Sunday, January 25, 2015

Apartment Inspections

One of the things we get to do every six weeks is drive around our zone and visit the apartments of all of the missionaries.  There are eight apartments in our zone.  It takes us several days to see them all since five of the eight are an hour to two hours away.  We drive through some beautiful mountains to get to the most distant areas, so other than the stress of driving in Japan, it is enjoyable to see the countryside.  And the missionaries are awesome.  They are so focused and working so hard, come rain or shine, snow, sleet or hail, heat, or volcanic ash, they are out trying to find people with whom they can share the message of the gospel.  When we visit their apartments we try to see if there are things in their apartments that need replacing or broken, and encourage them to keep them well organized and clean.  You gotta love them!  We have had refrigerators go out, washers causing problems, and broken desk chairs and light switches, etc.  The missionaries do a wonderful job and they treat us so well when we come too.  We always try to bring them some kind of fruit or treat for doing a good job, but some have insisted on fixing a lunch for us.  Along the way we see some interesting things. 
Most missionaries sleep on the floor in futons. 

Their kitchens are fairly simple. 

A small washer is often in bathroom and shower area.

Some of them live in fairly tall five or six story buildings.
Cutting the sides of hills and mountains is so methodically and artistically done here. 

Sometimes the roads are foggy. 

One of the messages hanging in a missionary apartment to encourage them in their labors.

The ever present 7-11.  Actually has an ATM where we can withdraw money from home.

Some apartments are a little lower.  They are to air out their futons often by hanging them outside.

Yes, we also see missionaries on their bikes with their white helmets.
Yes mom, that is how wide the roads are that they are riding on! 

Road construction flag man.  Can you tell which is real and which is mechanical?


Friday, January 2, 2015

New Year's 2015 in Japan

Happy New Year!  Can you believe it’s already January 2, 2015?  Sometimes the days seem long, but the weeks and months seem so short. 

New Year’s is interesting in Japan.  Japan is basically a Buddhist and Shinto country with a few Christians and other religions.  It was interesting that Christmas decorations starting going up after Halloween.  They don’t trick-or-treat but the stores decorate with pumpkins and Fall colors.  So for two months we enjoyed Christmas music and decorations around town.  Within a day after Christmas all of those decorations were replaced by New Year’s decorations.  Businesses and government buildings are closed on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.  Stores have now started opening on New Year’s day to compete for shoppers.  The families have special meals with food only served at New Year’s.  “Hatsuihinode” (viewing the first sunrise) is the first activity of the New Year.  They also have the first writing, Kakizome, the first food, and other things.  It’s quite a time for family gatherings.  They go together to visit the shrines to remember their ancestors and say prayers for good fortune and health in the new year.  It’s a fun time to be in Japan.  This is our fourth New Year’s together in Japan, and each time it has been fun to watch.  What a great place to live and what great people! 
First sunrise, blocked by the rain and snow.
Some of the New Year's decorations, the braided straw ropes over the doors to bless the homes and buildings, and those who enter.  It's the "year of the sheep". 

Crowds gathering at the shrines on January 1st to pay respect.
Oseichi special foods for New Year's week. 

First snow of the new year--it was a cold, wet day here.