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January 2007 Archives

January 8, 2007

Happy, though old, teeth and...more comments on rice!


We went to see Akihiro's grandma over the New Year's holiday and she showed us her certificate that the government gave her congratulating her for being over 80 years old and having 20 or more of her own teeth! So, my dental hygiene cousin, what do you think of that as an incentive for flossing?!! Here she is showing off--both her teeth and her certificate! She is a dear person who reminds me somewhat of Vi Koch--when you ask her how she is doing, she says she is "getting smaller!" She likes me because I give her a hug even though she hugs my waist she is so short! She is a spunky little thing that often has something to teach me--last week she taught me how to use the Japanese grinding bowl for nuts or seeds--works great!

I learned something else about rice last week! Akihiro's dad had gotten a bag of brown rice from a farmer in the country area and wanted to change it to white rice, so he took it to this thing that looked kinda like an ATM machine! Here we dumped the bag of brown rice in, put a few yen in the slot and the machine took the hull off the rice and white rice came out into a bin! Apparently brown rice keeps longer than white rice, so farmers in the countryside keep it as brown rice until they are ready to use it!

January 10, 2007

Grandpa's story

Akihiro's mother's father was telling war stories this holiday when we were with him. Here is one of the most interesting ones!

He was 17 years old and was a pilot for the Japanese navy. He was so skilled that he was training other pilots and not commissioned for kamikaze duty--thankfully--there wouldn't be an Akihiro otherwise! Anyway, when the war ended, he was given two options--go to Okinawa and be a kamikaze or go home. He chose to go home and made plans to go with several other pilots. They would take their navy planes and tour Japan a little bit first! They flew to Kyoto and many other famous sites, landing at the navy bases to refuel, saying they were on a mission. One of the bases knew of Grandpa's skill at stunt piloting and asked him to show him a few tricks. Grandpa was happy to oblige. (In later years, Grandpa was able to meet some of these same people who asked him to do his stunts!) After touring with his buddies, he flew to his home town, but knew there was no landing strip. He warned the towns people that he was coming home by dropping his shoes and other belongings out the plane and began circling the area, knowing that he had to run the fuel out before landing or he would blow up the plane. This drew a crowd of townspeople to see their hometown hero! He picked out a farmer's field and glided in for a safe landing! He knew he would be in trouble if his plane was found, so he had no trouble getting help from the townspeople to dig a deep hole to bury his plane! After that he had to run from the U.S. government because of his situation, but after 3 years he could return to his home and go on with life. He ran a number of retail businesses after that, but never did fly again! At an age of over 80 years old, he will close his restaurant at the end of this month. We are prayerful that his transition to retirement will go well!

Here's a picture of Akihiro's mother's family minus one cousin and Tsuyoshi and Yuko (I am taking the picture!). We were celebrating Noboyuki's 60th birthday!

January 12, 2007

"Specialty" Shopping, First Step towards Japanese Driver's Lesson Accomplished, "Itty-Bitty" Car

The last 2 days have been busy, yet blessed! On Thursday, I met Marie Inoue and Ikeda-san, a woman who lives in Marie's apartment who speaks very good English, and we went to a specialty grocery shop and out to lunch! You may think I am a little strange when I say that I was overjoyed to find pecans, but I haven't been able to find them anywhere! Other good "finds" included a large box of baking soda--their packages at the grocery store are about 2 Tablespoons! Worchestershire sauce, muffin cups, and a pizza pan where several of my other "finds"! I mentioned my "hankering" for pizza to the ladies as I put the pizza pan in my basket and they smiled to eachother and said they had seen a Shaky's pizza on their way to meet me at the train station! We went there for lunch! It tasted so good! I've never seen sweet bean and mochi dessert pizza, though! (There are Japanese Pizza Huts here, but they are pretty expensive and also have some different toppings--most have mayo on them!) Anyway, we enjoyed our day and then Akihiro met us at the Inoues for a delicious nabe dinner--a nabe is a pot placed on the middle of the table and fish and veggies are placed into it! Everyone digs some out with their chopsticks! Akihiro wondered why we don't do something like a nabe in the States. Akito said it could have something to do with everyone putting their eating utensils in the same pot--perhaps Americans would think that is gross? I don't know! Anyway, I'm glad to be able to enjoy it here in Japan!

Today Akihiro took off to help me go to the Driver's License office to continue the process to get my license "translated" to Japan. Many things here in Japan are easier for Americans than they were many years ago, but this is one area where the Japanese government has gotten stricter. No longer can an American just pay to get a Japanese driver's license--now a driving test must be completed! The first thing the guy said to Akihiro is that the test giver does not speak English and Akihiro can't go with me! Hmmm! Looks like I will be studying my directional terms! It wouldn't be good to go left when the instruction was to go right! Anyway, I did take the 10 question English written test and was thankful to pass it--God helped me! Akihiro said he can take me to go take the driving test on January 24th. I am really hoping to pass it the first time, so I won't have to keep going back to retake it--many foreigners have had to take it up to 10 times! They are really picky I guess! Anyway, please pray for me that I can pass the first time!

Oh, one more thing! Today we bought our first car since we got married--a Suzuki Alto! It is 6 years old and looks like a Geo Metro--remember those?! Anyway, Akihiro is very excited about his "itty-bitty" car as he can save money on the taxi from the train station to his workplace. The car will be left out in the Yamanashi (Shioda) area in a parking spot we rented near the station. This little car will be very handy for our "second home"! I hope to get a picture of it to post at a later date!

January 14, 2007

The Land of Garbage--or is that the Land of Dreams!

When Tom and Dale where here, we visited a very tall ferris wheel--110 meters or so tall! We got a great view of the area. Akihiro explained that much of this land is made from garbage! They used to call it the "Land of Garbage", but that doesn't sound very inviting, thus the name change to Land of Dreams! In fact, Akihiro's parent's house is also on this land made of garbage! We passed an island that looked very barren. They let it sit for several years to settle before they can build on it! From this picture you can also see the beginnings of the tunnels under the water of Tokyo Bay--wow!

We had a blessed Sunday today. The Klaus family visited this Sunday as the building committee met with an architect about a possible church renovation project. It is a big undertaking for our small church, so we would appreciate your prayers as we proceed! We want God's name to be glorified and our church to grow in number and love!

January 15, 2007

Car picture!


Here's our little car! Akihiro says that it is a good thing we aren't planning on driving it on the highway--the fastest it will go is 100 (km, that is!). Otherwise, it is quite adequate for our needs! This morning was cold--we have found that our make-shift ice scraper of a CD case works quite well--we are using one for the other car too!
Sorry, nothing else I can think of to report!

January 17, 2007

The Sounds of a Day in Our Home in Japan

Not sure what to write new, but I thought it may be interesting to describe some of the sounds of Japan to you.

In the morning I hear the neighbors sliding their metal doors that cover the windows back to let the sunshine in. Soon after that, I hear the clip-clop clip clop of the wooden Japanese shoes that the little old lady next door wears. Some days I hear a whop, whop noise as the neighbors beat their futons after hanging them on the wash pole. All are such pleasant sounds! The morning is fairly quiet then, but at 1:30 in the afternoon, there is a little song that plays on the neighborhood loud speaker system--I guess it means it is time to go back to work! Then there is a little "going home" song that plays either at 4 or 5 depending on when the sun sets. About that time I hear the metal doors start to slide shut again. In the evening there is a truck that goes driving around selling gas for heaters. They broadcast their sales pitch and play a little song too! One of the best sounds, though, of the whole day is "Ta-daima!" ("I'm home!") from my honey as he walks in the door around 6 PM after a long train ride home! After supper is the fire trucks. They are ringing bells and telling people to make sure they shut off their gas heaters before they go to bed and other safety things. I'm thankful for the little sounds I hear in our quiet little home--thankful we can escape from the hustle and bustle of trains, highways, supermarket music, etc. and enjoy the peace of a home where we feel the Holy Spirit dwells.

January 19, 2007

Christmas in January, Driving Woes, etc.

Yesterday, a man came to the door, and I tired my hardest to figure out what he was saying. Finally I got it! He would be back around noon and bring 4 boxes from America! We had shipped them by boat about 2 months ago and I was hoping that they would all make the journey safely. I tore into the boxes like a kid at Christmas--delighted with simple things like my big "fix-and-mix" Tupperware bowl--or my salad dressing container--or the other pieces of the step-stool my dad made for me (Works great, Dad!) One of the greatest things, though, was at the bottom of the last box--my scrapbook that was given to us for our wedding! Well, as you can see from the picture, I had plenty to do--clothes stacked all over, boxes to bend into packages less than 50 cm for the recyclable collection, but I had to take a look at that book! It will be so fun to review and remember all the good times! Anyway, now (thanks to Mom's help via web camera) I have pictures on the walls, and a well equipped kitchen for both Japanese and American cooking!

I guess God knew I needed the "Christmas" yesterday because today was not so fun--practice for my driver's test. Bless Akihiro for his patience with me while he tried to teach me and my bad attitude about how to back into parking spaces, correctly pass cars, turn corners, use the hand break, get into the car (10 steps!!!!!!), etc. He tried to teach me the Japanese words that the tester may use--how many different ways do they have to say "turn right"! UGHHHHH! I realize it doesn't do any good to groan or to say, "This is so dumb! I've driven a car for 14 years this way and now they are going to tell me I've been doing it wrong!" I am trying to be calm and take courage in what my sister-in-law told me, "Carrie, God knew what he was doing putting you in this situation. Who else used to drive around using her knee to guide the steering wheel, talk on the speaker phone on her cell phone, eat a sandwich, and write a sticky note!" I try to be appreciative that I do have experience driving--even if it was the "wrong" way--and even be appreciative that I have a car and the financial means to get a license. Yes, I am trying to look at the bright side. It will surely be a miracle if I pass this test!

Just a culture note, the department store/grocery store where I go has a display of these very expensive Japanese dolls sets. Akihiro said they are for a special ceremony for girls in March. The cheapest one was $550!

January 22, 2007

Okonomiyaki "pa-tee"!

Yesterday we went to Tokyo church for services. We enjoyed the fellowship there and afterwards were invited to Akito and Marie's for an okonomiyaki "pa-tee" (Japanese say "party" like "pa-tee"!) Okonomiyaki is like a pancake made out of sticky yams, cabbage, pork, dried shrimp, dried tofu parts, eggs, flour, and yes, octopus! We mixed up the batter and then fried them on large griddles on the table. Once they are done, you put mayonaise, another special sauce, dried tuna flakes, and dried seaweed flakes on top! Actually it is very yummy! Often this food is sold at festivals--Akihiro says it is like Japanese fast food! We also took along a huge scallop that we had been given. It was almost as big as my hand!

This morning, we drove out to Yamanashi for work and were blessed with a gorgeous snow fall! Yamanashi is mountainous and thus gets more snow and is colder. Our home rarely gets snow and is a little warmer--rarely gets below 0 degrees Celsius. Akihiro keeps bragging about how much better these Japanese winters are than Tremont winters!

January 24, 2007

It's a Miracle!

I'm thankful to report that with the help of the Lord, many of your prayers, and my good instructor hubby, I passed my Japanese driver's test! We were quite a diverse group that nervously waited at the driver's license facility. I--nosy as usual--was trying to look at their passports to see where they were all from. We were all pretty reserved until after the jolly test-giver sat us all down and said a bunch of things in Japanese to us (all I got out of it was "over da line" and "wakadanai--I think that's how you spell 'I don't understand'). Once he took the first two people out to get in the car, we looked at eachother and started talking--this stressful experience had bonded us together! Several of the people were there for the 4th time to take this test--that was not so encouraging! One girl had a page of notes from driving school and she had some new things to watch out for--how to hold your hands on the steering wheel a different way--oh great! It was neat to see how the girl from Peru could speak Spanish to the Mexican lady who was married to the Japanese foreign diplomat! There was also another American, an African American, and a Chinese guy there. 3 out of the 9 of us passed! I need the help of one of the girls to interpret for me to tell me I passed! I watched the girl in front of me and knew she failed because she went over the stop line, but was encouraged that I thought I could do the course! I was feeling pretty good and pulled to a stop at the end of the test. I got out of the car (making the required 2 safety checks first) and went around to get my result from the instructor. "Carrie-san, San-ban..........................." I couldn't understand what he was saying! I couldn't think of anything that I did wrong! I thought he was explaining why I failed and so my emotions went down, down, down! Then I asked the American girl who knew pretty good Japanese to interpret for me. She said I didn't look right again before I turned, but then she said something else to the instructor and turned to me and said I passed! I jumped up and down and clapped my hands--nearly kissed the instructor! He told me to be careful and go up to the third floor! What relief as I sprinted up the stairs to tell my honey!
Anyway, thanks again for your prayers! The tester was very nice and spoke very slowly for me and even tried to speak a little English , I had someone there to interpret my result, and most importantly, I passed and my honey doesn't have to take any more days off work to help me with this! Hallelujah! God is good!

January 25, 2007

Cold knees, hide and seek, etc.

Sorry about my generic titles! Nothing too earthshaking to report today, but since Akihiro is gone at a conference for the next three nights, I have some extra time, so perhaps will get too wordy in my blog! Anyway, a few observations from today...

On my way to the station today, there are tons of uniformed girls walking from the train station to a bus to go to a private girl's school. They all have nice wool coats, knee socks, and boat shoes, but their knees are bare--looks terribly cold! Today was about 2 degrees in the morning (Celsius, that is!). I was trying to figure out why the skirts are different lengths, but then I saw a girl on the train rolling her waist band up! The male students usually go to a different school. The funny thing about them is they have these dressy uniforms, but then they wear their pants so they look like they are going to fall off--just like U.S. teenagers!

I spent the day with my friend today and enjoyed playing hide-and-go seek with the 2 youngest children. I'm thankful I figured out something I can do with them that doesn't require much communication! The three year old gets pretty frustrated with my pat answer of "Sumimasen, wakarimasen" (I don't understand!)

Did you know we have a 100 yen menu instead of a dollar menu at McDonaldo's?

January 27, 2007

A Grocery Store Hunt, etc.

My adventure for the day was to find corn syrup at the grocery store. Sounds easy, right?! NOT! First I checked my internet translator for how to say corn syrup--it says ko-nshiroppu. Ok, write that down. By the way, now that I have 10 pounds of American sugar sealed away in my zip lock bags (bless Tom and Dale for carrying that heavy suitcase from Mom!) I thought I would brave making carmels--thus the need for ko-nshiroppu. Kinda late for Christmas, but the carmels that Tom and Dale brought were such a hit, I thought I'd try to make some! Before when I used Japanese sugar, any recipe with a lot of sugar just didn't turn out right--I guess Japanese sugar is more moist, or something! I headed to the biggest grocery store in this area and began scanning the aisles for a bottle of thick clear yellow liquid with the Japanese characters RVbv. I tapped all the bottles of what I thought is oil--corn, safflower, vegetable--but it is too thin. Then near the sweetener I spy a small bottle of thick clear stuff--hmm! Doesn't say RVbv, but it does say Vbv, but oh no, I think that thing before it means coffee. Well, back down the aisles I go--nothing promising. I guess I had better be brave and ask a store clerk--speak Japanese--yikes! With my written out letters, I spy a clerk who looks like she might be nice and patient with a dumb foreigner near the clear substance. "Sumimasen," (Excuse me,), I say. Then I fumble through saying ko-nshiroppu and is this it? Do you have it? She indicated for me to wait there and ran off. Hmm, I tapped all the oil bottles again--its gotta be here somewhere! She comes running back (the Japanese are very eager to help the customer as they show by racing to help you!). I trying to understand her--I think she is saying that they don't have it, but then I am definitely sure they don't when she lifts her arms up and crosses them. "Arigato gozimas!" I say, thanking her, and bowing slightly in response to her bow. Well, I guess no carmels for today! I'll have to pick the brains of some American cooks tomorrow at church! Seems like I remember one American who came here thought she had oil to fry pancakes and she had corn syrup! Hmmm, wonder where she shopped!

Have had several small earthquakes lately--seems funny to be sitting at the kitchen table and realize that the whole house is shaking! It lasts only a few seconds, but it takes my heart a while to get back to pounding normally after that! Nothing moved around in my shelves, but I'm glad Akihiro suggested that I put double stick stuff on my plate holder!

Enjoyed an outing with the Klaus family to Costco last evening! Costco is like a Sam's club and it has English labels and many American products--don't remember seeing any corn syrup, though! It was fun to see their four carts loaded down with groceries, etc. for their family of 10! It must be like what my neices and nephews do at Aldi's!

January 28, 2007

Trusting God

Not too much new here, so I will just give you some of my recent musings--that age-old challenge of trusting God! One would think that after God has been so faithful in so many things, that one would not hesitate to give Him complete control over every aspect of life! (Why do I think I have control over it anyway?!) But--I guess this human flesh brings with it the need to re-learn these basic truths--and trust!

So, what is all this philosophical talk about?! I hesitate to be so transparent, but maybe someone else can benefit from these musings. I remember hesitating years ago to tell God that I wold go anywhere, do anything He wanted me to, trust Him in whatever. He provided me with grace to give up my own will and has led me in a path of great blessings. But now that He has brought me here to Japan, do I still have that willing attitude? With my hubby gone for a few days, I found myself scared to say, "All-powerful God, I trust. I lay no hold on my husband, my life, my circumstances. Do whatever Thou seest best." Again, I must learn to trust Him...to again remember that "no good thing will he withold from them that walk uprightly."

Have a blessed day!

January 30, 2007

Going to Language School

My language school

The Isawaonsen station

What is becoming an ordinary experience for me may be somewhat interesting to some of you. Every week I go to Japanese lessons in Kofu, the largest city in this area. The cheapskate in me has figured out how to get there the cheapest way! I drive the itty bitty car which, by the way, I love (I feel one with my car, for those of you who are familiar with my driving preferences!) to the Isawaonsen station which is pictured here. I park in Akihiro's parking space that he rents there and take the train about 7 minutes to Kofu Station. When I go on Tuesdays I always sit by this cute little elderly lady on the train and try to speak a little Japanese to her! Our schedules must be the same and we always ride in the same train car. She gave me what I thought was some candy the last time, but, yuck, I think it was a cough drop. Once I get to Kofu, I frequent a French bakery where I can choose my own meal for lunch--just grab a tray and pick up what you want--sounds easy enough, huh! Well, not entirely. Some of these little baked goods look delicious on the outside, but inside they have seaweed or fish or funny tasting things! Well, I am learning, though--their cream cheese apple rolls are delicious! Another learning experience was getting in the right line to pay--I had no clue I was getting in the "take out" line. I was trying to tell them that I didn't need everything all wrapped up! Finally the other day we got it figured out and I figured out that there was a different line for "dining in"! I like to sit at the window and watch the taxis outside the station. I haven't quite figured out their system yet, but it is fun to see about 20 taxis and their drivers hanging out waiting for a job. It is also entertaining to see the crazy fashions walking by on the streets! Somehow Japanese women think that it is fashionable to wear a long baggy sweater, jean shorts, leggings, and funky high heeled shoes! Then I walk about 15 minutes to my language school--also pictured. The traffic lights have this funny little Japanese tune that changes with the signals--"walk" and "don't walk"! I am taping some things for my class, so I decided to tape these songs too! Maybe I will have a recording soon of Japanese sounds! Anyway, the whole trip costs me only 100 yen, instead of 900 yen if I pay to park at Kofu station!

About January 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Welcome to ITO NEWS in January 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2006 is the previous archive.

February 2007 is the next archive.

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