Monday, October 13, 2014

Ninja Mask Tutorial

For Will's Ninjago birthday party last week, I made some really simple ninja masks for all of the kids.  Once I had the measurements and pattern created, they only took about 10 minutes to make.  So, I thought I'd share a tutorial in case anyone out there is looking for a ninja Halloween costume or wants to make it for a ninja or Ninjago party.  These masks fit all of the kids at our party, whose ages ranged from 2-8.  This is largely due to the type of fabric I chose to use, which was a stretchy, two-way stretch knit, nylon I think, like you would find in dance costumes.  And because it is a knit fabric, I didn't even need to finish any of the edges, making it that much more simple!  All this pattern takes is one seam and it's done!

Here's what you need:
-Two-way stretch knit fabric (cotton, nylon, or spandex types will work best)
-Matching thread
-Sewing machine

Take your fabric and fold it in half (in case your fabric only has a 1-way stretch, make sure that the biggest stretch is stretching horizontally so that it can be stretched over the child's head).  Place your pattern on the fabric, lining the side along the fold.  

My pattern is 14" from the highest point on the top of the head to the bottom, 10" across the bottom under the eye hole, from the edge to the eye hole is 7", and the height of the eye hole is about 1/2".  Cut out your fabric, making sure to not cut the section labeled "fold", under the eye hole.  Cut from above the eye hole, all the way around the rest of the pattern.  Once your fabric is cut out, it should all be one piece, connected under the eye hole.  

Put right sides together and sew the edges together (I just used a zig zag stitch and a regular needle) from the bottom around to the top of the eye hole and you're finished!  Turn it right side out and try it on your little ninja!

Noyama Kita, Obstacle Course Park

Japan is beautiful.  And it has the most incredible, fun parks that we've ever visited.  Last week, as part of Will's birthday celebration, we went to Noyama Kita, an obstacle course park built up a hillside, about 10 minutes from base.

Earlier, when we were telling the kids where we were going later, we told them it was an obstacle course park, like a ninja training obstacle course park, and so, of course, Will was totally amped about going.  And then as we walked through the entrance of the park, towards the first obstacle he'd have to climb over, he turned to me and said, "Because of course ninjas have to train."  So funny!  It was like he'd been thinking about the park and about ninjas, and then just shared with me what he was thinking mid-thought!  Man, I love that kid.

The ONLY thing I wish was different about this park is the mud!  It's super muddy, and we even went on a dry day!  So, if you ever find yourself at this park, wear things you don't mind getting dirty, and bring some bug spray too!  Other than the mud and the mosquitos, this park was seriously an A+.  All of us, Peter and myself included, especially loved the slide.  It's fast enough that it's fun for adults, but not too steep, making it not scary for kids!  We kept going on it over and over again.

Getting to this park from base is super easy.  Go left out the East gate and turn right at the first light.  Turn left on the street where Aeon Mall is and drive a ways past the mall.  When you hit the large onsen on the left (right before the road curves up and to the right), turn left.  The park will be on your right, with a large parking lot on the left, directly across from the entrance of the park.

GPS Coordinates:  35.7635, 139.3861

Sunday, October 12, 2014

William's Ninjago Birthday Party

The other day Will turned 5 years old!  Crazy how time flies!  Lately, Will has been really into the cartoon, Ninjago, which combines two of his favorite things: ninjas and legos.  So, of course, we had to plan a Ninjago birthday party.

And we had a lot of fun.  It was really easy and low-key, but the kids loved it.  Win-win.

We started the party by ninjafying (like that word?  totally works) all of the kids with handmade ninja hoods as they came in (I'll share a tutorial soon!).  

The first party game we played was a little chopstick race.  We got these awesome ninja chopsticks and gave each kids 5 pieces of cereal in a cup.  They had to pick a piece of cereal in their chopsticks and run it across the grass and drop it into an empty cup, and then go back and repeat until they'd done all 5 pieces.  This game was actually a little tricky for the younger kids (the kids at the party ranged in age from 4-8), but they all had a fun time trying!

Our next game was using ninja throwing stars.  We used this tutorial to make each kid two throwing stars.  Then, for the game, we just lined them up and let them try and throw their stars into a bucket.  Easiest game ever and the kids totally loved it.  They kept trying over and over.

And that's pretty much it!  After the games we ate cupcakes with frosting the colors of the 5 Ninjagos, and topped with paper eyes that I found here.  (That's also where I got the eyes for the balloons and the banner that I taped to the wall.)  Then we opened presents and gave all of the kids some cool, inflatable ninja swords and let them go crazy.  

Happy birthday to my ninja warrior!!!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Kyoto Trip: Heian Jingu Shrine and Silver Pavilion

Our last couple of stops on our Kyoto Trip were to the Heian Jingu Shrine and the Silver Pavilion.  The big draw for us to visit the Heian Jingu Shrine was the gardens with their stepping stones across the pond.  Or at least this was how we got the kids excited to visit yet another shrine!  But, the pond lived up to the hype and the kids crossed over on the stones two or three times and had a blast.

The gardens were absolutely gorgeous though and so peaceful.  As we walked along the winding paths through the gardens, we were pleasantly surprised at the end when we came across a long covered bridge with benches to sit overlook the scenery and the shrines.  While we were sitting on the bridge, we saw boxes of bread to feed the fish and turtles.  The kids were thrilled and had a fun time feeding them before we were on our way.

Just like Heian Jingu, and all of the other shrines we visited in Kyoto, the Silver Pavilion also had beautiful gardens, as well as incredible dry sand zen gardens.  What is most interesting about the Silver Pavilion is that it doesn't have any silver on it!

Image via

The gardens were surrounded by bamboo forests and the paths lead up a mountainside with beautiful views of Kyoto from the top.  It was a perfect end to a perfect week in Kyoto!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Kyoto Trip: Sagano Scenic Railway

Another fun activity for young kids in Kyoto is the Sagano Scenic Railway.  This old fashioned train is open--no roof or windows, which adds the excitement, as well as being optimal for viewing the beautiful scenery.

The train travels up, and through (lots of tunnels!), the mountainside, and alongside a big river.  It was also nice and cool feeling the fresh air, and the mountain was absolutely gorgeous.

We finally reached Sagano, a little country town nestled in the mountains.  And to greet us at the train station was a funny little family of "raccoon dogs"!