Thursday, February 28, 2008

Many and Few

I just read an article in the Japan Times. Here are some facts I learned . . . .

The greater Tokyo area — with its current population of 35.7 million — is expected to maintain its No. 1 slot as the most populated urban area, according to the latest U.N. report released Tuesday.

The report includes Tokyo plus those in 87 surrounding cities and towns, including Yokohama, Kawasaki and Chiba, in its definition of the area. (Technically, I live in Kawasaki.)

Tokyo accounts for 42 percent of the urban population of Japan.

Currently after Tokyo, the next most populous urban agglomerations are New York-Newark, Mexico City, Bombay and Sao Paulo, each with about 19 million inhabitants.

"In 2025, Tokyo is still expected to be the world's most populous urban agglomeration, with 36 million inhabitants," according to "2007 Revisions of World Urbanization Prospects."

On Monday, I took the photos above and below from the 43 floor of a hotel near the Tokyo Dome. Looking at all the buildings, thinking of the people in those buildings, and knowing that less than 1% of the total population in Japan are Christian is a sobering activity. With these new figures on the population of Tokyo - I realize that means there are very few Christians in Tokyo! Causing me to think of all the people who have not heard of Jesus' compassion for them.

Each day, as I travel through Shinjuku station (through which 3 million people pass each day!) I wonder - 'Am I the only Christian in this station?'

There is much Kingdom work to be done in Japan, in Tokyo. It starts one friendship at a time.
  • Please pray with me for the gospel to spread in Japan. That God's will, will be done.
  • Pray also about befriending a Japanese person - where you are or perhaps relocating to Japan! BGC has many opportunities for serving here, click here and here to learn more.

Matthew 9:35-38
36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them,
because they were harassed and helpless,
like sheep without a shepherd.
37Then he said to his disciples,
"The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Delicious Vocabulary Practice (part 3)

Doing lunch with my classmates - has continued, its a fun time trying out our new language skills and eating new foods. Among the many places we've tried - ramen, beef bowl, a French deli, and Soup Stock Tokyo. (and don't forget sushi, monjayaki and avocado cheeseburgers)

Usually after Japanese class (1:15pm) one of the 4 students in my class has a private lesson which starts at 1:45 so a relaxed lunch with all of us together is a rare thing. (Above Lori and Mihwa, below Zach and David) However, last week Monday, the one-on-one lesson was canceled so we decided to try out a new restaurant - this time Ethiopian curry and rice. We could choose the spice factor on a scale from 1 to 70. I tried #3, Mihwa and David were the bravest with #8. (I did a taste test of #8 - it was nice and bold!) Ordering a 70 would probably put me in the hospital with burns to my tongue! We ate it with rice and not injera, Ethiopian flat pancake like bread, and used silverware rather than our fingers. It tasted more like Indian curry not like wat I've had at Fasika's (Ethiopian restaurant) in St. Paul, MN. We did enjoy the time practicing our Japanese though! And later toured famous temples near by.
Kanda Myojin - this shrine - is known to attract many students who come to pray for blessings on their tests and studies, and business people for blessings on their companies.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Wide Open Spaces

For those of you yet enduring the chills of the frozen tundra - I though you might enjoy the view from a park I visited on Friday when it reached 13*C in Tokyo. (55*F). Putting my "I-live-in-Tokyo-rush-to-the-station" pace on hold for the weekend - I enjoyed a leisurely stroll in the park (Yakushiike Koen) - humming "Wide Open Spaces"

She needs wide open spaces
Room to make her big mistakes

and watching adorable kids interact with the wildlife (read: trying to scare the pigeons but instead being scared by them).
The Ume (Plum) trees were beginning to blossom and I reveled an afternoon of enjoying God's creation.

Prayer Request: I'll be giving my testimony Sunday Feb. 24, in Japanese, at Yurigaoka Baptist Church. I consider this church my Japanese home church. These people have been such an encouragement to my spiritual life in Japan, and adjustment to the Japanese culture & language. Please pray that God's message of love will be communicated and church members will be encouraged.
Thank you for your prayers. Giving my testimony in Japanese went well and it seems from the church members' responses, they could understand what I was saying.

Monday, February 18, 2008

How Great Thou Art

There's No Place Like Home
As I walked home from the train station tonight at 10pm. I realized how much where I am, living in this part of Tokyo, really does feel like home. I feel like I'm traveling on a really steep learning curve. I've been here three months yet it feels like it's been longer than that as I have so many relationships from previous visits in Japan. I've known my host family and members of Yurigaoka church for 12 years now. Last week, I mourned with the church members of the passing of a Japanese Christian friend who died of cancer a year ago. This week I received a invitation to a wedding for Mutsumi - who lived with my family in MN when I was 16.

A Place Where People Know My Name
I'm developing new relationships. - Like the adorable Grandma who greets me at the top of a steep stairway on my way home from language school (she speaking rapidly in Japanese as I huff and puff from the killer stairway!), like the lady at the post office that smiles when she me come in with a package to mail, not to mention the treasured relationships within my host family - Ta-chan and Mion - breaking into smiles and shouting "loli da!" (It's Lori!) when they see me.

A place where the streets have no name
In Japan with it's zigzag streets and absence of road signs - I can now walk from my place to the train station using 3 or 4 different routes. I now, know the neighborhood well enough to go on a walk and not worry about "getting lost" just blocks form home. I can get lost in a book while riding the train without missing my train stop because it no longer takes all my concentration to listen to the announcements.

On the Road Again
Yet, as I walked home I realized that in about a month - I'll be moving again. From my host family's home to a mission owned house in another part of Tokyo. Earlier today, I met 2 people who will be my new neighbors. And I felt like God was reminding me that although transition is not always easy (and I'll have another steep learning curve ahead) God is with me now and will be with me through it leading before and behind. (Gen. 28:15) Surprising me with his abundance of blessings that go beyond my imagining!

As I looked up at the sky on my walk - I saw an amazing view filled with stars.
Which always reminds me of God's mighty and creative power, and reminds me that although some things on earth seem impossible (like non-Christians, whom I love, coming to Christ) God loves the Japanese people even more than I do. With God all things (from creating the universe to touching the life of one person in Tokyo) are possible!
The tune that came to mind as I finished my walk "home" was "How Great Thou Art" . . .

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
And then proclaim: "My God, how great Thou art!"

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

Friday, February 15, 2008

I've found Prince Charming

Ladies - You can stop your search for Prince Charming!
I've found him in Japan! He has stolen my heart.
He is a real charmer and loves to sing and dance.
His is a budding artist - preferring the medium of markers and colored pencils.
And has both English and Japanese language skills. and loves talking on (toy) phones.
Granted he's only 2 and 1/2 years old - and his songs include theme songs to cartoons and the ABC's but if you heard him giggle - you too would not be able to resist his charms!

This is Tatsuya - my host parent's grandson, my host brother's son, my "host nephew".
Also known as Ta-chan.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Obligation Day!

In Japan, it is only the women who give presents (mainly chocolates) to men. I'm guessing this is a custom that smart chocolate companies spread to boost their sales. Apparently it has been very successful. Now the chocolate companies in Japan sell more than half of their annual sales during the week before Valentine's Day. Men are supposed to return gifts to women on a day called "White Day" (March 14th), a Japanese creation.

Does it sound good to you? Don't get too excited when you get chocolates from Japanese girls! They might be "Giri-choko" (obligation chocolate). Women give chocolates not only to their loved ones ("A true love" chocolate is called "Honmei-choko." which can be translated "prospective winner")

"Giri-choko" is the chocolate given to men such as bosses, colleagues or male friends that women have no romantic interest in, just for friendship or gratitude. These chocolates range from 200-1000 yen (or $2 -$10). The concept of "giri" is very Japanese. It is a mutual obligation that the Japanese follow when dealing with other people. If someone does you a favor, then you feel obligated to do something for that person.

Unlike the West, sending a Valentine's cards is not common in Japan, and the phrase "Happy Valentines" is not widely used. (Hallmark writers haven't come up a good spin on the "Happy Obligation Day" cards.)

The Japanese people in my life - One of my Japanese teachers (female) gave "giri choko" to her boss (male). And my host father received "giri-choko" from his daughter-in-law.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Piece of Cake (or 6)

It was a fun - yet busy week of celebrating birthdays. I had a different piece of cake each day for 6 days in a row! I'm now trying to catch up on my language study, write my testimony in Japanese, and do a bit of other paperwork - newsletter, expense report and other not so fun but necessary stuff. So with little time for blogging -you can reread the last post with updates and I'll simplify things and post photos.

Above - the view of Mt. Fuji peaking out to say Happy Birthday, on my walk to the train station. Tuesday - I brought home a variety of individual cakes. In the photo Mion and Ta-chan are selecting a piece of cake to celebrate my host mom's birthday.Ta-chan (age 2 1/2)- decided he we should sing Happy Birthday to him and he should get the chance to blow out the candle too! Wednesday - My host dad brought cake, my host sister-in-law brought flowers for Mrs. K. The Cake has an edible sign that says "otanjyobi omedetoo" which means happy birthday. Birthday Cake in Japanese is baasudee keeki.
Takahashi Sensei brought a white cake with Chocolate frosting to Japanese class on Thursday to celebrate my birthday. This one had the edible sign in English.
After Japanese class I went out to eat with Mihwa and Zach at an Okonomiyaki place. Above the restaurant owner is showing us how to make Monjayaki. I'm told the process is a bit like mixing concrete.We chose 3 different kinds; taco = octopus, ebi = shrimp and another one (can't remember the Japanese name) = type of pink fish eggs.

- after Japanese class I visited John and Elaine, fellow BGC missionaries - where we again celebrated my birthday with cake. Sorry, no photos for that one!

Saturday & Sunday - celebrated with my extended host family. When asked how old she thought I was - Mion (age 6) decided I was 100 years old! Saturday we ate at home with shu cream (cream puffs) for dessert. Sunday we went to "Saint Marc" restaurant for our birthday course dinner (and all the bread you could eat!). We had coffee and ice cream for dessert.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Super Week Preview - and Updates

Super Monday
For you in the states - this would be Super bowl Sunday, but seeing as though I'm half way across the globe - it will be Monday in Japan. I'll be on my way to Japanese class as the game is played. In fact - I'll probably be taking a test while you football fans are watching the game. (Or running to get more food during the game so as not to miss the commercials=0). I'm not really invested in either of the teams - so I'll just be missing the commercials and lots of yummy pizza. Update: saw the game highlights on Japanese TV and learned that I can watch the commercials online.

Super Tuesday
When the political excitement takes place in the US. In Japan I've seen more on the Japanese news about the US presidential candidates than I did in the states! I think most Japanese know more about US politics than some Americans do!
Update: I was super late to school today due to a train "accident" on the train line I ride. My 1 hour commute turned into 1 hour 30 minutes. Trains running late in Japan is a rare event (typically you can set your clocks by the trains) However "accidents" are not so rare - but thats a long, sad story - so I'll perhaps explain that in another blog post.

Super Wednesday
My host mom's birthday! I'm trying to think of a culturally appropriate gift.
Update: On Tuesday I decided since I don't have access to a kitchen to make a birthday cake - I would just buy it. Not knowing what flavor people would like best and enticed by the amazing display of tiny cakes at the quaint (French?) cake shop in town - I bought 9 mini cakes of various flavors. (The kind sales lady even included candles for me!)

My host mom was surprised by the purchase. Her 6 year old granddaughter (who was also undergrandma's care while her mom was working) quickly went to task inviting the rest of the family for an instant party. Since my host brothers were still at work (they get home around 10:30 or 11pm)- it was just the adult women and kids having a fun time. The 2 year old grandson loved the candle and insisted we also sing happy birthday to him and let him "
fufu" the candles too!

Super Thursday
My twin sister's birthday. Of course seeing as we're twins - it's also my birthday - And this year I'll be older for about 9 hours and 15 minutes!

Super Friday
Perhaps this will be the day I take a super big nap after an exciting week?