Monday, May 16, 2011

Golden Week

If I was a more responsible blogger, right now I'd present you with some very interesting factual information about what Golden Week is and its history.  However, I am me, and as a result, I will just tell you that Golden Week is in early May, and is called such because of multiple holidays in one week.  I'm not sure what the holiday on Tuesday was, but Wednesday was Green Day and Thursday was Children's Day.  Apparently Green Day didn't even used to exist, but the current emperor made it a holiday between the other two holidays because he likes nature and things are very green this time of year.  Or at least, that's what someone told me.  Yup.  So knowledgeable, I am.

Anyway, basically it means that most students had Tuesday through Thursday off from school, and most people had time off from work, either just for the Golden Week holidays or for the whole week.  As for us at the Center, the English school was closed for the week, but instead of classes, we had a conference with all of the NAB missionaries in Japan.  It was here at the Center, so Becky, Carol and I didn't have to go anywhere.  Literally, the conference room that we met in all week is on the other side of the wall from my bedroom.

On Day 1, everyone arrived in the afternoon, and we had a meeting about the current state of NAB.  After that, we went to dinner at Pure-na, an all-you-can-eat Japanese place.  In the evening, we all gave our missionary book reports, which was really interesting.  It's cool to hear about all the different kinds of people who have come here over the years, and what they've done.  When the book reports were done, several of us played Rummikub until pretty late.  It was a lot of fun!  It's always great to be able to hang out with the other missionaries I don't get to see often.

On Day 2, we went to McDonald's for breakfast.  It was my first McGriddle in Japan.  So good~  We then spent basically the rest of the day having meetings about the future of NAB missions in Japan, and some of the issues we're facing.  I did a lot of listening and I learned a lot about the difficulties that we're facing here because of the ways that Japanese culture doesn't line up with Christianity and the problems that causes in the church.

Anyway, in between meetings, we ate at a place called Viking for lunch.  For some reason, the word "viking" here means all-you-can-eat buffet.  Yeah, I don't know either.  This place was amazing though!  There was yakiniku, where you get strips of raw meat and cook it on a little grill at your table.  It was SO GOOD.  You could also grill veggies and stuff, and there was tons of other food to choose from too, not to mention dessert.  For dinner, we ended up going to Gusto, where most of us ordered salad because we were so full from lunch!  I decided to cut out of games a bit earlier since I was so sleepy because of staying up so late the night before when we had breakfast so early in the morning.  (7:30 is like the crack of dawn for me.  D:)

On Day 3, we had breakfast at Yoshinoya, which is a gyuudon place.  Gyuudon is beef over rice, and Yoshinoya is a chain, which, like other similar chains, sells super cheap food.  So yeah, I don't usually eat there, but they have a breakfast set with salmon, which was pretty good.  After that, we spent the rest of the morning and the first part of the afternoon talking more about the future of NAB missions in Japan, and we had a light pizza lunch.

After spending so much time inside having meetings, the rest of the day was really nice: we went to Nabana no sato, which is basically a flower park, and then a nearby onsen, or hot springs.  A few of us actually went into the onsen, while some just checked out the outlet mall, and then we all met up for dinner.  So here, have some pictures!

The tulips were kind of on there way out, but I really liked these.

So many colors!

I guess they put the flowers that fell off into this pool.  Cool!

The Woykes. 

Me with Becky and Yuri!  :D

Shan!  Look how big those flowers are!

Becky is SO EXCITED about the flowers!

With Yuri in the middle of these awesome purple flowers!

Cool view from above.

Don't these look like trees that would've been around in the time of the dinosaurs?  That's what I thought anyway haha.

Cats' whiskers!  Isn't this cool?

Here we all are for dinner!

Outside after dinner.  I'm waaaaay in the back haha.

At dinner, some of us shared our memories of the Woykes, who are retiring this month after serving for more than 40 years as missionaries in Japan.  I've only known them for a short time, but many of our other missionaries go way back with them.  This time of sharing continued back at the Center, where we also had a slide show, and cake and ice cream to celebrate them.  There were laughter and tears, but it was important time for all of us.  They will be missed by us and by the many people whose lives they have touched over their years of service.

Anyway, I stayed up to play games for a while.  The next morning, we had pastries and eggs at the Center, and then we had our final meeting.  After that, we had lunch at Yaoto, a little Japanese restaurant that Becky, Carol and I frequent.  It was delicious!  After that, everyone left, although some people lingered longer than others.  I had planned to take a nap, but since I was feeling pretty energetic and wanted to get outside, I decided to go do some shopping.  I spent the rest of the evening watching tv and relaxing, which was nice after such a busy week!

So that was my Golden Week.  :D

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I struggle with forward motion

So I think I'm going to take a page out of my friend Shar's book (here's her blog - she lives in Japan too and her posts are much more organized than mine haha, so check her blog out!) and just try to update on what I've been doing recently.  I'll post about what I did in the time I wasn't blogging at all later, because catching up seems almost impossible at this point...  Shar calls them Lost Blogs, and I won't steal her term, but it'll be the same idea, I suppose.  As a result, I will post about what I've done since April 29, since I posted on that day, rather than going all the way back to mid-March (TWO MONTHS AGO oh my gosh ;___;  Did I really used to post every day...?).

To those who say helpful things such as "Your blog isn't going to write itself," *coughDADcough*, I hope this will suffice for the time being.  Sheesh, what a whiner.  (I love my dad, I promise I do.)

One thing I failed to mention in my previous post was that, at the place where the seikai (conference) was held, there were some huge, awesome koi nobori flying outside. Koi nobori, or carp banners, I guess is how you'd translate it, can be seen flying throughout Japan during April and early May in observance of Children's Day (traditionally Boys' Day), which is during Golden Week in early May (more on Golden Week later). Since Shar actually did research on why they fly these banners, I'm going to quote her here (you can read her whole blog post about Ise Shrine here):

"The tradition of carp streamers began in the Edo Period based on a Chinese legend about a strong, brave carp swimming upstream who turned into a dragon. Streamers were also flown by samurai in battle. This is why the carp streamers symbolize strength, power, and success in life."

Anyway, here are some pictures.  They're pretty cool!


Becky and some friends started a returnees group here in Mie Prefecture, basically where girls who have spent time overseas can hang out together.  Five of us went to visit Kyoto!  It was my second time there (since I went on my first Saturday in Japan), and this time we mostly walked around and checked out some shops and stuff, so it was pretty chill.

A shrine we just happened to stop by, evidently dedicated to a samurai who killed himself because he didn't want anyone else to kill him.  Um, okay.

Interesting curry rice from this all-natural restaurant place we happened across.

Sorry it's kinda blurry, but.  This is a tiny octopus with a quail egg inside of its head.  It was so interesting, I had to try it!  It was pretty good!


This is apparently a famous river in Kyoto.  I don't know the name though.

From the front, Noriko, Takako, Becky, and Shouko~

Yay I got to be in a picture too!

There were still some cherry blossoms hanging on!

In Gion, a district of Kyoto.  This is the entrance to a really historic area.

It was kind of crazy, such an old place in the middle of such a modern place.  If you're lucky, you can see maiko (geishas-in-training) here sometimes.

A view down a side street.  There was a girl in a kimono~

Back in the modern part of town.  Some kind of temple.  It's so bright!

Too bad I didn't get a picture of one of these rickshaw guys in action.  They're apparently nice enough to take your picture in prime locations haha.

So later, after we came back to Mie Prefecture from Kyoto, we went to a pretty cool restaurant (Saigon Cafe or something like that?) that serves various kinds of Asian dishes.  Everything was really, really good!


We had a surprise party at Carol's house for our student and friend Akifumi-san today.  His wife apparently told him they were going out to dinner with her parents haha.  He must've gotten suspicious when they like, picked up a couple of friends on their way over...but yeah.  

Carol is never short on enthusiasm.

Akifumi-san getting ready to blow out his candles~


Ahaha definitely not a perfect picture, but it'll have to do.  We had a lot of fun playing games and chatting~


So, um, I apparently haven't changed much since college, because I'd known since like Christmas or something that I needed to read a biography about a missionary to Japan before our summer missionary conference, but.  Yeah.  This being the day before said conference began, I did quite a bit of reading, and put together a rough book report, since all of us had to report on our books during the conference.  So not the most exciting day ever, but that's okay!


In the morning we went over to Akifumi-san and his wife, Rieko-san's, house for coffee, snacks, and chatting, which was really nice.  And after that, the missionary summer conference began...BUT I'm going to give that its own post.  

I think this post is long enough for the time being anyway, so I'll write more tomorrow.  :D