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August 2007 Archives

August 2, 2007

"Would you like raw egg with that order?", etc.

Well, things have been busy around here lately, but also extremely blessed. We were blessed to have Frank and Kathy Sauder here for a week. They stayed with us a few nights and we accompanied them to Yamanashi for a few days. We enjoyed touring a small village of thatched roof houses that have been rebuilt as a sort of museum (see photo below of them drying washi paper in big strainers--for my neices and nephews, this is the paper I gave you!). We also enjoyed going to a lily park where they have planted tons of lilies on a ski slope (also see pic below). All of the Japanese believers and friends (who could come) gathered together at the base of Mt. Fuji at a hotel/conference center for our summer shuyokai or fellowship meeting. We have this meeting twice a year and in the summer we stay overnight. The Holy Spirit truly was with us as we learned about God's silence through Bro. Frank. We learned that even if it seems God is silent, He has a plan for our lives and our circumstances that is bigger than we can imagine or understand. How thankful we can be to have such a powerful, yet loving God to orchestrate our lives.

Speaking of God orchestrating lives, thanks to many of you who have prayed for us in regards to Akihiro's job situation. For now he is doing a sort of trial run at a few things. He is working for his parent's company to see how that works, yet is looking for a once a week job as a home doctor--either in Yamanashi or Tokyo area. He will continue his work 2 times a month at a hospital teaching residents. We feel at peace that God is directing us in this way at least for the short term and will continue to pray for God to lead us in the long-term.

Now, for an explanation of my title.... On Monday Akihiro took me to a Japanese fast food type restaurant. Sorry, I can't remember the name of the chain. It was an interesting experience as I could see the fast food concept applied to Japanese food! Before you even enter the place, there is a big menu and a vending machine-like thing that has lots of buttons showing the menu items. So, we chose our lunch--ginger pork "value set" for me and gyudon curry for Akihiro. We put our money in the machine and it spit out a little ticket. We entered the restaurant and handed the ticket to the lady at the counter and sat down. Soon our food came--it was delicious. The "value set" means you get miso soup, a salad, and rice with your meal--not a drink and fries! The miso soup is made quickly by putting some seaweed in a small bowel and dumping miso broth and tofu over the top of it. So we start eating and I was inspecting the little paper in front of me. Ah, you can get a side order with your meal. No, it isn't an apple pie or a milk shake! How about a raw egg, pickled vegetables, spicy kimchi, tofu, fermented soy beans, or sticky yam, etc with your meal!? It was also interesting to see the men come in and woof down their food in 1/3 of the time it took me to eat my meal! Ah yes, just another Japanese experience!

Next week we will be going to Hokkaido, the north island for an Ito Family vacation. Akihiro's brother and his wife are home for a few weeks, so it will be good to be together!

Last, but not least...a few pics of our recent adventures!



August 10, 2007

Japanese Festival, Squid Spaghetti

Last Saturday Li-san joined us and we went to the Hachioji matsuri (festival). It was interesting to compare it to the Tremont Turkey Festival back home! Basically there was a parade, lots of booths selling interesting food and toys, and lots of people--many women and children in brightly colored summer kimonos. The parade consisted mostly of ornate wooden carts pulled by long ropes. Each neighborhood has it's own cart. There are drums and flutes played on each cart and there is a man in a strange costume--somewhat like a wizard. It was kinda creepy for me to see. Also they played the town song and many different neighborhoods all wore different kimonos and together walked/danced down the street. It was cute to see the little children walking along trying to do the hand motions too. Later on we saw some idol boxes being carried down the street by groups of people. They carried them on their shoulders--similar to what we read about in the Bible and the Ark of the Covenant. It is interesting to see how even though religions are very different, there are some similarities. The food--interesting! No turkey sandwiches or drumsticks here, though I did see cotton candy! There were lots of booths selling okinomiyaki--a vegetable pancake with cabbage, and a variety of ingredients. Looked really yummy, but we got the cheapskate version at a grocery store stand, so it was not so delicious--oh well--we learned our lesson! There were also booths selling takoyaki--be careful! It looks like a delicious hush-puppy, but inside is a nice chewy morsel of octopus! Other popular food items included grilled squid, hot baked potatoes, hot dogs, yakitori--meat on sticks, chocolate covered bananas, snow cones, and crepes. It was an interesting experience, but I was glad to get out of the crowd and back to our quiet neighborhood! I took pictures with my cell phone, but they aren't the greatest! Sorry!


Our Ito Family Vacation started off with fishing in Akihiro's dad's bot. It was my first time to catch a squid! We caught around 30 of them! It was an interesting process, using about 6 lures at various depths and a lighted lure to entice the squid to bite the lures. Sometimes otosan (dad) would catch 4 at one time! To "cast" this contraption into the ocean, we used a seven-barrel pvc pipe contraption and a large weight. We were fishing 120 feet deep! The only way we could tell if we got a squid was if the line was heavier to lift! Thankfully, we could use electronic reels to pull up 120 feet of line! When we brought up the squid they would sometimes shoot out this black liquid (same principle as a skunk!). Thankfully I was able to stay out of the way of this black stuff, but otosan was not so fortunate--he got hit right in the face! But, he's a "die-hard" fisherman, so he kept right on fishing! As we kept catching them, ocasan (mom) was talking about how we would take them to a restaurant and have them make squid somen and squid tempura. Hmmm...sounds interesting! Well, somen is a thin Japanese noodle that is dipped in a soy sauce and ginger sauce and slurped up! So....squid somen is raw squid cut into this strips like noodles and eaten in the same fashion as somen. Actually it was very good! (Mom says she's been praying for me for the gift of tongue, meaning speaking, but it appears that my taste buds are being gifted for Japanese tastes instead of my langauge ability improving!) The squid tempura was also very good! Many times squid that is not fresh is very tough and cannot be bitten with your teeth, but this was able to be bitten and was a little sweet. Tempura means that food is deep fried in a light batter.

Otosan has been treating our stomachs too well this trip, but we are trying to exercise frequently! Yesterday we all went on a bike ride. Akihiro and I tried a bicycle built for 2! I was worried about it because of my lack of coordination, but actually, it was quite fun and I only ended up with one bruise from the pedal! We rode our bikes around a large lake. In the afternoon, Akihiro and I went with his parents for their first canoe trip! There was a canoe school that gave a two hour tour. It was interesting to see the Japanese approach to canoeing--quite structured as usual! After being outfitted in our rain gear (it has been raining off and on all week), we got a thorough lesson in canoeing. All four of us were in a large wooden canoe that had been handmade by the owner. It was a beautiful and lightweigt canoe. There were about 6 canoes and 4 guides. We rowed across the lake and there the guides made coffee on a portable burner. We had a little rest and then headed back across the lake in the pouring down rain. We stopped at a little island for another rest and pictures in the hammock there. We all really enjoyed the canoeing, despite the inclement weather. We headed back to our resort to take an onsen. The hotel has an outdoor onsen that looks out onto a small lake. It was very nice to be clean and warm!


A few other food notes... One day it was teppan yaki--fish, crab, oysters, steak, veggies, and fried rice is prepared on grill in front of us. The second day we had what the Japanese call kaiseki ryori. This style means that we are served special dishes artfully presented one at a time. It is quite an experience! The main dish was a huge crab leg with a light curry sauce. It (and everything) was delicious!

It's very hot and humid back in Tokyo (highs of 98 degrees F)! I didn't appreciate the cool weather in Hokkaido near enough! So thankful for air conditioning!

August 13, 2007

Getting older, sometimes acting younger (way too much younger!)

Well, I had a birthday today, but I told Akihiro that I am thankful for 31 very blessed years and wouldn't really want to go back. By God's grace I'm one year closer to heaven! For my first birthday in Japan, those who stayed for supper after church suprised me with a yummy carrot cake birthday cake with cream cheese frosting. Just for your information, they sing Happy Birthday in English in Japan, which is interesting, because "Happy Birthday" is "Tanjobi omedatogozimas". Oh well! I'm not going to complain about any English they use here! There are many times that I feel completely out of the loop because I can't understand what is going on. I guess it keeps me from saying too much! God knows what I need. Sometimes I think I am doing much better in my language skills and then there are times like the other day when I was taking a quiz at the end of my first Japanese book and I missed almost all of the questions on participles. I am ashamed to say it, but I threw my book down on the floor and nearly screamed, "This is stupid! I can't get this!" Ah, almost 31 years old and still throwing a temper tantrum. My, my. My wise husband listened to my moaning and complaining (and crying, of course) and advised me to forget about participles--"Most people can assume what you are saying, even if you mess up the participles!" he says. Just what the perfectionist in me needs to hear! Anyway, I decided that I need to learn the Fruit of the Spirit, temperance! I must stop studying when I get near that boiling point! Also, I need to count my blessings--which are abundant--and not complain about this little difficulty.

For my birthday, Mom and Dad and some of the Fritz family sang Happy Birthday via Skype web cam! That was really nice--also with Akihiro joining in on our end! I fixed an easy breakfast--normal for me, but I realized it was not-so-normal when I was describing it to my family! To make ochazuke, you put hot rice in a bowl, put a packet of seasonings--fish boullion, freeze-dried tofu, and seaweed--on top of the rice and pour hot green tea over it all. It's good to eat it with pickled plums or pickled veggies! For supper, Akihiro got his Iron Chef Aki hat and apron on and fixed some delicious Japanese food--chicken, onions, and runny eggs in a good sauce. We had fresh peaches and cheese cakes for dessert! I forget if I have said it, but Japanese peaches, well, there just aren't words to describe their taste! The cheese cakes from Hokkaido were also indescribably good--happy cows up there! I told Akihiro he looks handsome in his hat--maybe he will wear it more often! The flowers are from one of our church sisters--aren't they pretty!? On the fridge you can see the chart I made for mysel for studying various aspects of Japanese--I decided that if I'm having temper tantrums, perhaps I need a star chart, like a child, to make sure I do my studies!

August 16, 2007

Obon--A Japanese holiday

This week is obon--like "oh-bone!" I'm not really sure exactly what the cultural meaning of obon is yet, but what I have observed is a lot of people off work and a lot of traffic jams! We had a 30 km traffic jam coming home from church on Sunday evening and other places were worse--up to 64 km! Basically, for you Americans, it is like Caterpillar vacation, but for most everyone in the country! Many people get together with family--often going to the country to their hometown. Hachioji city center seemed pretty quiet when we went down there to buy some mountain climbing clothes! We have spent our week studying and doing odd jobs, but one day we took Akihiro's mom to the mountains about an hour and a half away from our home and went hiking. It was a little cooler in the mountains and it was nice to walk along a creek, see a waterfall, scare a big toad, wade in icy cool water, and see the interesting flower varieties. Also equally nice was to get clean in the onsen and eat a kakigori--which is like a snow cone. Akihiro's favorite kind is a green tea syrup with the shaved ice, a dolop of green tea ice cream, sweet red beans, and a few pieces of toasted mochi (compressed rice). I would have to agree--it is better than U.S. snow cones!


P.S. I got 3 hours worth of stars on my Japanese studying star chart today! (Whoohoo!) Amazing what a very small incentive makes!

August 25, 2007

Japanese letters, toys, and, of course...food!

Nothing too earth-shattering here, but a few things of interest perhaps....

1. Receiving a postcard that starts out "Dear Carrie," but the rest is in Japanese!
2. Going to look at the toys at a department store with Elizabeth and Charity Klaus and seeing toy kits to make your own sushi or takoyaki (octopus balls!)
3. Trying to figure out how to put three large storage boxes in a Japanese style cart, only to give up and try to carry them all three at a time! Soon a store clerk saw me and raced to my rescue--must have looked kinda dangerous! I was embarrassed!
4. Getting odd looks as I got in/drove Ehnle's van with its yellow and orange sticker marking it as an elderly driver!
5. Making octopus out of hot dogs for a luncheon with my friend from church and a bunch of kids.
6. Eating a gorgeous plate of sashimi (raw fish) at a restaurant on the last night that Akihiro's brother and sister were here in Japan.
7. Eating a bunch of kyoho grapes that are worth at least $9 and each grape is as big as a small plum and delicious!

Akihiro is gone at a workshop for the next few days, so I am trying to organize our closets! These aren't your ordinary closets! They are made for stacking futons (like sleeping bags) in them every morning, so they are very deep. Thus the shopping trip for storage boxes (also in part to birthday money from Akihiro's Dad!). We also got a bookshelf out of our storage unit (Akihiro's parents' old office stuff), thus driving the Ehnle's van!




About August 2007

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

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