I have a major love affair with Japan from the food, technology, fashions, and all things kawaii (cute). Last summer, Chloe and I started a weekly ritual to our favorite Japanese restaurant to have udon and sushi. That was all she knew about Japan, until Yumi and Aoki arrived.
Yumi ($10.32) and Aoki ($10.32) by Annelore Parot (published by Chronicle Books) brings an imaginative glimpse into the world of the Kokeshi dolls. With sneak-peak flaps and super kawaii illustrations, each detail-filled page is a little discovery into this secret world. Chloe and I like to spend time on our favorite pages such as Yumi's sushi-filled page or Aoki's packed suitcase. If you wanted you could realistically spend so much time on each page just discussing every little detail. (Yes you can also still speed read through it if you have to at night too!) It's definitely fun for both of us.
We read these two books at least a few times a week. From them, I've discovered that Chloe has incorporated the Kokeshi world into her own play time. She brings her stuffed animals on the "train" to go to Tokyo to visit Yumi and Aoki. Then they go have sushi at the Japanese restaurant. She's already mentioned to me that she wants to make her own little Kokeshi dolls. Not all of the books we read together open up her imagination like these, so it's extra special to me that she has connected with the Kokeshi's so much.
The author Annelore Parot is a French illustrator living in France. Personally I have always loved that French-Japan connection with how each culture illustrates and interprets the other. I love to collect little Japanese craft/style books that showcase Paris or French country kind of projects. You can also join her site, Club Kokeshi (in French).
Speaking of Japan, for the hipster baby or toddler, you can pick up these Sushi Touch-and-Feel Stroller Cards ($9.99), a delicious way to teach them about different textures. (This makes a great gift!) Chloe uses her cards as her sushi menu when we play Japanese restaurant. She already knows that the bumpy roe is Papa's favorite.