Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Moving

It's just about a year since I moved into the house in the Takeoka neighborhood.  My landlords were transferred by their company to Bangkok, Thailand.  Originally the idea was that they would be in Thailand for four or five years, but sometimes God has other plans for us and they will be moving back to Japan next week.  
All this is to say that I am in the process of moving to another place.  SEND International has a number of houses on one compound (Shasta), one of them is empty until this summer, so I will be moving there this week.  
Livingroom
Diningroom
Kitchen
Stairs
My bedroom
Shower/bath room
Toilet room (sorry for the blurry picture)
Washing machine
This house is a much more North American style house.  There are a few things that are still of the Japanese style, but notice the American stove!  There is also a large room that includes the diningroom and livingroom!  
I am blessed to have people who are willing to move my possessions!  I have been carrying some items on my bicycle as I travel to and from the Takeoka house to the Shasta house.  
I'm also spending time with Hana as Brian and Bette are going on a little vacation with visitors from North America.  So, I'm able to totally pack up and clean up the Takeoka house and still have a place to sleep, at the VanderHaak's!  
Someone is quite tired after a long walk. 
By the time we get to the end of the week, I will be moved into my new place, Hana's owners will be back from their trip and another spring break will be done.   
Glad we have a week where we are able to do other things.  

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Kyoto

This past Thursday and Friday, I had the privilege of chaperoning the grade 8 class on their field trip to Kyoto.  I have not traveled to Kyoto yet and was excited about going there.  I was also excited about being able to spend some time with the grade 8 students.  I had 8 girls in my group.  Some I knew a little as they attend the same church I do.  Some have visited me in my office for various reasons, and some have been on the Futsal team I was assisting.  I also was able to get to know some students I really haven't had the opportunity to chat with previously.
Kyoto is 475 km from Tokyo on the Nozomi Shinkansen.  Our travel time was about 2 hours and 20 minutes.  It was a great way to travel!
Nozomi Shinkansen arriving at Kyoto Station

A closer view of the train
Here is a link to a YouTube video of what it's like to ride.  The camera isn't high tech enough to get clear pictures outside the window, but you still get a bit of an idea of how fast we are traveling.  It is quite smooth, considering the speed.  The last part I slowed down considerably, so the audio gets kind of wonky.  :)

Once arriving in Kyoto, we dropped our bags at the New Miyako Hotel and turned around to catch a train to Nara.  It was a wet day, but it wasn't a down pour all day, but by the end, I knew I was ready for a dry, warm place.
First place was the Kofukuji.

Kofukuji Temple
 Can you see the rain coming down in this next picture?
Five story Pagoda
We walked from the temple area into the Deer Park.  The deer were at one time considered divine messengers of the gods.  They are quite friendly and not afraid of people at all.  As a matter of fact, if they know you have some food, they can become quite aggressive.  You can purchase senbei (like a rice cookie) and feed it to the deer.  According to a reliable resource, there are over 1000 deer in the park!  Here are just a few.
Notice they are de-horned
Trying to see if I have something to eat.
Many gathered under the tree to get out of the rain.
Next we walked to Kasuga.  The students were required to count lanterns.  There are reportedly over 3,000 lanterns!  Each lantern can have a paper with a family name on it.  If the family has paid their quarterly tithes, the paper remains there.  If they have lapsed on their tithes, the paper is removed.  There is a candle inside and when lit the names can be seen clearly.
These are larger lanterns and do not have a paper with family names.
Here you see many of the lanterns, some papers are ripped, which may be due to the weather, not a failure to pay tithes.
Our next stop on the walking tour was Todaiji.  It was raining pretty hard and I decided to just take a picture from a distance and didn't actually walk to the temple to see the big Buddha.

That was the end of our Nara walking tour.  We took the train back to Kyoto and had a few hours of free time.  By 7 p.m. we had taken a bus to the Gion Corner.  It has a neat theater that presented some of the traditional Japanese Cultural activities, a tea ceremony, listened to a Koto (a large harp type instrument), Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), Gagaku (Ancient Imperial Court music and dance), Kyogen (traditional Japanese comic theater), and Kyomai (traditional Kyoto Japanese style dance).
Gagaku
Kyogen
Kyomai
Unfortunately the puppet show was not performing.  I've been told it's the best part of the show.
That evening the whole grade 8 class and chaperones went ten pin bowling.  It's been a while since I've gone ten pin bowling.  It was fun. 
Friday's weather was very unpredictable.  One moment it would be sunny, the next it would be raining and we even had a few snow squalls.  That did mean I took my umbrella, just in case.
It was a bus riding day and we stayed in the Kyoto area.  The bus took us to the different places, but we still walked around on the grounds.  We also had a tour guide who traveled with us on the bus.  She would tell us about various historical buildings as we were traveling from place to place, but she only spoke in Japanese.  I did not grasp too much of what she was saying, but some of the chaperones would give a brief synopsis once we were off the bus.
First stop was Kinkakuji.  Here was a Zen temple.  It looks like one could achieve a sense of calmness if you stayed here long enough.
Kinkakuji
 Next stop was the Ryoanji.  This is a famous zen garden that has 15 stones.  They say the most number of stones seen at once is 14 stones.  The monks carefully rake the garden in a precise pattern. 
This is the small scale model of the garden.
One end of the real life garden.
The other end of the real life garden. 
Next stop was the Toei Uzumasa, which is like a theme park.  There were some people dressed up as Geisha, Ninja, and Samurai walking around that you can take your picture with and there were activities and performances to go see.


Next stop was Kinoshima Jinja.  This was quite interesting because it has a three sided torii,.  There is some speculation that this was a place for water baptism for Christians.  Shintoism would refute that because having something like this on a Shinto shrine property, would desecrate the property. 
Notice the three sides?  Some say it represents the Trinity, the three Gods.
Next stop was the Nijo-jo.  It is a Shogun castle, that still has some of the original paintings, but they are beginning to fade because of the elements.  There were no lights and no cameras allowed.  It reminded me of the Emperor's Nikko home I visited last year. 
Entrance
Our last stop before heading to the Shinkansen station was Kiyomizudera.  The bus parked towards the bottom and we were able to walk up to the Buddhist Temple.  There is this large veranda that is supported by these massive pillars.  The construction of this veranda is amazing.
Picture of Kyoto in the distance from the veranda.

This was taken below the veranda which is at the top, where I took the previous picture.
Street with shops that have good ideas for omiyage. 
We also stopped for some coffee.  Yum! 
Russian Coffee
We hopped on the bus which brought us back to the Kyoto station where we caught the Shinkansen back to Tokyo and then trains back to Higashi Kurume. 
The trip was a great learning experience for me.  Some of the students mentioned that having learned about these in class and seeing them helped them to remember the history as well.  I did feel very privileged to be able to go as a chaperone.  The students behaved quite well and I had many good conversations.
In case you think that I remembered all this information as we traveled from place to place, that would be incorrect.  Ms. Fischer had a terrific journal that the students also had and were required to write in during various times of the day.  That is where much of my information came from.  I'm glad I had a copy, to help me remember. 
There were a couple of unrelated things which I thought were interesting...
Gardeners manicuring the moss!
Close up buds!
Beautiful flowers
Using a crane to trim trees.
Sign for women's toilet.  It's a women's kimono.  I think there is a men's kimono for the men's toilet.
If you wish to see more of the photos, you can check out my other Kyoto pictures.
Thank you all for your support in various ways!  I hope you are able to get a little taste of the world I live in her in Japan, as well as the great ministry CAJ has here in Japan. 
 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Saturday

I am so glad that we have weekends.  They really do help me to re-energize myself for the upcoming week.  The past couple of weeks have been very busy with working on admissions and different programs and meetings.  I feel like the weeks actually zip on by and the weekends go even faster.  So, today I took on the project of taking pictures of my trek to the Seiyu (associated with Walmart) store.  Seiyu has a grocery store with some North American type foods but it also has a very Japanese flavor. 
Shelf with various items

Drinks

Rice

Alcohol
There are a few people who actually drive to the Seiyu, but most people ride their bicycles.  There is a free bicycle parking lot right across the road.  This afternoon is was quite full and finding a place to park your bicycle prompted you to become creative. 
There's my bicycle!
I parked my bicycle in an aisle, and when I came back, it was move a little further in and I had to move some bicycles to actually get mine out. 
These pictures were taken on my way back home.  I do pass by a number of vegetable and fruit stands.  They have good looking vegetables and sometimes I do stop and buy from them instead of the Seiyu or some other grocery store. 
This stand had mostly vegetables on display.  Sorry for the blurry picture.  I was taking it as I was bicycling.
I do have to cross the tracks by the Kiyose station to get home.  I ride along the tracks for a bit. 
A Seiyu train coming into Kiyose station
It was a beautiful, sunshiny,  warm day to go for a bicycle ride. 
A bright sun at approximately 3 pm
As I get closer to where I live, there are a number of hospitals and health associated offices. 
Japan Industrial Safety and Health Association
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health
This is the entrance to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.
There are hospitals and rehabilitation centers all around. 
I pass by one of the convenience stores that are fairly close by.
LAWSON 100 convenience store
There is usually a bicycle/walking path beside the road, but there are places where I bicycle right on the edge of the car lanes.  Sometimes it gets a little close if you have traffic in both directions. 
One side is a park and the other side is a construction site.
Truck passes by
One of the things you will find in Japan still is a phone booth.  There's one only a block or so away.  I have never used it and maybe I could use it if I needed to, but not sure I could follow the directions. 
Phone booth with no graffiti!
Looks pristine!
Yes, an in-tact phone book!
Here I am arriving! 
This has been a fun place to live.  I have enjoyed the neighbors, even though I have not been able to have conversations other than the traditional greetings and some non-verbal communication.  I will be moving into a different place in three weeks.  The new place will be in Niiza-shi, which will be a temporary place, for three months until I fly to Vancouver, BC.