Japanese culture Archives

September 20, 2006

Japanese toilet seats

First of all, I apologize for any of you opposed to elimination details! Personally, as a nurse by trade, I think these toilet seats are hilarious! There are many options. Your toilet seat can sense when you sit down so it can prepare to... heat your fanny, wash your fanny, dry your fanny, and pull any stinky smells away from your fanny! Somewhat unnerving is the option of a sensor that automatically raises and lowers the lid!
Just a side note: The buttons on this machine are not ones with which to experiment unless you are prepared!

September 21, 2006

Thursday's update and--yet another toilet function!

I have been busy cleaning! They have spiders here in Japan too--unfortunately! Overall, though, it is pretty clean! I look forward to putting flower pots on the balcony and adding any "green" I can to the place!

We plan to sleep at our place tonight for the first time! You can see a picture of the front of our place here! We got some futons from Akihiro's mom that will work until we get our mattress moved tomorrow.

I did my first "solo" train trip today! Actually it wasn't very solo as Akihiro made sure I got on the right train and one of the ladies from the church made sure I was headed in the right direction after the lady's Bible study at the church. ( I had never taken this route before!) I was very grateful for each guiding hand and feel more comfortable to do it entirely on my own next time--but at least I sat by myself on the train for a while!

Speaking of the Bible Study...There were ten of us ladies that met at the church--they meet every month. Many of those who came--6 or 7 I think--weren't Christians, but are either interested in learning about Christianity and the Bible or they are interested in learning English. They were very kind and some could speak English fairly well. They were very interested in finding out how I met Akihiro. When I got done explaining our faith-based marriage, one of the ladies said, "God is a good match-maker!" I would agree! The experience really helped to remind me of the missionary opportunity that we have here in Japan.

Today we bought a rice cooker, stove, and a kitchen table. It is interesting to see the different appliances they have here--lots of choices in rice cookers and hot water heaters for tea or noodles, but hardly any stand mixmasters or food processors. Everything is small! We are so looking forward to getting settled into our home!

On our way out of the driving school, I used the toilet and discovered yet another function! This toilet had a button that would make a flushing sound. I guess there are some shy bladders or--well, use your imagination!

Sorry I haven't been able to reply to many of your encouraging emails! Once we get settled, I will perhaps be able to do better! Thank you, just the same!

October 1, 2006

You mean we don't wear any clothes?!!

Before you think that I have really become indecent, let me explain about the Japanese onsen (hot bath)!

Last night after church (while we were waiting for the traditional Sunday evening Tokyo traffic jams to clear) we went with Matt and Dawn Brake (a young couple visiting Shioda from Sardis, Ohio) to the hot spring. Dawn and I bravely left our men and headed into the lady's bath. Hesitantly, you lock your clothes--yes, all of your clothes--in the locker, desperately hoping that the locker will open when you are done bathing and so you can retrieve your clothes! Nest we had to find the spot to scrub! We sat on small little stools and had a basin, shower, soap, and a towel. It somewhat resembles a Japanese P.E. shower room! Once you are thoroughly clean, you can join other bathers in their birthday suits to soak in various temperatures of pools. There is a sauna, a Turkish bath, and a hot bath open to the outside.

You can take a small handtowel with you--but it doesn't seem big enough for we private Americans! After a nice soak, though, we relaxed and were less self conscious! We had a nice talk and didn't get too many looks from the other Japanese women and children who were bathing. I was glad for Dawn's adventurous spirit so that I could experience this "very Japanese" experience.

December 5, 2006

Flat Stanley visits the Onsen

I know I already wrote a blog on the onsen, but since I have Flat Stanley with me to truly experience Japan, I thought he should go to the onsen (Sorry, Logan, he got a little wet!). Any of you who missed out on the details can refer to October 2nd blog "You mean we don't wear any clothes?!" Since he's a boy, I had to smuggle him into the lady's onsen! Thankfully, though, there wasn't anyone there, so I pulled him out and started clicking away with my camera. First he's sitting here in the room where you can store your clothes, dry your hair, or just relax! Next he is washing prior to taking his bath--he must be kinda shy because I couldn't get him to take his clothes off! He enjoyed the beautiful glass picture while he soaked away, but he also wanted to take a look at the outdoor onsen. After the bath he went out and decided to join Akihiro for a massage. He smiled the whole time! He really looked happy when I insisted that he get into a yukata and relax after his hot bath. I thought he looked so handsome in his yukata!






December 18, 2006

Forget about the year" party, etc.

"Last week we went to the bonenkai party (I am told it means "forget about the year") for Akihiro's nursing home. All of the employees were invited, but yet I was the only spouse invited--I guess Akihiro pulled some strings for me! Most companies in Japan have these gatherings--perhaps instead of a Christmas party. (Christmas, by the way, seems to be an excuse to have sales and decorations, but no mention or celebration of the real meaning of Christmas--quite sad!) It was held at a nice restaurant and started with several speeches (most Japanese gatherings have lots of speeches--at least as far as I have experienced so far!). Akihiro had been warned about the custom of the employees showing honor to the boss or higher level positions (including the nursing home doc of course!) by pouring a drink for them! We were prepared to refused alcohol, but I was not prepared for the magnitude of this custom--I think I was poured oolong tea, water, or orange juice at least 40 times! It was interesting to see the people's reaction as they came prepared to pour some wine or beer for us and we handed them the Evian water bottle! As we watched the nursing home president handle his "honor", we learned that it is wise to keep your glass fairly full, so they can only pour a few milliliters in your glass! During the meal, they played bingo--guess which prize was chosen first?! A large bag of rice, of course--even over the bicycle! These people are crazy about rice! I was grateful that I didn't win! If two people got bingo at the same time, they did a funny jousting-like (no swords!) behavior that reminded me of "rock, paper scissors" except with numbers--interesting! At the end of the meal, a man stood up and said something which caused everyone to stand up. "What's going on?" I asked Akihiro. "Just watch and see--you'll get it," he said with a smirk. Soon everyone started clapping--about 6 claps and then they said a deep "yo!" and repeated this 3 or 4 times and sat down. "What was that?!" I whispered to Akihiro. "That's how they 'finish up'!" he replied. I think we will stick with our silent prayer as a way to 'finish up'! Anyway, when the president asked me how I liked the bonenkai, I could honestly tell him, "I have a lot to write about on my blog!"

We enjoyed having Vicki Ramseyer and Eiko (a Japanese sister) at our home overnight on Saturday. We tried a new dish--a big hot pot on a burner in the middle of the table with some miso-based soup. We added shrimp, salmon, white fish, mushrooms, noodles, tofu, and many veggies. It was quite yummy if I do say so myself! Sunday after church we went to the local hospital/nursing home to Christmas carol for the patients there. We took along a electronic keyboard, so I played and Akihiro directed (his directing was quite professional despite the unprofessional group we had!). We all enjoyed singing and the patients seemed to listen closely and appreciate the small gifts we had wrapped for them--soap, Kleenx, and wet wipes. Seems funny to hear the familiar carols in Japanese--I have to really pay attention--nothing like the 7 carolings I sometimes grumbled about attending in Young Group days! We were especially encouraged because a Chinese man and Japanese woman came to our church on Sunday and even joined us for the caroling! The woman had been in Willis' junior high class, so when her friend mentioned that he wanted to find a church, she remembered Willis and our church! They seemed to enjoy themselves. I was so excited, but Akihiro said not to get too excited--many people only come one time or a few times. Anyway, it is encouraging to see some possible "fruit" from Willis' efforts as a teacher in Yamanashi! We hope and pray they will continue to attend with us! We look forward to a special service next Sunday for Christmas--we have a potluck Christmas dinner. December 25th is not a recognized holiday in Japan and most people have to work, so we won't be having a service, but Akihiro and I are really looking forward to having Skype (web camera) Christmas with our family on Christmas morning and going out to eat with some of the believers on Christmas evening!

Last Thursday, Akihiro and I attended the lady's meeting at Tokyo. The theme of our discussion was about salvation being the reason that Christians celebrate Christmas. The ladies listened very intently and asked some very good questions. One very sweet lady mentioned to me that she is so refreshed when she comes to church (she only comes to our ladies meetings one time a month), but then when she goes home, she goes back to her ordinary life--it is hard for her to fully embrace Christianity. Please pray for these ladies! Jana said that many of them have been coming for years and years. I am reminded over and over how blessed I am to have been raised in a somewhat "Christian" nation in a Christian family!

Tonight I am on the train on the way to home from Isawa--I plan to spend the day with one of the friends from the Tokyo church--helping her pack to move. Thankfully, though, she and her family will be able to continue to attend Tokyo church! I am fairly certain that I am on the right train--I am assuming the announcement said something about it being late--it didn't leave on time--very rare for Japanese trains to be a minute off schedule! I wish I could understand everything they say over the loud speakers!!!!!!!!!! While on the topic of Japanese language--last week my Japanese class went much better--thanks for your prayers! I am realizing that I need to spend a lot of time to study--every day! Not only do I have to learn the words, I have to learn how to say them--they don't really have accent marks here, but changes in intonation can make a difference in the meaning of a word--for example hashi is both chopstick and bridge! Also--they don't put spaces between words! Last week I made a senence that was supposed to mean that one of my nephews was 11 years old (I need to double check their ages!). Instead, my sentence meant that he was stinky! Oh, dear! This week my word of the week is "muzukashi"--DIFFICULT! My teacher kept saying it when I would ask her "why do you do it that way?" I don't think I would like to answer the same questions regarding English either, though!

Sorry for the long blog--it's been a while since I wrote!!!

December 26, 2006

Christmas in Japan

As I wrote in the previous blog, there is much commercialization about Christmas here in Japan, so it seemed very odd that when the day actually came, it seemed like just another day! People went to work, children went to school--business as usual! As I write this, I thought of the day when Jesus was born--I am assuming it was "business as usual" that day too! On earth, only the shepherds, wise men, and Mary and Joseph knew of this wondrous event! I am so thankful that though Christmas is a special day to celebrate the birth, every day we can and should remember our Savior!

Our Christmas though, was very special! For us, it started on Sunday with a special Christmas service and dinner! I enjoyed all the special food, except the funny seaweed rice balls--this seaweed looked like cobwebs! The two Sunday school children sang some songs and read a few lines about the Christmas story. Three-year old Koshin read much better than I can! They were so cute! On Christmas morning, we spent 3 hours on the web camera at the Ehnle's home watching the Sauder family eat homemade pizza and open their presents. It was very special to sing Silent Night with them in both Japanese and English--only a split second time delay! Also, Bro. Willis had the prayer after their meal! How wonderful to be connected with our family through this technology! They all enjoyed opening their snacks I had purchased for them from the 100 Yen Store. Not too sure about the dried squid, though! It was interesting to realize how different American toys are than Japanese--Lois said she didn't think you could buy any farm implement toys here in Japan! Interesting how the culture affects so many different things--I am always learning! After a light lunch, I went to Japanese class. No holiday from that! So frustrating to find that numbers change depending on what they are referring to! When I returned to the Ehnle's, Vicki Ramseyer told me that the way to get through Japanese lessons is, "pray, cry, and listen!" Sounds about right! I don't know which is worse--I either feel like crying or get angry at this language thing! Anyway, I helped Lois prepare a festive dinner for 8 of us from the Shioda area. It was very yummy! I missed my family gatherings, Tremont church service, Christmas caroling, American feasts with homemade Christmas cookies and candy, and just the whole Christmas atmosphere that happens when a whole society celebrates a holiday, but I felt very thankful to have a blessed Christmas--different than "home," yes, but a blessing just the same!

I may be kinda quiet on the blog for the next week! There are lots of activities here for the New Year's holiday and we are looking forward to a visit from Tom and Dale! Everyone have a blessed New Year!

February 13, 2007

Another Japanese Holiday--National Foundation Day

According to old records, the nation of Japan began on February 11, 660 B.C., when the first emperor, Emperor Jimmu, acceeded to the throne. Japanese celebrate this day as the birth of their country. It was a gorgeous day for a holiday and I enjoyed it very much. Akihiro decided to work and take another day off to go to his parent's company--he's now a board member there and gives medical advice to the employees there. He's getting very interested in their business of real estate--actually it seems there isn't really too much he isn't interested in! Anyway, after some Japanese study and web site update, I went to meet Eiko, a sister from our church. We went to a garden shop and enjoyed the beautiful plants and then went shopping. Here in Japan they have a great selection of knee socks! I guess it is because of those uniformed girls who need to keep their legs warm! Then we went to the Skylark restaurant. It is a family restaurant chain and has cheap, but good food. I saw these little "to go" scooters--a frequent site in Japan and thought they were cute!


After that, we went to a park to eat our dessert and take a walk. Eiko had brought a sweetie and some cookies. Now, before you think that Eiko has a boyfriend, I must tell you that a sweetie is a green fruit that looks like a grapefruit--you'll see one in the picture below! They are quite juicy and sweet--duh, thus the name! They are grown in Israel. We wondered if Jesus had eaten them! The park we visited had many fruit trees and will be beautiful in the months to come as they flower. Since we are in a higher elevation than at home in Takao, none had started blooming, but at home on our bike/walking path by the river, the ume--wild plum--trees have started showing off their white blooms--very pretty!


After a nice hike, we headed back and she gave me a tour of her office where she works in a tiny laboratory testing tiny little fish--about the size of an thick straight pin! These little fish end up in the supermarket to get sprinkled on salad, fermented soybeans, rice (of course, that "white monster" as my aunt Mary put it!), etc.!

May 22, 2007

Funerals in Japan

Seems like I should be able to come up with a catchy title, but I guess it doesn't really fit. Our church sister Utsuki-san--over 100 years old--passed away last week and we attended the funeral. This was my first experience for a complete funeral, and what an experience it was. I learned a lot and pray I can relate the details in a respectful way.

The first issue was clothing. Japanese wear a black dress with black hose and black tights to a funeral. Traditionally they wear this same outfit to weddings, so there are whole sections of department stores devoted to outfitting ladies in the proper way. The men wear a black suit with a black tie. Well, Akihiro thought I needed something better than the outfit I threw together--a black shirt, skirt, and jacket (and he's probably right--he usually is!), so we headed to the local department store. It is better to be prepared, because often a funeral will be within 2-3 days of the death. The gracious lady at the department store looked at my tall body and cocked her head--hmm. Then she pulled out the longest dress she could find and I tried it on. Well, it was the shortest dress I have ever worn, but it did look like it could be lengthened some. Could they do that for me? She went to check, explaining that they usually always have to shorten the length and the sleeves. Well, they could give me 1.5 cm in the dress and 3 cm in the jacket (it is all-season). So after a few trials, I found one suitable. Then Akihiro looked at my big black bag (not very sophisticated) and asked the lady about any manners I need to know about a purse. She explained how for a family member's funeral (if you are going to be official about it), you should have a black silk purse. So, we picked out the least expensive one. She also told me how to hold it--not on my shoulder--and put through my arm in just a certain way. Oh dear! I hoped I could manage all of this! So, we left with the stuff--will be back to lengthen everything next week.

So, Monday evening was the "visitation." I forget what they call it. Anyway, I (purse on my arm) cautiously approached the memorial hall where about 6 visitations were going on. We met the family--two of which are sisters in Tokyo church--Hiroko and Yoshiko. Then we entered the small room to view their mother's body. Almost the entire front of the room was a huge flower arrangement and the casket was almost buried in the beautiful flowers. There was a spot to go around the flowers and view her face which was the only thing of her that was showing. The rest was covered with white cloth. Then the service began. Andrew and Akito read scripture and prayed and we sang a few hymns. Willis finished with a moving prayer (or so I was told--can't understand much of it). Throughout the service, though, we could hear the chanting of the Buddhist priest and the ringing of bells and knocking of wooden sticks. The smell of incense made my nose tingle. I liked it when we would sing, because it would drown it out. Apparently, nobody except the priest can understand what he is saying. It seems unfortunate when we could experience and understand such a meaningful and comforting service--Christian style. After the service, the family and then the others went up to the front of the room where we were each given a pink carnation to place on a tray, said a short prayer, bowed to the family, and returned to our seat. Akihiro told me that this is instead of the Buddhist custom where they take incense up to the front. We sang while this process occurred. It was a very nice service.

Today, then, was the funeral. Again, black dress donned, we journeyed to the memorial home. As we walked to the room where our service was to be held, we walked by another service. The Buddhist priest wears a special robe with a pointy hat when he is doing the service--to tell you the truth, it seemed kinda scary. I was glad to go in to see our kind brothers and the flowers instead of an idol box. We sang and read the Bible and then we did the routine again with the carnations. Then they wheeled the casket out of the flowers and everyone could put lots of flowers inside the casket. A little great-grandaughter put a favorite CD and a letter inside. Then the men carried the casket to the vehicle--like a black station wagon--similar to the States. The Buddhist style funerals have a thing that looks like a temple on the back of a station wagon--it is something! Then this vehicle drives it a short ways to the crematorium part of the building. This is the part I had been warned about--and wisely so. There were many different groups there--more Buddhist priest chanting, etc. We sang a song and had a short prayer. There were several doors in the walls where the cremation was to take place. The uniformed men took off their hats and bowed to the casket and to the family and then opened the door and placed the casket inside, closed the door, and pushed a button to start it. We all stood very soberly watching. Then we went upstairs for some lunch. About an hour later, we returned to the crematorium and watched as the men removed the tray with only ashes and a few pieces of bones. Then we were all given long chopsticks and went in pairs to jointly pick up a piece of bone and put it in an urn. The men had saved out the largest pieces--the skull and jaw, and explained these parts to us, handling them with their bare hands! Then the urn was carefully wrapped and given to the family. We said goodbye to the family and headed home.

The whole thing was a very sobering event--to remember that our bodies return to ashes, but that if we are believers, our souls can live forever in heaven. Akihiro mentioned, too, that it is a blessing how we can openly demonstrate our faith--even alongside a different faith--and not be persecuted. I'm tired tonight, so maybe I will add more later--plus a few pictures.

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!

About Japanese culture

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Welcome to ITO NEWS in the Japanese culture category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Food is the previous category.

Life in Japan is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.34