This year, try a different theme for your teenage son or daughter's upcoming birthday -- a novel change from the usual pizza party or movie night. One unusual idea is a Japanese birthday party. This theme can be interpreted in all sorts of ways, from decor and food to games and prizes. For a teen interested in Japan, or one who's a fan of anime or manga, it's an ideal inspiration.
In addition to balloon clusters and streamers, incorporate Japanese-themed decorations. Have a banner made that says "Happy Birthday" in Japanese. Go for an elegant look by hanging white paper lanterns from the ceiling and scrolls of Japanese writing and big paper fans on the walls. Use a vase full of Asian lilies as a centerpiece on the food table. Or, go for a more whimsical look by hanging paper lanterns in vibrant colors from the ceiling and paper dragons and cherry blossoms on the walls, and using two or three vases of various sizes filled with different kinds of chopsticks as a table centerpiece.
For birthday party entertainment, let the teens try a craft activity based on Japanese culture -- making paper fans or papier-mache samurai swords. Teach some easy origami. Fill a container with marshmallows and let kids compete to see who can transfer the most to an empty container in 30 seconds using only chopsticks. Cut stencils for simple Japanese letters out of cardboard and let teens use the stencils and fabric paint to decorate T-shirts. Watch a Japanese anime or horror movie.
For party favors and prizes, pass out ceramic lucky cats, fierce little dragon figurines, decorated sets of chopsticks or a sudoku game. Make inexpensive magnets before the party. Paint bottle caps black, glue a little craft magnet to the inside, paint a Japanese character in white on the front and spray on a cover coat of clear varnish. Or, put together small baskets of edibles. Shop sites such as Asian markets or online Asian supply websites for Japanese candies, cookies and snacks.
For the birthday dinner, marinate beef, pork, shrimp and chicken in teriyaki or soy sauce and grill on skewers with vegetables, or make an array of different kinds of sushi, with and without fish. Make wontons, noodle- or rice-based entrees or dishes featuring edamame. Serve green tea, or see if you can find Japanese soda. Instead of a birthday cake, bake and frost a batch of cupcakes, fill a piping bag with icing and pipe Japanese characters onto each cupcake.
- Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images