Meet Japanese Mom Chiharu living in Hong Kong
Hello! My name is Chiharu, I am originally from Tokyo, Japan, but live in Hong Kong with my husband Jim and our 3 year-old daughter Kaili. I was born in Tokyo but moved around growing up- from Spain, the Philippines, Venezuela, Canada to the U.S. There were definitely tears leaving friends and adjusting to a new place, but I also became quite good at assimilating to a new place(and made many friends from all over the world). I met my husband who was assigned to Tokyo through a very good friend, married in Kauai, Hawaii, and soon after had Kaili in Japan.
From a career perspective, I had worked in Human Resources mainly in the Investment Banking sector for about 10 years until a few months ago. With a wish to spend more time with my daughter, as well as to put some of my expertise into use (online shopping and sourcing new products!), I launched Storytime about a month ago. The name was inspired by Kaili who always asks for a Storytime before going to bed. My products primarily focus on Japanese clothing brands, but I also introduce items that are carefully selected pieces from other places of the world!
What kind of house do you live in, are you happy here or is there anything you all terribly miss …?
We live in a low rise colonial apartment close to Central. Its a beautiful area which offers some sea view as well as plenty lush greenery (but this means mosquitoes!!!). What I love about the apartment is the character it has- high ceiling with molding or the wooden window frames and built in bookshelves that has been preserved throughout the years. Kaili is very happy here: she has some very good friends near by, her school close by, and parks within walking distance (as long as its not too hot to walk). When the air is polluted, I do miss having cleaner air. This may be a controversial topic in Hong Kong, but as someone that has asthma, it is a crucial topic.
Do you like to spend time on decorating your home and the daughter’s room?
Yes I do but I must admit I haven't had as much time in the past and plan to do more of this. I tend to like to look and coordinate the fabric or the smaller things, and my husband more the big stuff (furniture). I think we do well collaborating. Interior inspirations come mostly from visiting places(Morocco, or antique markets in Japan…Kyoto…Thailand), and finding precious pieces in shops that are tucked away. I also get inspired by my grandmother who is so great at keeping things in great conditions, and displaying in such a beautiful way. Her home has always been the same, but every time I go, I always find something that interest me at all stages of my life. In my last visit, I found her old ironing board made of wood and fixed over years to be such a precious item and even a part of the interior. There is no one interior magazine that I pick up every month, but my husband and I both pick up Monocle(although not interior specific, they have wide range of topics they cover including design and style) and I occasionally pick up Elle Deco, Martha Stewart Living or Home from Hong Kong.
Kaili's Favorite Items: There are a few!. 1. Her blanket- I am attaching the photo 2 years ago. We can not travel without this. 2. Stuffed animals. It started with Shimajiro (not a great looking tiger doll but is the main character of a monthly Japanese correspondence materials we receive), to Madrid (teddy bear that my sister got her from Spain), and Pinky (a pink rabbit from Japan that she named). I often find her strapping them into her mini stroller with a little blanket and speaking to them about going somewhere. 3. Books- from Eric Carle to Winnie the Pooh to Dr. Seuss…and the Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Or if in Japanese, books written by Taro Gomi, Noriko Kudo and other classical stories.
What places in your new neighborhood do you like to go to for shopping?
The great thing about Hong Kong is everywhere can be your neighborhood (because they are so close)! There is no one specific place we go all the time, but like going to Star Street or Stanley for a stroll, but must admit with a child now(especially when potty training), the Pacific Place becomes a much easier place to walk around in. It also makes it easier that one of our most favorite supermarkets called grEAT is here.
What's it like to raise a child in your town?
There are many options around schools and classes before they hit the age of 4. Once they are 3, you go through the various interview process to get into the International schools and this could be quite stressful(for the parents).
Also, as a mother, you can get spoiled as it is very easy to get "help" here. And it is the same for children. The challenge becomes, how to educate the kids to become more self reliant and independent (ie clean after themselves). I realize its so much quicker to put her shoes on, or put her clothes on rather than wait for her to put it on…but I have to keep telling myself that I need to be patient so she learns to do this on her own.
Another point about Hong Kong is the great specialist/medical infrastructure the city has to offer provided you have a good coverage under your plan!
Who do you consider is a good example for your daughter?
I would like to think its all of us (parents, our parents, her uncles and aunties…nanny..teachers!). She has grown up with a lot of love around her and learns from every one of us. We hope to be able to show her the ropes of life as we are sure she will face more hardships as she grows up (so far, its been too easy for her!).
What is your idea of a perfect day with your daughter?
Sleeping in together and waking up together!!! Is this selfish of me to say? That is all that I ask!
Can you mention some of your ‘how-to-raise-your-kid’ values?
Be honest and be polite.
Craft and DIY projects,
We like to bake things together. We recently bought a box that came with an apron, little animal cookie cutters, dough roller, wooden spoon etc for kids and we made quite a bit of cookies. I do hope to get into origami (we do make it some times), but it is still a bit complicated for Kaili. One day!
Tips for keeping the house clean when crafting….that would be just make sure you have lots of boxes to store things in (and even smaller drawers- I use to buy them at Muji) for the little things.
I am definitely a crafter. I love to embroider, knit, weave ..and recently started this sheep wool felt making recently. I don’t have much time for this any more but hope to get back into it.
One of my hobbies when in Japan is to always goto Yuzawaya, a huge shop that sells tons of things for crafting. I loved just spending hours there, looking at kits, or various embroidery books, sewing books. The Japanese books teach so much from the basics so well…
If visiting Hong Kong, I must say Sham Shui Po is an amazing place for crafters to goto. There are so many places to buy beads, fabrics…and even ribbons and at such a reasonable price you won’t believe it.
What do you do with all the projects your daughter made at home or in school?
We are currently storing this in a folder, but plan to send some to her grandparents who will enjoy receiving them. Some are on our fridge but we run out of space with her art and school calendar etc!
Any nice decoration ideas how to hang them, keep them or use them as presents? I always think about how great it would be to use it as Christmas ornaments(and we could have fun talking about them every year) or hang from a lamp shade/door/closet knobs in their rooms.
How do you like to celebrate birthdays and other special days in your house?
We have had her birthdays outside of our home in the past 2 years. We just thought (and for very selfish reasons) that having an open space with various activities would be fun. For her 2nd year birthday, we had it at a cup cake shop and they had a tour of the kitchen and decorated the cakes with all these frostings and toppings (needless to say they loved it)..and they got to take the cake back. For the third birthday…we had it at Colour My World in Hong Kong- a fabulous space to be creative for both kids and adults!
What are favorite games in your home?
Daddy plays the guitar, and we sing. We make it simple like..name that colour etc.
What kind of sports does your daughter like to do and are you very involved?
She is taking ballet and jazz at Twinkle Dance Studio in Hong Kong and the teacher keeps her focused by making sure they don’t do many routines so they do not get bored. I don’t always goto the classes but when I did, it was nice to see Kaili trying to do well to impress me. It was a very sweet and precious moment.
Are there musical instruments in your house?
Yes, guitars, guitars and guitars. Jim has been into music all his life, and plays in a band called Witchdoctor in Hong Kong. if he could, he would love to be a full time musician!
What are all time favorite books?
Books are so interesting. They go through stages of liking certain books, but they also go back to the old ones because they understand more about what they were reading before. For example, I think she really loved Eric Carle’s book because she loved how the words flowed and the illustrations and the colours…and then she did’t read them for a while. Then, she understood more of the meaning of the book and started to love them again..so books are so recyclable in their early years! Her favorites now are Dr. Seuss, and some Japanese books- like “Konna toki nannte iu?” (What do you say in these situations?) or “Niko Niko Supermarket”(the hen and the baby chicks goto the supermarket). She especially loves books that has to do with food these days!
What are nice activities you can do with children in your place and what could you recommend when people are visiting?
We have a box of musical instruments (like little drums, flutes, bells) that Jim collected (nothing too expensive)…. We can have a jam session and dance in your living room maybe while we wait for the cookies to bake!??
What movies does your daughter like to watch, is there one from your childhood you would love to show them too?
Kaili definitely likes the animations like “Snow White”, “Winnie the Pooh” as well as TV shows like, “Yo Gabba Gabba” and “Team Umi Zumi”. We also enjoy watching animations by Hayao Miyazaki with her- such as “Spirited Away” or “Ponyo”. After having watched these amazing animations, we went to visit Studio Ghibli in Tokyo- truly an amazing experience for both adults and kids. I highly recommend this if visiting (but please note that you will need to buy a ticket in advance- and highly recommend to do this before going to Japan).
Shows from my childhood that I would love to share with her would be “Mary Poppins” and “Annie”. I think it may be still too early for her- one day!
How do they prefer to spend their leisure time?
Probably “bake” something, dance in the house and write all over the walls in any way possible!
Are you a ‘cook’ or ‘food’ lover or both?
I used to be a cook until I met my husband. He spoils me and since then, I have become a food lover. I do love to buy good cookbooks but he tends to get better usage out of them!
What kind of place do you like to go to on vacation with and or without your daughter?
We still have a hard time traveling on our own without Kaili but have made a trip to Australia and Macau. With Kaili, we prefer to go somewhere close (as its very difficult to deal with the jetlag) like Thailand or Japan. We really loved staying at Trisara in Phuket. They don’t advertise too much but they have a great kids center with a beautiful kids menu. I have never seen Kaili eat like that when we traveled! Another part we love going to is Kyoto. We have a wonderful taxi/driver who will give a tour in English as well (and he will customize the tour according to your needs- ex: had enough of temples, can we go look at some traditional crafts like making incense/washi paper etc!). If you are interested, you may contact Ogawa-san at +8190-3033-3902. Also, if you would like to stay in a hotel, I think the Hyatt is child friendly!
What kind of souvenir can she bring back home?
We tend to like getting books that were written locally…and of course, If there are any local music instruments for kids, we would love it!
How do you prepare for a trip, any useful tips?
You tend to overstuff things especially with kids. So try to have the minimum required list (ex. Never forget medication in case they get sick) but things of volume (ex. Diapers), try to get it ordered locally (ie if staying at a hotel, ask the concierge to prepare this for you locally). Of course..if you are looking for a very specific item, then you may need to risk if they have it in that location.
Tips for traveling with a plane or a long-time trip on the road?
This also depends on the age they are at. At 3, ipod with familiar tv programs will do (and even videos of her taken in the past with friends will keep her occupied). And…for those that are just toilet trained…for the plane, I would put them in their nappies just in case they are not allowed to stand and go, or there is a long line!