Wednesday, March 22, 2006

My friend Ruben pieced this together for me. Thanks boggie. If you ever need a web page by a pro...he's the man (

Japan - Angie's Take

My sister sends a bi-monthly email to family and friends back home that infos the events of her life in Japan. She just sent an update. I thought it would good to post her perceptive of our trip.

...This past week my brothers Chad and Brock came to visit over Brock's spring vacation. I was able to take four days vacation and we traveled to Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka. We saw many beautiful things, stayed in hostels all along the way, and got lost many many times. Luckily, some slightly-drunk salary man always came to our rescue and spoke enough English/simple Japanese that we always found our way. My favorite sight we saw was Fushimi Inari Shrine in Southern Kyoto. It is one of the sole reasons I even wanted to go to Kyoto and I had no idea how spectacular it actually was until we saw it for ourselves. Over 40,000 of these red tori gates (atori gate symbolizes an entrance to a Shinto shrine)were lined up and winded through over 4km of amountain. It was quite a hike through gorgeous forestand scenery. If you have seen the movie Memoirs of a Geisha (if you haven't, please watch it), you may recall the young Sayuri running through many red torigates at the beginning and end of the movie. That part of the movie was supposed to be this Fushimi Inari Shrine. My other favorite memory happened in my little town. Three of my closest office colleagues threw a small welcome party for Brock and Chad with delicious food, followed by karaoke. Brock and Chad were able to experience the wonders of Japanese karaoke as well as feel the kindness and generosity of the people I am surrounded by. As a whole, we had such a lovely time together. I was proud of them for plunging right in there and not being too overwhelmed by the language barrier and differences in culture. After this trip, Brock now has the travel bug and is already talking of another trip to Japan and uspossibly traveling elsewhere in Asia... .

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Japan Day 8

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Checkout was at 9:30. We gathered our things then took off for the train station in a cold rain. I was somewhat sad for these where the last few moments that I would have with Angie for a very long time. Maybe Christmas. Maybe not. She purchased a cheaper ticket for herself. We reserved our seats on a high-speed train to Shin Osaka. With a few hugs, a thank you, a “I love you,” and a “I’m proud of you” we went our separate ways.

May the Lord keep Angie and bless her. May He shine His face upon her. That her light will be that of the Father Above so others will know she is a child of God. Amen

(Later on in Dallas) Can you believe it. By no fault of our own we missed our connecting flight to Indy. We will have to wait another five hours before our flight leaves. Brock took a nap and read a book at the terminal. I ventured off all over the air port. The closer the time came to our departure we made our way to the gate. Brock ran into somebody he knew from high school. Actually, he would be a cousin to our sister-in-law Jamie. He was with a group of students from I.U. on their way back for a spring break trip in south Texas. Cool guy. We board the plan at mid night Indy time.

(Indy) It’s 2:30 a.m. We made it back. Thanks Dad for picking us up so late.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Japan Day 7

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This morning was the most relaxed morning we have had of the trip. Angie had to work today and Brock and I were on our own. We ventured off on borrowed bicycles into town. We rode down a canal that was apart of a community park. We came across a Japanese version of Frisbee golf only they used a club and a badminton birdie. It looked like a lot of fun. We continued our bike ride into town stopping at a convenience store for something to drink and then at a hardware store simply to see inside which was practically everything you would find in the States.

We made it back to Angie’s apartment then began to pack our belongings for the long journey home. As I packed, I felt a scenes of sadness. I would be gone very soon. These people that Angie live with have been the most gracious and generous people I have ever met. No favor was too much. They greeted us with open arms and spared no expense. I would have liked to know them better. I would like to thank them some how for being such wonderful hosts to their country. But the time has come for us to make the journey home.

From Angie’s we went south to the city of Fukuoka to spend our last night in Japan. Brock was looking forward to going to a club called The Happy Cox. We arrived about 11:00. The crowd was very subdued but as the night progressed the party livened up. Unfortunately for me, clubs are not my thing. I’m not the type to dance with strangers, especially to those I can not speak with. Needless to say I wasn’t the life of the party. However, I did enjoy watching the people. There where a lot of bad dancers and it wasn’t because they were drunk. They were just bad (but not all.) It was obvious that the girls did not want to be touched. They didn’t mind dancing with people but they became very uncomfortable when the guys (mainly U.S. military persons) would dance too physical.

As the evening went on Angie could tell I was ready to leave. Brock and Angie graciously walked me back to the hotel. I went to bed. They went back to the club.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Japan Day 6

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We had a 9:00 a.m. appointment with Mr. Fugino. He wanted to take us to an underground passage that connected the southern and main islands of Japan. The passage went under the ocean. We walked approx. 1000 meters just for the sake of walking it. I’m glad we did. Mr. Fugino met us on the other side only to drive back to where we were before. He is such a kind man. Angie is lucky to have him so interested in her well being.

We where dropped of at a small shopping small. Brock and I shopped for gifts and souvenirs. For lunch we had a pancake like meal with a unique blends of foods. We cooked the meal ourselves on a hot plate built into the table. The ingredients came to us raw in a bowl. We mixed it up and cooked it. We shared one with ham, cheese, and potatoes. The other had a mixture of sea food. It was tasty and fun to cook. From there we went for desert at a place called Dipper Dan’s for my first crepe. Very good.

It was about that time I became very dizzy. It may have been from the sea food but I was likely showing signs of dehydration. Or maybe I was tired from all the running around. We went back to Angie’s and took a nap. I woke up with a head ache but it faded quickly.

Angie’s coworkers wanted to take us out for dinner. Angie was unsure what to anticipate so she warned us that anything could happen. A young man (who wasn’t as young as I thought…he was 30 years old), Angie’s supervisor, picked us up. He drove us to his father’s. We jumped into his father’s vehicle and the father drove us out in the country to a restaurant. We sat at an empty table and waited for the rest of the dinning party to arrive. The waiting party called the restaurant to tell us to start the meal without them. They would be arriving shortly.

The feast began. They brought out a small dish for us to sample then brought out another and another and another and another until we were stuffed. The first dish we had was a plate of raw meat. We didn’t know what it was at first. Angie said it could have been anything, including horse. She wasn’t sure if we were to eat it raw. Thankfully, they cooked it fondue style right before us. The meat ended up being beef which is very expensive. Then they brought out a dish of raw fish. This was meant to be to be eaten raw. Using our chop-sticks, we dipped the fish in a sauce then ate it. The sauce over powered the fish so it was like eating a thick cold chunk deli meat (short of). I wasn’t bad. Then they brought out a dish of squid. They took a live squid, cut the meat off the backbone, cut the meat into small strips, placed the meat back on to the squid, and served it. Just before I worked up enough nerves to try a bit a tentacle began to move. Other foods that we had where shrimp, pea pods, fried octopus, stuff I am unsure about, and all the drinks we wanted.

The food kept coming. They would have bought us anything we wanted. In the course of our conversation I told them that I like to eat beef when I am at home. Angie’s supervisor grabbed a menu immediately was willing to order me some. I would have said no otherwise but I was too full to eat anymore.

The meal was incredible and the company was even better. They knew enough English to carry a conversation. They we very warm, fun going, very gracious and very generous. The bill was over ¥20,000 which came up to about $200. They paid for everything. Actually, we think the school system that Angie works for paid the bill.

As if the meal were not enough they took us for Karaoke for 2 hours. They served us more food and more drinks. Angie started out the singing and it was only a matter of time until we all joined her. I think that’s the first time I have heard Brock sing. Angie said one of the men kept saying in Japanese, “This is great. There are three of them.” I guess he found our singing entertaining. It was fun singing with Angie. She sang harmony as I sung the melody (and attempted harmony at times). We ended up singing the gospel song “I’ll Fly Away”. Everybody clapped as if we where at a ol-country- ho-down. It was the best night of our trip by far.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Japan Day 4

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Today we went to the city of Hiroshima. We went to “ground zero” so-to-speak of the first Atomic Bomb that the U.S. dropped on August 6, 1945. It was very odd being on the other side of history books. In my own mind Hiroshima was a place that could have been on Mars where aliens lived. But now, the realization that their where people there had become a unsettling reality.

We took a bus to what is now know as the Peace Park. The first thing we visited as a the remainder of a building that had been destroyed by the bomb. A structure had once been a civic building for the city to enjoy. Now it stands as a reminder to what happened and what could happen in this nuclear age.

As we walked toward the building an elder woman approached us. She looked like a needy person asking us for money. See held a sign that had many different languages written on it. The line in English read, “Can I pray for you to be blessed with peace.” Brock and Angie did not read the sign and said no thank you not knowing what she wanted. I on the other hand knew what she wanted but said no thank you anyway. I knew she wouldn’t be praying in the name of our Lord so I wanted nothing to do with her pray. It wasn’t very long till I realized that I had made foolish mistake. I should have let her prayed for me. She wanted me to have peace which is beautiful thought. In turn, I should have prayed for her that she continued to bless people with peace and that she would come to know the One that gave true peace. But my discomfort overpowered the prompting of the Spirit and an opportunity to minister to each other was waisted. I wonder how often that woman stands in the park trying to pray for peace. Maybe she had loved ones that died from the effects of the atomic blast. Maybe her motive was to bless as many people with peace so that something like this would have never happened again. Later on in the day I prayed for her and her effort.

We spent a few yen to enter into the museum. It was very chilling. I was as a proud American standing along side proud people of Japan. People had tears in their eyes. I likely had a look of confusion on mine. There were many artifices that gave witness to what took place. We touched pieces of clay that had been hit by the bomb. Watches where on display that had stopped at the exact moment of the attach. Important U.S. documents that gave insights to the reasoning to use the bomb were there for all to read. The most gruesome portion where the pictures of the victims (men, woman, and children) and the effects of the nuclear fall out. Did President Truman make the right and just decision? Did Pearl Harbor justify the use the boom? From what little I have read from Truman’s journals I believe he had our best interest at heart. But the debate of right and wrong no longer matters. It happened. And there I was, standing in a room of former enemies but now allies, with the common desire for true peace. Not once did I feel the local people pass judgement on me. These are a beautiful people.

Angie apologized for taking us to a place that was so gloomy but I thanked her for bringing me. It was important for me to be there. Talks of nuclear war, world peace, and history will have a whole new meaning.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Japan Day 3

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(9:20 p.m.) Today was another day of travel in the city of Kyoto. We visited three locations: a shrine, a temple, and a historic Japanese castle. They were beautiful and very impressive but it was difficult to fully appreciate them because I was unaware of their cultural, historical, and religious relevance. I’ll have to do a little home work on my own to learn a little more.

Matters of faith were kept silently on my mind. I enjoyed being at these places but my spirit was uneasy. I felt that the Spirit was trying to tell communicate to me one or two things: 1. “This is not I (God) had intended” 2. “These are the people that I love so be slow to pass judgment.” I stood before giant status of Buda and twenty-one Vajrayanistic Buddhist statues that met something very important to these people. I stared at these figures trying to image what God might think. Issues of heaven, hell, judgment and the sacrifice of Christ where racing through my mind. This nation is devoted to something other than God the Father, which is not much different from my native nation primary devoted to it self. What should my reaction be? I am unsure.

For lunch I had my first official Japanese meal. Angie ordered me a bowl of noodles called udon. The noodles where very thick served with one long shrimp in a bowl of broth. Noodles have never been my favorite. For some reason I eat very little much of them. Therefore, I ate only half of the noodles.

Three other people will be sharing our room tonight; two Americans and a young Japanese man. The Americans was a man in his mid thirties from California and a woman from Bloomington, IN (or maybe it was IL) that seemed to be in her mid twenties. They where traveling together. The American man was somewhat friendly. The young woman did not make an effort to talk to us but we didn’t make an effort to know her either. The fact we where from Indiana or the Midwest could have been our conversation starter but I was extremely tired. She didn’t seem interested in talking so I honored that.

The Japanese man was very friendly. He knew just enough English for us to communicate. He was staying in Kyoto for over a month. If I understood him correctly he had/was finishing school and would soon become a “civil servant” which I am unsure what that would be. We talked about music. He liked Jack Johnson as do I. I had recently downloaded the latest Jack Johnson song off of iTunes and I asked him if he has heard it. I handed him my iPod to let him listen. He hadn’t heard it. He liked it. My sister said she liked the group Coldplay and asked if he did. In an effort to be polite he said, “Huuuuuuuuu” (which translated in any language as “not really but I can tell you do therefore I do not want to disagree with you.) Angie said it was alright if he didn’t. I told him I didn’t care from them either (to much of a U2 knock off).

It’s not very late yet I am very tired. Tomorrow we move to another city.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Japan Day 2

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(Midnight at the hostel in Osaka) Getting through customs was a breeze. As soon as we got through, Angie was there to greet us. It was good to see her. We jumped on a train and got off just a block from the hostel we were staying. We checked in, got a snack at a convenient store, took a shower, visited for a short time, attempted to write an email (but failed to do because I made a key stroke that started a function I could not correct…the instruction screens where in Japanese.) Now it’s off to bed. It’s been a long day but it’s good to be here.

(6:57 a.m.) I didn’t get much sleep. Brock however slept better than I. It’s raining outside. I wish I would have brought my rain-fly for my pack.

(5:35 p.m.) We left Osaka with no problems. Before leaving we hung out in the hostel’s lobby and discussed our daily plans. A young Japanese man approached us and asked where we were from. I remembered him the night before when we passed in the stairwell. He was very friendly and eager to talk in English. He worked for Toyota and will likely end up in the States. He said he has been to many parts of the world including England. Angie asked if it was easier to learn England’s English or America’s. He said England (and I can understand why…we kill the language by the way we talk.) He said Americans say “crap” a lot but folks from England say, “F, Fu, Fuc, Fuc_” (you fill in the blank.) The way he said it in his Japanese accent made it extremely funny.

Brock and I turned in our vouchers for the high speed train passes. We made our way to Kyoto and found ourselves in an amazing train station. The size was huge. The structure looked like something out of the movie Star Wars. Attached to the station was a giant 13 story mall called “The Cube.” I was surprised by the similar line of fashion that the people wore. The only major exception was that a good number of the women wore high heal shoes. The first place we ate was nothing other than a sub-sandwich at Subway. We traveled nearly 7,000 miles and the first restaurant we went to was a place I could have eaten at just 10 miles from where I live in Francesville.

From the station we ventured south to a shrine. We had no idea what to expect. We found thousands upon of orange (they would call red) wooden gates that varied in size. This had to have been the place where the artist grew his inspiration for the “art work” in New York City’s Central Park. The artist had hundreds of orange gates through the park. Most American’s saw the art work as a joke. I remember David Letterman giving it a hard time. The temple had many paved walkways, so many in fact, we found ourselves unsure where we were. We eventually found ourselves in a residential neighborhood. It was interesting to see Japanese homes up close. We eventually found a main road then a train station to take us back. The hostel was a ten minute walk from the station.

The hostel we are staying is very nice and very new. The most impressive feature was the toilet by far. It had a heated seat with a spray that washes your back side. I had to use it. Emily and I saw a toilet like this at Lowes. It was priced at $750 but a freshly washed rear end…priceless. (There’s a Master Card commercial for you.)

We rested for a short time at the hostel then it was back into the city. Angie had something she wanted to see. It was about dinner time but we chose to go to our destination first. We walked for a very long time until we found ourselves at the bottom of a hill at the edge of a village very similar to Gatlinburg, TN. It had many shops geared toward tourism. The main attractions were the huge temples. None of us new the history behind these buildings therefore it was difficult to appreciate them beyond their appearance. The walking continued stopping very little. I think Angie was looking for something. I’m not sure if she found it. I was dragging behind. Angie is a fast walker.

I found all this walking very similar the end of a day of backpacking: unsure where you were, wishing the walk would be over soon, questioning why you were there, hungry, wanting to stop but knowing you had to push on. We were looking for a McDonald’s so every street block was like the top of hill in the backcountry; hoping this was the last one until you arrive. My hopes grew at the sight of every red and yellow sign only to be disappointed that it was not it. We finally arrived to the golden arches and enjoyed a double cheese burger (they didn’t have quarter ponders.) Angie apologized for under estimating the walking distance to the temple. When I asked Angie for the plans of the next day she said, “Learn how to use the public bus.” We laughed.

After dinner we made it back to the hostel and went straight for bed.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Japan Day 1a

Much of the day was lost due to the time change. The day was mostly uneventful traveling.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Japan Day 1

Location – Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport
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My journey began with a stop at my brother Scott’s house the night before we flew out. He invited us over for dinner. It was good to see Scott, Jamie, and Mya (she sure is growing.) The meal was a tasty pot-roast with fixings that Dad and I enjoyed. Brock did not join us because he had serious flue like symptoms. It appears he has slept it off which is most fortunate.

We woke up at 4:00 a.m. and Dad dropped us off at the airport at 5:00. We left Indy on time but Dallas was been a different story. A malfunction in the refueling system forced us to sit and wait on the plane for an est. 90 minutes. We eventually had to unload the plane, wait another two hours, and board another plane. The air line gave everyone a $12 food voucher to use anywhere in the airport terminal. We were not very hungry because we had a large lunch at TGI Friday’s before we boarded but we hated to see $12 each go to waist. We went into an Irish Bar/Restaurant for a plate of hot wings which we very tasty.

(Later) We are finally off the ground and are 10,761 km/6,687miles away from Osaka, Japan. Later in the flight a meal was severed. It was much better that what I expected. I noticed the Japanese passengers picking up their dishes to their mouth as they ate. Thanks to Angie, I had some heads up on this practice so I did it myself. I liked it. It kept the food off of my shirt.

I’m taking the book Blue Like Jazz for Angie. I’ve been reading it. Once again I have been encouraged by a young writer/leader that speaks in a fresh new vernacular and is not afraid to give an honest account of the Christian faith. Christianity doesn’t always add up and if it does, then your Christianity is too small. If God makes perfect sense then your God is too small for he is too big to be fully understood. It’s assuring to know that leaders can have big gaps in their faith yet still be used by God. I wonder why we would think otherwise.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Personal Update

I will be in Japan in less than a week. Other than having my passport and rail pass, I’m completely clueless as to what is needed or what we'll be going. My sister will play the role of host and tour guide. Though I am completely content in seeing very little, she has taken off work to show us around. It will be a most interesting experience.

Things at church are going as well as expected. Attendance at youth meetings have been strong but number can be misleading. My job is to raise disciples, not to increase attendance figures. It’s difficult to tell if my work is making a difference. That's not true. I can see some fruits from my labors but I question if I could be doing more. I suppose that's just the nature of the job.