Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Grocery Shopping seems to be a popular thing to do on New Years Eve in Japan. I went about 5:30 and there were more people there than I'd ever seen before. I went to get some toshikoshi soba to eat on New Years Eve. The long buckwheat noodle tradition is supposed to symbolize long life.

Above is a photo of the samples offered today - I tried the Tuzukuri - candied dried fish -
(on the right) they were crunchy and had a good flavor.
I think the food on the left is Kobumaki - kelp roll.
The food above was sold as a set and I believe its part of osechi ryori - the traditional foods served on New Years.

Above are some decorations for sale that many homes/businesses hang in their entrances.
2009 is the year of the OX according to the Zodiac calendar so the mochi above are decorated with cows/ox on top.

The way to wish someone a Happy New Year before January 1st is yoi o-toshi o (yo-ee oh-toh-shi o, lit. "please have a good new year"), and when you meet them for the first time in January, you say akemashite omedeto (ah-kay-mash-tay oh-meh-deh-TOH, lit. "congratulations on opening the new year").

Here are some photos at a local temple- note the pine and bamboo decoration on the main gate.
Below is a bell which was rung 108 times on New Years Eve in my neighborhood. When I went in the afternoon on the 31st I saw only 1 person - if I went today (Jan. 1st) I'd probably see a lot more people.
According to another website . . .

On New Year's Eve, most people spend their time with their families. Sons and daughters who have moved to the city return to their parents' homes in the country if this is at all possible. (Downtown Tokyo looks like a ghost town.) That way the entire family greets the New Year together. Many families pass the evening watching special television programs. Others visit shrines and temples where they pray by the light of bonfires.

The Joya-no-Kane consists of 108 solemn tolls on the temple bells. According to Buddhism, man has 108 sins and that, by hearing the bells toll that number, he can be relieved of all of them.

The three-day holiday is a time to visit shrines and temples to make pledges for the coming year and to pray for good luck. The main shrines and temples in Japan are specially decorated for the occasion and are often crowded with worshippers and visitors, all in their finest Kimono or Western clothes.

New Year's Day - many churches have New Years services midday. While for many Japanese, no religious meaning is attached to the holiday.

And TV - who could leave out the TV sports traditions - On Jan. 1st Japan has a New Years Day Marathon Relay run by college students. Its like the Superbowl of Japan - or Tour de France of Cycling.

Friday, December 26, 2008

New Christmas Traditions

the Tiny G's = Mary Lou, Erick, Ben, Lisa & Janelle

Sillyness of Shopping in a fabric/craft store
Taking a shopping break to watch some soccer.
The Hoppin' Shoppin' Gang = Jason, Grace, Tom, Lori, Phil

I was introduced to the Ellison family Christmas gift tradition. As a missionary family in Japan they are super busy during the month of December with various ministry responsibilities, (including hosting 30 people for Christmas Day Turkey Dinner) therefore as a family they wait until after the 25th to celebrate as a family.

Their tradition is to divide the family and friends in attendance into two groups. This year there were 2 teams of 5. Each person must write a wish list and give it to the other team at the start, then each team shops for gifts for the other team until the designated time limit - about 5 hours - usually until dinner time. The next day gifts are wrapped and then exchanged. This year the team names were "The Little "g's" (g= gifts), and "The Hoppin Shoppin Gang". Below is the photo of everyone before the opening of the gifts began on the 27th.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

The gift has been given,

Merry Christmas!
with love from Tokyo,

DPP : : : 二十四  24 (Part 3)

After seeing the lights in Tokyo we attended a candle light worship service at Nerima Baptist church and then went Christmas caroling near the church at the homes of church members. Lisa and Jason Sorley's grandparents helped start this church so it was a unique opportunity for them to be there.

DPP : : : 二十四  24 (Part 2)

Christmas Eve after making Christmas cookies and before going to the evening church service we went downtown Tokyo to admire the illumination / light display near Tokyo Station and the nearby Marunouchi district.

"Tokyo Lightopia 2008".

"Flower Fantasia"
each pyramid tree was covered with flowers and lights
Light Art Installation "Setsu-gekka"
section of the Imperial Palace Moat
Tokyo Tower is barely visible poking out at the far end of the trees

"Ambient Candle Park"

(candle covers made by students)Picasso version of me
"Light-up of trees near Wadakura Bridge"
section of the Imperial Palace Moat
We even saw Santa busy driving a 3 wheeled taxi.

DPP : : : 二十四  24

December Photo Project Photos for 24th
Boeun Chan decorating a tree for the first time in her life.Jason, Lisa, Janelle, Mihwa and Boeun chan enjoying the warmth of the horigotatsu.
(A kotatsu is a table with a heater under it.
The horigotatsu has a heater and a hole in the floor under the table to put your legs.)

Here are the ladies making melt in your mouth sugar cookies with sprinkles.
After the cookies Boeun chan decided to make some food too.
What did she make?
"Domino Pizza"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

DPP : : : 二十三 23 

Today is the 23rd - which is a national holiday in Japan - as it is the Emperor's birthday. Its one of the only days that the Imperial Palace grounds are open to the public.

I, however was busy celebrating the birth of a different royal leader. After my friends arrived in Tokyo from Okinawa (Japan's southern island) we attended the Christmas Program at a church near my house celebrating the KING born in a manger.

This church's pastor has been friends with the Sorley family for many years and after enjoying an amazing musical program and Christmas message we had a chance to visit with the pastor's family. The pastor's family has generously offered to take the Sorley's to Mt. Fuji on Monday - while I'm in language school (not to climb it but to enjoy the view).

Back row left to right: Lori (me), Lisa, Janelle, Jason, a Japanese couple that played violin in the program.

Front row: Pastor's wife and Pastor, the choir director and professional opera singer, son and daughter of Japanese couple that played violin. (The children played cello and violin/viola too - and were AMAZING!)

Monday, December 22, 2008

DPP : : : 二十二 22 

Do you have your Christmas Cake yet?

How about some chestnuts (Marron) roasting on an open fire?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

DPP : : : 二十一 21  (part 3)

During the commute from my host family's train station and my train station I pass through Shinjuku. Last year at this time I stopped here to see the light display and thought I'd stop again to see the new display . . .

I think the bottom one is my favorite of the night.
A couple, or in this case siblings go under the arch press a couple of buttons and watch as the colors change in the arch. Then the next couple comes, presses buttons and watches new colors displayed. There was a long line waiting to try this.

There was also a light display with a circus theme by Takashima Times Square (shopping area) but it was the same as last year and difficult to capture by camera.

DPP : : : 二十一  21 (part 2)

I went HOME for Christmas.

Sunday after celebrating Christmas with my home church -
I went HOME for Christmas- to my Japanese host family's place. (Click label "host family" for background posts) It was a spontaneous visit and I didn't know if they would even be home but I wanted to bring them some gifts and say hi - since I hadn't seen them in - well - way tooo long!

I was greeted warmly at the door by my host dad and brother, who then called the other family members (who live in the same apartment building) to let them know I was there. Squeals of laughter soon came up the stairs and when I opened the door for them, I was greeted by hugs from Mion-chan and Ta-chan. We chatted, I saw recent photos (Special photos taken in november of the 3rd 5th and 7th year in Japan (called shichi go san or 7-5-3) - so Ta-chan and Mion had photos to show me in their traditional kimonos.) we watched cartoons together, and colored. I was even called "Wall-e" a few times as Ta-chan and Mion think my name sounds very similar to that movie they're hoping to see soon.

After an afternoon playing together -we went to my host brother's apartment where he and his wife made nabe. A type of Japanese soup, eaten in the winter.

After the soup ingredients (chicken, cabbage, tofu, carrots, onion, mushrooms, etc) are eaten, rice is added to the remaining broth and it soaks up the flavors before being eaten. Below my host brother is taking the rice from the rice cooker and putting it into the nabe bowl.
While we ate, we watched photos of my host family's currently being constructed "cabin", projected on the wall. It looks like the mountain home will be finished in January or February.

We also saw photos of Tomo, my host sister, - and her home in New York City.
After which, my host nephew - Ta-chan said Tomo was calling on his toy cell phone.
After he "talked" to her he handed me the phone -

I asked him (in Japanese) : What language should I talk to Tomo with - Japanese or English?

Ta-chan: Eigo - (English.)

So I proceeded to talk in English until I was told to give the phone to "JiJi" or Grandpa.

Grandpa took the phone and asked in Japanese: What language should I talk in?

Ta - Chan: Hiragana (basically answering talk in the alphabet!)

My host sister lives with her husband and 4 month old baby girl in NYC, my host mom is currently there with them taking care of the baby. WE miss you guys!!! Thanks for sending photos!

DPP : : : 二十一  21

Christmas at Yurigaoka Baptist Church - Pastor Michie Takahashi

Its a small church (but typical size for Japan) - probably 12 people in attendance on a typical Sunday Morning. This is their 2nd Christmas in the new building and 1st Christmas with a Pastor in the new building. For Christmas we had some special visitors and new people come as a result of the 1000 Christmas tracks that were passed out in the neighborhood. There was a Children's Christmas program a week ago with 39 kids in attendance! This is a time of year filled with huge potential for the gospel as the curiosity level of Japanese people is high around Christmas time. What a joy to tell them the True gift Jesus gives!

These people have become my church family - It was a JOY to spend Sunday worshiping with them . Following the service we had a FEAST! It was a pot luck and no one held back - each bringing their own homemade specialty! Ribs, chicken, pork, meatball with a quail egg in it, various rice dishes, 3 types of homemade pickles, 3 cakes, and more . . .

The dish in the photo above which people are reaching for is a type of sushi rice each portion was wrapped in very thin piece of egg omelet and tied together with a green veggitable. It looked like a piece of origami - and received lots of ooohs and aaaahs!
In the photo above, besides the adorable little girls, is Sekihan - (red bean rice)
its only made at special occasions and is a delicious food!
This is my plate below, and the cookies I brought. (sorry the photo needs rotating).
Thank you to my family and Bible Baptist Church, Mauston, WI for sending the sprinkles!
The kids LOVED the cookies!
Makita family - 3 generations
After each person introduced themself and gave a short story of a Christmas memory, we sang Christmas carols as another Makita family member leads on guitar, with a Jr. High girl helping on guitar, and an organist not shown in the photo.