Thursday, February 24, 2011


From Saturday until Monday, I was in Osaka, which is one of Japan's biggest cities.  It's known for food, shopping, and more, of course.  If you really want to know, check out Wikipedia.  I mainly went there to visit my fellow NAB missionaries' churches, but of course, I needed to be a tourist while I was there too, right?  But I'm getting ahead of myself.


In the afternoon, I caught the limited express train from Tsu Station, and less than two hours later I was in Namba Station, one of Osaka's major train stations.  It's nice because the Kintetsu line, which passes through Tsu, goes straight to Osaka.  I never knew it was so easy to go there!  Anyway, I had to take another train to Kongo, where the Woykes live and run a church.  They'll actually be passing off the church to a new pastor this year, as they're retiring soon!  So I wanted to visit while they're still around.

Anyway, I got to their house a little before dinner, so we chatted, ate, and then spent a quiet evening chatting some more, watching a little tv, and playing a game before heading to bed.


I went to church with the Woykes in the morning, of course.  Their church, like most Japanese churches, is pretty small.

Outside.  There's a cross on the roof, although it's a bit hard to see in this picture.

Waiting for the service to start.  I really liked the desks, actually!

Giving my testimony, all missionary-like and stuff.  I introduced myself in Japanese...

...and Doug Woyke translated the rest.  Someday I'll be able to give my testimony all in Japanese!

Doug preaching.

After church, Shan, another missionary in Osaka who joined us, went to lunch with us.  We ate at Bikkuri Donkey, which is basically mostly hamburgers.  Japanese-style hamburgers, on a plate, which have shown up in my blog many times before.  They're at so many restaurants here. 

This one had a "cheese packet" inside.  It was amazing.

I don't remember where I saw this, but I was amused.

After lunch, I went back with Shan to her place for a little while, and then we headed over to the Komyo church, where she works with the Ewing family.

And here it is!

Is that a guitar?!  lol most of the JBC (Japan Baptist Conference, related to NAB) churches are very traditional.  Paul Ewing is mixing things up.

Their cute tea time setup.  Because, in Japan, there's always tea time.

I really like their setup.

So I gave my testimony here as well, with Paul translating.  I didn't take any pictures this time though lol.  Paul also led worship and preached.  I found his message to be easy to understand, even in Japanese, so that was nice~  I really enjoyed both church visits.  <3

Their church starts at 4pm, so by the time it's over, it's about dinnertime.  So all of us- the whole Ewing family (including the three boys), Shan and I went to a katsu place.

Yummy~  <3  And they gave refills (?) on cabbage lol.  Awesome.

And from there, we went to the Ewing's house for dessert, and we pretty much just hung out and talked and watched tv together all night.  It was awesome.  A personal highlight: helping Paul pick out which Arashi cd to buy for his oldest son.  He and his friends apparently dance to Arashi's songs, and he's a bit of a fan.  He's 11.  I love it.  <3


My day for tourism!  I stayed with Shan, and we took our time in the morning.  This is the view from her apartment's balcony.


So anyway, we took a train to Namba, and from there we started to walk.  We passed through a pretty interesting shopping/market kind of area?

It just looked so...Japan to me.

No idea what these are.

There were fish hanging from the ceiling in some places.  Consider yourself lucky I'm only posting one picture.

After a while, our wanderings took us to a little takoyaki shop.  Takoyaki was one of my food goals for Osaka, because although you can get it other places, it's one of the foods Osaka is known for.  We got cheese for a topping, which was pretty much the best idea of all time.


So.  Good.

So from there we went to an area called Dotonbori.  Apparently this is a necessary tourist destination, if for no other reason than to take a picture with the Glico man.  

Yeah.  This guy.

A highlight of my day: A bunch of guys, maybe university age, came up to Shan and I at this point and, very bravely, asked, in English, for Shan to take a picture for them.  And then she asked a question about the camera in Japanese and they were like EHHHHH SHE SPEAKS JAPANESE.  It was pretty great.

Heading towards the shopping area.  We went this way later.

Huge Arashi ad~  <3

And another.  I love Japan.  This ad was everywhere in the shopping area too.

No Arashi over here.  Psssssh.

And facing the other way again.  Apparently this area looks pretty cool at night.  Maybe next time~

Back a little ways, near the building where we ate lunch.  That building on the left there was interesting.  I don't think I've seen a building like that since coming to Japan.

The view from the restaurant we ate at.  Lots of people!

They recommend the noddles.

So yeah, our lunch was okonomiyaki, which is often described as a kind of pancake.  I wouldn't really compare the two; okonomiyaki is savory, with batter and cabbage as the base, and then whatever other ingredients mixed in.  At some places you cook it yourself; this place did it for us.



End.  She put...a LOT...of mayo on mine...

We underestimated how full we were from the takoyaki.  We had to really try to leave this little lol.

So after that we did some shopping (there are cute, cheap clothes in Japan if you go to the right stores) and walked around the area before getting on a train to go to Umeda, another area of Osaka.  Our goal here: to ride the giant Ferris wheel.  I'd love to go at night sometime, but during the day is cool too: you can see what all the different buildings are.  I took pictures until my camera died lol.

Shan told me they're building a train station here.  It looks pretty cool from above!

The weather was AMAZING.

So many buildings!

You could kinda see the bay from way up at the top.

I really can't even wrap my mind around how big this city is.

Got kind of a different view on the way back down~  

It was so, so pretty.  I'm really glad Shan took me on the Ferris wheel.  After that, we shopped a little more, and then we were going to go to Baskin-Robbins, but then we had a better idea: gelato!

All of my pictures from here on out were taken with my iPhone lol.  I took this one myself.  Yay front-facing camera!

And then we made our way back to Namba, where Shan was going to take me to dinner at a Hawaiian burger place.  But it was closed!  So we went to a bagel place instead.

Terikaki chicken on...I think it was a tomato and parmesan bagel?

With apple juice and pumpkin soup.

And then we went to Starbucks, where I got a super cute cherry blossom tumbler (apparently they have a different one every year).  It was perfect for me to take my caramel macchiato (sp?) with me, because after this, I caught my train back to Tsu.  

For interested parties, my haul from Osaka: two books, two sweaters, Starbucks tumbler, and...

...Ninja Hello Kitty.  Has nothing to do with Osaka, but I needed it.

Anyway, I had a wonderful time and Shan and I were already talking about what we'll do next time I come.  I wasn't there for long, but Osaka seems like a really great city.  <3

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Seize the Day

First off, just because I feel like talking about this, I will: A lot of my favorite Japanese bands have been releasing some great music lately.  And not just Arashi, okay (although I did pick up their new single today and it is pretty fantastic).  I bought Bump of Chicken's new album, Cosmonaut, in January, and then more recently, AAA's new album Buzz Communication, and today Aqua Timez's new album, Carpe Diem.  All are fantastic.  I'm actually quite impressed.  And Kat-tun's recent singles have been great as well.  Lots of great music lately.  :D  And if you have no idea what anything in this paragraph is about...that's okay.  Let's move on.


Pre-Valentine's Day!  A friend of Carol's was visiting from Nara prefecture, so after church we went over to Carol's for lunch.  After that, the rest of my afternoon was spent frosting the cupcakes I'd baked after Inspa the night before.  And just so everyone knows, I am really proud of how my cupcakes turned out.

Look how cute they are!  <3  This is 1/4 of the cupcakes I made.  Apparently Japanese people aren't familiar with conversation hearts or sprinkles, but that's okay!  The cupcakes were from a mix, but the frosting is homemade~

Carol's cupcakes, all from scratch.

The whole table.

What was this all for, you ask?  It was for our Crossroad/Monthly Event, the Valentine's Violin Concert!  Christer Tepper, a Christian violinist, came to play for us.  He was amazing!

The whole crowd.

He also spoke, and Becky translated.

You get the idea.  Anyway, it was a great night, and everyone loved him.  


Valentine's Day!  It was a true day off for me: I spent the better part of it in my room, chatting with my friends online.  It was really nice.  It was also awesome because it snowed all day!  It doesn't snow here often, and usually when it does it isn't much.  Becky said she's never seen so much snow in Tsu.

The view from my window.  All day I kept looking outside at the snow.

I took a bunch of pictures.  From inside.  It was cold, okay?

No construction that day...

Accidentally had my flash on.  But it came out kinda cool because you can see how huge the snowflakes were!

Non-flash version.  This is right in front of the Center.  I didn't walk far outside lol.

Looking left!

Looking right!

Little tree thing!

Little plant!


...anyway.  In the evening we went over to the Ismaili's house for dinner, along with Julia.  

People in Tsu apparently don't know how to drive in the snow.  It took way longer than it should've to get across the train tracks...

In front of the Ismaili's house.

The Ismailis are Albanian, so a lot of the food we had was Albanian.  And all of it was delicious.

So pretty!

There were so many different things!

Group shot, complete with Anpanman.

I enjoyed my dessert, okay.

I mean, look at it!

It was a lovely evening with great company.  <3  Overall, a really nice, simple kind of day.


I had a class in the afternoon (a lady who only comes once a month).  It was interesting; she had, in Japanese, some of the kinds of things she would talk to her husband about in the morning, and wanted them in English.  Like, short, simple conversations.  But there are so many set phrases in Japanese that don't exist in English that it was a challenge to figure out how to say what she wanted to say.  A good challenge though!  It was an interesting class.  :)  

After that, I met with Becky and Carol, and I don't remember what we did about dinner, but Becky and I went to gospel choir.  There was a guy I'd never seen there before who talked to me afterwards, which is rare- people don't often talk to me unless they already know Becky or something.  He seemed really nice, and he wanted to ask me about the English pronunciation in one of the songs I think, but our director started talking to me and that conversation kind of ended.  I'll have to talk to him again next time if he's there.  But I felt like I had lots of different conversations in Japanese that day, so I was pretty proud of myself.  :D

After gospel choir, Carol came over to our apartment and the three of us previewed the movie for Movie Night while eating dessert together.  It was nice~  


Becky and I walked over to the nearby elementary school to meet with the principal and vice-principal to see if there's any way I can volunteer for them.  There's nothing as far as regular teaching, apparently, but they'd love to have me come play with the kids sometimes, and maybe come for special events, so we'll see!  Other than that and my regular classes, my day was pretty chill.


I had Japanese in the morning.  (For the record, I LOVE my class.  My teacher is super nice and encouraging, and I feel like I'm really learning a lot from her.)  On my way home, I saw this.

Most of the snow was gone by Tuesday morning, but some of it seemed to linger in shady spots.

Anyway, I wanted to do a little shopping (mainly to pick up AAA's new album that I mentioned at the beginning of this post), and I also wanted to try McDonald's current Big America burger, the Miami Burger, so to Saty I went.  

Dip tortilla chips in taco filling.  So that's how this works.

You can't really see in this picture, but there's taco meat on top, then tortilla chips, and taco sauce on the bottom.  So it's basically a taco burger.  Authentic Miami?  Probably not, but it was good!

In the afternoon, Carol, Becky and I met to discuss the upcoming class schedule for April (when the new term starts because that's when the Japanese school year starts).  I decided to start four new classes.  One will be an Asian drama discussion group twice a month (on the Fridays when there's no Movie Night).  Two, a book discussion class and an academic writing class, will be on Wednesday nights, twice a month each, alternating weeks.  And the fourth class is a general junior high/high school class that will be on Thursday nights.  It's all tentative, and I haven't planned anything beyond the general concept, but that's the direction I'm heading.

Also, we went to dinner at Cutlet.  I got katsu curry and it was pretty fantastic.

The rest of my night was pretty low-key.  My girls all cancelled because they had tests to study for, so I used my time to do some stuff for the Center and to relax.  A nice night.


I had my various classes throughout the day, which for some reason I felt like were a lot of fun on this day.  We had Movie Night at 9pm, which I headed up.  It was a Japanese movie called Ima, ai ni yukimasu; the English title is Be With You.  It's kind of a bittersweet movie about family, love and loss, with an interesting twist.  We had some great discussion after the movie, and then a few girls stayed over with me and Becky.  We stayed up pretty late eating and chatting.  One of our friends from gospel choir came for the first time, and we discovered that we have very, very similar taste in music.  Super exciting.  :D  We are so going to karaoke sometime.  

So that's it for now!  My next blog post will be about my trip to Osaka last weekend~  ☆