With everything in flux during the COVID-19 pandemic, family bonds are more important than ever. Mother’s Day in Japan is on Sunday so what better chance to tell your mother, grandmother or wife just how much they mean to you?

Of course, nowadays rules are being rewritten everywhere — the way we shop, the way we work, all of it seems to be up for review. Given that’s the case, who says we need to only celebrate moms on Mother’s Day? Mother figures, mentors, the Japanese neighbor who constantly gives you fruits — it’s a good time to remind people in your life that they are important to you.

Video-conferencing apps like Zoom, Skype and Houseparty lend themselves to creative ways to show you care when you can’t physically be present. Here are some ideas that can help get you that quality time with someone you love:

Have an online tea party: Mom and you can treat yourselves to a chat over your favorite sweets and tea served in a fancy cup (or champagne if that is more your style). Party dresses or silly hats are optional.

Share a virtual cooking lesson: Ask Mom how to cook a favorite family recipe. Purchase the ingredients in advance and then make the dish together. Passing down family traditions is important and not limited to cooking — whatever Mom is good at, get her to teach you (and perfect it in time for Father’s Day on June 21).

Watch a movie: Movie night (or movie day, depending on international time differences) is a great way to spend time together — if everyone can agree on the same film. Make a batch of popcorn, find some parent-friendly fare and watch it together on Netflix using the Netflix Party app.

Offline gift ideas

Not all mothers have access to video-chat software or are interested in learning about new technology (I’m looking at you, Mrs. George). And if Mom has been video-conferencing a lot for her work, she might just appreciate a more old-school type of gift. It’s never too late to hit up Amazon, but here are some other suggestions to consider:

Stars among us: Show Mom she is still the center of your universe and name a star after her at starregistry.com.

Get charitable: Make a donation to a charity for a cause that resonates with your Mom, or which supports mothers or women in general.

One example would be donating to Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is Africa’s largest national park and a World Heritage Site. A donation made at virunga.org can support orphaned wildlife, such as gorillas and elephants whose own mothers have been killed by poachers, as well as help the widows and families of rangers who have lost their lives in the fight to protect the animals.

Pakistani activist and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai needs no introduction and you could make a donation to her Malala Fund, which supports and advocates for girls around the world to get an education. As she is quoted on her website, “We need to encourage girls that their voice matters. I think that there are hundreds and thousands of Malalas out there.” Now that’s an idea that any mother could get behind.

Support the community: Find a restaurant or bakery offering delivery in Mom’s neighborhood and order a special celebration feast, sweet treat or gift basket. Supporting a local business, many of which are struggling amid the pandemic, will also help the community where Mom lives.

One for the kids: Make and send a “hug” to a loved one who you don’t see as often as you would like at The Lean Green Bean. With current international mail restrictions in place, if you can’t post a hug to your own mother, how about sending it to someone special in Japan?

Crowdsourcing ideas

I checked in with some people around Japan who plan to celebrate Mother’s Day this year and they offered some suggestions for last-minute gift ideas that should bring a smile to Mom’s face wherever in the world she may be.

Nina Cataldo and her grandmother
Nina Cataldo and her grandmother

Nina Cataldo (Japanese/American): Although my Mom lives in the U.S., my aunt and my grandma, who is 99 years old, live only 30 minutes away from me here in Japan. I’m going to cook something for them, pick up some o-hagi (traditional sweets) for my grandma and drop by their home for a social-distance visit. Since they don’t have smartphones, we haven’t been able to video chat or send each other photos. So a real-life visit — even without hugs — will be the greatest Mother’s Day treat for us this year!

Dean Newcombe (British): My wife just became a mother for the second time, so that will make it all the more special. I’m not a great cook, so I’ll be going for a Western-style brunch with the whole family. And even though it’s not actually Mother’s Day in the U.K., I’ll still contact my mother, because you can never tell parents you love them too many times!

Chriss Macpherson Koizumi (New Zealander): My kids love to cook, so Mother’s Day in our house always starts with them waking early and preparing breakfast. They try to sneak around and be quiet so as not to wake me. They then “tiptoe” upstairs and we have a Mother’s Day picnic in bed. It is one of my favorite parts of the day. My mother-in-law lives next door, so aside from buying her a potted plant — yes, completely unoriginal — the kids prepare a buffet-style dinner for us to enjoy.

Wendy Okabe and her daughter
Wendy Okabe and her daughter

Wendy Okabe (American): Mother’s Day 2020 falls on my ninth wedding anniversary. Sadly, I lost my husband to colon cancer last July. We don’t live near family and since my daughter is only 5 and kindergarten is cancelled due to COVID-19, I knew that unless I told her to make me a card I wouldn’t be getting anything. Then I thought, why can’t I just buy something for myself and call it a Mother’s Day gift? So that is exactly what I’ve done!

Gloria Bauer Ishida (American): My children — four sons and one daughter — and their families are scattered here and there. I think the last time we were able to all get together was some 17 years ago. For Mother’s Day 2020, thanks to my eldest son we will have a family bash on Zoom, hopefully including the spouses and my nine grandchildren. I wonder if we will all dress up for the occasion?

Narayan Stephens (New Zealander): I am the main caregiver for my teenage daughter, who has spinal muscular atrophy and lives in hospital permanently. Mother’s Day plans include asking my ex-wife to spend some time with our daughter and writing a card on my daughter’s behalf for her mother. I now have a 2-month-old son with my new wife, so I’m thinking of giving her two roses from our baby.

Nathalie Brantsma (Dutch): All I want is to spend quality time with my husband and two teenage kids. I like to have a big breakfast or brunch together with them and then walk to the Tama River to play a game of boules or look for pretty rocks on the riverbed. On the way home, I pick a few flowers as a reminder of the special day. For the rest of the day, I want everyone to spend it how they like, as it makes me happy when my family is happy.

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