America childhood Japan Sapporo

A Multiple Wammy

Wammy is a Japanese toy recently on the market that consists of pliable pieces of plastic that can be connected to other pieces to make virtually anything.  Without having tried the toy myself, I bought a box of them for my five year old sister Paige, and sent them to her for Christmas.  They were a huge hit.  They were the present she played with on Christmas morning, and made her the envy of all her cousins.


This toy is not yet available in America, and I had thought it was only being sold in Japan, but apparently it has made its debut in the UK.  Follow this link to see a five minute video (almost entirely in Japanese, but you can get the idea) about the toy’s popularity abroad so far.


One strange thing about the toy’s creation is what inspired the idea for the shape of the pieces.  Nejiri konnyaku or “twisted konjac,” a common Japanese food made from an odd gelatinous food made from an odd type of yam.  Here’s a photo:


If anyone is curious what “Wammy” means, well, it’s a Japanese pun of sorts.  Combining the words for loop (wakko) and to braid (amu, or ami in the nominal form), we get wamii, which looks better when spelled Wammy (for decorative English purposes).

Since hearing about how much Paige enjoyed the toy, and watching the previous video, I decided to try some Wammies myself, and bought a small “ocean” themed set for 500 yen the last time I was at Bic Camera in Sapporo.  Along with Yoshie, we couldn’t stop playing with them.  They’re fun, addictive, and as my father said, much much more enjoyable than Legos because they allow one to be much more creative, building and destroying without worrying about how you’re going to take it all apart or where you’re going to put it or what you’re going to do with it when you’re done.  It’s a toy that maximizes exploration, one that’s hard to put down once you’ve started experimenting.

childhood elementary English Saroma

English Swim Lessons 2.0


Last June in Murakami, I had the privilege to do some really fun English lessons in the swimming pool at Senami Elementary.  My supervising teacher at that school, Mrs. Hiki, was really, really, into English and integrating it into her classroom.  A few months ago, up here in Saroma, I gave a presentation about my experiences as an ALT in Niigata Prefecture to the teachers at Hamasaroma Elementary.  They were impressed with many of the special lessons that we had done in class, so I suggested trying to recreate the swimming activity, since it didn’t require as much preparation or special in-class study time as some of the other lessons I presented about.

Last year, Mrs. Hiki and I hurriedly made a bunch of fish shapes on copy paper and laminated them.  Half were totally waterlogged and destroyed after two periods of munchkin-munching.  This time, I tried to come up with a better way of making toy fish that would be much more durable and less wasteful.  So, using 25 boards of A4-sized EVA polyethylene foam, I drew and cut about 100 salmon, whales, octopi, squid, crabs, dolphins, starfish, sharks, turtles and scallops.  Then, using an oil-based marker, I drew faces and outlines on all of the shapes.  After they had dried for a few days, I coated them in waterproofing spray and let them sit for another day.


Flamingos from Long Ago

And perhaps Far Away as well.  This short film was featured on Long Ago & Far Away, a children’s program on PBS hosted by James Earl Jones.  I am pretty sure it blew my 6-year old mind.  It left such an impression on me that a few years back I got to thinking about it, and bothered to track down and buy British PAL-formatted VHS copy and convert and digitize it to DVD.  Lo and Behold, someone else has bothered to upload it to Google Video YouTube. Watch it.

(Updated November 6th, 2013 with a higher quality upload of the video)