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Updated: May 21, 2021

I can’t forget the first day I moved to my room in Tokyo. That day I had no space where I could put my leg, let it a place where to sleep. In my first night, I hugged a few boxes and slept on my right side to fit a crack I could find in this jungl . As my room size is 16m2 and I have so many hobbies (and gadgets as result), I thought that I had no option but use the 3 dimensions of my room. It is no secret to anyone that houses in Tokyo are expensive so to have a large space is a luxury. Staying home makes you realize that your room is a match box, where you have to spent 24/7 during lock down, so being able to organize the space practically is important. Shelves can be very handy for this purpose.

However, you probably have felt like me that the shelves you find on the market don't usually meet all requirements, particularly in terms of dimensions and racks organization. The reason is that those are made for the general public, not for you. I have always felt restrained to buy Kitchen Wares that fit the size of the shelf I bought earlier. What I want is the opposite, Is there any magic shelf that can adapt to the dimensions and the rack arrangement I want?

If you want to have your magic shelf, you can just make it. There is no quantum mechanics involved nor superpowers needed in the process. Here, I describe the procedure I followed to make my first handmade shelf

  • The easiest way to start is to make the design of the shelf by simple drawing or using cad software. Decompose the shelf into pieces and define the dimensions of each.

Shelf Design can be either handwritten or using a CAD software

  • Then you can go to the home-center (Like Shimachu in Tokyo) to buy large wooden plates and other raw materials needed for your design.

  • There are many home-centers that have a special DIY corner. You can just give the dimensions and the cutting plan of the wooden plates you selected to the person in charge in the corner and he can do the rest for you for a very negligible price.

Shopping cart after cutting in Shimachu home-center

  • Once all plates are cut, you can ask the home-center to deliver them to your home or just take them with you if you have a car.

  • At home, all that is left is to assemble wooden plates together using metallic frame joints. I realized that building shelves based entirely on wood is time consuming and not too stable. A better solution is to use a hybrid solution by adding Slotted Angle metallic frames to reinforce and facilitate the assembly. For furniture assembly, having a general purpose tools suitcase, Drill , and Jigsaw will be quite handy.

Shelf after final assembly

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For my master’s thesis, I interviewed 9 international families about their child-rearing in Japan. I was thinking that the topic of child-rearing might be of interest for international alumni. In my research, many parents have given me such concerns as:

1) cultural and linguistic adjustment in the kindergarten or school are not easy (talking about food and other concerns is harder if there is a language barrier)

2) it is easier to help the child do math homework than it is to do science homework (there is more text in Japanese in science homework than in math one)

There are ways to make parent-teacher communication more effective. Some kindergartens invite interpreters. Staff in one kindergarten showed pictures of the child’s day on an iPad or used written communication in English. Parents noted differences between kindergartens – some actively promote diversity, while others are new to dealing with international families – is there is former type nearby?

There are also ways to help the child do homework. Some international associations (国際交流協会) may offer classes for international children to help with homework. I heard that there is an ongoing project to translate some of the online school materials by a municipality – due to the pandemic, at home parents spend time making sense of unfamiliar things in the homework.

Finally, there are resources for promoting mother tongue. Researchers at Osaka University and famous researchers like Jim Cummins and Kazuko Nakajima argue that mother tongue 1) supports communication between parents and children and 2) promotes cognitive development of the child.  

Your child may be forgetting mother tongue. Also, if you observe how you are talking to your child, you may find interesting patterns – are there more imperatives (“come eat”, “let’s do homework”)? are you inviting your child to produce a short logical speech (e. g. “Can you teach me that game you played?”), are you inviting an opinion (“What’s your favorite class? Why?”)?. The more you get your child to enjoy practicing variety of these, the easier it will be for them to explain later on where they met their boyfriend/girlfriend and why they chose that person, using their mother tongue and the concepts shared in the family .

Also, mother tongue supports the child’s learning Japanese. Logical speech, argument, essay writing, reading, etc. consist of skills used in any language and skills specific to each language. If the child learns Japanese alphabet before the alphabet for a language they know, they may be confused – so many strange new sounds, and why are we writing these strange shapes in class?  However, if they got the concept of sounds and letters in their mother tongue, writing in Japanese starts to make more sense. Math and abstract thinking are also transferred like this.

If you are interested in research papers, you can use keywords like “family language policy”, “heritage language”, “minority language”, “bilingual child”, “trilingual child”, “plurilingualism”, 母語・継承語、家庭言語、CLD児、背景の多様な子ども、外国につながる子ども, etc.

For more info, feel free to check on my video and resources listed below it:


Author: Snezhanna

Degree: BA and MA from Osaka University

Major: Japanese Linguistics in Japan in 2012-2019

OUISA Alumni enjoys hiking and relaxing

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You probably noticed that Japanese people seem very friendly. Even when people may be mad at each other, you may not notice it when you observe them talking. This happens because Japanese people value harmony between people (和, wa) above all else.

I lived in Japan for 7 years. I speak Japanese decently.  Yet there are times when I am still puzzled. I will talk about one of the techniques to communicate better in this culture.

#1 Express your opinions hesitantly and softly

You may be the most experienced about cuisine in your group. However, eating the best food is less important than making everyone agree. Agreement does not mean that contrary opinions are ignored. It means that contrary opinions are not expressed openly. In return, your listener will be observing you carefully and making sure s/he did not miss any signs of your disagreement.


If you are in a mall deciding the restaurant on the spot, do not start to advertise any restaurant by listing its pros. First, you may say ‘I’m hungry (お腹が空いたね)’ or, if it’s decided that you’ll go eat, ‘What shall we eat…? (何を食べようかな...). Then, you can say ‘Oh, I heard (name of the restaurant) is popular (~は人気の場所らしいですね)’ and WAIT for the reaction.

 If your friend does not appear interested, you may want to give up this choice. Observe how they will decide, what works and what doesn’t work.  You can use it later. When a place is suggested, if you are not happy, you can say ‘Hm... so we’re going to (restaurant name)? (~ですか...(try to use just slightly disappointed tone – emotion is needed to be understood right, but it’s expressed much softer than in many other cultures)’. Unless you are going in a very big group with some big boss, your disagreement will likely be heard, and friends/colleagues will ask about types of food you like.


In Japanese culture being open and assertive is considered a bit rude. In Russian culture, where I was raised, being open is valued. Despite this difference, both cultures are beautiful. Just like in table tennis you throw the ball softly and in lawn tennis you throw the shuttle strongly. Different rules of these games make you play them differently, but both games are fun.  

I remember how at a conversation class in Japanese we, international students, were asked to imitate Japanese agreement style. Whenever someone says ‘I love sushi’, you follow with ‘I love it too’, then you say ‘I hate cold’ and another person says ‘Oh, cold weather is not fun, is it?’ and so on. At the end, the teacher asked, ‘Did you feel relaxed and accepted?’ and we were indeed feeling that way. For me, this experience was an important insight.  I also noticed that getting by in a culture became more fun once I started looking for the rules.


Author: Snezhanna

Degree: BA and MA from Osaka University

Major: Japanese Linguistics in Japan in 2012-2019

OUISA Alumni enjoys hiking and relaxing

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