Monday, June 20, 2011

Osaka: The Return

So I know the title of this post is Osaka, but before I talk about that, I need to mention that our friend Miho-san moved really close to the Center recently, and on Saturday, May 28th, she had a housewarming party at her house!  It was really fun!

She decorated Tim Tams (Australian sandwich cookies) for each of us!  Mine has the kanji for Arashi on it eheheh.  Everyone in this country knows how much I love them~  

Sukiyaki!  That's Matsusaka beef, which is pretty famous.  It was AMAZING.

Look how cute the carrots are~

We had a few dessert options...

Fun times! We played some pretty intense Uno after this haha.

And now...


During Golden Week, Becky, Carol and I made plans with our fellow missionaries who live in Osaka to come visit, and so we did!  We went to church in Tsu, as usual, and then took the train to Osaka to go to the Komyo church (which starts at 4pm).  It was POURING rain, so we were really grateful when Shan picked us up from the train station!  Church was great (Yuri, who only recently joined the team in Osaka after moving from Kyoto, preached for the first time!), and then we all went out to dinner at Baby Face Planet's (lol, I know).  It's a restaurant that has a variety of food that you can order in sizes varying from normal to RIDICULOUSLY HUGE.  We decided to get a few different things and share, and it was all delicious!

Scrambled egg pizza.  Don't knock it till you've tried it.  

Dessert at Saizeriya.  It's a frozen chocolate ice cream-y thing.  <3  With an Osaka guide magazine in the background because we were deciding what to do the next day haha.

Becky and I stayed at Shan's that night, and Carol stayed at Yuri's.  The next day, Melissa joined us, and we all headed to the Osaka Bay area.  I think the original plan was to check out Osaka Castle, but since all the cool stuff to see is outside, and since it'd been raining so much on Sunday, we scrapped that plan.  But our new plan turned out to be pretty awesome!  First item on the agenda was the Osaka Aquarium, which I think I liked even better than the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Walking to the aquarium from the station.  I love Japan's love of giant ferris wheels~

The aquarium!

lol not a bad picture, considering the less-than-ideal conditions...

The aquarium was pretty cool.  It was organized by specific areas...but of course I didn't keep my brochure, so you'll just have to guess where the different animals are from haha.  I was surprised at how many non-water-dwelling animals this aquarium had too.  I took about a billion pictures, so I'll try to narrow it down a bit.

Otters!  <3

CAPYBARA.  <3  AKA the world's largest rodent.  They're HUGE.  I had no idea they were rodents!

<3 <3 <3

So many fish!

I liked that this ray had a friend~

So weird and cute!

Turtle~  :D


Dun dun...dun dun...  (I actually think these sharks are cute haha)

So weird and ugly!

Not a job I think I'd want...  I have to admire their hard work though!

So cool!  Its color is so bright~


We spent hours in the aquarium- it's huge!  Afterwards, we went to this mall/shopping area that's like right next to the aquarium, and the first thing we did was find a place to eat!  So we had okonomiyaki, one of Osaka's specialties.

I think this was called modan-yaki or something.  It's okonomiyaki with yakisoba noodles.  It was amazing!

After lunch, we did a little shopping and got some ice cream, and then, on a whim, decided to ride the ferris wheel, since the weather had improved considerably.  It was pretty windy though, as we definitely noticed when we reached the top- by the time we got off, they closed the ferris wheel down because of it!

Becky, Amber, Carol

Melissa, Yuri, Shan

See the aquarium way down there?

After the ferris wheel, we decided to head back to Namba to shop and hang out for a while before Carol, Becky and I had to head back to Mie.  

A pachinko place on the way to the station.  "It is strong in time, and it is gently to time tough at time."  I see a lot of bad English, but I can't even start to guess what they were trying to say with this one.

This is where we had dinner!  Kua'aina a Hawaiian burger place, and Shan had meant to take me here when I was in Osaka last time, but it was closed!  It's in the Namba Parks shopping area, near Namba Station.  

Easily the best burger I've had in Japan.

And then we took the train home.  It was a great couple of days!  I love Osaka more every time I go.  <3

Monday, June 6, 2011

How I Adjusted to Life in Japan

Interrupting my normal posts about my life in order to post about a couple of things I've been thinking about.  One, which I'm writing about in this post, is how I adjusted to living in Japan without feeling any real culture shock.  The second, which I'll write about later, is how I reached my current level of Japanese (the fact that I was able to hold a conversation in Japanese when I first came to Japan was shocking to many people).  I don't believe that either of these accomplishments (for lack of a better term) are because I'm some kind of genius or something, and the best way I can really organize my thoughts is to write them, so here goes!

How I Adjusted to Life in Japan

I think there are a lot of factors that went into the fact that I have not experienced any serious culture shock or homesickness.  Of course, there are things and people I miss from home, but I haven't once felt the desire to go home.  Why is that, I wonder?  Here are some thoughts.

1. GOD.  I sincerely believe that everything else I'm going to write here was provided for me by God.  He orchestrated my life in such a way that I was in love with Japan years before I came here, and that, since I've come, He's continued to provide for me above and beyond what I could ever ask for.  He proves His faithfulness to me every day!

2. POP CULTURE.  It sounds kind of ridiculous, and people tease me about it sometimes (which is fine, I know I'm a fangirl), but the first thing I loved about Japan was the pop culture.  I love it more than I love American pop culture.  (Seriously.  Ask me about the latest hit song in America and I'll probably have no idea, but I can tell you all about the latest releases in Japan.)  I listen to Japanese music way more than I listen to Western music, and the same goes for tv shows.  There's some quality in certain aspects of Japanese pop culture that I love and can't get enough of.  (Maybe I should blog about that sometime?)  And since I've loved the pop cultures for years before coming to Japan, being surrounded by it in a way that was impossible in America has been really fun for me!  I can go to any music store and find the cd's of bands I like.  I can turn on the tv and watch my favorite shows.  I was never able to do those things before.  I see actors and celebrities that I know and love in advertisements everywhere I go.  When I talk to people here about the music and tv shows that I like, they actually know what I'm talking about, and some even share my interests!  The fact that I know and love the pop culture has played a big role in me feeling at home here.

3. SPEAKING JAPANESE.  I studied Japanese in college, and after that, thanks to my interest in the pop culture, I was able to keep my Japanese up by watching Japanese tv shows.  I'll talk more about this later, but the fact that I came to Japan knowing enough of the language to more or less fend for myself definitely helped me feel at home here.

4. FOOD.  I LOVE Japanese food, and not just sushi (which is what most Westerners seem to think of when thinking of Japanese food).  I love that I can eat so much delicious food here, as you all know if you've been following my blog at all!  Of course, there are some American foods that I can't get here, or that aren't quite the same, but between packages from my family and trips to foreign food stores, I'm really not going without.

5. PERSONALITY.  I am naturally laid-back and easygoing and, whenever possible, want a stress-free life.  As such, I generally choose not to worry about things I can't change, and to go with the flow of life.  Sometimes I think I SHOULD worry more about things though, haha.  But in terms of me adjusting to life in a new country, this aspect of my personality has been a big asset.  Generally speaking, I don't mind doing things differently in order to fit in with the culture, and I'm usually able to accept things as they are, even if they're a bit inconvenient for me compared to my life in California.

6. PREVIOUS KNOWLEDGE.  I owe this almost exclusively to my best friend and her family, and to the Japanese department at CSU Sacramento.  My best friend is half-Japanese and grew up in Japan, and it was she who introduced me to Japanese pop culture in the first place.  By spending time with her and her family, I've been able to learn bits and pieces about Japan.  And when I started learning Japanese in college, I thought I was only going to learn the language.  What I didn't expect was that I ended up making a ton of friends in the Japanese department, many of which will be lifelong friends.  Many of the people that I met had spent time in Japan, or were Japanese themselves and were in America to study, or in some other way had knowledge about Japan, and by spending time with these people, I came to understand more and more about the culture.  I also took a Japanese history class, which helped me understand more about why Japan is the way it is.  And, honestly, I learned about the culture by watching lots of Japanese tv.  With everything that I learned from all these different sources before coming to Japan, very few things about the culture caught me off guard.

7. SUPPORT AT HOME.  I've received support from many, many people.  My family has been especially wonderful.  It was actually my mom and brother who told me about this opportunity to come to Japan, and my brother told me many times how excited he was for me.  So they've been behind me from the start.  Even after the earthquakes and tsunamis and the nuclear power scare that followed, once they were assured that I was safe, they have never once asked me to come home.  (I have heard of many foreigners whose panicky families practically demanded that they flee Japan, thinking it was too dangerous to stay here.  I'm so grateful that my family is more reasonable!)  My extended family and friends have all been great as well, and thanks to the Internet (especially Facebook and Skype), I've been able to keep in touch with everyone pretty well.  I've never been so thankful for technology!  My Impact church family was also really wonderful and supportive, and I've had great experiences interacting with my other supporting churches as well.  People treated me with so much kindness and encouragement that, even before coming to Japan, I felt many times that being a missionary must be the best job in the world.

8. SUPPORT IN JAPAN.  One of the perks of being a missionary is that you have a built-in support system.  I've never felt alone here, and I know that there are people I can turn to if I ever need anything.  We missionaries here in Japan refer to each other as the missionary family, and that's really what it is.  Everyone treated me like family from the first time they met me.  Since we all love God and love Japan, we already have a lot in common just by being here, doing what we're doing.  Working so closely with Becky and Carol has definitely also played a role in this "at home" feeling.  Plus, I live with Becky, and she's been like an older sister to me, teaching me how to live in Japan.  She also introduced me to many of her friends and brought me to events that she attends, like the young adults group at church and the monthly Inspa returnees event.  Thanks to that, I've had lots of chances to meet new people and make friends.
In addition, since all of my friends from college were in the Japanese department, several of them are in Japan right now, most as part of the JET program.  I've been able to meet up and hang out with a lot of these friends already, and I'm hoping to meet up with those who live farther away at some point as well.  And thanks to the Internet, we're able to share our experiences of living in Japan with each other and exchange information about Important Things (like the latest promotions at McDonalds).  Because of all of these things, I have felt very little loneliness since coming here.  Of course, I miss my family and friends at home, but I have wonderful family and friends here as well!

9. MY JOB.  I (usually) love my job!  English has always been my strength, and it was my major in college, so being able to teach English here has been pretty fun!  And the missionary aspect of my job- helping run events here at the Center and stuff- is pretty awesome too.  On top of this stuff being fun, I really get the feeling, at least once in a while, that what I'm doing makes a difference.  After all, that's the whole reason I'm here.  :)

I'm sure there are more things than this, but I think these are the main points that I wanted to make.  There are a lot of times where I'm just so happy to be right here, right now, doing exactly what I'm doing.  Thanks to all of you who have made this possible for me.  <3

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Something more important than words

Oh hey, look, it's June.  Which means maybe I should finish writing about May.  >_>  I'll just hit the high points then, and maybe I can catch up!  Hooray!


Our first CrossRoad in May was on Mother's Day, so of course, that was our theme!  The Kajitas came and spoke about their life experience.  Mrs. Kajita went through a really tough period in her life, and this was her first time to talk publicly about it, so I think was just beneficial for her to talk about it as for everyone who attended to hear her message of hope.

The second CrossRoad was about Israel!  Carol visited Israel back in March, and had lots of amazing pictures and stories to share.  A lot of people were interested in learning about Israel, so we had a pretty high attendance that day.  We also sang some Israel-ish songs (Jehovah Jireh anyone?), and Carol even made some Israeli food.


We only had one movie night in May, because of the Golden Week holiday.  On May 20, we watched Batman Begins.  I forgot how much I love that movie.  SO MUCH.  <3  It was interesting to talk about the different themes in that movie, and to hear what Japanese people know (or don't know) about Batman.

Last night was our first movie night for June, and we watched Sister Act.  A lot of our regular attendees couldn't make it, but we had four new people!  Two are members of the gospel choir Becky and I attend; one is the sister of Haruna, our friend who lives in the women's dorms on the third floor of the Center; and one is a girl Carol, Becky and I met while eating dinner at the little Moroccan restaurant that opened near us.  We had a decent-sized group, all things considered.  And wow, it's been a LONG time since I watched Sister Act.  It was a lot of fun to watch it with everyone and chat about it afterwards!


Our gospel choir meets twice a month.  If you had asked me in the States if I had any interest in singing gospel, I would've said no.  But singing in this group, where everyone is so enthusiastic, is great!  The director asked me to, just for practice, sing the solo for Oh Happy Day during our last rehearsal.  So I did.  Those of you who know me and have heard me sing are probably having a hard time imagining it, but I think it went okay!  And the longer I'm there, the more I get to know the other members.  (This process is taking me longer than it normally would, since my Japanese is still limited...)  One of the girls is a fan of Arashi, the jpop guys group that I also like, so that's really fun!  Everyone there is really sweet, so I really enjoy going.


The monthly event for May was a seminar about keikyo.  Keikyo is the name of the version of Christianity that first came to Japan via the Silk Road.  Many people have never heard of keikyo, thinking that Christianity came to Japan much later via a missionary named Francis Xavier.  Yuzawa-sensei, a pastor from Kyoto, has studied this subject a great deal, so he came to share his knowledge of the history of Christianity in Japan with the 30 or so people who attended.  Afterwards, almost everyone went to a nearby Catholic church to see some relics of Japanese Christians, especially from the period when Christians were persecuted.  It was a great event, and everyone seemed to really learn a lot!


Teaching has been going pretty well!  I was having a tough time with an elementary school boy that it's in a class by himself, but since his mom's been coming to class with him recently, that's helped quite a bit, as I'm sure you can imagine.  A lot of my students are really sweet teenage girls, and they're a lot of fun to teach!  It's crazy how much teenagers have to study here though.  I can't even imagine having to work that hard in school when I was that age.

I've also been teaching some new classes!  Haruna, who I previously mentioned, is in my book review class, where we're reading The Only Alien on the Planet (one of my favorite books) and discussing it together.  I never even realized how many expressions we English speakers use and take for granted that are totally confusing to English learners...  It's been a good experience for me!  I've also been teaching a basic academic writing class to Haruna and Noriko, and that's been interesting too.  It's a good stretch for me to do this kind of stuff, and I think it's been going okay!  But both of those are seasonal classes, so I think I'm gonna do something different when the next term starts in September.


Inspa, short for Inspire Union, the gathering for returnees (people who became Christians overseas), was held in a park in May!  The weather was beautiful, so it was a perfect chance to play some games and hang out outside.

Playing frisbee with a team of Canadian guys who joined us that day!

Some of us were a little less active.  (I didn't even get up to take these pictures...)

Kensaku (left) talking about his trip to the earthquake/tsunami disaster area, and Ken (right) translating.

Giant jump rope game!  Super fun!

Tug of war!  

So around 5pm, I think it was, the park started to close, so we got ready to leave.  Those of us who rode with Becky loaded into the van, and she turned on the engine...and was unable to shift out of park.  Many of our friends were still around at that point, so a bunch of the guys tried different things to try to fix it, but nothing worked.  Becky called JAF (the Japanese version of AAA), and the guy came, but still wasn't able to fix it, so in the end, we had to wait for a tow truck.  We were probably in that parking lot for close to three hours altogether.  But the weather was beautiful, and some fellow Inspa members stuck around with us, so we chatted and played around with a basketball Kensaku had in his car.  So really, it could've been worse.

Yep, definitely could've been worse.

Later...  Why does my camera always take blurry pictures when it's dark??  D:

What it looked like outside by the time the tow truck came.  Becky was sad that I didn't get a picture of the tow truck for ~memories~.

So in the end, everyone else went home ahead of us, and Becky and I rode in the tow truck to the nearest Toyota dealership and then took the train home.  By the time we got home, it was after 9, and of course we hadn't had a chance to eat.  But while we were on the train, Becky got a text from Haruna saying that she had made fried rice if we wanted some.  I was SO HAPPY.  ;__;  So when we got back from the Center, we went upstairs to the women's dorms and ate a very late dinner with Haruna.  The day may not have gone as planned, but overall, I think it was pretty good.  <3


Because you all will be sad if I don't include any food pictures, right?  :D?

From Golden Week, the restaurant we ate at for the Woyke's farewell.  Oyakodon on the left and udon on the right.  Yummy~

Karaage (fried chicken) with eggplant from the karaage place next to the Center.

Some kind of doria from Uretano Cafe.  It was their special that day~

Curry udon with egg and chicken, from a place that serves curry and parfaits.

Gomoku udon from Yaoto, near the Center.  I think this might be my new regular dish from them.


Just a couple of other things I want to mention that happened in May!

☆ I read The Hunger Games the week after Golden Week.  I was totally hooked.  It's been a long time since I was that engrossed in a book.  I'm currently reading the second book on my Kindle (yay Kindle!).  I'm always open for suggestions for book suggestions, by the way.  Particularly young adult fantasy.  Or young adult in general.  Yeah, I'm still a kid, so what.

☆ The returnee group that Becky started met on the 15th for karaoke!  Which is, of course, probably my favorite thing to do ever, so I was very happy.  Afterwards, all of us except Noriko, who had to go to work, went out to eat.  This is where I had the curry udon and a parfait~

☆ Reinoo, who lives on the third floor along with Haruna, had a birthday in May!  So we all celebrated together~

Lots of delicious homemade food!  :D

And in conclusion, May was another good month.  :D  There's actually a little more I want to talk about in May, but there are lots of pictures, so I think I'll save that for a separate entry~