s future

As a parent it’s a natural instinct to want the best for your children. Apart from the parental guidance you give throughout their lives, the benefit of a top quality education is perhaps the greatest gift you can give. But, wherever you are in the world – and wherever you choose to have your children educated – the cost of both a private and a university education are significant, and are escalating year-on-year. Paying for an education requires some serious planning.

At Banner Japan, we can help you plan ahead for the Education of your Children. By starting to save regularly when your children are young – or perhaps even before they are born – you can offset the costs associated with a first class education.

– Save in either US Dollars, Euros, British Pounds, Japanese Yen or Hong Kong Dollars

– Open an account with as little as USD 250 or JPY 20,000 per month. A little bit of money can go a long way if saved regularly!

– Take the plan with you to your next destination and continue funding it after leaving Japan. Plans are portable and premiums are taken from a credit card

– Invest in a diversified range of funds that you choose, or we help you choose

The plans should be regarded as long term plans. It is not a short term savings vehicle and should not be seen as your source of instant cash.

If you are interested in knowing more details of our Savings Plans for your family, email us or call us for a free consultation.

Kind regards,

Tatiana Valenzuela ( Mother of a 10 month old boy and a Tokyo Mothers Group member)

Investment Advisor

Banner Japan K.K.

4F Esperanza Ebisu Bldg

3-2-19 Ebisu Minami

Shibuya-ku, Tokyo


Mobile: 090-9853-2327

Office: 03-5724-5100

savings plans – retirement plans – children’s education plans – investments – health insurance -life insurance – Yen loans for USA, Australia, Canada, UK and New Zealand


*Note: As I mentioned in a previous post, I am on the listserv for Tokyo Mother’s Group. Periodically they send out announcements that may be important for you! Just to let you know!

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6 Ways to be Fearless!

Shy? Afraid of strangers? Timid? Worried about trying something new?

Here are 6 ways to be fearless!

Don’t let anything stop you from         greatness!

1) Get a theme song! Whenever you try something new find a way to listen to a song that motivates you! Pumps you up and keeps you going! My personal favorite,The Eye of the Tiger!

2) Your song is pumping through your veins. Now, exercise! Exercise keeps your blood flowing and give you confidence in your physical appearance.

3) Make one goal! Some people like to make lists of things to do. A list could be overwhelming. Just put one thing on your list and then make a list of action steps to accomplish your goal. What if your goal was to learn one poem in English? Here is an example of how to carry out that goal without stress.

  • Day 1: Find a friend or a buddy to help you study. Or tell someone about your goal so they can encourage you.
  • Day 2: Find a poem in English that is half a page long.
  • Day 3: Look on the internet and see if they have an example of a recording or video of someone saying the poem.
  • Day 4: Read the poem and look for 5 words you don’t know.  I suggest you only look at the words or phrases that are repeated throughout the poem.
  • Day 5: Look for 5 more words that you don’t know.
  • Day 6: Learn the phrase that’s repeated throughout the poem.
  • Day 7: Watch the video or listen to the recording and say the phrase that you learned with the recording.  This will help you understand the flow and rhythm of the words.
  • Days 8-15: Learn the rest of the poem. Always refer to the recording for guidance.
  • Day 15: Celebrate! Call your grandmother, parents or even your teacher and tell them what you learned. They will be happy to cheer you on!

4) Volunteer! A great way to gain confidence is to help someone else. Sometimes we think that our situation is worse than it is.  If you step into someone else’s shoes you might see how you have a lot to be thankful for.

5) Smile. It’s very simple, sometimes a smile will make you feel more comfortable. I think Snow White sang it best:

6) Try something new! Are you afraid of swimming? Sign up for a swimming class. Are you afraid of insects? Read a book about bugs and find out how they can help us.  Whatever your fear is, it can only be conquered by effort.  Just Try!

How have you become fearless? List your tips below! One more thing, if you are looking for a way to try something new join the ONLY Visual and Performing Arts Camp in Japan! You can be fearless and we will help you!

To Living Creatively!

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Living in Japan with Kids? 6 sites to help you find your way!

Parents have no fear! We have plenty of resources right here! From things to do on a rainy day to explaining Japanese history, these links will guide you through a new terrain.



Japanese History and Facts

When you are trying to teach their child about their adopted home country all you have to do is go to Kids Web Japan.  Kids Web Japan is sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is chock-full of interesting tidbits to help your child learn simple Japanese phrases, find out about local school children, Japanese folktales and culture.

Education in Japan

This is hands down one of the best blogs about the educational landscape in Japan.  The owner of the blog Aileen Kawagoe has collected an extreme amount of information for parents about Japanese public schools, international schools, summer camps, laws and legislation, living in Japan, teaching your child English while sending them to public school…you name it, she’s got it. I strongly suggest you join her yahoo groups page here

Tokyo Kids Online sponsored by Tokyo Families Magazine

Tokyo Kids Online wants to help you find out what is hot and now in the Tokyo and Kanto regions of Japan.  Young Eiji and his dad Boone banter about movies, events, and anything else you can fit in a 10 minute podcast about what you can do with your family.  I really like his joke sequence and I enjoy how easily Eiji and Boone communicate with one another. I can imagine them sitting on the stoop and drinking a tall glass of lemonade.

Japan With Kids

I love this site but it is now defunct. The last official update on the page was 2005.  They have a copyright until 2007, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a peek at this site. Some of the information and discussion boards are still relevant today. I don’t know the reason behind the site ending, but I do know that it was and is a treasure.

Tokyo Families Magazine

Tokyo Families is a free monthly magazine that focuses on information for the international community in Japan.  You can find it in a hard copy, but if that’s hard to come by feel free to check them out online.

Japan for Kids

List of art activities, videos, and coloring sheets about Japan.

Fun Things to Do with Kids

Are you about to travel to Japan? Are you already here and looking for ways to explain to your child that you aren’t in Kansas anymore? This travel site highlights major areas around the country. I like the list of books at the end of the page. If you want some great reads about tea ceremony, samurai, and Japanese celebrations check out this page.

That’s it for now, if you have any sites I should look out for please add them in the comments section.

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Kylee…Is she the real Hannah Montana?

She’s been dubbed the “Real Hannah Montana” by NBC and Yahoo.  I first heard about this transpacific pop star back in March of 2011 through My Fox  Who is this rising star in Jpop ? Who is this teen phenom who is trying to make it as a cross-over success in the already cut-throat world of the U.S. music biz?

She’s, Kylee Saunders, a 17-year-old bi-cultural teen who lives a true double life!  I think even James Bond would have to pause at her intense pace.  Kylee spends holidays and breaks jettisoning between the U.S. and Japan to record, shoot videos, and promote her upcoming albums. While in Japan she’s connecting with fans and maintaining a presence in the very fickle Japanese Jpop scene.

Life in the U.S.

In the States she is a straight A student and leads a “normal” family life. With a younger sister who is trying to make her way in entertainment and a younger brother, Kylee is definitely a positive role model to them both. Her high school English teacher describes her as a typical teen, “She’s chatty in class, I’ve had to tell her to be quiet.” He chuckled as he emphasized that Kylee isn’t a prima donna.

The Power of Disney

Who would have known that the theme song from the Disney movie Mulan would be the birth of a music career?  Kylee took her love for Disney movies and karaoke and launched a career that most of us would dream about.  Her big break came when she was only 11 years old. She was able to sing The  Star Spangled Banner at a Trailblazers basketball game.  You would think that at 11 Kylee would have been intimidated by the massive crowd, but her only response to her dad was, “You told me there would be a lot of people.” Watch out Miley Cyrus!

Kylee’s Strength

Kylee’s new title track Never Give Up is her battle cry.  She truly believes that no one should quit following their dreams.

An Example to All

Kylee is a great example of someone who has been able to meld their English-speaking life with their Japanese life.  Yes, she has the benefit of being raised in a bilingual home, but it is very easy to relinquish one part of your identity for another.  Kylee is an example of someone who hasn’t sacrificed her culture for celebrity.  I guess we can say she is a lot better than the “real Hannah Montanta” after all!

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English Immersion in Japan

When you first started studying English when did you start learning English? Did you learn after your teacher told you to memorize 30 verbs in 10 days? Did you learn after you watched an episode of the Disney Channel? Did you learn after you met a foreigner at your local grocery store? Did you learn at all?

Many of the people that I have met who study English didn’t learn English from studying. They learned from being immersed in the culture. They learned after an overseas home-stay. They learned after they went to a restaurant in NYC and couldn’t order the food on the menu. Some even learned after dating a foreigner. Don’t pretend that it doesn’t happen! We all know the truth!

Learning a language is a lot easier when you are exposed to it in a fun and engaging manner. My first encounter with Japanese culture was from my sensei Michiko-san. She was married to an American and she had two sons who were bi-cultural. She did a wonderful job teaching us how to make 寿司 (sushi), how to hold 箸(chopsticks), and pronounce the alphabet. Even before I came to Japan I knew the alphabet because of Michiko-san. She made learning about Japan fun.

When children are surrounded by native English teachers and they are having fun through dance, art, and songs, they have a deeper connection with the language. Finding locations in Japan where children can be surrounded in English and have a great time is possible. I encourage parents to look for a program that suits your child’s interests. If your child likes to perform allow them to learn English through performance. If your child likes outdoor activities allow your child to participate in a program that teaches English and science. If your child likes sports look for a program that teaches English and sports together. If your child can use English to express the things that he/she loves, then English will have more meaning. Your child won’t memorize 30 verbs and then forget them on Monday. Your child will remember the verbs because they used them in an activity that they like.

How to stay motivated when learning a language?

An immersion program also gives your child motivation. Maybe you have been trying to get your child to study English at home, but she has refused. She said that it’s boring or difficult.  If you immerse your child in English then she may realize that there is a reason to study.  However drilling and cramming information into your brain doesn’t help you learn any better. It just frustrates you. Learning in a stress free environment where laughter is encouraged is probably one of the best ways for your child to learn.

If you’d like to know more about immersion programs send an email to or post a question underneath!

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It’s a rainy day…Now What?

The kids are crying! You are tired of texting! You have watched all of the DVDs in the house! You can’t even think about walking out the door since the very idea of putting the kids in a stroller, hopping on the train and going anywhere makes you tired!

It’s a rainy day! What can you do?

  • Bake some cookies
  • Go in the cabinet take out some old toilet rolls and make “telephones”
  • Use toilet rolls and make a robot. If you have some old shoe boxes you can add a face to it and make it look funny.
  • Crayons are a mom’s best friend. Melt the crayons and then swirl them around and see what kind of designs you can make. (This works best with cheap crayons!)
  • Make some magnets for the refrigerator! It’s very easy!
  • Have a tea party! Make sure you dress up! Break out the good china and make sure you wear the most elaborate dress in your closet.
  • Make your house sunny! Draw pictures of a spring day.
  • Look in the house for some old socks. Make sock puppets.

    Write a story. You can get some coins and put as many in the jar. Each person adds something to the story and drops a coin in the jar.

  • Pull out some old wigs or take a towel and wrap it around your head and pretend you are in a fairy tale.
  • Re-enact your favorite movies!
  • Pretend that you all are in the WWF! Take the couches and turn them around into a circle.  Pit the kids in the middle and have a good time! Make sure you all dress up and wear funny costumes.
  • Even if you have exhausted all of your movies you can have a movie marathon. My personal favorite is the Rocky Series. You can also try Karate Kid, Spy Kids, Harry Potter or even Star Wars.

These are just a couple of tips to help you endure that rainy day! Have fun!

Oh, one more thing…this is my favorite rainy day song!

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Camping Made Easy: What types of camps are there?

The people at My Favorite Camping Store have an article entitled, “Kids Camping-It’s Not Easy…But it’s so rewarding.” I have to agree with them…camping is rewarding, but if you want to make it easy, then looking into weekend camps, day camps, or residential camps.  Finding an organized camp can take the stress off of planning, preparing and parenting all in one short period of time.

Family Camps

Family camps are great if you want the experience of being outdoors without the hassle. Now, if you want that rustic feeling it is possible to stay in tents and live off the salt of the land, but then why would you want to pay for that experience.  Family camps should not be confused with traditional camps for kids.  These camps offer an opportunity for families to bond with one another while experiencing something new.

Weekend Camps

A weekend camp usually features a short stay and they might have a more traditional focus. Typical activities could be horseback riding, canoeing, BBQ cookouts, and sightseeing.  The weekend camp is more of a get-away.  Perfect if you just want to keep things simple. Weekend camps are also great for first-timers. If you are trying to ease your child into the camping lifestyle spending a weekend in the mountains is a great first step.

Day Camps

Day camps sound like a camp, but in a lot of ways it’s a fancy name for summer school without the testing.  Day camps are perfect for working parents.  Most day camps follow a theme for the week.  Attendance at a day camp is often more flexible since the programs are usually one week. For example, if we are studying The Great Barrier Reef we may only do it for one week.  The following week could be about fairy tales.  Day camps offer great flexibility, the fees may equal the same amount as a three day camp.  I have noticed around Tokyo the fees for day camps usually run about 8,000 yen/day.

Residential Camps

Most residential camps start for children ages 8 and up. You can find some camps that accept children as young as 5.  On Curious Parents website they mention a story of a young 5 year old Japanese child that was sent overseas alone.  “One year we had a five-year-old camper from Japan. When he was escorted off the plane, he spoke no English. He adjusted beautifully. When he went home eight weeks later, he was speaking English,” said Jon Estis, director of Camp Redwood in Walden, N.Y. (

All of these camps can have a mixture of activities and themes. Some of them can feature art and others can focus on technology.  There is so much choice that you are bound to find something that interests you.

One more thing….

If you live in Japan you know that the children here are given a longer leash than children in your home country. I have been at residential camps where children as young as 4 joined in on the action.  They were more ready for bedtime than the older campers but they still had fun!  Always take into consideration the needs of your child and that will help you decide the best camp for you.

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Bed-wetting at Camp

Bed-wetting a Problem?

Don’t let a little tinkle stop your child from enjoying summer camp!

Two years ago we took a group of children to camp and out of about nineteen 6-7 year old boys and girls we had three children with bed-wetting issues.  It was quite a shock, but nothing we couldn’t handle.  Most of the children were fine and weren’t really embarrassed at all, however if you have a sensitive child then it’s best to prepare them before they go to camp.  Here are some tips to help your child feel comfortable about being at camp:

  1. Notify the counselors immediately. The counselors can arrange for more frequent bathroom breaks and even mid-night wake up calls for your child.
  2. Ask the counselors if your child can sleep close to the cabin exit. This will allow your child easy access to the restroom. Make sure your child has a flashlight so he feels safe when walking to the restroom at night.
  3. Talk to your child about wearing disposable pants.  Find a special bag to put your child’s pants in that looks fun.
  4. Tell your child that he doesn’t have to tell any of his new friends about his situation.
  5. Coordinate with the counselor for a special place to change underpants.
  6. Remind counselors not to give your child drinks late at night. (This last one has been argued about amongst other professionals, but it never hurts.)

Bed wetting is a common problem for children but that shouldn’t keep them from enjoying camp or overnight visits with friends.  If you have any tips or ideas on this subject please leave a response.

For more information contact Michaela Chatman at Camp Roadless Summer! Let’s see how we can help!

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Shimmy Your Shyness Away

You see a notice in the school office for auditions for the school play. You stop and wonder if you should try out for a part.  You’ve always wanted to be on stage and you are constantly practicing the lines of your favorite movies while brushing your teeth in the bathroom.  But there’s a problem…you think you are too shy.

Your mind starts to make you think of wild and crazy scenarios.  What if you fall on stage? What if the kids laugh?  What if you get the part and forget your lines?  These are all common fears but they shouldn’t stop you from trying new things.

Did you know that Beyonce the singer has an alter-ego? You may wonder what is an alter-ego.  An alter-ego is a second person or a different part of you that may be exaggerated. For example, Clark Kent is the man and his alter-ego is Superman.  Now we know Superman is a fictional tale, but Clark Kent has special powers when he becomes Superman.  There are things he just can’t do as Clark Kent that he can do as Superman.  Just like Beyonce, as a young solo performer she may feel the pressure of her record company and the need to push album sells higher.  However as her alter-ego Sasha Fierce she doesn’t worry about record sales, marketing or promotion. She just focuses on the music.

Conquering your fears of shyness can take some time, but with a little effort you can overcome any obstacle.

  1. If you have a hard time making eye contact, practice on strangers. Just look at people right above their eyes. If they look back then smile and say hello. They are strangers and they won’t even remember you.
  2. Try raising your hand in class more often. If that is too intimidating then think about speaking up in small groups. Have a goal to raise your hand in each class.
  3. Say hello to people in the hallway at school. You will be surprised they may speak back. If they don’t they may not have heard you. Don’t always jump to conclusions.
  4. Don’t take yourself so seriously! Find ways to find the humor in life.  Sometimes a good laugh can alleviate stress.
  5. Think of the things that you are good at. Practice thinking about yourself as a confident person.
  6. Join a club or try something new.  It’s quite possible you may meet people doing things that you’ve never done before.
  7. Be open to new experiences. Don’t be the first person to say, I don’t like something.  Be willing to try something new, especially if it is legal.

It may take a while for you to overcome your shyness. That’s okay! Don’t punish yourself for being who you are.  By making small steps and slowly incorporating new things in your life you will learn how to take on the world.

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