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A visit to Nagano and other news

On last Monday and Tuesday we took Akihiro's grandma to visit her second home in the mountains of Nagano--a couple of hours away. She and her husband had built it themselves about 20 years ago and had lived there for about 2 years when he got gastric cancer. Since then the family has used it periodically--especially in the winter as it is very near to a ski place. Akihiro has many fond memories of the place. She had not seen it for a couple of years, so was very anxious to go. When I walked in, I wasn't terribly impressed by the overgrown yard and garden and the spiderweb ridden musty house, but by the end of the day with a sweeper bag probably filled with spiders, arms sore from scrubbing, and a tired hubby from weed-wacking the yard, the place actually looked very nice! Actually, as I write, this situation reminds me of how our spiritual life should be--not empty, but filled with the Holy Spirit. Just like oba-chan's house--when it wasn't used, it became tarnished and impure things (spiders!)entered. I guess it is a reminder to be filling our hearts and lives with the things of God!


Well, now that I am done with my sermonette, Grandma (oba-chan) worked right along with us, telling Akihiro which plants to avoid with his weed wacker, and trying to communicate with me as to what should be done with this or that. I was having a hard time understanding her and was getting depressed when Akihiro said that she is talking oba-chan talk! Oh dear! This means she adds a different ending to some verbs and some other different lingo. Uggh-this Japanese language! Anyway, Grandma found some delicious large green leaves which she called mitsuba and boiled them and put a little soy sauce on them and we sat down on the floor around a small table to try it. She just kept smelling them and smiling! It was very good, but the best thing about our little vegan meal, was the sweet corn! The farmer next door had given us some of his sweet corn. I've never tasted such sweet sweet corn. We didn't put butter or salt on it--it didn't need anything! I think I ate almost 3 ears! We also checked out the cheese and ice cream shop just down the road--also very delicious! The cows here in the country must be very happy and produce such good milk! It was a quiet day--I don't think hardly any cars passed by our little place. I could see why Grandma loved it so much!

We stayed overnight at a hotel because Grandma wasn't sure about the futon condition at the place (OK, by the way) and enjoyed their onsen and breakfast. Have I ever mentioned that I am hooked on dried sweetened seaweed papers that you carefully pick up with your chopsticks and dip in soy sauce and then grab a bite of rice in between this little wrapper? It is like a ready-made rice ball! It took me a while to master the chopstick technique, but I do pretty well now! Having the house pretty well cleaned up, Akihiro and I headed to the nearby ski place where we took a lift up to do some hiking. It was my first hiking in Japan and it was very nice. We missed the peak azalea time, but could see where there would have been fields of orange azaleas blooming in the mountain meadows. We got some good views and called Akihiro's mom from the top. She reported that Akihiro had already been to this mountaintop before--in a carrier on his mom's back! Here we are with our goofy hats we borrowed from Grandma's house!



We went to the grocery store to pick up some of the seasonal veggies that Grandma likes and I was so overjoyed to find a big pack of rhubarb! I can't find it in Tokyo! Most Japanese don't know what it is!


We also enjoyed slurping some soba noodles for lunch. It seems kinda funny to make a meal out of noodles dipped in a soy sauce dip, but it is actually a very common and delicious lunch in Japan. Here they had 3 different kinds!

Other news from the Itos....
Akihiro passed his boat test!
By God's grace I gave a talk on hospice to the ladies meeting at Tokyo church.
We have had Bro. Justin Wiegand (Gridley) at our house for a few nights. He is here for 6 weeks or so to learn about Japanese culture with the possibility of coming to Japan as a missionary in the future. I know he would appreciate your prayers!
Today I went to my friend's house and she taught me how to make gyoza, a Chinese dumpling. I am hoping that someday I can make gyoza with some neices and nephews of mine on a Japan visit (hint, hint!)


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