Solving the nation’s waste problem and raising bilingual kids


Everyone is aware of the problem of garbage. With Tokyo alone throwing away 6,000 tons of food a day, kitchen waste in particular is a practical as well as a moral concern.

So, to the reader wanting to make compost, EM-bokashi (the generic name) is a pack of what looks like sawdust but contains active (energetic?) micro-organisms. First you need a composter, either outside, or in the kitchen. Sprinkle the EM — composed of a mix of rice husks (nuka, as used in the making of pickles here), sugar and a secret ingredient named K-EM1 — between layers of kitchen waste. This can be vegetable matter, eggshells, even fish bones. It will break it down within weeks.

If your container has a tap, you can drain off the liquid as a feed for house and garden plants (but well diluted). To feed seedlings or largershrubs and trees, get basic: dig a hole alongside, near the base of the trunk, place in kitchen waste, add a liberal topping of EM and replace the soil.

According to Finnish-born Diet member Marutei Tsurunen (the first Caucasian ever to make it into big-time Japanese politics and a major supporter of EM-bokashi to help resolve the nation’s wasteful habits), some two million people in Japan already use it, including yours truly.

Where do I buy mine? Tokyu Hands. Brand name Miracon, 300 yen for a 600 gram pack, as produced by the EM Fellowship Association of Kanto. Phone (Japanese only) 0467-45 4185; or fax (you can try English) 0467-44 2805 for information. EMbokashi is also available in Kinokuniya and various local department stores up and down the country. Ask around.

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Dennis Hunt is interested in making contact with a support group (or any individuals) who have experience in bringing up kids in a bilingual environment.

He is English and his wife is Japanese, and their son (20 months) is just beinning to talk. Any advice for helping the toddler develop his language skills (or pitfalls to avoid) would be welcome.

Marsha Rosenberg is a speech and language pathologist of 20 years standing, currently working at Tokyo’s Nishimachi InternationalSchool and the American School in Japan Nursery Kindergarten. Opinions are pretty standard about bilingual learning, she says. “Bilingualism does not just happen, it needs to be planned.”

Though she and her husband are American, they put their own children (now naturally and happily bilingual) through early years at a Japanese school and then switched them to international schools. She gives talks to parents with pre-school children, and will consult individually. Get in touch by E-mail: mrosenberg@nishimachi.ac.jp

Marsha draws the reader’s attention to a newsletter concerned with raising bilingual children. Contact David Carlson at: dcarls01@hotmail.com for info.

And she also kindly assembled a bibliography of relevant reading:

Baker, C. (2000) The Care and Education of Young Bilinguals. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Baker, C. (1995) A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Carasquillo, A.L. (1993) Teaching English as a Second Language: A Resource Guide. New York: Garland Publishing Inc.

Cunningham-Anderson, U., and Anderson, S. (1999). Growing Up with Two Languages: A Practical guide. New York: Routledge.

Pollack, D.C. and Van Reken, R.E. (1999). The Third Culture Kid Experience. Yarmouth: Intercultural Press.

Sears C. (1998) Second Language Students in Mainstream Classrooms. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Another book that has been recommended is Raising Children Bilingually: The Pre-School Year, by Lenore Arnberg, also published by Multilingual Matters. MM used to do a newsletter and their website is very active: www.multilingualmatters.com.

Dennis’ wife might like to get in touch with Hiroko Hill of Bicultural Families (0425-61 8214). This is a support group for Japanese wives of foreign men.

Finally, the Association of Foreign Wives of Japanese is a wealth of information — even for foreign husbands! Phone or fax them on 045-753 7485; or check out www.home.att.ne.jp/surf/cei/AFWJ.html.

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Two spin off-questions from previous inquiries: “Do Japanese doctors in private practice have to give receipts of payment. If not, why? And what about tax evaluation?” (Shibaura, Tokyo)

Also: “Using post office boxes is fine for small stuff. But what about house removals? Most companies are so expensive. We go home in August.” (Yokohama)

Finally, would contributing readers please indicate whether they want their name included. We’d hate to cause embarrassment.