Manabiya Iowa

February was full of activities at Manabiya Iowa.  We started the month with the celebration of spring coming by bean throwing with Hiyoko Club kids.  The students of Manabiya had learned about soy beans and the soy bean products that would be used for cooking on our party at the end of year party.

They also had a chance to learn a little bit of Hayao Miyazaki and watched the movie "The Wind Rises" that he most recently created, fiction based on a real person who was the designer/engineer of Zero fighter.  To watch movies help them learn about the Japanese living, customs, culture and the way who they are.

For March, we will celebrate "Hinamatsuri" which is a girls/doll festival with Hiyoko Club.  We will pray for the healthy and happiness of young girls.
There will be a story telling, singing some songs, crafts and other activities.
Please let us know if you would like to join us.

Hiyoko Club (Hinamatsuri, the Girls/Doll Festival )
Date: Mar. 3rd (Sat.)
Time: 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Location: Manabya class room in West Des Moines
Fee:  $5.00 per family

Chikako Brown
Manabiya Iowa

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March 2018

March, the spring time, and the topic usually related to Cherry Blossoms or Girls Day in Japan, but I’d like to talk little about history of Kimono this time.

Originally, "kimono" was the Japanese word for clothing. But in more recent years, the word has been used to refer specifically to traditional Japanese clothing.  Kimonos as we know them today came into being during the Heian period (794-1192).  During the Kamakura period (1192-1338) and the Muromachi period (1338-1573), both men and women wore brightly colored kimonos. Warriors dressed in colors representing their leaders, and sometimes the battlefield was as gaudy as a fashion show.
During the Edo period (1603-1868), the Tokugawa Shogun ruled over Japan.  The Edo period was one of unprecedented political stability, economic growth, and urban expansion.  Kimono makers got better and better at their craft, and kimono making grew into an art form.  During the Meiji period (1868-1912), Japan was heavily influenced by foreign cultures. The government encouraged people to adopt Western clothing and habits.

The Taishō period (1912-1926) was one of confidence and optimism in Japan.  Industrial development was stimulated by the First World War, economic prosperity being matched by political democratization. It was a period of great urban growth.  The traditional cut of Kimono remained the same, but the motifs were dramatically enlarged and new designs appeared, inspired by western styles such as Art Nouveau and Art Deco. Their striking patterns reflected the confident spirit of the age and provided an exuberant visual statement for the modern, independent, urban woman of the Taishō and early Shōwa periods (1926-1989).

Today, there are kimono made with beautiful modern fabrics can be seen increasingly on the streets of Japan, while second-hand kimono are becoming popular with the young, who often re-style them or combine them with other items of dress.  Antique kimono and obi are also showcased as art form to enjoy its beauty and tranquility at home.

Stays warm everyone; the spring is around the corner!!

Chie Schiller
Board Chair/Executive President

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Meiji Period Kimono.jpg

Manabiya Iowa

We have started our third semester with our annual New Year Party.
It was filled with Japanese traditional activities and tasting different flavor Mochi.

They learned about the twelve animals of the calendar with Kamishibai (2018 is a year of dog by the way), got to watch the teachers' entertainment, tried Shodo, the calligraphy with brushes.  At the end of the day, they got to play with traditional toys for New Year.

Now we will be celebrating Setsubun, welcoming spring with Hiyoko kids on Feb.3rd.  There will be story telling, singing songs, crafts and more.

Hiyoko Club (Setsubun, the celebration of spring)
Date: Feb. 3rd (Sat.)
Time: 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Location: Manabiya class room
Fee:  $5.00 per family

Please let us know if you would like to join us.

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February 2018

January has passed and it’s already February!  Every winter season, I think about an onsen (温泉).  It’s a Japanese hot spring and the bathing facilities and inns frequently situated around them.  As volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsens scattered throughout all of its major islands.  Onsens come in many types and shapes, including outdoor roten-buro (露天風呂) and indoor baths.

Traditionally, men and women bathed together at onsens naked (no swimming suits are allowed), but gender separation has been enforced since the opening of Japan to the West during the Meiji Restoration.  Mixed bathing tradition still exists in rural areas of Japan and those traditional onsens usually also provide the option of separate "women-only" baths or different hours for the two sexes.  

You might say that “I’m embarrassed about being naked at front of strangers.”  But please don’t let that scare you away from enjoying one of Japan’s nicest experiences.  First, no matter what your size or shape, life is too short to be ashamed of your body.  Nudity is natural and nobody cares what you look like at onsens (sorry… but, it’s true.)  Second, once you’re in the water there’s very little to see anyway.  Third, unless you’re specifically looking for a shared-gender onsen, you’ll only be seen by the same sex genders, so much like a locker room at school or going to the local gym.  Lastly, this is one great time to adopt the motto “When in Rome, do like the Romans do.”, so why not “When in Japan, do like the Japanese do!!”  There’s nothing to be worried about.  Just enjoy!!
Stays warm everyone; the spring is around the corner!!

Chie Schiller
Board Chair/Executive President


謹賀新年 / A Happy New Year!!

正月(shogatsu)、In Japan, sunrise on New Year’s Day is believed to have special supernatural powers, and praying to the first sunrise of the year has become a popular practice since the Meiji era (1868 – 1912).  Even today, crowds gather on mountaintops or beaches with good views of the sunrise to pray for health and family wellbeing in the New Year.  This belief is based on Shinto, but the majestic beauty of New Year’s Day sunrise is simply the best no matter what you believe in.  

Another fun fact of Japanese culture, 初夢(Hatuyume) is the first dream one has in the new year.  Traditionally, the contents of such a dream would foretell the luck of the dreamer in the ensuing year.  It is considered to be particularly good luck to dream of Mount Fuji, a hawk, and an eggplant.  The meaning of these three objects is that Mount Fuji is Japan’s highest mountain, the hawk is a clever and strong bird, and the word for eggplant (nasu or nasubi 茄子) suggests achieving something great (nasu 成す).

Sunrise in Des Moines, Iowa area on January 1, 2018 is 7:41am.  I hope the sky is clear to be able to see the first sunrise of the year, and I wish everyone to have a nice first dream to bring you the luck in 2018.
今年もよろしくお願いします / Thank you for your continued support for JASI,

Chie Schiller
Board Chair / Executive President


Manabiya Iowa

We have a big news!  Manabiya got a $800.00 grant for teaching material purchase from Japan Foundation at Los Angeles.  We have started purchasing new books, Kamishibai, dictionaries and more.  Hopefully, we can start using the materials from next semester to make Manabiya a much more fun place to learn.

Our last Hiyoko Club for 2017 will be on Dec. 16th.  We will be learning about getting ready for New Year.  There will be a story telling, songs, crafts and more.

Hiyoko Club (End of year preparation)
Date: December 16th (Sat.)
Time: 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Location: Manabya class in West Des Moines
Fee:  $5.00 per family

Please let us know if you are planning to join.

Chikako Brown
Principal of Manabiya IOWA


Christmas in Japan

Christmas has only been widely celebrated in Japan for the last few decades.  It’s still not seen as a religious holiday or celebration as there aren’t many Christians in Japan, and it isn’t a national holiday.  Now several customs that introduced to Japan such as sending and receiving Christmas Cards and Presents are popular.  In Japan, Christmas is known as more of a time to spread happiness rather than a religious celebration.  Christmas Eve is often celebrated more than Christmas Day, and Christmas Eve is thought of as the most romantic day of the year.  While the traditional western Christmas revolves around family, in Japan it’s more about spending time with your significant other.  Young couples go out for dinner and take romantic strolls to enjoy beautiful festive lights. 

My Christmas when I was little was to eat KFC fried chicken.  It’s silly, but I remember getting on a bus to go get KFC fried chicken every Christmas.  I could hardly wait to go home to eat the yummy KFC fried chicken, and smelled sooooo  good.  There was an advertising campaign by KFC in the 1970s called “Kentucky for Christmas!” (“クリスマスにはケンタッキー” / Kurisumasu ni wa kentakki!!) which was very successful and this made KFC very popular for Christmas in Japan.
Have a wonderful month, and Merry Christmas!!

Chie Schiller
Board Chair / Executive President


2018/2019 Board/Executive Team

Please help me welcoming the following Board/Executive Members of JASI.  The Board/Executive Election was held on November 19th at Clive Library.  This new team will take office on December 31st, 2017, and they will serve as the Board/Executive Members of JASI for two-year terms (2018 & 2019).

Chie Schiller – Board Chair/Executive President
John Hurst – Board of Directors/Executive Vice President
Tessa Hopson – Board of Directors/Executive Vice President
Brandon Akamine – Board of Directors/Executive Secretary
Phillip VerBeke – Board of Directors/Executive Treasurer
John, Tess and I are excited to have new faces, Brandon and Phillip to our team.  We're looking forward to working with you in upcoming years!!

Chie Schiller
Board Chair / Executive President

Manabiya Iowa

It was nice to be able to play outside before the cold weather came!
We had our Hiyoko Club on Oct. 21st where the kids learned the culture which was our first "Mini Undoukai." (Sports day)
There were some traditional  and popular races and activities.  Everyone enjoyed the fall weather with some serious and fun games.

In November, we will be celebrating "Shichi-go-san" which is 7-5-3 year-old celebration with Hiyoko Club.  We will have a story telling, songs and crafts.

Hiyoko Club (Shichi-go-san)
Date: November 18th (Sat.)
Time: 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Location: Manabya class in West Des Moines
Fee:  $5.00 per family

Please let us know if you are planning to join.

Chikako Brown
Manabiya Principal


Thanksgiving in Japan

With Thanksgiving fast approaching this month, I believe everyone is excited and getting ready for families get together.  In Japan, although people might not celebrate the same way as in America, they actually do have a similar national holiday called “Labor Thanksgiving Day (Kinro-Kansha-No-Hi, 勤労感謝の日). It’s a national holiday in Japan which takes place annually on November 23rd.  The law establishing the holiday cites as an occasion for commemorating labor and production and giving one another thanks.

Although there is a long history behind the Japanese Labor Thanksgiving, the modern holiday was established after World War II in 1948 as a day to mark some of the changes of the post war Constitution of Japan, including fundamental human rights and the expansion of workers’ rights. 

Otsukaresama (お疲れ様) is one of those Japanese expressions that do not have an English equivalent expression.  Some translate it as “Cheers/Thanks for the hard work!” and is mostly heard in offices and work places.  During the Labor Thanksgiving Day is the best time to use this expression to give one another thanks for the hard work.



Manabiya Iowa


It has been already a moth and a half since Manabiya resumed from the summer break.
After the fun summer festival, we are at our full swing with regular routines of group learning and also theme learning.  Some of the older students are showing their leadership by sharing the song they learned during summer.

We have our cultural learning day once a month with younger kids which is called Hiyoko Club.  The theme for September was "Otsukimi." (Moon viewing)
We had fun time with songs, a story telling and crafts.  Hiyoko Club October will be "Undokai" which is a sports day.  It is going to be Manabiya's first "Undokai." with Japanese races and games.

Hiyoko Club"Undokai" (Sports day)

Date: October 21st (Sat.)
Time: 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Location: Manabya class parking lot
(If it rains, it will be Manabiya big classroom in the basement)
Fee:  $5.00 per family

Please let us know if you are planning to join.

Chikako Brown
Principal of Manabiya IOWA

October 2017


Tsukimi, moon-viewing is one of Japanese festivals honoring the autumn moon.  The celebration of the full moon typically takes place on the 15th day of the eighth month of the traditional Japanese calendar; the waxing moon is celebrated on the 13th day of the ninth month.  These days normally fall in September and October of the modern solar calendar.  Tsukimi traditions include displaying decorations made from Japanese pampas grass and eating rice dumplings called Tsukimi dango in order to celebrate the beauty of the moon.  Seasonal produce are also displayed as offerings to the moon.

The moon-viewing custom originally came from China during the Heian period (794 – 1185).  During the Edo period (1603 – 1867) the practice of enjoying the beautiful rays of the moon spread to warriors and townspeople.  Farmers also incorporated viewing the full autumn moon into agricultural rites.

Iowa short summer has ended, we’re entering into fun Holiday seasons, and there are still many more fun occasions to celebrate the rest of year.  I hope you and your family to enjoy this beautiful season.


September 2017

Autumn is known in Japan as the ‘Season for a Healthy Appetite’. It is an excellent time to enjoy a variety of food and fruits such as apples, persimmons, pears and grapes. There are few popular sweets that are made from seasonal produce such as chestnuts and yams which are only available at this time of the year. These are a great way to enjoy traditional Japanese customs and the tastes of autumn at the same time. These Limited edition sweets, cakes and desserts can be found not only in department stores and convenience stores but also in the long-established traditional sweet shops called Wagashi-ya. Japanese style sweets, called Wagashi, use local ingredients making it a uniquely Japanese way to enjoy different kinds of sweets throughout the year.
Little history of Wagashi……
The word “wa-gashi” is literally means “Japanese snacks.” The first character “和” read “wa” is often used to describe things originating from Japan. For example “wa-fuku” means “Japanese clothing,” and “wa-shoku” means “Japanese food.” In fact, “wa” is the oldest known name for the country of Japan. The word “wa” itself means “peace, harmony, or balance.  The second part of the word, “kashi” which changes to “gashi” when paired with another kanji character, means “snack” but originally referred to the fruits and nuts served for guests before confectionary treats were invented.
Wagashi became popular during the Edo period where it was almost always served with tea. The original inspiration for wagashi came from Chinese dum-sum and the introduction of sugarcane to the island. European influence may have also played a part as Portuguese explorers visited Tanegashima in 1543. These travelers brought with them European sweets which used eggs and large amounts of sugar.  After this time tea master Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591) coined the term wabi-cha to refer to treats that were served at tea ceremonies. Prior to the introduction of Chinese and European influences, simple sweets such as manju and yokan were served.
Some of these simple Japanese sweets are available locally here in Iowa; I hope you have a chance to enjoy some of them.

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2017 North American Taiko Conference

Two members of Soten Taiko, Amanda Gran and Tanis Sotelo, attended the 2017 North American Taiko Conference in San Diego, California. Amanda and Tanis participated in Taiko workshops from professional Taiko players and teachers, networked with other Taiko players from across the United States, and saw amazing Taiko performances.  Amanda had the honor of attending a workshop led by Seiichi Tanaka, the man responsible for brining Taiko to North America. Afterwards, Tanis was able to attend the 3-day intensive Shishimai  (Japanese Lion Dance) workshop, led by Kyosuke Suzuki, a master musican and dancer from the Wakayama Performance Troupe, in Tokyo, Japan.


Obon (お盆)

August (8/13 – 8/16) is most commonly known as “Hachigatsu Bon” in Japan.  Obon (お盆) is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one’s ancestors.  This Buddhist-Confucian custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their ancestors’ graves, and when the spirits of ancestors are supposed to revisit the household altars.  It has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon-Odori.

Bon-Odori, meaning Bon dance, is a style of dancing originally a Nenbutsu folk dance to welcome the spirits of the dead.  The style of celebration varies in many aspects from region to region.  The dance of a region can depict the area’s history and specialization.  For example, the movements of the dance of the Tanko Bushi (the “coal mining song”) in Kyushu show the movements of miners.  The Soran Bushi dance of Hokkaido mimics the work of fishermen, etc.

While some bon traditions may varyfrom region to region, there are some other things you can expect to see at Obon no matter where you are in Japan:

1.      Welcome fire (Mukaebi) – On the first day of Obon, people set out lanterns, the light of which is meant to guide the spirits back to their homes.

2.      Offering of food, drinks, sweets (ozen) – Offerings of food/drinks, and sweets; when shared with the dead is called “ozen”; an attempt to treat the spirits as if they are still alive.

3.      Grave visits and cleaning (ohakamairi) – Obon is also a time when the family visits the graves of the ancestors to perform the ritual cleaning of the grave stones.

4.      Seeing off the spirits (okuribi/toronagashi) – At the end of the Bon period, to guide the ancestors to return to where they came from, the family sees them off with another fire.  Paper lanterns may be set out on the river or sea in a ceremony called toronagashi.

Obon is a beautiful tradition; it brings family together from all over the nation and all those before them.


Beach Season in Japan

I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th July celebration with your family and friends.  Most of July is solidly in the rainy season in Japan.  The good news is that the rainy season is over in Okinawa and Southern Kyushu, and Hokkaido doesn’t have rainy season.  Good thing to keep in mind if you’re planning to visit Japan in July.  On average, the rainy season ends around July 20th in the Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto areas. 
Beach season starts from July 15th to August 31st in Japan, but it varies widely from prefecture to prefecture and even by town.  “Japanese Emerald Beach, the most tropical beaches” are located in Okinawa, the sub-tropical islands with palm trees and coral reefs on the north coast of the main Okinawa island.  Since I’m from Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan, so I’d also like to mention about a couple of wonderful beaches in Hokkaido prefecture.  Ranshima beach is located about 2 hours from Sapporo city by car, and has nice sandy beach and clear water.  Shakotan beach is located in Shiribeshi sub-prefecture, Hokkaido.  This is rocky beach, good place to do snorkeling, and I used to catch sea urchins at this beach.  

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Manabiya Iowa Finished First Semester

We have finished our first semester.  At the last day in the classroom, they had presentations of their research about the places in Japan.  They picked the prefectures that they wanted to know about and made posters and slide shows.  The parents came to enjoy traveling though the country of Japan by their presentations.
We ended the semester by participating CelebrAsian representing JASI's culture tent on May 27th and also performed on the main stage.  We danced "Sakura Yosakoi" in the light rain.  Regardless the weather, we all had a great time.  Through this dance, we have built a strong team work and a great spirit of Manabiya members.
Our second semester will start on Aug. 19th.  The following week will be our annual summer festival where there will be fun games and food to taste.  Until then, our students will be busy doing their summer homework.
Chikako Brown
Manabiya Principal

2017 CelebrAsian

Thank everyone for your hard work over the 2017 CelebrAsian, 15th anniversary event.  JASI has being a part of this annual Asian Festival since the 1st year, and we’re continuing to build our good memories year after year.  Throughout this year’s event, I felt high energy from everyone and all volunteers worked tirelessly.

I received wonderful feedback from our members, volunteers, event partners as well as the event audience that how well each tents were organized and how friendly we were to everyone.  Once again we got hit by a rain, but tents and grounds were very well protected that the impacts from the rain was very small or almost none.  Most importantly, despite the rain, our passion and spirits weren’t washed away with it, it seemed the rain refreshed our spirits to even work harder and brought us closer. 
I’m very proud to be a part of this organization, and I truly appreciate your time, talent and dedication for our organization.

Chie Schiller
Board Chair / Executive President


Manabiya Iowa New Academic Year

Manabiya new academic year has started on April 1st.  We celebrated our first day with some fun activities such as slide show of Japanese school year, games and making the signs for the doors followed by a pot luck party.  Hiyoko Club kids and families joined and had a chance to get to know each other better. 
A new student joined us in mid April.  Now nine students are leaning the language as well as the culture through small learning groups and project base "theme learning."  Currently, we are busy with the dance practice for the performance at CelebrAsian.  The Japanese performance on the stage starts at 2:00 p.m. on May 27th.  Please look forward to seeing us dancing "Sakura Yosakoi."
Manabiya will be also be at the cultural tent at CelebrAsian.  We will have some Japanese games and water Yo-Yo sale.  Please come stop by our tent and enjoy the event!
Manabiya Principal
Chikako Brown

Manabiya April 2017
Manabiya April 2017-2

Manabiya Iowa 1st Quarter 2017 Update

Manabiya Iowa started our third and the last semester of 2016 – 2017 school year on January 7th with our annual New Year party.  We celebrated a couple other cultural activities of Japan within the third semester with the Hiyoko Club. On Jan 28th , we celebrated Setsubun which is a celebration of the last day of winter.  The kids learned about getting rid of evils and welcoming good luck by throwing beans. On Feb 25th , we celebrated Hinamatsuri (Girls' festival). We made our own Hina dolls with Origami as a part of Hinamatsuri activities. 

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For our third semester theme learning, we participated in a volunteer work at Meals from the Heartland on March 4th.  It was a great opportunity to do a community service as Manabiya Iowa team. Our last day for the 2016 – 2017 school year will be March 18th and will start the new school year on April 1st.  It will be a celebration with some activities and a pot luck party with Hiyoko Club.