I’m no longer in the classroom, but life as a kindergarten teacher in Japan was actually enjoyable (for the most part).
While my primary task is keeping little humans alive and teaching them how to be human, I get to do pretty fun stuff like painting, crafting, and going on fields trips. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at some classic Japanese kindergarten fun: imo hori!
The fall calendar at a Japanese daycare or kindergarten is rather full. The kids are getting ready for Sports Day (運動会 | undou kai), there’s Halloween parties, rehearsals for winter recitals (お遊戯会 | oyuugikai)…
And, if your kids are in senior kindergarten (年長 | nenchou), they’re no doubt busy preparing for first grade by going to cram schools and taking entrance exams (for private schools). Not to mention that lots of kids have dance, swimming, sports, or some other kind of lesson on the weekend.
So, when do Japanese kids have time to actually be kids?! During imo hori!
What’s Imo Hori?
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Imo hori (芋ほり) means “potato digging,” but in the context of Japanese kindergarten/daycare activities, it nearly always means digging for sweet potatoes (さつまいも | satumaimo). Digging for regular potatoes (じゃがいも | jagaimo) is not unheard of and is done in the springtime.
It’s an activity intended to get kids familiar with the process of how food gets from the farm to their lunch box and dinner table, as well as appreciating the hard work of the farmers.
As my kindergarten is located in Chiba Prefecture, we didn’t have far to go to get in touch with nature.
This was my third year doing imo hori, and I had a blast digging for sweet potatoes and helping my students unearth theirs.
The best part about imo hori (aside from the potato swag) is that the kids get so tired, they sleep on the bus ride home AND they actually sleep at naptime!
What Your Child Needs
If your child is currently in daycare/kindergarten or you’re just curious about what to expect, I made a mini list of items that you child should bring to school for imo hori.
Each school will do doubt have their own requirements, but here’s an idea of what you should prepare:
Gloves (手袋 | tebukuro) an old pair of gloves are just fine
Long boots (長靴 | nagagutsu) rain boots are OK
Two plastic bags, tied together and with your child’s name clearly visible
A set of spare clothing (お着替え | okigae) including socks, undershirt and underpants
School cap (帽子 | boushi)
Water bottle (水筒 | suitou)
What To Do With All Those Sweet Potatoes
Japanese sweet potatoes are amazingly versatile, so once you’ve got them cleaned, there’s plenty of fall comfort foods you can make:
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Steamed Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Potato Pastries
Candied Sweet Potato (Daigaku Imo)
Sweet Potato Rice (Satsumaimo Gohan)
For more Japanese fall food ideas, be sure to check out my post, 5 Super Easy Japanese Recipes For Fall.
Japanese Kindergarten Fun: Imo Hori