Learning about Japan for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Week 1

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of these books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Wow, April was a bit of a strange month with the stay at home order. It is hard to believe it is May. Our weather is finally starting to warm back up. April was the coldest April on record here and until this weekend our warmest day in 2020 was in January! May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Multicultural Kid Blogs has stopped doing its monthly heritage month series but I still wanted to share about it. So this year as I looked at my resources (aka my review shelf) I noticed a definite theme of Japan. So I am going to try to post on Mondays sharing different resources on Japan and Japanese culture. And it makes the most sense to begin with well the beginning. So our first book today is Kojiki: The Birth of Japan by Kazumi Wilds. 

This book tells the creation myth of Japan. The Kojiki was completed in 712 C.E., and is Japan's oldest surviving written work. It was three volumes and contained mythology corresponding with to legends and actual historical events. This book focuses on the creation myth and is meant to be an artist's book. It is not the entire original book nor does it represent the entire three volumes. 

This creation myth has is interesting. I had not heard it previously. Although there are only a sentence or two on most pages I would not say it is for young kids. There are references to sex of the deities. The male deity asks the female deity about how she is formed and when she refers to a place in her that is empty and he says he has a part that sticks out and wants to use it to fill her empty space. In the end of the story she also gets angry with him and sends she-demons after him. (She has died and he visits her in the underworld.) 

I found it so interesting that the couple's children became the eight islands of Japan. Then their children became the various deities of the Japanese culture. Unfortunately the female became ill after giving birth to the deity of fire. She eventually dies. However even some of their bodily fluids also became deities.  There is even an explanation of the peach tree being the Great-Divine-Fruit and how the Moon God, Sun Goddess and Male Augustness were born and why they became guardian deities of Japan and are still worshiped today.

The illustrations are beautiful and the story is interesting. I love how this book shares a creation myth I had not heard. I just warn about sharing with younger children. Otherwise I would say check out this beautiful book!

Our next book is a great way to introduce parts of Japanese culture to children. It is Ninja Boy's Secret by Tina Schneider. This book is recommended for ages 3 to 8. The main character in this book is a ninja boy. He goes to ninja school so he can grow up to be a ninja like his father. Throughout the story characteristics and abilities of ninja are shared. The one problem is the boy does not want to be a ninja. He wants to play the violin and share his music. When he fails out of ninja school he has to face his father. Will his father be angry? Will he let him play his music?

I love how this book brings violins into the Japanese culture as well. I took Suzuki violin lessons when I was young and now Hazel does. Learning a method started by a Japanese man tells me how important the violin is to the culture. I also love how little color is used in the ninja part of however lots of color is used when the boy is thinking about or playing his music. There is however a blue ball in every picture that has the black dog.

I also love how this book shares a story of facing one's parent with one's own dreams. Sometimes it is very hard for children to tell their parents their own desires and dreams because the parent already has it set in his or her mind that the child will be something else. It is such an important lesson for kids and parents to see and read about. 

I feel like this book has an important message about being true to oneself as well as introducing some of Japanese culture to the world. The illustrations add even more to the culture from the buildings to the decor. It is a sweet story and a great introduction to Japan.

Now we have had the pleasure of exploring Japan over the years with many books as well as other activities. Be sure to check out our posts and I would love to draw special attention to some of our looks at Japan and World War II:  our review of a book about Sadako Sasaki which I reviewed last month, the Friendship Doll Series, The Peace Tree of Hiroshima, and The Last Cherry Blossom,  as well as our Japanese Tea Party, and our Global Learning for Kids Japan posts. Be sure to check back each Monday to see what other explorations of Japan we do this month!