Thursday, January 31, 2008

Just when I think I've figured it out . . .

Ok, so today I went to the post office to mail a belated birthday gift for my older sister and an early birthday gift for my niece. Having successfully mailed Christmas gifts from Japan to Canada I figured . . .

NO Problem! I can do this!
Besides, I have 3 more weeks of Japanese
study in me than I did last time I attempted to do this! And if I need it, my handy dandy Japanese/English dictionary is in my bag.

So I confidently took the carefully wrapped box to the local post office this afternoon. In Japanese, I asked what is the cost to send it as a "small package" and then asked the cost for Express Mail Service (EMS). I followed that up with asking how long each way would take. I chose the "small package" route. And was given a customs form which I successfully filled out.
YEAH! I thought - see that was easy!
Then noticing a new design of stamps on the counter I asked for 20 of the 50 yen stamps, which is one sheet of stamps.
She asked me another question. I apologized for the fact that I'm just learning Japanese and could she repeat her question. She smiled and her co-worker who was also smiling (I'm sure remembering her interaction with me attempting to mail Christmas gifts), also started trying to help ask the question this time adding gestures. I think she said something like - "Motte ikimasu ka" Which I think means - "to take and go".

I said, "Yes". Then they asked another question (or two questions - not sure) which I thought meant - would you like to pay for them separately or together. I said - "Separately." Then successfully paid for the stamps and was handed one sheet of 50 yen stamps.

They told me the cost of the package and as I searched my wallet for the correct amount things drift further into the
"Did-I-miss-something-here?" stage.

The 2 postal workers moved to a near by counter and proceeded to pull stamps of various colorful designs out of drawers and count them. They did calculations on their computers. Then in
Japanese I could hear them say,
  • 1@10 yen
  • 1 @ 50 yen
  • 4 @ 50 yen
  • 2 @ 50 yen
  • 2 @ 420 yen
  • 9 @ 50 yen
  • 6 @ 110 yen
I thought, -"Hmm, wonder why they're counting all those stamps - I only wanted one sheet of stamps and they already gave it to me. Perhaps they're just doing a little inventory while I look for the right Japanese coins. Oh, well, I'm not in a hurry, no one else is in line and it's good listening practice for numbers in Japanese."

After they finished counting all those stamps. They came back to where I was standing and I paid one of the postal workers the 2,310 yen ($21.62). I realized the other postal worker was taking the 26 stamps they'd just counted and was affixing them to the package I had just paid to have mailed.

OH - WAiT, What's going on here!! I froze for a little bit as I realized . . . They had been counting all of those stamps for MY package.

I watched for a little while as she continued to put stamps on the box. All I could think to do was try my best to look apologetic and say "
Domo Arigato Gozaimasu!" Thank you very much.

I waited until I got outside to laugh out loud and continued laughing most of the way home. =0)


Questions pouring into my head I couldn't ask in Japanese - let alone answer . . .
  • Why didn't she just print out a computerized stamp for the total amount like last time?
  • What did I say or do differently this time that caused this to happen?
  • How in the world is she going to fit all 26 stamps on that small box?
  • What will Jennifer and my nieces will think of this box?
  • I wonder if they'll put a poster up in the post office with my face on it - warning future postal staff of my mailing habits?
This I did know - The colorful collection of stamps on the outside of the box - is way more beautiful than the wrapping around the gifts on the inside.

Jennifer,
When you receive the box PLEASE, PLEASE take a photo of it before opening! And perhaps you should think about starting a stamp collection. - Seeing as though - once you receive this box - you will have almost all of the current stamps available in Japan!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Prayer item

Tuesday, Jan. 29 is a Japan Mission Executive Committee meeting. Among many topics discussed will be important decisions regarding my language study and future ministry. Please pray for wisdom, unity, and discernment to the direction of God's leading in all the decisions.

Update - Evening of Jan. 29
Wow- Thank you so much for your prayers! The specific decisions made concerning my language study and future ministry went beyond my expectations. I presented a proposal for language study and timing for entry to future teaching ministry. There was some discussion, each person gave their input - one person adding onto the others - heading in the same direction toward a united decision. It was a very encouraging meeting. I left praising God for allowing me to work with these missionaries and the wisdom He gave leading to these decisions. I'll post more information about the specific decision at a later date.

Tanjobi - Omedeto!

From Then


to now
Happy Birthday, Sis!
(or should I call you Superwoman?)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Delicious Vocabulary Practice (part 2)


Zach, Mihwa and I had such a fun time going out to eat on Tuesday and speaking only Japanese - that we decided to take the recommendation of another Japanese teacher and try out a "Kaiten sushi" restaurant just across the street from school.

It was great fun! It took a bit of observation to figure out how to order what we wanted but eventually we figured it out (apparently you just yell out the type of sushi you want.) And since we went later in the afternoon (about 2:30)- by the time we finished eating we were the only customers in the restaurant, providing opportunities for some fun conversations with the sushi chef. I've learned if you make friends with the chef - you often get the best selection of fish. Food is such a great motivator to practice Japanese! We even got the chefs to pose for a picture for us!
At 140 yen per blue plate ($1.30) it was quite reasonably priced lunch with fresh fish and delicious miso soup. The photo above were the six plates I finished. We'll have to go back to this place again and take a photo of the sushi - before it's all eaten!

So what's our next restaurant to visit? Well, I've been hearing good things about an Ethiopian curry shop nearby =0)!

Kaiten-zushi
Kaiten-zushi are sushi restaurants, where the sushi dishes are presented to the customers on a conveyor belt. Customers can then freely pick the dishes that they like or order dishes which are not available on the belt. In the end, the number of plates is counted to determine the cost. There are usually a few kinds of plates (differing in color or pattern), each being associated with a certain price. Kaiten-zushi tend to be less expensive than usual sushi-ya.

It's Slushing!


It has been two years since it has snowed in Tokyo.
When I heard that snow - yuki - was in the weather forecast for Tokyo
I cheered. When my host family gave me a funny look - I simply said - "Minnesota kara kimashita! I'm from Minnesota!"

Well - Wednesday Jan. 23 we had about 4 hours of snow.

snow cover the "Molly Maid" vans

I went out in the snow on my way to a Bible study with a fellow missionary.
And quickly realized I was the only one on the street not using an umbrella. But I, being a Minnesotan - refused to use my umbrella. I walked to the train station, took the train, then a bus, and there I realized, I may be Minnesotan, and this may feel really weird but -

When in Japan
do as the Japanese do

- and so I got out my umbrella.
In talking with a fellow missionary's son, Tim -he said,
"It isn't really snowing, its more like "slushing".


I agreed - It's such a wet snow and it melts so fast. By the time I walked home from their house it was more like rain than snow - or even slush. And yes, I continued to use my umbrella.

All signs of snow were gone the next day.


Delicious Vocabulary Practice

As we have been studying vocabulary commonly heard in restaurants in Japan we (my classmates & I ) decided that we should take a little field trip to a restaurant and try out our newly acquired vocabulary. So we walked about 4 blocks from the school and found . . . a yummy Hawaiian restaurant Kua-Aina (sp?) (same chain as the one I visited in Osaka - click here). Below my classmates, Mihwa and Zach, are trying to figure out the best method for eating an avocado cheeseburger that is bigger than your mouth. It was a fun (read: delicious yet messy) outing with new friends. Mihwa is Korean, Zach is American but since Mihwa doesn't speak English - our common language is Japanese. It was great vocab practice! For those of you who are thinking of visiting me but afraid of raw fish - fear no more! There are plenty of places here to eat that don't include raw fish!

(The hamburger set - including the burger, fries, drink - and all the napkins you need - is about 1300 yen ($12.18)

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Room with a View



In my attempt to find a good place to study - near language school I asked my language teacher if she knew of a coffee shop or restaurant that . . .
  • was smoke free ( the idea of "non-smoking section" is pretty rare in many coffee shops - in some places only an aisle divides the 2 sections)
  • located near school
  • allowed for people to stay for extended periods of time (some places require you to leave after a set period of time)
She suggested 2 places - Starbucks and the Meiji University Cafeteria. (There are 10 large Japanese universities in this section of Tokyo so it's got quite the abundance students -causing more difficulty in finding a good place to study.) I'd already found Starbucks - and agree - it's a great study spot, but wanted to try some place new and not "imported" to expand my options.
She gave me directions to the cafeteria and said . . .


"It's college food so the food is "
ma-ma" but cheap and it has a great view!"

I successfully found the cafeteria on the 17th floor of the building. Fulfilled my role as a language learner - Bringing joy to others - as I made the cafeteria lady laugh as I attempted 3 times to pronounce the name of the food I wanted. I eventually got a Sumo wrestler size plate of curry rice and pork cutlet. All for 400 yen! (about $4).

Then
I found a seat near the window. I thought it'd be fun to share the view with my blog readers so I pulled out my camera and tried to take a photo without looking too much like a tourist in a student's only cafeteria. (see above photo). I ate the huge portion of "so-so" food and studied for a good 2 hours without getting kicked out.

The photo below - well that is looking out from the other side of the building
- and was the view from the window in the ladies bathroom!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Miscommunication leads to worship


In America - I often took for granted the fact that I could understand without much effort all that was said or sung at church. And I often let my mind wonder during the service. Not so in Japan - I have to strain to try to understand what is being said or sung. Sitting with my language notebook and dictionary trying to catch at least 5% of what is being said.

Today (Jan. 20) in church I was able to follow along with most of the message (Thanks to a Japanese/English Bible) as we skipped from bible passage to bible passage.
(While I could read the bible verses - unfortunately, I couldn't understand his main point). I lamented the fact that although I could sing the hymns and praise songs (I can phonetically sound out the words), I couldn't understand what I was singing. I realized how vital worshiping in one's own heart language is.

After church, I was asked (in Japanese) by one of the church members if I liked CCM, Contemporary Christian Music. A bit surprised he even knew the term CCM, and confused as to why he was asking - I said, "Yes, I like it." He named a few CCM artists and asked which I liked, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Selah, etc,. I said I like all of them. He then proceeded to speak in Japanese saying something about the CD's. I couldn't understand the verb he used. Was he saying he would buy some for me, or lend some to me, or give some to me?
He asked me to pick one artist - I said "Selah" and he said ok. And that was it.

Later in the day - he brought a bag of all 6 of CDs Selah has produced to my host family's house for me to listen to! (For now -I'm assuming he used the verb for "to lend".) I proceeded to spend most of the afternoon - listening to, singing along with and worshiping God with music I could actually understand. Thanking God - for meeting my needs - through the thoughtfulness of this church member.

Coming of Age Day



Seijin no hi - Coming of Age Day
Seijin shiki - Coming of Age Ceremony
This holiday is held the 2nd Monday in January and celebrates the passage into adulthood. All young people who turn twenty years old in that year are celebrated on Seijin no hi. Twenty is the age considered as the beginning of adulthood. It is also the minimum legal age for voting, drinking and smoking.

Festivities include ceremonies held at local and prefectural (or regional) government offices and parties amongst family and friends. Some go to ceremonies at temples or shrines. (Click here for blog post of the Shinto Ceremony.) Christians hold special services at churches (usually inviting other churches in the region to participate so as to increase the number of participants). Here are the photos from the Coming of Age service I attended held Jan. 13 at Nerima Baptist Church. Most of the ladies were wearing kimonos - the guys wore suits. It reminded me of a graduation or baccaluaret service. There was music, prayer, and then messages given from 2 pastors and 1 missionary. The young adults introduced themselves and were given a gift (a book) and card. Following the ceremony, people mingled over drinks (coffee, tea and pop) and snacks (rice crackers, chocolate cake, cookies and dried squid!)

Coming of Age Day (part 2)

For comparison to the Christian service - Here are some photos from the Coming of Age Day Ceremony I witnessed at a Shinto Shrine in Kamakura, Japan in 2004. They come to the shrine to seek the blessing of the kami (gods) on their new status as adults.
Walking to the shrine
Silk Kimono with long sleeves (worn only by single women)
the gold floral "obi" or bow
and the white fur around the collar is like a scarf or wrap


Here the female priest apprentices are bringing flowers.
One priest does a ceremonial washing
- while the other priest holds back his sleeves so they don't get wet.

The ladies with their beautiful Kimonos parade in
holding their New Year Arrow.
Then the young men in traditional Japanese men's clothing
and amazing head wear. (not sure what the "hats" are called)
The priests are now finished with the ceremony and
parading out in front of the line of men and women.
Their shoes look like wooden platform flip flops.
Here's a bit of trivia - I learned when researching this holiday online . . . Girls will often dress in kimono and take pictures which will in due course be used to introduce them to prospective husbands according to the traditional Japanese marriage system. (aka: arranged marriage - Although this is becoming less and less common.)
Kimonos are very expensive - the price may be similar to buying a small car! So many families choose instead to rent the outfit.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Kyoto - Princess Lori?

Heian Shrine was built relatively recently in 1895 on the occasion of the 1,100th anniversary of the Heian Capital foundation. It is dedicated to the first and last emperors that reigned from Kyoto, Emperor Kammu and Emperor Komei. The shrine buildings are a partial replica of the Imperial Palace of the Heian Period. (Any idea what their favorite color might have been?)

In another location in Kyoto is the - Kyoto residence of the Imperial family (they have another palace in Tokyo and various villas around the country) but it was closed to visitors over the New Year holidays.

As I look at the photos of the replica of the Imperial Palace I thought of what life would be like here as a princess. The first things that would happen if I became the princess . . .
  • I'd no longer have a surname. The Imperial family goes by first names only - sort of like all the famous models who are only known by their first name. Her Imperial Highness Princess Lori
  • I'd not longer be able to wear jeans - but would probably have a very proper Japanese wardrobe (read: lots of gorgeous Kimonos and western style clothes with designer labels and few if any sweatshirts or T-shirts) appearing as royalty.
  • There would need to be a long lesson in language learning - people only talk to the imperial family with the MOST honorific forms of words - part of the Japanese language I haven't even begun to practice (I don't have many opportunities to speak with the Emperor).
  • I'd have privileges and access to people and places that are off limits to most people. My position would give me great influence, power and responsibility.
I wonder - as a Christian, a daughter of the King of Kings - How does my life reflect His name? What does my appearance say about my position? How much does my appearance really matter? How does my language impact my interaction with others? (honoring, humbling, rejecting?) Do I live as though I am a Child of God - or an orphan? How often do I forget the access I have to the King, His Power and unconditional love?


Since I can't yet talk like a Japanese princess - I'll just let the photos do the talking . . .

Shimenawa


New Year's arrow and Year of the Mouse "Ema"


Ema


Lanterns

Roof edge design


Purification "fountain"

If you want more information/explanation on another website about typical sights at a Shrine click here.

Kyoto -home of the golden gutters!

My Photos from Dec. 31

New Years Day Eve - in Japan - most Japanese are at home cleaning. I, on the other hand, was out sightseeing. But since most museums, amusement parks, stores and other sightseeing places were closed - we (Lisa & I) traveled about 1 hour from Nara to visit a few of Kyoto's shrines and temples. (It seemed all the other foreigners in the area thought this was a good idea too - I'm sure we heard over 10 different languages besides English or Japanese spoken.) Most Japanese visit the Shrines near midnight - or soon after the new year has begun.

Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) is a Zen Temple.

In 1397 construction started on the Golden Pavilion as part of a new residence for the retired shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. Kinkakuji was converted into a Zen temple after Yoshimitsu's death in 1408.

The Golden Pavilion functions as shariden, housing sacred relics of the Buddha and is covered in gold leaf. (My favorite are the golden gutters!) The pond in front of it is called Kyōko-chi (Mirror Pond). There are many islands and stones on the pond that are said to represent the Buddhist creation story.

Above is "a rock garden" on the premises which are common near zen shrines. We had too much sight seeing to do - so we didn't sit and meditate while looking at the raked rocks.


The present building dates from 1955 as the pavilion was burnt by a fanatic monk in 1950. The grounds also house a shrine to the god of fire (pictured below) . Who said history was boring!?



Monday, January 14, 2008

Celebrating New Year in Nara

January 1, 2008

Starting the New Year with a worship service was an amazing way begin the year focusing on God. His abundent blessings and hear testimonies from many Japanese people of how God had been working in their lives.

Above - Bob and Nancy leading the service - for the last time - as they will be retiring this spring. Below -various church members listen to someone talk of God's faithfulness.

Above - is the group photo taken after the worship service. Following the morning service, the Sorleys and Chapmans & I had an afternoon of just hanging out. We went to the mall to find some lunch at KFC and McDonald's (not much was open on the 1st!). Then we watched Ratatouille (it is the year of the mouse afterall!) and played games.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Delayed Christmas photos

Hi folks! Japanese classes have started again and so I haven't spent much time updating my blog. Here are a few photos of Christmas /New Years trip to Nara, Japan. I celebrated with Bob and Nancy Sorley (fellow BGC missionaries) and Lisa (their daughter & my college friend). Dec. 24 Went to a concert - where Nancy's chorus group "Flower baskets" performed with a variety of other musical groups. The Ura's, Kazue and her daughter Sayaka, who did an American home stay with my family in 2006 were also in the group seen in the photo on either side of Nancy (the red head) (click here for the homestay post) Dec. 25 Celebrated Christ's birth - was warmly accepted into the Sorley family traditions and home for holidays. Photo of Lisa and I by the tree. View from the driveway of the Sorley home (facing their home, and then looking away from their home) yep - their house is surrounded on 3 sides by rice paddies! Not a sight I see in the concrete metropolis of Tokyo very often. Dec. 29 Another music concert - this time we enjoyed a Japanese black gospel music concert directed by Ronny Rucker. Great to see the Japanese singing and dancing and showing such vivid emotions. Gospel Music is a growing way for people to be introduced to the Bible and who Jesus is - it's a great form of evangelism here - as many non-Christians want to learn more about black gospel music.

After the concert - it was 'Lady's Night Out - in NAMBA - one of the biggest stations in Osaka. Lisa & I joined other missionaries in the Osaka area and took a culinary journey across the USA without leaving Japan. We hit Hawaii (Avocado Cheese Burgers)New York (Bagel & Bagel), and Seattle (Starbucks!) Love the green lap blankets they provide!