Life in Japan Archives

September 20, 2006

A few random events

Things are getting busier for us as we prepare to move on Friday! I did some cleaning at our place today, after trying to find a mop, brush, bucket, etc. at the local grocery store on my own. Can you imagine trying to figure out what kind of soap to buy when you can't read the labels? Oh well, we can wash our hands with dish soap for a while!

Yesterday we went to the immigration office for a 3 hour stay to get my paperwork in order. Wow--I can identify with some of you with similar experiences!

We are shopping for many things--toilet seats (see blog), irons, stoves, a wardrobe (no closets long enough for my dresses!), rice cooker, kitchen table, etc. It takes a while because Akihiro gets the sales pitch from the energetic and friendly sales associate and then he explains it to me. By the way, the sales people here are "something"!

September 25, 2006

Our Address, Etc.!

We continue to be pretty busy as we settle here in Japan! We were thankful for a beautiful day to move on Friday and for the cheerful help we received from Kan and Miyagawa to move Kay Kellenberger's stuff (she lived in Japan for 2 years and just moved back to the U.S.) from the Tokyo church storage to our home. We are also so thankful for all the furniture, etc. that Kay had--it makes us miss her presence, though!

The moving truck was packed--so much that poor Kan, who got stuck riding in the back, had about a square foot of space to stand as we closed the door on him! He said it made him feel like he ws crossing the border illegally!

I am unpacking the last box today and we have made several trips to the stores to get other things! Our attic has been a wonderful blessing because our storage space is very limited in the main part!

Yesterday we had a beautiful day in Shioda for church. There were quite a few people there--15, I think! It took us about an hour to get there from our place--a beautiful drive through the mountains, but the ride home was a 3 hour traffic jam! We will have to make a schedule to avoid that!

Today we registered our address! Our address is the following:
Higashiasakawa 1057
K-2 Hausu 2F
Hachioji, Tokyo 193-0834

Akihiro goes to Kofu tonight for a meeting about his work. He will start work sometime in the first 2 weeks of October--not quite sure yet! He is busy preparing for his workshop on October 7th at the south island. Actually they hired me too! I will be acting as an English speaking patient and giving the medical students, residents, and doctors feedback as to their English medical interview skills. I did the same thing in May and really enjoyed it!

That's all for now!

October 6, 2006

Yet another adventure--Hover Craft! & other details..

Today we flew to Oita where we will be doing the workshop tomorrow. From the airport to the city, we took a hover craft! What an interesting feeling to be gliding over the land in a side-to-side fashion and then to transfer to the ocean! It puts new meaning on the term we used to use for some of the caregivers for our hospice patients! I will hopefully download some pictures once I get high speed access--coming on Monday! (Hallelujah--hopefully I can get a better connection for internet communicaton!)

After two weeks in our new place, it is finally presentable for guests. For the control freek in me, it feels wonderful to feel that things are manageable and I know where things are. I have been frequenting the 100 Yen shop (Japanese dollar shop) that is nearby and am having fun buying Japanese dishes to supplement the ones I got from Akihiro's grandma.

It has been raining, raining, raining! I guess there is a typhoon that we are feeling some effect from. We got soaked when we were walking today from the church (where we parked our car) to the station! I have never seen so many umbrellas in my life! It is also very amazing to see how they can hold the umbrella and ride the bike at the same time! They also can talk on the cell phone and ride at the same too! It sounds like too much for clutzy me, but maybe with time I can do it--I guess I used to eat my sandwich, write a sticky note, and talk on the phone--while driving around for work! Speaking of bicycles--we now have 2 bicycles--one for each of us. Akihiro really likes to ride the bike and now I understand why. Sometimes you can get there faster by bicycle than by car! The traffic can be awful!

I'm not really sure what the definition of "homesick" is, but I am starting to miss my family and friends. Everyone here is very supportive and kind, and I can't complain at all about anything, really (especially with web cam, internet, and phones!)--I guess this is just a normal part of the process. I remember my training from hospice--when you love people, sometimes it hurts when you can't be with them. I guess I am realizing how many people I loved back "home". I am also starting to feel a love for the people I have met here, too, though! Thankfully, I know that God is with me, I have a wonderful husband, and there are so many people praying for us! Deep down in my heart I am certain that I wouldn't trade my situation for anything, knowing that God's will is best and that we can trust Him for each step of the way!

Thanks again for all your prayers!

October 13, 2006

Earthquake, Witness Opportunity, Etc.

Just before we got out of bed this morning, I felt our bed swaying back and forth! At first--in my fuzzy morning state--I thought Akihiro was shaking the bed, but when I got my wits about me, I realized it was an earthquake! No damage, but it feels funny to hear the house creaking back and forth! I guess they have them here fairly frequently. I am glad I don't live on the 14th floor of an apartment building!

Wednesday we went to Isawa to meet with the owners of the nursing home where Akihiro will probably be working. They asked about how we met. Akihiro was glad to tell them how God brought us together and our faith-based marriage. They listened carefully and seemed interested. They also were very respectful when we asked them if we could pray before we ate. We are so thankful that we don't feel any persecution to share our faith with these people and that they are interested! We will know more details about the job in the next two weeks. It appears to be a great blessing, though.

I figured out that I Americans are 1 out of 3,000 people here in the Hachioji area (200 Americans in Hachioji). I am thankful, however, that I don't feel like people look at me as strange. A few children might look a second time, but most people I see in the shopping areas are very friendly.

October 17, 2006

Some guests!

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Our first houseguests were Matt and Dawn Brake from Sardis, Ohio. We learned from Matt (6'3" tall) that we had better warn any tall guests of our low doorways! It was fun to serve them a Japanese/American breakfast. (Japanese food is served in lots of little dishes!) Normally we don't have octopus for breakfast, but since they hadn't had any and they were leaving Japan that day, I thought we should let them taste this! They were good sports and tried it. (Personally I think it is tough, but you can see what you think when you visit us!) Remember--many of you Americans have been invited to come to Japan and be our guests too!

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Our next official guests were for supper--sukiyaki! Kan and Miyagawa came to receive our token of extreme gratitude for helping us move! We treated them to a little bit of Kobe beef! (Kobe beef is supposed to be the best beef--apparently the Japanese owners massage these cows! Akihiro has started mooing for a massage, too, after hearing that!) Anyway, it was delicious and we enjoyed their visit very much!

October 21, 2006

Trains, a new opportunity, cooking, and off to Hawaii!

On Thursday I did my first totally solo train trip to the lady's meeting at church. Thankfully, I found a English website to find the best train arrangement! We had a nice ladies meeting and I learned some new recipes.

After the meeting, I went up the street to meet Yoko Suzurikawa, a young mother of 3 children, who has been coming to our Tokyo church. She had asked if I could talk English with her. She knows quite a lot of English, but doesn't have the opportunity to speak it much. I enjoyed playing with her darling children and she taught me how to cook a delicious supper of fish, mixed autumn veggies, and the Japanese version of scrambled eggs! I learned a lot! We hope to talk every Saturday morning via web camera. It is a mutually beneficial arrangement! I hope and pray she does not get transferred to another area with her husband's job! I got somewhat flustered on the way home on the train and ended up taking the long way home--almost 25 minutes longer than the better route--so much for thinking I am a real pro at the trains!

Today we are on our way to Oahu. Akihiro will be taking his geriatric board examination on October 23rd and then we will have a day to explore. He has been very busy studying! We pray his efforts will be blessed with a passing score!

I have been experimenting with my Japanese cookbook and with some online recipes. I deveined shrimp for the first time in my life! We had tempura and it was quite tasty, if I do say so myself! I have also enjoyed cooking with the mushrooms and vegetables that are in season--burdock root, lotus root, taro, etc.

A beautiful day, God's guidance, and a flop!

Today we rode our bikes to the city office to pick up my Japanese ID card. (I'm an official resident now!) We could take the bike path by the river the whole way and enjoyed the sites--a group of elderly people playing croquet, some retired men with their cameras pointed on the river waiting for some rare bird, some school children with their matching hats skipping stones into the river, some happy ducks, and some colorful cosmos. I met Jana and her 4 youngest at the park that is about a 5 min. bike ride from our place and we had a picnic and the children enjoyed playing in the pond and in the river. They got admired by many of the people passing by in the park. People were so friendly--one man even invited me over to have some sweet beans and mochi at his picnic table. I hesitantly agreed. (Not sick yet!)

Akihiro keeps making this comment, and I have to agree with him--"It seems like God is guiding us each step of the way." Just a little example is his cell phone/PDA combination. He was frustrated to have to wait 2 weeks for it, but as it turns out, a much better deal came along during that time and saved us a lot of money! Many things seem to happen this way and we know that it is not just by chance. We know it is answered prayers and God's guidance.

On a perhaps more negative note, I had a flopped supper tonight. What I thought was chicken livers thawing in the fridge turned out to be gizzards! Oh well, let's try gizzards. Yuck! Even marinated for over a day, they were tough as an old shoe! (Not that I have tasted an old shoe before.) The so called "livers" had been given to us, so as the cheapskate I am, I thought we should use them. I'm interested to know how people eat them--I remember we gave them out with our Y. G. chickens we butchered! Oh well, my first flop in Japan!

October 29, 2006

Stopped by the Police!

Another interesting experience... Stopped by the police!!!
I was riding my bicycle home from the store with some curtain rods in my bicycle basket, trying hard not to sideswipe any pedestrians, when I saw some policemen standing on the corner. At first I thought they were just waving at me, but then I realized that they wanted me to stop. They were pointing to the bicycle registration sticker and asking me things in Japanese. We couldn't get very far because they knew about as much English as I knew Japanese--not much! I was just trying to call Akihiro on his cell phone for help when they motioned for me that it was ok to go on. I wasn't sure if they got it checked or decided it wasn't worth their bother and I probably hadn't stolen the bicycle! I did my best to avoid any more policemen for the rest of the way home!

November 2, 2006

A new duty for Akihiro, Carrie attends "school"

Akihiro's job continues to go well at the nursing home. Today he told me it was his day of the month to taste the food prior to the resident's lunch! I guess this is a common practice here--perhaps reminiscent of the old days when the servants tasted the food for the royalty. I asked him if he could make suggestions about the food--a little more soy sauce, a little more mirin, etc.--but it doesn't sound like he can use his "gift of tongue" in that manner!

Today we had a special ladies meeting at Tokyo church. Bro. Mark Bahr had a nice Bible Study and the ladies asked lots of good questions which resulted in a blessed conversation. After themeeting, I went to my church friends house for my cooking class and enjoyed it very much. First I learned about grocery shopping--how to get a discount if you bring your own plastic bags (great news for the cheapskate in me!)--helps if you can read the signs! Then 3 year-old Yukako helped us wash oysters and dip them in flour, egg, and bread crumbs to prepare them for frying later. They were good! (Actually I remember someone saying that anything prepared in this manner is good!) We also made an interesting side dish with beans, carrots, seaweed, and some sort of pressed fish patties. It was also quite good! Yukako also provided much entertainment for us. She indicated that she wanted me to play with her in her tatami room and pointed to sit down with her little brother. Then she passed out books to each of us and marched to the front of the room, bowed low, said "good morning" (in Japanese, of course) and started emphatically speaking about many things of which I had no idea. I assume she was imitating her kindergarten teacher and we were playing school! Speaking of kindergarten--I went with Yoko (my friend) to pick her up at the bus stop. She had fallen asleep and had to be carried home, but once home, she takes off her smart little uniform with its cute little beret hat, plaid skirt, and little white shirt and is ready to go! I'll have to take my camera sometime!

November 9, 2006

A trip to the grocery store, etc.

It's another beautiful sunny day here! It was requested that I get more pictures, so the other day I took my camera along to the grocery store. I got some funny looks when I took these pictures, but oh, well--I should get used to it living in a foreign country! (In case I forgot to say this before--you can click on the pictures and they will get larger.)


I am blessed to have several grocery stores nearby, but my favorite one is Ito Yokado--probably some distant Ito relative owns it! I ride my bike about 10 minutes uphill--thankful that it is that way instead of the other way around. I just speed down when my bike basket is full! It has 3 floors and sells clothes and household goods too.

The shopping carts are kinda cute--they are basically wire frames on wheels that hold a basket (the baskets are similar to those we would see in American grocery stores). One basket on top, one on bottom--if you need that much! Most people shop every day or every other day--now I see why! You have to haul it on your bicycle, store it in your small refrigerator, and fit it in your grocery cart! (By the way, even though the shopping carts are smaller, I still manage to run into people--"Sumimasen!" (excuse me!))

Japanese fruits and vegetables are excellent and you pay for that excellence--a large apple can be 150 yen which is about $1.40! There are uniformed workers bustling about calling "Welcome, Welcome" whenever they see a customer. The fish salesman is also proclaiming his bargains loudly. Some days there are sample stations with other callers. I try to figure out the sale items--usually there is a sign that looks different--I guess that is a sale!

Most of the grocery stores have a point card which works up to some money off eventually, but I will have to have Akihiro help with that one! I'm doing good to get the cashier paid! I think we both (the cashier and myself) hope that the other one doesn't say too much because we aren't sure we can understand eachother!

Once I've successfully purchased my goods, the next task is to bag it up--I've learned to use the tape provided to tape my bags closed. When you are gliding down the hill with a full bike basket of groceries, it is not good if your eggs start to slide out of the bag--especially if you try to maneuver around some pedestrians with one hand on the handles and one hand fumbling with the eggs! It has gotten some better since I got some bungee cord straps, but as you can see, my basket is pretty precarious! Today I will buy a rear basket for my bike--hopefully that will help too!

Also pictured is my balcony full of laundry. I do laundry almost every day when we are home. They have these neat hangers that you can clip lots of laundry on--also helps if it starts raining--just grab it and bring it inside! I'm glad for the sunny and dry days that are good for laundry!

December 3, 2006

Hiking Takao with Flat Stanley

This past Saturday was a beautiful day and probably the last Saturday to enjoy the fall colors, so we got on the train and paid 120 yen (a little over a dollar) for our tickets(psst--we smuggled Stanley! No ticket for him!) to ride to the next station--Takaosanguchi. Here we hiked about 2 hours to the top of Mt. Takao, enjoying the deep red maple trees and the good smell of nature in autumn. We could see Mt. Fuji, but a cloud covered the top (on the picture, snow-covered Mt. Fuji is right above Stanley's head). I was hoping to see some wild monkeys, but none appeared, so we paid a few yen to see some at a Monkey park. In the mountains Akihiro said they can come and grab your bag and run away--I guess they are a real pest! It was fun to see them! We had rice balls for lunch and mochi balls (compressed rice) toasted and dipped in sweet miso (fermented soybean paste). It sounds gross, but actually it was quite yummy!
On our return trip we got a good view of the Hachioji area (Hachioji is like a county and Takao is the town we live in). If you note the picture, you can see the row of yellow ginko trees along Route 20 that is very near our house and the bridge spanning the river behind our house. Our house is above the bridge and to the left of the ginko trees.
That night we went to visit Akihiro's grandfather's sake bar in Kawasaki--about 1.5 hours by train. He is 80 years old, but manages fairly well! He enjoyed filling us up with cooked eal, clams, tuna sashimi, shrimp, tempura, and all kinds of good food! The place may close soon, so we were glad we went! Akihiro's grandma and his cousin met us there too.

December 5, 2006

First English Class

Monday I had my first Japanese class. My heart sank when the first thing that my teacher said was, "I'm sorry, I don't know English very well." I will meet her at the language school in Kofu--about 20 minutes from our hotel in Isawa--every Monday for one and a half hour. She seems very nice, but it is difficult sometimes to understand eachother. We'll have to see how it goes! My brain was very tired by the end of the lesson and I felt very overwhelmed! (What were those people at the tower of Babel thinking anyway!) I have to remember that one Malaysian lady at church didn't have the luxury of a formal lesson, but just learned from TV, magazines, and a dictionary! I should appreciate my lessons! I am excited to learn, but am terribly impatient with myself and find it quite humbling to feel so inept at something. I guess God knows that my too-often-proud heart needs some humbling! Bro. Willis is always saying that Japan is a great leveler! Afterward I found myself somewhat arguing with Akihiro over the Japanese alphabet. It went something like this: Carrie: Why do "shi" and "tsu" have to look so much alike? That is so dumb! I'd like to call the prime minister and give him a piece of my mind! I've been told three different ways to tell them apart and I still struggle! Akihiro: Now honey, think about English. Is it so bad that the lowercase L and the uppercase I are the same? What is the difference? You just learn it and apply it to the context. Relax, take your time--you'll get it! Carrie (humbled for getting wound up): Yeah, you are right.

He has been very supportive with my impatience and unrealistic expectations! (It is a good thing I love him so much! I wouldn't learn Japanese for just any old person!) Anyway, once I calmed down and got things in perspective I was ok. I was very comforted to look up in the evening sky that night and see the big bright full moon--so often a reminder to me that God is in control and He can give me courage, strength, and grace to go on when I feel so weak.

Mom is praying for the "gift of tongue" (skillful language learning skills) for me, but any prayers you would care to add on that account would be much appreciated! (Sorry--seems like I am always asking for prayers. I guess that's another class in this "humbling school" of life)

December 19, 2006

Oops--forgot another noteable event! Our first vegan dinner and first singing in our new home!

A few Saturdays ago we had Willis, Lois, Kan, and Lee for supper. I had fun trying vegan recipes--never had tofu steak before, but it turned out fairly good! Anyway, afterwards, we invited the Klaus family over for the first singing in our home! They had to bring their own books and some had to sit on the floor, but we had a very nice time! We enjoyed soft persimmons mixed with yogurt for our refreshment. I had never had persimmons until I came here--they are very yummy!

February 10, 2007

How was the skiing?

Hmm..what should I write! Well…good and bad, I guess! Good news first! The mountains and the snow were beautiful, the resort was just like Switzerland, I had fun with the Klaus family, and......I got a lot done while I sat and looked out the window! “Hmmm” you are probably thinking, “What is she doing looking out the window!?” Well, I started off the same way I had the last time I went skiing—over 10 years ago—clunking my head and back good getting off the ski lift! I’m ashamed to say that I lost my temper at my dear hubby—you know it always is easier to blame your own faults on someone else! What was he thinking taking me on the lift without giving me some chance to try out my skis! Doesn’t he know by now that I’m not very coordinated?! Yes, he’s been skiing since he was 3, but not me! This is crazy--I can't do this--etc!!! Anyway, he and the lift guy coaxed me out of the way of the other skilled skiers and guided me to the top of the slope—yikes! It took quite a bit of talking to get me to move! I inched to the other side and then..hmmm..I’ve got to turn around somehow. He wants me to make a curve—oh great! I stubbornly refuse! “Well, I guess you can lay down on your back and swing your legs around,” he says. I’m sure I was a very graceful site with those long skis turning through the air and then making several clumsy attempts to stand up! After a few falls and much encouragement by my patient hubby, I managed to get down the slope. I had gained confidence in my reckless approach to this activity! I was bound and determined to get off the lift smoothly this time! Well, I got off and managed to stay on my feet, but it was anything but smooth! I did two more trecks down and on the last time I had a grand fall—clunked my head and back good enough to see stars! Akihiro, racing to my rescue sprayed me with snow and fell down in front of me, my flown-away hat, and my snapped-off ski! These short Japanese people don't have so far to the ground! Akihiro said he needed to teach me how to fall! How to fall?!! Oh dear! I think that fall did me in for the morning. I went to take a rest, not realizing that I had sat on a snowball—uggh, wet pants! After a good lunch, I thought I was brave enough and my headache, neck ache, and back ache weren’t too bad, so I had better try it again. DUH! I started to get scared on the lift ride up and then clunked my head again getting off the lift—that pretty much topped it off! I was scared! I tried to go, but just couldn’t make myself! That slope looked like it went straight down! Akihiro tried to teach me how to go down sideways, but that was taking forever and my phobia was growing! Just as I had said many years ago when a canoe tipped over on me, again my words were, “I want to walk!” So, off went the skis and I walked down the side of the mountain, trying not to draw too much attention to myself! Maybe they think my skis snapped off and went down the mountain on their own..hmm..probably not. Oh well, dad always says, “life is a humbling school!” Anyway, the onsen felt great that night on my aching muscles. Despite the encouragement of my fellow skiers, I spent the next day inside the hotel in an easy chair watching the other graceful skiers gliding by my window and typing the next chapter of our book. Akihiro would really like me to try again sometime, but I know he is underestimating my klutziness! I told him he might have a better chance of convincing me when my neck and back have regained their flexibility! We'll see! Anyway, sorry to bore you with my self-deprecating story! Also, here's a picture of my cheapskate hubby in his flashy ski wear that he got in high school! He was the brightest guy on the slopes and I could easily spot him! honeycompressed.JPG

February 21, 2007

Tokyo tour, A beautiful bike ride

After having company, I was ready for a day to catch up! It was a beautiful day, so after doing as much laundry as would fit on my balcony and picking up a bit, I took a bike ride. The ume trees are in full bloom as you can see. There were lots of artists out painting them--if you look closely, you can see them.

We really enjoyed our company--we had Chuck Kellenberger from Elgin and Stan Virkler from Remington. I hesitantly took on the challenge of taking them to Tokyo for sightseeing on Monday. For a country bumpkin from Tremont, this was a little bit intimidating, but thanks to my guests' patience and Akihiro's preparation, we enjoyed the day. We took a half day tour in the morning, so I got to go up in Tokyo tower--great view, Asakusa Temple, and a quick look at the Imperial Palace grounds. I think I could do it on my own the next time. After leaving the tour, we went in search of a Kaiten Sushi place. Akihiro had sent me 3 emails on my cell phone with directions to the place and the kanji name, but Tokyo Station is huge! We compared my phone screen to the maps, but finally I consented to asking for directions (that awful stubborn streak in me!). After lunch we were on our own, so I took the carefully prepared directions from Akihiro and we headed for the land of garbage and the big ferris wheel--I even bought tickets on my own (I am spoiled with my card that I can use on most any line without buying a ticket!)

Backtracking a bit...we had Akihiro's grandma and 3 cousins for supper on Saturday. They had a good time tasting American cooking--casserole, green beans, spinach salad, pecan pie, etc. When they went to leave, I had them sign the guestbook. Grandma had never heard of such a thing, but gladly filled 4 lines with her Japanese writing!

February 25, 2007

Nursing Again and Shopping!

While the Ehnle's were in Mexico, Lois had a fall and broke her elbow. This resulted in surgery 3 days prior to their return trip to Japan. They arrived back home yesterday, but the trip was terribly uncomfortable for her. Today, I was thankful for my nursing experience in positioning, pain control, etc. I keep thinking of the verse, "for such a time as this" and feel very thankful to be able to help them through this struggle! Please pray for her, though, that her pain would be alleviated and that she could get good rest.

A shopping note... I was telling Akihiro about my visit to my friend's home and then realized that I had had another interesting experience besides food that day--a little detective work. My friend had asked me to go to the grocery store to get some milk. She said it was near the park. Ok, should be easy enough. Well, I got to the park and couldn't see any sign of a grocery store. There were quite a few people around, but I still am not good enough at asking directions--or I am too stubborn and proud to try--so I just stood there for a while trying to pick which way to go at the intersection. 1 1/2 year old Shotaro wasn't too much help in the stroller even though he is very cute! Ah, then it dawned on me! People walking from the right have grocery bags! I will just head in that direction! So, at each intersection, I looked for more shopping bags and they pretty much led me to the grocery store! God's divine intervention--even through shopping bags!

March 5, 2007

Busy, busy

Sorry it has been pretty quiet lately on the blog. I have been pretty busy with my private duty nursing job! Taking care of Lois has really given me an education on Japanese medical system. The most difficult thing for me to stomach is many Japanese doctor's background that "pain builds character" or something like that! This goes against all my hospice training and trying to keep the patient's pain under control both for the patients sake and the JCAHO inspector! Trying to be an advocate for my "patient" when I can't speak the language has been a real challenge! They have let me administer her preventative IV antibiotics (over-kill in my opinion) at home--amazing! Yesterday, though, she seemed to be much better. Hopefully this week will be a better week! I'm wracking my brain to figure out menus that will work into their vegan diet! Thankfully, they aren't too picky and I had some ideas because of the time I spent at their house before this. Thanks for your ongoing prayers for both Willis and Lois and us as we try to help!

On Saturdays we have been going to Akihiro's grandpa's restaurant and loading our car with all kinds of things--dishes, vases, pot, pans, etc. His restaurant is closing as well as a vacated office that belongs to my in-laws. The garbage truck is coming the end of this month, so we are doing our best to salvage anything that is useful prior to that time--refrigerator, desks, all kinds of things! It is a big job, but we are thankful that many of these things can probably be used in the "Ito Guesthouse"! If anyone visits us for the next few years, I think they can have their pick of dishes and things to take home for souveniers! Many of the things were gifts to Akihiro's grandpa when he went to China to play his Japanese flute. One of the things we "unearthed" was an Buddhist priest outfit that he used to wear when he played the flute as a street performer! He has quite a history! We hope to get some of his experiences recorded for posterity this month when they join us at our Tokiwa hotel for a night.

March 8, 2007

Nihongo--Japanese Language!

いま にほんご を べんきょしてます。 とても むずかし です ても おもしろい です。 にじゅうこ かんじ が わかります。

Oops--I forgot and wrote in Japanese! (Just kidding!) I thought I would let you see how it is to read Japanese. This sentence, though, is all in the simple alphabet called hiragana. Most Japanese would write it shorter by use of the chinese characters--kanji. Anyway, it says, "Now I am studying Japanese. It is very difficult, but it is interesting. I know 20 kanji."

My biggest struggle right now is figuring out how to practice my Japanese. I realize that it seems strange when everyone here speaks Japanese, but I need people who I can just practice saying sentences to--not necessarily conversation yet. I've got a few ideas--perhaps my neighbor downstairs, or do more Japanese lessons--depends on how my schedule and job goes. Anyway, I am hanging in there with my learning. Actually learning the kanji has been kinda fun--it is fun to see that I can recognize a few of them on the traffic signs, etc. Dangerous, though, because I need to look at the road and not the signs!

Speaking of "job", Lois is getting some better. She still struggles with episodes of severe pain and doesn't sleep the greatest, but we are gradually getting into more of a routine.

Sorry, no pictures lately! Hopefully I can post some pictures next week as we are planning to travel to a southern island for a workshop Akihiro will be giving. I get to go along as cameraman!

March 12, 2007

The Short Life of the Ito Guesthouse No.1

The Ito Guesthouse was born, but did not live long! Akihiro's parents' company did some more investigation in the courts after hearing from the current owner that her husband had committed suicide. The court did not publish this information in the court-ordered auction. What does this mean? Well, no Japanese people will live in a house where such an awful thing has occurred and if it occurred on the grounds, a Shinto priest has to come and do a special service before someone will live there. This means that to be feasible, the house would have to be torn down and rebuilt. It isn't worth the price bid, so Akihiro's parents' company withdrew their bid and it will be re-auctioned. Meanwhile, we will (as of Saturday) have a storage unit in Yamanashi full of dishes and some furniture awaiting the Ito Guesthouse No 2. So, it looks like we will continue to stay at the Tokiwa Hotel and continue looking for a guesthouse.

Today we flew to Tokushima and had a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji and the Yamanashi area. To the left of Mt. Fuji there is a string of mountains. Yamanashi is the area just behind those mountains, so we can just see the top of Fuji-san many times.

A few other details to note--have you ever cooked a crab before? Well, I had my first try last night! I had received one from Akihiro's parents and it was taking up too much room in my freezer--those long legs didn't give much! So, I took him out of the freezer and he sat in my fridge and softened up a bit! He was quite delicious!

As far as my "patient", Lois is doing some better, but still suffers from pain in various places. She still needs quite a bit of help because of her left arm in a sling, though. I am spending any free day out there to help out.

It is getting really pretty here as the cherry trees are starting to bloom in some places! Hopefully I will have some pictures soon!

March 20, 2007

A few various and sundry happenings....

One thing I have been meaning to write on the blog is something that happened to me at Akihiro's workshop last week. We ate lunch with some of the students and one of the professors. At lunch, I noticed something different about one of the students. I couldn't really put my finger on it. Later, when the workshop was over and I was sitting by myself practicing my kanji, he came over and started talking to me. He asked me if it was hard to come to Japan. I hesitated a bit--I know I shouldn't!--and told him that I am a Christian and that God has helped me to adjust to Japanese life and it has been a blessing. Actually, he replied, I am a Christian too! Ah-hah, that was what was different about this student! We continued to talk until Akihiro was ready to go. What an encouragement it was to speak with him. He is of a different denomination, but definitely, I could feel the Spirit working in his life. He said he was the only student in the class of 100 that is Christian--sounds familiar. I am assuming Akihiro's medical school class was about the same--perhaps 2 out of 100. Again, it made me so thankful that he saw something different in Sis. Ayako and was brought to the truth of Jesus Christ! I just pray that more students, more people here in Japan would see something different in the few believers and seek it for themselves!

A few other happenings--we enjoyed having Akihiro's grandparents join us in Yamanashi for an evening at the hotel. We went to an onsen up on top of the mountain and had a perfect view of Mt. Fuji! Grandma and I had quite a time in the onsen--between my poor Japanese and her short term memory loss, we were quite a pair!

The picture below is a sight I saw on my way to the Japanese class yesterday. I think the man on the right holding the flags really wondered what was going on when I stopped, dug through my backpack, pulled out my camera and snapped a picture, and hurried on my way, but oh well! The men were trimming trees--yes, that isn't different, but check out their britches! They also have funny shoes--they are divided in between the big toe and the little toes and seem to be like elastic around the ankles--almost like socks. Many of the construction workers wear this kind of stuff. The workers are always accompanied by a flag man with white and red flags to manage the traffic.

Had several "firsts" recently! I got gas by myself. "Regular mantan de onegaishimas!" (Most gas stations here are full service) I could tell the service station men were jabbing eachother trying to get eachother to take care of me, knowing they might have to talk English! The other first was today--I drove a stick shift car with the stick on my right. I only killed it once!
I had borrowed Ayako's car to take Marie to the station after we ate lunch together. So thankful I didn't wreck it!

Tomorrow we go to the north island of Hokkaido with Akihiro's parents. They want him to look at a medical facility they may purchase. I'm glad I get to go along and spend the night with them. Hopefully I'll have some pictures of that!

Sorry for the mish mash (is that a word?) of entries!

Oops--I realized that the Mt. Fuji pic still didn't work unless you clicked on it. Here's a better one--finally figured it out!

March 23, 2007

Hokkaido visit

We had a nice visit to the North island. They are famous for their potatoes, so I enjoyed them for all three meals today! Delicious! I also enjoyed their sweet cream ice cream! Akihiro enjoyed the sushi, but thankfully, not for all three meals! I do have to agree that the tuna sushi I had was quite good--perhaps the best I've had!

We looked at the medical facility which is a huge complex with nursing home, assisted living, and hospital. It had gone bankrupt, so is being sold very cheaply. We'll see what Akihiro's dad can "cook up". He may be able to make it work by selling each one individually. We also took a look at the cruiser boat he would like to buy for fishing in Hakodate. He's crazy about fishing--in fact lots of his office space there is used storing fishing gear! Akihiro is already dreaming of a summer trip here--catch fish and eat! For me it is catch, COOK, and then eat, but I guess we can work it out! The ocean is beautiful with snow covered mountains around the bay. It was especially enjoyable as I sat in the 11th floor rooftop onsen and tried to talk Japanese to Akihiro's mom! We got a good look at the mountains and a military structure shaped like a star from a high tower. The military structure was the last of the samurai installments in Japan and was where the samurais surrendered to the emperor's government (if I understood Akihiro's explanation correctly!).


We also visited a fish market--very interesting to see all the sea animals that can be eaten--sea anemonies (I think that's what those spiky black things are!), crab, squid, oysters, mussels, octopus, all shapes and colors of fish eggs, etc. We got to taste many samples as we roamed the market. We didn't do the highly popular catch your own squid and kill him and eat him, though! We also got to see some boats with glass like things that are used to catch squid. I guess the squid are attracted to the light at night. Once you have a squid, you have bait for a big tuna--or you can just eat the squid yourself! You can see the glass things hanging from the ship in rows.

fish eggs, salmon, etc.




Another note on getting gas...gasoline, that is... When the service men see you coming they wave wildly to direct you into your spot, "All right, all right, all right........OK des!" they say. Then they take your card and sprint to their payment station--in fact, everywhere they go, they sprint! So eager they are to serve us! All the available servicemen stand at attention and then bow low as we exit the gas station. It's quite an experience if I remember pumping my own gas in the States and dealing with some grumpy service station cashier!

I had a request for statistics on our blog, so I will give a summary--about 30 people check the blog every day and someone checks it every hour--either there are some night owls or it is Japanese or Hungary people! 75% of the viewers are located in the U.S., but the othr 25% are outside the U.S.

April 4, 2007

Guests, cherry blossoms, Li-san returns

As I write this entry, a little black cloud is floating over our house and dropping a few rain drops--seems symbolic as I read the blog of Lisa Gerber's husband Byron as he writes of her death yesterday. What a testimony--and a tear jerker--their blog has been! It is reminder always to appreciate each moment we have with our loved ones and to focus on what matters the most in this life and in the life to come--the Lord Jesus Christ.

Anyway, sorry it has been so long since I have posted! We have had a busy, yet blessed couple of weeks! I have been continuing to take care of Lois, who is doing much better--now graduating to the use of "Johny Long Legs" (her cane) with some standby assistance. Her pain is better and so is her sleep, so we are thankful! She still can't use her left arm because it is in a brace, but the incision is finally healed! Here's a picture Kay took of us with a bouquet I made out of the spring flowers from Lois' flower garden


Jim and Sharon Fehr from West Bend have been visiting us. Jim was in the armed services over here and was married in our Tokyo church 38 years ago. They lived here for several months before his service was over. We went with them last weekend to look at the area where his hospital was (now a park) and where their house was (in Yokohama). It was quite an adventure as things have changed a lot in 38 years! I don't think in 38 years (Lord-willing) that Akihiro and I will struggle to find our first home at 212 N. Harris, Tremont, but we'll see! The Fehrs spent two nights with us. Also visiting Japan is Jana's sister and her husband--Martha Kay and Dana Regier (?sp). We enjoyed spending time with them too and treating them to shabu-shabu in our home! Also visiting (Lots of guests!!!) was Kay Kellenberger! She spent a day and a half with Lois and Willis and I earlier this week and we all enjoyed her company!

Another happening in Japan (and houseguest for us!), is the return of Li-san. Li is a Chinese student who attended college at the same college Willis teaches at. He has been coming to our church for several years now and is a member of the underground church in China. He had gone to China to visit his family and new wife after graduating and before starting his work for Akito Inoue's company which is not too far from our home in Takao. Akihiro has been doing a little real estate business for him--trying to find him an apartment close to the business, yet close to Klaus' and to us for the sake of both Li and his wife Chi. We are all quite frustrated because many people won't rent to a foreigner! Willis and Lois experienced that 50 some years ago, but I didn't dream the prejudice would still be alive. We finally do have one lead, though! Li's wife doesn't know much English and less Japanese, so please pray for her that she can be motivated to study Japanese while she is in China working through the visa process to come to Japan. Also, please pray for her that she can desire to learn more of Jesus and read the Bible. She is not a Christian, but has agreed to learn of Jesus, though privately because of her family situation and the government situation in China. Li-san is such a cheerful and faithful person, so it has been a joy to help him.

Well, the little black cloud is now dumping sleet--or maybe hail--actuallly, looks like it is snow, now! Good thing I rode my bike to the store this am and got my wash out early this am!

The cherry blossoms are in full bloom and the peach blossoms are catching up with them too. It is absolutely beautiful! Special lights are set out so that we can even enjoy them at night! The first pictures are at the Buddhist priests home right next to Willis and Lois's home. It was a joy to wash dishes with such a view--day and night! The one picture shows their kitchen window through the trees!






The boardwalk by our hotel has been beautiful! Sorry no daytime blooms--my camera battery died! Hopefully next year!



April 9, 2007

Easter, a visit to Akihiro's aunt and uncle, more flower pics!

Friday I babysat for the younger Klaus family as Amy and her parents went to her entrance ceremony for first grade! She looked quite cute in her new backpack--a very heavy leather thing that is required for all students. It will last all of her school years! She also got a cute little yellow hat that marks her as a first grader!

The bike ride to their home is through this beautiful park where the cherries are in full bloom--sorry for so many flower pics! Wish you could come and see them yourself!

On Saturday, we went to Chiba-ken (a ken is like a state here) to visit Yaeko and Shoichi Honna and their two sons. They were very hospitable to us and served us a wonderful meal! We enjoyed walking outside and seeing the cherry blossoms and a special tulip park. I got to hear a special bird singing--never heard such a beautiful bird song in my life! Yaeko is a Christian--so nice to feel the same spirit in her! She became a Christian when she lived in Holland with her husband for 5 years. Their home and small, but beautiful, garden has a little European flavor to it!



We had an early morning ride to church for an 8:00 "sunrise service"! We gathered on a high hill with a good view of the peach blossoms. This picture doesn't do it justice, but if you can imagine something that looks like a pink soft fog settling into the nooks and crannies of the mountains, that is how it really looks--beautiful! After a short service, we ate some cup of noodles, hard boiled eggs, rice balls, etc. and had an enjoyable breakfast there on the mountain top! Then we went to back to church for our usual service. After church we had a little egg hunt for the 2 Sunday school children--they had never done it before and loved it very much--in fact, they want to do it next week too, Akihiro said! We had invited the whole church to Ehnle's house for Easter dinner that evening. Only 3 could come, but we had a nice time! I had hunted all over for a ham--seems crazy when there are big carts of them in the U.S! Finally Akihiro found a butcher who would grind it up for me for ham loaf. The guests had never eaten ham loaf, but really enjoyed it! I felt like my mom cooking Sunday dinner--it was fun!



Here are 4 of the friends from Shioda church who attend faithfully--Fukasawa-san, Hasanuma-san, Iwama-san, and Fujimaki-san



Oh, a note on Akihiro...This month he is doing a few part time jobs--physicals for university students, etc. On Friday, he listened to the lungs and heart of hundreds of students! It is a bit of a change for him after working in the nursing home so he enjoys it. Next one is doing eye exams all day--should be interesting!

Also, Li-san was able to find an apartment in Hachioji that he likes! We are so thankful that it could work out--just about 20 min. bike ride from our house! Thanks for your prayers for him!

April 17, 2007

Anniversaries, homework, etc.

Today is the 53rd anniversary of the day that Willis and Lois cruised into Yokohama Bay in Japan on a big freighter, so we are going to go out to eat tonight to celebrate. Also, tomorrow is the 2 year anniversary of the day Akihiro got his answer that I would marry him! Wow, seems like longer than 2 years! Anyway, Lois has been reminiscing of those first days in Japan, so I thought I would share a few things. The freighter they came on could not dock in the port, so a speed boat picked them up and brought them to their new land. They stayed with the Utsuki family until they could finally find a Japanese person who would rent to a foreigner. Willis started university a few days after their arrival to learn Japanese intensively. Lois sat with one of the Utsuki girls and went through a catalog, pointing to items and saying them in Japanese and English, so both learned some vocabulary! They had brought a minivan-like vehicle with them with all their earthly goods, but a big beam had landed on the van in the freighter, so they couldn't get all of their belongings for a while! Their first home was in a bamboo thicket and they soon learned that bamboo thickets breed mosquitos. Screens on the windows were the first order of business! Very few Japanese had cars, so Lois usually had a passel of kids wanting to go along with her when she would get in the van to drive to Utsuki's to do laundry, etc. The Japanese didn't really know what to do with this couple, so everything was, "Hajimete des, hajimete des!" That means, "First time to do this!" Speaking of Willis, here's one of my favorite poses of him!


The peach blossoms are just ending, but the dogwoods are starting to take their place. Many of the streets are lined with every other white and pink ones.



Here's a picture of my homework for those of you whose computers can't support Japanese language! It sure isn't getting any easier! I often think of what one sister said to me regarding learning Japanese--cry, study, speak, and pray! That is right!


April 23, 2007

A new "job"

I got a call from my language school in Kofu that they are "down" a teacher this week and were wondering if I could help out with some of their English classes for children--5 and 10 years old. I worried that I wouldn't be able to do it because of my poor Japanese, but he says that I will be with a Japanese teacher and that if I can just say, "My favorite color is____" I will be a success! Sounds easy enough for me! I will teach Tuesday and Wednesday for about 2.5 hours in the late afternoon. I am looking forward to it!

Spring continues to be in full bloom here! The flowering trees are done, but there are lots of other interesting flowers--many I have never seen before! I've got to be careful though, when I am out for a walk. Today as I walked along a narrow street gauking at the flowers, I about walked into the open gutter! On the older roads here they have these open gutters that are over a foot deep and at least a foot wide that rain water runs in. Lois told me that it is so funny to observe when somebody drives in one. The other drivers get out of their cars and lift it back on the road, bow to eachother, and get back in their cars and drive away. I have never seen it and am trying to be very careful not to put my car in the gutter! I'm still not totally used to driving in Japan--nor the bowing thing! It makes me get the giggles sometimes! I do find, though, that I am starting to bow too--almost unconsciously. I hope I don't bow to the minister on the pulpit in Tremont when he says good morning or finishes up!

Well, I am counting the days until we go home to the States--we leave on Saturday! My mother, the typical mom, is already asking about our favorite foods she can cook while we are home! My mouth is watering already when I think about a nice juicy steak!

May 10, 2007

Finally an Update--from the Big Apple

It seems like forever since we left Japan, but I guess there are some things to report from "home" before we went "home"--kinda confusing! Sorry for the long entry!

My English lessons went fairly well, despite some frustrations with the organization of the language school. My first class was 5 year olds and we worked on colors, shapes, and fruit. It was pretty much up to me to decide what we were going to learn and I was to lead the class. The Japanese teacher just helped with behavior management and with the instructions I gave. The children did very well--especially for a 50 minute class, but I am glad there weren't more than 5 of them! My next class was 5 boys--about 10 years old. I was on my own, but thankfully was able to keep them on task by teaching them "give me 5" when they said the right word. The last class, though, was a total disaster--3 boys and 3 girls. Honestly I felt sorry for them. I am sure they had been at school all day and now they were enduring 80 minutes more of learning. I pretty much lost control of the class and had a difficult time bringing it back into control. Oh well! The next day went pretty good. I drove to another site to teach. I felt so bad for these poor children who just couldn't say "Thursday" for anything! I knew how they felt, though, because I am the same way with some of the Japanese words! The language school would really like me to teach on a regular basis, but I don't think it would work with our erratic schedule. I think I will remain a substitute for now, especially given the changes in Akihiro's job (see later in this lengthy blog).

Another occurence before we left home was elections. Our quiet neighborhood was transformed into a noise polution zone as each politician's workers drove slowly around the neighborhood in cars and blasted out "Arigato gozaimas, Onegaishimas....." (Thank you, please, etc. etc.) and the name of their candidate. Jana was right when she told me that they get louder and more desperate sounding the closer it gets to election time! It was almost as if they were screaming! One day that week, a group of 3 men came to our tiny little street. It was raining, but that didn't discourage them. I peered out the window at them. They stood there under their umbrellas--one man reading his speech, another holding a megaphone device, and I am not sure what the other man was doing. Anyway, they got done with their speech, bowed to the neighborhood (I am guessing I was the only one who was watching--or listening!) and went on their way. Whatever!!!

On the way to the airport, I saw the fields being planted with rice. They drive these little vehicles that look like 4 wheelers through the swampy flooded fields. The vehicles have flats of stuff that looks like sod, but I assume it is rice seedlings. These are then planted in the wet field. I would like to learn more about the planting of the "white monster" as my aunt calls it, but my city-slicker husband doesn't know too much about it, so I will have to interrogate somebody else!

Finally...on to Illinois! It was so good to see all my family and friends! And yes, we did enjoy mom's cooking, and all of the American meals we had. I had time to go through the house and sort through things--garage sale, pitch, ship to Japan, store.... With Doug and Tricia Rocke living in our house, most of our stuff is packed away in boxes, so I just did some organization. I also enjoyed going to hospice for a morning--interesting that I still knew some of the patient names! One of my favorite days, though, was spent being "Aunt Carrie" at both of my brothers' homes with my 12 nieces and nephews! It was also great to be in church and hear the hundreds of voices blending together--instead of just the 10-15 voices in Shioda! And no, I didn't bow at the minister! What a blessing it was to sing and know what I was singing, to pray and read with the minister instead of on my own, and to understand all of the sermon! Yes, many of the brothers in Japan will translate some for me which I greatly appreciate, but here it was just so easy--and it filled my cup to overflowing! We were both encouraged and inspired to feel the love and support of so many of our brethren. As always, it is a culture shock to come home to America--to not be treated like a queen when you go into a store or restaurant, to be able to read everything, to throw everything in the same trashbag without sorting....I could go on and on.

While we were in the U.S., some things happened with Akihiro's boss at the nursing home and Akihiro told him he would quit in June. It is a long story, but the end result is that though there was definitely a purpose for his time at the nursing home we feel that God is leading him in a new direction. His workshop in Springfield was about simulated patients--one of his big dreams for Japanese medical education. He hopes to open a training center in Japan and focus more on education of medical professionals. Please pray for him/us as we explore this option! I am sad, nervous, and excited about the whole thing!

So, now we are in New York City visiting Akihiro's brother and sister-in-law. Our hotel is very near to their apartment in Midtown Manhattan. We are on the 22nd floor of a 42-floor building! I've concluded (again!) that big cities aren't my favorite, and NYC is just another big city (I'll take Tremont anyday)! Today, we braved the subway, which--by the way--is very dirty and old compared to Japan, to go to the Statue of Liberty and to Ellis Island. The statue is impressive and inspiring--reminds me of the song, The Cross is My Statue of Liberty. Ellis Island has a wonderful museum about the 12 million immigrants who came through Ellis Island. We felt like immigrants because there were lots of lines to ride the ferries and we were pretty well packed on the ferry! At least they didn't mark me with a chalk X like they did the immigrants if they saw one looking dazed and confused! It was especially interesting to me because my Grandpa Fritz went through Ellis Island. To be in the same hall where he most likely waited to be approved to enter America was an interesting feeling!

Akihiro's parents joined us today and will stay a week or so here in NYC, but we leave on Saturday. I am ready to go home. I guess I am thankful for that feeling--that Japan is home for me. I know that God has led me there and has work for me to do there. I just pray that I can use the liberty (in Christ) I have been given to His glory!

May 14, 2007

Home Safe to Japan

We are thankful to be home in Japan. It was an especially long flight yesterday--2 hours to Detroit and then almost 13 hours to Tokyo. Ughh! Anyway, thanks to Benadryl, we got a good night sleep and are ready to go--Akihiro off to work and myself, well, I am enjoying the moments before our four 50 pound suitcases arrive from the delivery service (lugging those suitcases on 3 different trains he 2+ hours from the airport is not pleasant--especially when you can hardly keep your eyes open!).

A few days in NYC sure made me thankful to live in Japan! I think I would rather live in Japan than NYC--no offence, New Yorkers! We did enjoy some of the sights there, though. There is a really sobering memorial center for Ground Zero. It has charred pieces of airplane windows, and other remains from the tragedy. We also went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I'm not too much on art, but I am sure if you like art, you would love this place--we got lost just looking for the cafeteria! Tsuyoshi and Yuko's graduation had some very interesting speeches and we are proud of them for graduating from the second best law school in the U.S.! We celebrated by going to a New York style Japanese restaurant. It was very delicious, but interesting to see the blending of two styles! One afternoon, we visited Mt. Sinai Medical School of Medicine's simulated patient laboratory. It was very interesting, but made Akihiro realize the great differences between Japanese medical education and U.S. medical education. Opening a center in Japan looks rather daunting, but we'll see! Akihiro's dad has an option for him and actually he has many other options that came up just before we came to Japan. We'll just have to wait and see where the Lord leads us! Again, we appreciate your prayers.

May 21, 2007

A Garden of Eden--even if I can't pronounce the names of the vegetables

Just as Lois wrote to her parents over 50 years ago, I would report the same thing this time of year..."I have come to the Garden of Eden!" Everything is as green as green can be. Last week I got the pleasure of picking strawberries, asparagus, and broccoli out of the Ehnle's garden as Willis is in Mexico and Lois is staying at the hospital while he is gone. These strawberries are so sweet we don't need to add any sugar to them! Our drive out to Yamanashi is just gorgeous with the green mountains and blue blue sky with snow-covered Mt. Fuji playing hide-and-seek with us. When things seem uncertain in our future, it helps me to see the beauty of God's creation and think that since He can control this beautiful Earth, surely He can manage the details of our lives. It seems He has been quite busy orchestrating each detail--it is amazing to think how busy He is!

Akihiro's last day will be June 1st and most likely (not for sure yet) he will be working for his dad--possibly with the hospital/nursing home in Hokkaido. Commuting to another island for work seems a little overwhelming, and we are continuing to pray that doors will open and close as God leads us.

Today we will go to Sister Utsuki's visitation in Tokyo. It will be my first official funeral in Japan and Jana warned me that it is quite an experience. Just preparing for the funeral has been an experience! I'll have to write more after the funeral!

I think I am finally getting adjusted back to this time zone and culture. I went to the grocery store last week and was going to try a new Japanese recipe calling for a vegetable called "udo". I looked around the produce section three times and didn't see anything that looked like the picture in my cookbook. So, I thought I would try out my Japanese on the cute little apron and kerchief-clad store lady. "Udo arimas ka?" Hmmm, she looks at me quizically. I repeat my question. Then I try to describe the vegetable in my broken Japanese--it is white, long, and a vegetable. She guesses celery. No. I show her my shopping list and she thinks a bit and then says, "Ahhhh, u-DOH!" I had not used the correct emphasis. Anyway, they didn't have any! Such a deal! I found it easily at another store. I cooked it according to the instructions, but it was nothing special! Akihiro says it is a "old person's vegetable" and that young people usually don't eat it. Oh well, just another adventure! I took some pictures of the different vegetables here, but will have to post them later.

June 3, 2007

My Taste Buds are Turning Japanese!

Akihiro's coworkers took us out to eat last week and it was quite a feast. One of the many small dishes as appetizers was these small squid. I guess they are called fireflies because in the deep sea they shine a light. Anyway, I didn't think I could eat them--raw and slimy, but I took a deep breath and gave it a try. Actually, to my suprise, it was kinda good! I couldn't believe myself!

Also, they had a huge tuna head--looked like just the top part above both eyes that they had roasted. I guess instead of a pig roast, it is a tuna roast! It was good too!


So with the nursing home job behind us, we look to the future which seems to have lots of question marks--when, where, how long, how much, why? The following verse was on my flip calender and I just haven't seemed to be able to flip past it because it has been such a comfort. Isaiah 58:11 And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. It's not that we are in a drought--Akihiro will be on the payroll of his parent's company next month, and I don't know that our bones need to be made fatter, but it is the idea that the LORD will guide us continually--that is what brings peace. Prayers have been answered in that our discussion with Akihiro's parents regarding work in Hokkaido went very well. Our lifestyle as Christians and perhaps Americanized Christians is quite different than Japanese business people's life, so we discussed our "boundaries" as far as work hours, business trips, desire to eat supper together, devotions, attend our church every Sunday, etc. His parents were very understanding and are willing to "go along" with our situation, for which I am very thankful! They will bid on the medical facility in Hokkaido early next month and then we will probably gradually be spending more time there. "We'll see" seems to be the phrase of the month! For now, Akihiro is busy studying for his boat license. His dad bought a boat in Hokkaido and he needs a license to drive it. He goes for his practical test at a mountain lake nearby on Tuesday (Kawaguchiko, for those of you familiar with Japan) and I just might tag along and explore the area, depending on the weather! In the meantime, we are finishing up the medical English book. Yes, my dear friends, Dr. Do-Something and Nurse Know-It-All are falling in love (a suggestion we received) and experiencing many medical terms--diaphoresis, palpitations, etc! He will continue to work on Wednesdays in Yamanashi, so it will allow me to continue my Japanese class and spend some time with the Ehnle's. I'm thankful for that.

We continue to enjoy beautiful weather here and now it is the season for watermellons and cherries in the grocery stores--but they are terribly expensive compared to the U.S. A small watermelon can run about $18! They are very good though--also the cherries. Akihiro got some from a patient's daughter at the nursing home. Never have I tasted such sweet cherries!

Oh, and for those of you who like to eat out at Japanese restaurants, we went to a place with Akihiro's parents like the one in Peoria where they cook your food in front of you. We asked the chef if this style originated in Japan because we rarely see it. He said "no". Apparently, it was started by Japanese people who went to Hawaii. This restaurant that we went to was owned by a man who worked at Beni Hana (apparently a famous Japanese restaurant of this style) in Hawaii. Oh yeah, they didn't make any fire, though, and didn't toss my rice bowl--that would be a little too American, perhaps!

June 7, 2007

A Lady of Leisure for a few days

Monday and Tuesday I felt like a lady of leisure! On Monday--the first Monday I have been home (used to be in Yamanashi almost every Monday)--I went to Hachioji Station (one of the bigger stations in our area) to meet Marie Inoue for lunch. I went early to do a little shopping with a gift card from Akihiro's mom. I had heard about a department store opening, but had never been there for one, so I arrived at the store about 10 minutes before the store opened. Already there were people gathered there waiting, and a gentleman was inside looking at his watch. It was interesting to see how precise and regimented it was! About 6 minutes til 10, two more suited men came and unhooked the lock on the doors, then returned to their former positions of attention. Then about 4 minutes til 10, they opened the doors and returned to their former positions. Then at 2 minutes til 10, a young lady in a very sharp-looking light blue suit and dapper hat appeared, bowed low, welcomed us in very polite and careful words, and informed us that the store would open in 2 minutes. She remained standing in front of the doors smiling at us all. At this point I was feeling almost like I was at the tomb of the unknown soldier or something! Anyway, finally at 10, some music started playing and they all bowed low to us and welcomed us into the store. Everywhere we went, there were sales people lined up along the aisles and when you approached them, they bowed. It was like cards falling before me! Part of me was trying to hide my amusement at the whole deal and another part of me was embarrassed that all these people were bowing to me like I was the queen! Anyway, after all that fanfare, I enjoyed my shopping and my lunch with Marie. We ate at a little pizza place (yes, pizza! We are 2 Americans with Japanese husbands who like Japanese food best!) that had a nice view of the tree covered mountains in the distance.

Tuesday, Akihiro went to Kawaguchiko for his boat license test, so I tagged along. It was pretty cloudy so I couldn't see Mt. Fuji, but still it was beautiful. I explored some museums and some parks. I went to two museums that were showing Japanese dolls--one was made of paper and the other was cloth. They were beautiful! I also went to a music box museum and enjoyed the rose gardens, a Czech quartet, a synchronized water fountain, and trying to talk to three Japanese ladies who were enjoying the museum as well! Akihiro won't know until next week about his test, but he felt pretty good about it (despite me forgetting that he needs rice, not cereal for breakfast on test days!) .


Akihiro is keeping busy studying for his geriatric board (this fall), helping with some of the church business, scheduling some part time jobs, and helping finish our book. Things continue to be fairly unsure about our future. Now his dad is wondering if he truly can win the auction for the Hokkaido facility. I guess we have been praying that God would open and close doors as He sees fit, so we will continue to watch, wait, trust, and pray.

June 18, 2007

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!)

June 25, 2007

Odds and ends

Nothing major to report. I find myself becoming accustom to this different life so much that I don't even realize sometimes how different we do things here. Yesterday I was reminded of this by Sister Bethany Gerber who is here helping the Klaus family. We were at the Inoue's for a picnic (our park plan got rained out!) and we were helping Marie do the wieners. Bethany says, "I've never stir fried wieners with chopsticks before!" Yes, indeed! It is an interesting mix of cultures--hot dogs and chopsticks! I do have to say, though, that chopsticks are a great cooking tool!

We are in the hiking preparation mode here--getting ready to hike Mt. Fuji next month. We bought new hiking boots and received much instruction on the proper use of them. That evening (after dark, thankfully), we practiced our new technique--making sure we place our feet down flat instead of heel and then toe, etc. The man said it looks like robo-cop (I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I can kinda get the point!) We were quite a sight! Anyway, hopefully it will prevent sore toes and knees! We'll see!

The hydrangeas are beautiful right now! My picture doesn't do them justice, but they are everywhere and just gorgeous!

I took Justin over to see the emperor's cemetery. I can't remember if I have posted a picture of that before or not. This is just one of 4 large tombs holding one emperor or an emperor's family member.

We plan to go to Hokkaido the end of this week for a business/fishing trip! Hopefully we can check out Akihiro's dad's boat and catch a big fish! We are also looking forward to keeping some people from Australia who will be visiting us this weekend and early next week! Should be interesting!

July 10, 2007

We Survived Mt. Fuji!

Well, a change of plans! We ended up climbing Mt. Fuji yesterday and I survived (barely) to write about it! Accompanying us, the old foggies, was Justin Wiegand, Bethany Gerber, Essie Kauffman (daughter of Joel and Sally Kauffman who are missionaries here in Japan), and Caleb Klaus. Mt. Fuji is 3776m high and is an inactive volcano--so this means we were trudging up and down in loose lava rocks. It took we old foggies about 6 hours to get up to the top from the 5th station (you can drive half way up the mountain). The last two hours were the worst because I started getting nauseated and light-headed, so we just slowed down and took breaks every 15 minutes. Akihiro was very patient with my moaning and groaning and encouraged me on. It was very cloudy, but at least we could look over the top of many of the clouds and could see the crater. Then we headed down--almost 4 hours. Our new hiking boots and poles and hiking techniques were invaluable and my "Aberle knees" weren't hurting too badly by the end! There is a common statement about hiking Mt. Fuji--He who doesn't climb Mt.Fuji is a fool and he who does it second time is twice fool. I would partly agree with this, but Akihiro is bent on having me see the sunrise from the top. I guess I would be willing to be a fool again for him if we could stay in a little cabin part way up the mountain to adjust to the altititude and break up the trip a little bit. We'll see! We are walking pretty carefully and a few moans and groans were heard as we rolled out of bed this morning! We were very thankful for a safe trip and no rain!

The crater

We made it!

July 17, 2007

Bowing sea lions

Monday was a holiday here and we are playing part-time surrogate parents to the Klaus children while their parents have a short vacation, so we researched what to do with a family of 8 plus Bethany Gerber, their brave nanny (for the summer) and Li-san who had the day off! Due to the heat and the humidity, we went to the aquarium in Tokyo. It was very nice and we really enjoyed the dolphin show and the sea lion show. Only in Japan, would the sea lion bow to the audience before and after his performance!

Also this weekend was a typhoon! Thankfully, though, it missed us! The weather forcasters were saying it would be really bad, so there was talk of cancelling church--which seems very interesting for me because I have only experienced cancelling church because of a snow storm! In other natural disaster news is the earthquake. This earthquake was about 6 hours north of us. We were all at the aquarium, so we didn't feel it at all, but many others said the tremors were quite strong!

July 19, 2007

Vending Veggies, Soliciting Priests, and Sunrises

Just a few odds and ends...

Saw this vegetable vending machine and hadn't ever seen one in the U.S., so I snapped a picture. I have seen a couple of them around--I guess it is like those little stands I saw in Tremont--without the honor system! The veggies always look fresh and good--I assume they come from the neatly-tended garden nearby!

Today as I was loading up my two long laundry poles (as full as they can get--finally a day with no rain that I am home), I heard footsteps below me. I looked down and saw a buddhist priest hurrying along. I was suprised to see him turn in at the neighbor's house next door and start a little speech/chant thing. He went on for a while until the lady opened the door and handed him something (I assume money). Then he went on to the next house. I heard his little chants make a circle around our neighborhood. Akihiro said this is an old way that the priests collect money for their living expenses (hopefully just living expenses!). He said that the priest probably didn't stop at our house because we are on the second floor. Whew! I wouldn't have known what was going on!

And last, but certainly not is a picture of the best sunset I have seen from our house. It looks out our kitchen window. As you can see the houses are very close. I could watch the neighbor's TV if I wanted to from our house and can hear conversations easily with the windows open. If they would speak a little louder, maybe it would help my Japanese! Oh well!

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 25, 2007

Japanese letters, toys, and, of!

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!




September 1, 2007

Not much new...

I must be getting used to life in Japan, because nothing has struck me as different this week! It was a little bit of a slower week, so you know what that meant--lots of time to STUDY!! Yippee! Actually I did fairly well--no temper tantrums and a fairly full star chart! Today at the grocery store I was looking for green peppers and must have looked rather confused, even though I had just found them, because a nice lady asked me "May I help you?" in perfect English. It may sound strange, but I was kinda flustered by her English words and said, "I think I just found what I needed. Thanks." I continued my shopping, but as I checked out I felt like I should speak more to this nice lady. I was in a bit of a hurry to get back to the aftermath of my kabocha explosion,** but I went back in and thanked her properly. As it turned out, her English wasn't that great and I had to struggle along in Japanese. She seemed very nice and asked where I lived. I explained where I lived and gave her my phone number and name. When we parted, she said something about having "lunchey" together at the park. I hope she will call! I'm not sure of the proper etiquette for asking numbers, so I didn't ask her for hers. We'll see!

**In regards to the kabocha explosion, I was making kabocha (Japanese pumpkin squash) soup and put it in the blender. Well, as quick as I hit the switch, there was sticky kabocha all over me, and all over my kitchen! Arghh! Oh well, it ended up being really good soup, depsite the mess! I continue to enjoy trying Japanese cooking and haven't cut my fingers for a long time (I hesitate to say that--I had better be careful!)

September 4, 2007

Akihiro is 30!

Today was Akihiro's 30th birthday! I couldn't think of anything too exciting for his birthday gift, but he seemed pleased with his special running socks and a poem I wrote for him. (He likes my corny poems better than Hallmark!) Since my voice isn't the greatest, I thought I would get some help via my online Skype telephone, so I called Dad's cell phone. They were at a Fritz picnic at my brother John's place, so he had quite a few folks to sing for him--he was quite pleased--even though in America, it wasn't his birthday yet! For supper he wanted to go to the Kaiten Sushi Place--that's where you can see the sushi move by you on conveyor belts and choose anything you want for 100 yen. We will be having a birthday party for him and some of the Klaus's tomorrow night and I am hoping to pull off a Mexican-style birthday--cake (or a very small piece of pie with lots of whipped cream, in this case) in his face! (On his first trip to Mexico, he got cake in his face, and loved it, so I think I am safe to try it again!)

I got an email from the lady I met at the grocery store! She would like to meet me for lunch, but wants to wait until we get back from Europe because there is supposed to be a typhoon coming the end of this week! We leave for a week long trip to Europe on Saturday with Akihiro's mom and sister. When we told them about our trip last year, they wanted us to be tour guides for them! We are definitely willing! We will be starting in Salzburg, Austria, then visiting the Alps and ending in Chamonix, France for French food and French Alps!

On a more spiritual note, I thought I would share a few statements that I heard recently that were helpful to me...

May I seek to be joyful and thankful in all things rather than to let emotions or circumstances run my life.
It is more important to model humility (through God) than to model perfection through my own strength.

September 23, 2007

New Job, new friend, upcoming excitement, etc.

Well, I've enjoyed being sick all week. One night I had rectal bleeding, another night it was abdomenal pain, another night back pain, another night shortness of breath! Each episode only lasted one hour and my husband was by my side the whole time! Before you think I am a hypochondriac, let me tell you about my new job. Akihiro met a doctor on a south island who wants to go for a year of training to the U.S. In order to do that, he needs to pass a clinical skills test in America--in English (obviously). Instead of traveling to the U.S. for a review course, he is reviewing by practicing with me and getting feedback from Akihiro and myself. We do this via web camera. It is fun to use my medical background and to see his English skills and technique improve. I had a hard time maintaining my professional patient role when he (trying to use common terms) told me he was going to punch my back! We have had some good laughs! He takes the test the end of October, so we will be continuing our practice sessions--may even put my cousin Carol to work being a patient!

You may remember that I mentioned a few weeks ago that I met a woman at the grocery store who was interested in trying to speak English? Well, we met at Mos Burger at the station last Friday. We had a fun time and lots of laughs, but both of our heads really hurt by the time we got done! We would try to speak it in English first, but when we couldn't get it, we would switch to Japanese, which most of the time, didn't help at all. Finally we would do hand motions or draw pictures! What a deal! I am eagerly awaiting a better dicitionary coming in a suitcase from mom! I bought an electronic one, but it is a piece of junk! One of the funniest moments was when I said something in Japanese (sorry, I forget what) and she started laughing and said, "You're pretty!" Hmm, I thought. It didn't seem like the right context for that comment and I don't exactly think myself to be pretty, but I wasn't quite sure how to check it out. We kept talking and then she said it again. Ah, then I figured out how to determine what she meant. She said the word for "cute" in Japanese! Ahhh, so she too thinks that my Japanese is cute (Akihiro has already informed me!). Oh well-at least if I'm not "pretty," at least my Japanese is cute! She would like to meet a couple of times a month to practice, so we'll see how it goes! It was good practice for my Japanese!

I am very excited about my cousin Carol coming on Tuesday for about 9 days! I can hardly wait! (Thus, maybe not very many blog entries then!) I hope to show her a bit of Tokyo, Mt. Fuji area, Shioda church, and have lunch with some of my church friends. I am also looking forward to an extra suitcase that my mom is sending with her--carrying not only a dictionary, but Graham Crackers! Somehow I had a craving for those the other night (can't get them around here that I know of!) I guess it was all those years of eating graham crackers and milk for a bedtime snack!

Tonight I felt like I was in America for supper--something like Ruby Tuesdays or Cracker Barrel! The place is called Bikuri Donkey--which means "Suprised" Donkey (I think). The outside is very rustic with boards going every which way and the inside is decorated with old American stuff--California license plate, etc. It is a hamburger place, but of course we are still in Japan, so my hamburger came with a yummy sauce, rice, salad, no bun, and of course chopsticks to eat it with! It was very good!

October 6, 2007

A great visit from Carol!

Carol and I had a great 9 days! Here are a few pictures of our adventures. Here is Mt. Fuji on our way out to Yamanashi. Carol was brave and hung out at the Starbucks to people watch and read a book while I had my Japanese lesson. We also had fun looking through the dishes we had in the storage--lots of potential souveniers for upcoming visitors!

We had a great lunch at Mos Burger--the rice patty buns and the shrimp burger!

One day we were shopping and got a good chuckle out of this funny English. (Often Japanese get their Ls and Rs mixed up! There is a "Flesh Foods" Store down the street from us!)

We went to Kawaguchiko area and enjoyed this flower exhibition.

Many people had been telling me how great the Japanese fireworks were. They were right!


There are lots of beautiful Japanese gardens to enjoy! Here is just one.

Here is the Imperial Gardens...

October 17, 2007

Ishigakijima, Chi-san arrives!

Sorry it has been so long since I've updated! Last week we went to the south-most island of Japan, Ishigakijima, with Akihiro's parents company trip. The idea of a company trip is very common in Japan. Most of the time, though, the employees don't get to take their spouses, but Akihiro's parents made an exception for me (thanks!). The island is somewhat like Hawaii and we enjoyed a lot of ocean activities. First of all, though, the airlines to this island are really set out to be proper to their visitors. When we arrived, there were 4 well-dressed, smart-looking airline employees waving to welcome us, and bowing! Then again when we left, they were bowing from the skyway! The politeness here is sometimes overwhelming!

Anyway, the first day we took a ride on a glass-bottomed boat and saw the beautiful coral and ocean fish.



That night we enjoyed a buffet style dinner--I got to try a few new things--pigs ears, dragon fruit, sea grapes--all very, well... interesting!

The next morning we had a Japanese breakfast. By the way, we have a new friend traveling with us, Waves, the beanie baby. He is a school project for an American child (kinda like Flat Stanley).

That day we went canoeing on a river in the mangrove forest in the morning and snorkeling in the afternoon. Again, an interesting situation. Before each of these activities we were led in stretching exercises as a group! Then we were well outfitted with river boots and Japanese style hats. We had a thorough lesson in canoeing and then we headed off (Far from being dumped in the river by an American canoe-rental company and being told "we'll pick you up down river!") Along the way, the guide informed us about the history of the area and taught us about the mangrove. After lunch, we got outfitted in wet suits--quite an experience--life jackets, boots, gloves, and snorkel gear. Again more exercises, and off we went to check out the ocean. It wasn't as nice as Hawaii, but still an amazing site!


That night we got to eat some freshly caught tuna--raw and partly cooked steaks! Akihiro's dad and some of the guys had been fishing and caught lots of tuna. They were delicious! The next day we went with Dad fishing in the ocean. The captain took us out into the ocean a bout an hour where there is a special spot for catching tuna. The waves were 1.5 meter high--which doesn't sound like much, but it was really rocky--I was scared! Really made me think about the time when Jesus calmed the waves! Thankfully, though, I didn't lose my breakfast over the side like a few in our party! I was able to enjoy the fishing and the beautiful ocean! We were fishing 100 meters down in a 1300 meter deep area of the ocean! I caught 4 tuna myself! Akihiro caught 6 or 7! In all, for the 2 days of fishing, our party caught 44 fish! They are 1-2 kg each and beautiful things (sorry, our camera broke, so I don't have any pics--unless the one on Akihiro's phone turns out). One interesting thing about this fishing trip, was that our captain was a Christian--a rareity in Japan. One of the employees from the first day had commented about how nice he was. When he found out he was a Christian, he said, "Oh, I see." Indeed we could see in his eyes the light of the Lord and enjoyed fellowship with him. Oh that more people here in Japan and all over the world could have this light of the Lord! May we as Christians ask the Lord that our lives might be noticably different (in a good way!) and that we would give glory to God!

We returned home on Saturday and I cooked (all the way!) some of the tuna--it was very good!

Other exciting news here is that Chi-san (our Chinese friend, Li-san's wife) arrived safely yesterday! As she came out to meet Li-san, she looked fairly confident--an answer to many of your prayers! Thanks so much! We had fun preparing for her arrival--helping Li-san buy flowers for the first time in his life, giving him a haircut, and having one of the church friends make a poster to welcome her! It is so wonderful to see them so happy!


November 8, 2007


Sorry, not creative title today!
Thanks for your prayers! Akihiro returned safely from Hawaii and he felt like his test went much better than the last time. We"ll know in a couple of months if he passed. Chi-san and I have done fairly well. It is pretty quiet as we can't communicate much! We did get a laugh at the grocery store recently. I wanted to buy some beef, but wondered about the kanji--was it beef or horse meat--it looked a little different. Ah, I thought, Chi-san can read the kanji, but I don't know the Chinese word, so....I looked at her and said, "mooooo". At first she looked a little concerned, but then she laughed and nodded "yes"! Thankfully we had had a conversation earlier with her husband to translate on various animal sounds and how they are said differently in different languages, so it wasn't totally foreign for her to hear me "moo"! I wonder if anyone heard us! We explored Tokyo one day with Megan, the Klaus's helper, and had a great time--especially noteable was our lunch. We bought lunchboxes and decided to eat at the imperial gardens. We couldn't find a great place to sit, so we sat on this big slab of stone. It was positioned by an explanation of how they restored the rock walls, but it didn't look like a bad spot. We were halfway through our lunch when a large tour group came in our direction--complete with the leader carrying a flag (a common thing here!). He marched them over and started speaking about the rock we were sitting on. We had our backs to the group (thankfully) so just tried to keep eating as casually as possible with the whole group looking at our backs! Oh well!
We also enjoyed the monorail around Tokyo bay, a store opening, and the big ferris wheel.

We have been busy, yet blessed with many visitors lately. Mark and Bev Bahr were here for Communion and Fall Fellowship meeting. It was a blessed time. This communion I felt even more at home in Shioda church--that feels good! Then Dave and June (my aunt and uncle--for those who don't know them) came from America. We enjoyed showing them around our town and eating sushi with them! We also took a trip to a park in Yamanashi where the leaves were really pretty. We hiked along a creek and enjoyed the bright red maples.


We also enjoyed taking them to a special restaurant where we had our own little cottage in a lighted Japanese garden. They were brave and tried all the food. Some, though, were braver than others when they learned that the fish on their plate had not been cleaned at all and that it was intended that the whole fish be eaten--guts, bones, head, eyes and all! It was raised in a very clean water, so I gave it a try--not bad! (I know, that sounds disgusting! I guess it is proof of God changing my taste buds to match my circumstances)
Dave and June are on a tour this week and we meet up with them on Friday for the weekend. My third Flat Stanley arrived just in time to come along as we are entertained by the Ito Family and various interesting dining experiences and a tea ceremony. Next week we fly to the north island for a business trip, then we host Thanksgiving at Tokyo church on Sunday Nov 18th. Can you imagine inviting two whole churches to your Thanksgiving! It's only one turkey, though, less than the Sauder or Fritz family Thanksgivings, though

November 26, 2007


I hardly know where to start with a title like many aspects to cover. First of all, though, I am thankful for all the prayers that have been said for my father and family in the past days and will be said as we move forward. As many of you already know, my father had colon cancer 5 years ago and was successfully treated. On a follow-up check-up they found cancer in his lung and a few other places in his body. They will do more tests this week to determine the prognosis and treatment. At this point he feels good and has no physical indications. This serious news put a whole different slant on Thanksgiving--to be thankful for my dad and my family, to be thankful for God's peace and comfort in a difficult time, to be thankful that through the Spirit of God, I can still feel close to my family even though they are on the other side of the world, to be thankful for a supportive husband and group of believers and friends in Japan who have been so understanding and prayerful, to be thankful that God knows best and that He grants grace to accept His will as perfect and holy, to be thankful for the good things that this has already resulted in...on and on. Yet, the human part of me still struggles and there are still many "unknowns" so I ask for your prayers for my family and for me.

Other Thanksgiving happenings here....Last Sunday we fed about 44 people for our Thanksgiving feast! The turkey and gravy got gobbled up (along with the rice, of course!) It was a wonderfully blessed gathering filled with fellowship, eating, singing, praying, and a little skit by the Sunday School children about the origin of Thanksgiving.

Last Saturday we hiked up the nearby Takao mountain with our dear friends, Li and Chi. Everyone and their dog was there, so we couldn't take the cable car or chair lift up, so we started out on foot. At the top, we could only see the faint outline of Mt. Fuji, but we enjoyed the beautiful red maples and a cup of hot chocolate that we made on our little portable burner. It was fun to see Li-san enjoy his first cup of hot chocolate in his lifetime. He came back for seconds! The cable car line again was too long going down, so we walked with the masses down a concrete road in the dark--thankful for a beautiful round, bright, full moon! We crashed at our house and had tuna steaks and a few fixin's with apple crisp to finish up. It was a good day.

December 3, 2007


There is good news and bad news. The bad news is that we got the final results on Dad's cancer, and it is very serious. As a result of this bad news, though, is the good news. Mom and Dad are coming to visit us in Japan--this Friday the 7th! They came 2 years ago, but that was before we lived in Japan, so it will be fun to show them around the neighborhood, etc. They will stay a week and then we (Akihiro and Carrie) will return (with them) to the States for about 10 days--coming back to Japan on Christmas Day. Please continue to pray for us as we travel and as decisions are made regarding treatment, etc.

December 22, 2007

Update from Tremont

We had a great time with my parents in Japan. They were just in time for the "dedication" of our new Shioda church bathrooms on Sunday! After church they joined us as we went Christmas caroling at the local hospital. Monday we travelled about 2 hours to a mountain area with a view of a lake and Mt. Fuji. The clouds parted for a brief glimpse of Mt. Fuji and also gave us a nice sunset over the ocean. That night we all stayed at a traditional Japanese inn with Akihiro's parents. We all enjoyed the hot spring bath and then a dinner of kaiseki ryori. We probably ate at least 100 different types of food--including a special turtle, shark fins, and many different kinds of sea creatures. Mom and Dad were very brave and tried it all--though Mom did cook her raw fish! Then Akihiro's dad was determined that my parents try a Japanese massage. Akihiro and I supervised to interpret and for curiousity. Though hesitant at first, my folks thoroughly enjoyed the experience--very different from American style massage. It's hard to describe! I don't know what was more enjoyable--getting the massage, or watching their faces as they received the massage. Tuesday we explored the area around Hakone and ate some hard boiled eggs that had been boiled in the hot sulfer springs. One black-shelled egg is supposed to add 7 years to your life, so we made sure Dad ate 2! Wednesday we spent around home doing laundry and a bit of cleaning, etc--I think Mom said this was the best day (mothers, you know)! Thursday we joined the ladies Bible meeting at Tokyo church and later a Czechoslovakian Boy's Christmas Choir in downtown Tokyo. Akihiro and I flew back with Mom and Dad to the States on Friday and it is wonderful to be home--especially given our family circumstances. We will return to Japan on December 24th as we have commitments in Hokkaido, the north island on the 26th.

Speaking of family circumstances, I'll do a brief update on Dad's situation. He continues to have no symptoms and is as energetic as ever, for which we are so thankful! While we were in Japan, we were able to talk to Bro. Willis Ehnle who had visited Oasis of Hope Hospital, which is located in Mexico--just south of San Diego. At this hospital, they do some cancer treatements that have been available in other countries for quite some time but have not been approved in the U.S. This hospital has much better statistics than the chemo available for metastatic lung cancer in the U.S., so after some further research and discussion with family and the hospital staff, Dad and Mom made plans to leave for Mexico on December 27th. The course of treatment is 18 days. (I guess they will finally "go south" for a winter vacation!) Akihiro and I are interested in seeing this hospital, so we will be returning to this hemisphere again on January 5th for a few days with them. We are praying that if it is God's will, this treatment will be successful. Thanks again for all the prayers and support!

December 31, 2007

Update on Dad, A few pics from their Japan trip

After a few delays in their flight, Mom and Dad arrived in San Diego and later, Mexico . They are impressed with the Oasis of Hope hospital--it's friendly staff, cleanliness, thoroughness, and professionalism. Dad continues to feel good, for which we are extremely thankful. He is receiving ozone treatments and 3 different IV treatments (Vit C., Laetrile, and Perftoran)--some days they last 5 hours! He is also taking many supplements orally. They said the food is good and Mom is learning more about the diet they recommend. They have met many interesting people and have enjoyed the fellowship. Mom can stay in the room with Dad and they eat all their meals together in the dining room with other patients and their caregivers. They can walk to the ocean together many days and can see the ocean from an activity room on their floor of the hospital. Thanks again for all your prayers!

Here are a few pictures of Mom and Dad's trip to Japan...enjoy!

Even though it was the middle of December, still the leaves were pretty. Here we are taking a walk near our home.

We went for a short trip to the mountainous area about 2 hours from our house.

We got a little glimpse of Mt. Fuji!

The ocean and mountains were beautiful!

Here is the view from Mom and Dad's room!

We ate many interesting foods--it is like eating art!

Akihiro's parents joined us at the inn and we had a wonderful time. Here we are in our traditional Japanese yukatas. Mom and Dad had quite a challenge to keep their slippers on!

Here's the room where we ate breakfast and supper.

Here's a picture of the Japanese hot bath (onsen) at the inn. See previous posts on onsens for more details!

We explored the little town and saw lots of interesting foods--even some fish and squid out to dry!

On their last day in Japan, they came to our Tokyo church ladies bible meeting. It was a blessed time!

January 23, 2008

Snow! and a few other pics to catch you up

It was a pleasant surprise to wake up to huge flakes of snow coming down--the first time I have seen so much snow at our home in Hachioji! I laughed at the people carrying umbrellas out in the snow when I drove Akihiro to the station, but later, when I went out, I, too needed an umbrella--it was wet snow and rain! Anyway, I had a wonderful walk--the green manicured bushes with little snow caps are so pretty! Here's one of my neighbor's gardens

And here is the park near our home...

And the neighbor's adorable pansies...

Yesterday I had an interesting experience... The doorbell rang and I ran to answer it. There was a young man at the base of the stairs and he was just staring at me. Finally he said something about futons. I didn't get it and asked him to speak slower. He just kept staring at me. I told him my husband was Japanese and that I would call him and he could explain it to him. Then he repeated it again slower. No, I don't have any old futons that I had called to have picked up. Whew, off the hook. Then he said "Blue eyes--first time!" Apparently he had never seen blue eyes before! Ah, the joys of being a foreigner!

A few other pics to catch you up on...

Here was our New Year's Day food!

During the New Year's holiday we visited Akihiro's grandma's house and he took me to see his elementary school and was amazed that it was still almost the same! He showed me how he walked home and this little itty bitty path he took--and it looks well travelled! Only big enough for my hips to fit through!

Saw this bike rack and thought it was interesting--you do what you have to when you have limited space!

When we were in Hokkaido--the north island--we saw this group of Chinese tourists all lined up in this bicycle train. I think there were at least 20 little carts hooked together!

January 29, 2008

Garbage, girls, green cards, and a prayer request

This morning as I write I am glaring out my window at the big-beaked birds on the wires outside! Akihiro ran back up the stairs this am to inform me that those awful birds had tore open my garbage and strewn it all over the road! Thankfully our little gravel road rarely sees much traffic, so not too many people could see me picking up my garbage! I'll have to put it in the cages around the corner, I guess! (We don't have huge garbage cans here like they do in America! Today is the day to put out burnable garbage in the special blue bag I bought at the grocery store for our neighborhood's trash collection. Today was also the day for PET bottles to be collected. Taking care of our garbage is quite a deal here!)

Yesterday I stopped at the Christian bookstore on my way to meet Akihiro at the American Embassy. I was on the second floor near a big window facing the busy street outside. I was looking at some scripture flip calendars when I noticed these 4 little girls with their little yellow school hats and red leather backpacks standing near the phone booth on the street below. One little girl saw me and started waving and smiling. The rest of the girls followed suit! I waved and smiled back. Periodically they would wave again as I would look up from my shopping. It warmed my heart to see the openness, friendliness, and love of children.

Speaking of American Embassy...Akihiro is applying for his green card so that if he would spend a considerable amount of time in the U.S., he could work and make money. At this point he cannot work in the U.S. So, this requires a ton of paperwork and wading through the legal jargon! You couldn't pay me enough to be a lawyer! Anyway, we had the first of three meetings and it went well. We easily convinced the smiling man on the other side of the glass screen that we had a loving relationship! I did tease Akihiro earlier that perhaps he married me just to get a green card! I know that's not true! If he gets this green card, we will have to go to the U.S. at least once a year to keep it, so that is good news! (Not that we wouldn't make the trip once a year anyway!)

A prayer request was forwarded to me recently....Ellen Cox, a wife and mother of three children has cancer and is having many compications. Please pray for strength, encouragement, peace, and healing. Her personal prayer request demonstrates a wonderful attitude, "that I would be willing to do what the Lord needs me to do."

March 3, 2008

Flops and frostbite

Nothing too new here! I've got a cold, so I don't feel like I've been very productive lately. I'll use my cold for an excuse as to why I totally flopped the bread I made today. I was excited to try a new bread machine recipe--banana bread. Apparently, I was so excited, that I forgot to put the stirring blade in. When I lifted the lid, hoping to see some luscious banana bread, I saw a soupy mess. Hmm--what happened? I dumped it out and disected it, only to find my mistake. I was able to eat the gooey bananas and the cooked egg on the bottom, but the rest was just a mess of partially baked dry and wet ingredients. I've got another batch in now and hope it turns out better!

It's getting just a tad warmer here. This winter has been much colder than the last, so I am really ready for spring. I even got a very mild case of frostbite (red/ purplish areas that get kinda numb) on the ends of my toes! I don't remember being really cold, so it was a rather puzzling appearance. It seems to be getting better slowly. The church ladies told me that it was probably from wearing tights that restricted my circulation too much. I was wearing tights and socks because our floors are cold--no central heat--just hotel-like units. There is hope, though, the plum trees are blooming!

Sorry I don't have more exciting news! Hopefully we will have more to report when we can go in the house at our property on March 19th!

April 15, 2008

A visit from my parents, getting in the "new" old house, and Akihiro's ordination

Mom and Dad's visit came at the peak of cherry blossom time in our area! We saw them in various settings--formal parks, natural settings, and at night. We enjoyed fellowship with the believers and friends here in Tokyo and did a bit of traveling with the Bahrs who were here at that time.


This is at night at the park near our home.

See Mt. Fuji in the background?


Sunday was a big day for us with Akihiro's ordination into the ministry at our Shioda church. We had quite a crowd of people--about fifty people came at various times of the day. We were thankful to feel the love and support of so many dear people. A side note regarding our meal for that occasion...we had taco salad (hay-stacks). The Japanese people were very curious about this food--most having never eaten it before. I was glad they liked it! (Of course we had pink rice too! Pink rice is eaten at special occasions.)

Monday was exciting too as we were able to go into the house that we bought. I was a bit concerned when we met the neighbor (who was very nice, by the way) and she said that the house has been empty for three years and sometimes rats run out of it! We found that the back door was open, so we ventured in. I was exploring the main area with my flashlight (no electricity hooked up) when Akihiro hollers from upstairs, "Honey, there's a piano up here!" Sure enough, upstairs was a beautiful, almost new Yamaha piano! We found many other good pieces of furniture and lots of clothes and stuff to go through! It appears that the family did what they call in Japanese "yonige" which means they ran away at night. There were dishes in the dish rack, and lots of stuff just laying around. A grandmother lived in the home with one single daughter and one married daughter who had an electrician husband and three small children. Apparently they went bankrupt and ran away. Apparently if they "disappear" for 10 years, their debt will be dissolved. Sometimes a financial company hires a gang to harrass the people into paying, so that could also be why they ran away at night. Either way, it made me really sad to see that this family had left so many of their belongings behind. There is a storage shed that is full of electrician tools--Dad said it looks like an "L&F shop" (my brother's electrician shop). We will have to have some electrician companies go through it and give us quotes for the stuff. Our last challenge was how to get into the office (door locked). Dad saw a window partly open in the bathroom on the second floor, so we got a ladder and climbed up there. Good thing for Dad's long legs! He went through the small windowfeet first and unlocked the door! I crawled in another window of the basement storage! The office has a nice little couch and chairs and about 6 desks--anybody need a desk?! Mom and I worked on clearing out a place to park our car and the men worked on making some make-shift locks for all of these buildings. It was quite an adventure! We've got lots of work ahead of us to get all the stuff sorted and pitched, but I kinda like jobs like that! I wish they had the custom to have a yard sale or auction here, but they don't. We'll see how things go, I guess!

On Tuesday, we all went to the north island (Hokkaido) with Akihiro's parents. We enjoyed fishing on Akihiro's father's cruiser, even though we didn't have too much luck! We caught a few flat fish, some flying fish, and a star fish! We enjoyed the hotel onsen and dinner that night! The next day we did some touring around Hakodate. That night we enjoyed some king crab legs--Dad said that was one of his favorite parts! They flew home on Thursday.



We have a deadline to make with our book, "The Adventures of Dr. Do-Something and Nurse Know-It-All" so we are really working hard on the manuscripts. It is interesting to see what the editors cut of my story! Sorry, those of you who suggested it--they cut the romantic part! Lots of the more humorous parts got cut too, but it is probably ok. It is hard to get jokes to translate well!

Will put pictures on later--had typed this yesterday on the train! Got to get busy! Will report on Akihiro's first sermon and a visit to the Japanese dentist later.

April 22, 2008

Sermons, smiles, and stuff

Sorry to be so late reporting on Akihiro's first sermon, etc.! His first sermon went well. I think both he and I took a deep breath when he stepped up to the pulpit the first time, though! (Wow, this is really happening?!) Once he said good morning ( in Japanese) it all seemed to flow well and he commented on how inspired he felt. Because he was used to speaking in front of the congregation every other Sunday for a Bible Study, it didn't make him--or me-- too nervous!

I was going to comment a bit on my visit to the dentist. First of all, when you come in, you take your shoes off and don slippers. The first time I went, they only did the bottom teeth. I was kinda just sitting there with my mouth wide open waiting, when I got the point that the dental hygienist was done with me until the next appointment. This is standard for Japanese dentists I guess. Everything else is pretty much the same.

I am working full steam ahead on the stuff at the house--katezukimas ("putting in order" in Japanese). The neighbors all keep telling me to hang in there and keep commenting that it is teihen (troublesome). It is a bit troublesome, but it is kinda fun too. After probably about 16 hours of working on the kitchen/entry way/living room, I am just about done! When I uncover a box, I don't have any idea what might be in it--sometimes foreign money, sometimes neat stationary, sometimes interesting artwork, sometimes stinky old seaweed or overly dried squid, etc. There are lots of neat dishes to add to my "souvenier shop"! Because of the garbage situation here, it really takes a lot of sorting--burnable and non burnable (which I pay 75 yen for a 40 liter bag--which I stuff to overflowing!), save for me, save for others, save for souveniers, paper garbage, cardboard, glass (needs to be rinsed out at the nice neighbors outside spiget), old clothes/ fabric, PET bottles, styrofoam, batteries and light bulbs. I can only put 3 large bags out at a time, so I am now depositing trash at the Klaus's and at my current house, and the new house. My little car is turning into a garbage truck! I met the neighbor in front of our house and he is an older man who has had a stroke, so it is pretty difficult for me to communicate with him, not understanding Japanese that well in the first place. The new neighbors think I understand a lot more than I do, but I think I get the main jist--at least I hope so!

We have this revision of our book turned in, so will await a final copy to review! What a relief! The late cherry trees are still blooming and the pink and white dogwoods have really started to get pretty. The birds are singing and I am happy to report that my favorite Japanese bird, the Japanese nightingale can still be heard at the new house!

May 2, 2008

A Saturday off, Koi Nobori, and a few house pictures

Last Saturday I took the day off from my sorting at the "new" house and went sightseeing with Doris Fischer who was here for business. It was great to talk to another girl in English all day! We enjoyed checking out a new garden--Kiyosumi Gardens. My guide service still isn't the greatest! I got out at the station and figured that the big long line of people must be going to the gardens, so we followed them. Well, when I asked somebody, he said they were on an 8km walk around this part of Tokyo! Good thing I asked! Anyway, we found the gardens and had a nice time there.

The wisteria are just beautful!

And so were the iris!

We also went to Asakusa Temple. Note the beautiful azaleas--they are just lining the streets these days!

These ladies let us take their picture! Aren't they charming!

This upcoming week is Golden Week here in Japan which means lots of holidays in a row, days off work, celebrations, and traffic jams! In honor of Children's Day (I think anyway), there are some hanging fabric carp (koi nobori) hanging over our river. It is quite a site!

As requested, here are some pictures of the inside of our house. I have lots of good helpers--Jana and Andrew and family, Marie, and my newly adopted Japanese mom (my new neighbor). She is so kind and helpful! She is always giving me lots of information about how to sort my recycling things and what is the best way to get rid of things. She has even offered to transfer the plants from our yard to her garden when they tear the house down! There are lots of nice plants and she enjoyed telling me what each one of them is and how to care for it--too bad I couldn't understand much of it! There is a nice bleeding heart plant, rose, camelia, flowering vines, small kumquat fruit tree, etc. She said she really likes gardening and sewing. I told her she is just like my Mom! I am so grateful that God has provided such a wonderful neighbor to me! She even gave me some sweet potato tempura one day and banana bread the other day--delicious! She also lets me use her water faucet and her bathroom since I don't have water or lights at our house! It is a tremendous blessing!

Here is a picture of the kitchen. I am pretty well done going through the stuff there.

Here is the living room and even though it looks a mess, it is pretty well gone through. The big mountain of clear bags in the middle is just a start of the clothes that I am saving for the clothing drive!

Here are the three rooms upstairs. If anyone is interested in any Japanese kimonos or traditional Japanese clothes, just let me know--I may have some for you! If you'll cover the cost of cleaning, I'll bring them home when I come on May 27th! I have some children's sizes and some adult sizes.



I forgot to take pictures of the office and storage areas, but they aren't so very exciting.

Speaking of coming home, as I said, I will come by myself on the 27th to help Mom and Dad move to Chestnut Place. Akihiro will leave June 4th with his parents and his grandpa. They will go to Washington D.C. and then to New York City to visit Akihiro's brother and then come to Tremont on June 9th.

May 17, 2008

Another "first" experience

Well, I am very thankful to be in one piece this evening. I had a bit of a car accident today. (I'm fine, though, Mom and Pops!) I was just going to go to the convenience store down the street from our new house to buy garbage bags. I was going to do a u-turn to park, so I swung a little left (remember that we drive on the left side of the street) and started to u-turn. The next thing I knew, I was crashed into by a white car who apparently thought I was pulling over or didn't see me. I was able to pull the car over and thought I was just fine til I felt my head begin to throb. Then I realized I was bleeding. I immediately called Akihiro who was also working at the new house. The other man was fine, but his car had some damage. My car door wouldn't open very good either and the window was broken. The poor guy's face said "oh dear, a foreigner!" so I quickly told him that my husband was Japanese and that he would be here soon. They wanted to call an ambulance, but I said I was fine. When Akihiro came, he said we should call an ambulance--it is free and the best way to do it. So, the ambulance came and checked me a bit. It was kinda funny because I had my old Rescue 702 EMT shirt on. I told them that I used to do their type of work as a volunteer. Anyway, I was thankful that Caleb Klaus was with Akihiro because he went with me in the ambulance to help interpret while Akihiro answered questions for the police, etc. They did some scans on my brain because my head was throbbing and my head felt funny and my arms felt a bit tingly. That came back fine, so I was relieved. The doctor then gave me three stitches in my lacerated head. The staff was all very kind and efficient. Actually, I was the only one in the ER, so I problably made it out of there in about an hour! It was my first experience to ride in an ambulance as a patient, first time to be in the ER as a patient, first time to get a CT scan, and first time to get stitches! Who would have thought I would have all these "firsts" too in my new homeland! We'll have to see about my poor little Suzuki Alto--it was such a nice little car! I am very thankful for God's protecting hand on me today!

June 19, 2008

Back from America!

After being home in Tremont for three weeks and hearing from many of you who read my blog, I am renewed in zeal to keep it updated better!

A brief overview of the last month... I was so thankful to be home to help my parents move to Chestnut Place! It was nice to be able to stay there for a few days to kinda say goodbye to the place I called home for nearly 30 years. Mom and Dad are settled into their new place and it already seems like home! I had some time to visit friends and family and get a bit of shopping done--things like shirts (with sleeves wide enough for my arms to fit in!), brownie mixes, stain remover, fabric paints for our ladies meeting, vitamins, rice mixes (can you believe they don't have much wild rice in Japan!?), etc. I missed my hubby terribly, but we were able to talk via Skype at least once a day. He survived on rice and natto (fermented soy beans) and Jana and Marie's cooking! He and his mother and grandfather enjoyed their stops in Washington D.C. and New York before arriving in Tremont. They were able to visit Akihiro's brother in NYC and see the display of the Zero fighter airplane at the Smithsonian. Grandpa said it brought back memories of lots of his comrades who died in WWII. Once they arrived in Tremont, 212 N. Harris turned into a bed and breakfast (well supper and lunch sometimes too!). It was fun to see them relish rice and miso soup and natto for breakfast after American breakfasts for 6 days! We enjoyed visited various family and friends houses and sharing American food, culture, scenery, and hospitality with them. gpa%20on%20mower.JPG
As grandpa had requested, we arranged for him to be able to talk with a soldier who had served in Japan during the war. It was a sobering, yet interesting meeting that we had in the Chestnut Place commons area. It was fun showing him around Peoria and stopping for ice cream on a hot day. We about bought Walmart out of Pepperidge Farm big cookies to take home to his and mom's friends for souveniers! I was a bit concerned about how things would go since Grandpa was diagnosed with prostate cancer with bone mets not too long before this trip, but he did really well--said he received lots of enthusiasm and energy from those kind Americans and their children.gpa%20truck.JPG
He said he didn't want to come home as he liked this wide America, liked the food, and the people were so nice! We had time to learn many things about his life--he would have participated in the Olympics in swimming if the Olympics had not been cancelled due to WWII, he sold natto on his bicycle every morning at 5AM when he was 8 years old, he measured American service people for clothes for a tailoring business, even though he could only say a few sentences of English (if they said something he didn't understand, he would just say, "I'm sorry, I'm tired."), he raised seaweed in the river by their home, etc. kimonos.JPG

We had a fun morning putting the kimonos from our new old house on the girls--they did a good job of walking in those high funny shoes! Akihiro's mom got her first try at mowing our yard--which was growing quite rapidly with all the rain we had gotten. She liked it! They both enjoyed watching the squirrels, rabbits, and birds in our yard. Grandpa said, though, that the best part was watching his grandson get up in front of many people in Tremont church and speak. His mom said she could feel how Tremont church had supported Akihiro and how it was good to see him be able to preach for them. Thanks to all of you who prayed for us!


It was wonderful to spend time with family and friends and speak English to anyone who would listen, but I was ready to come "home." It probably sounds crazy, but I guess it is probably a combination of things--needing routine/normalcy, the emotions of coming back to Tremont, knowing where God has called me to be, etc. I don't know if I will ever not feel the lump in my throat when I start to sing (and understand what I am singing) the beautiful and meaningful hymns with many many people that I know and love. I don't know if I will ever fail to notice the wonder of grabbing the same Bible out of the rack that everyone else does and reading along with the minister.

Tonight as I took a walk along the small river behind our house, I soaked in the sights and sounds and felt very thankful...the sound of the rippling brook with an occasional honking of a duck, the sight of a man sitting on the stone bank with his shoes off reading the newspaper-his bicycle parked a few meters back, a woman taking breaks from her jogging to photograph the many flowers (some pretty weeds too) along the path, feeling the occasional glances at the tall blond foreigner enjoying the evening too, students in uniforms riding their bikes home from after-school activities, people picking up plums from under the trees to make many delicious things, a little granny sitting on the park bench watching the people go by and the sun go down, hearing the passerbyers wonder at the beautiful clouds and sunset as it is reflected in the water under the oriental style bridge with it's lighted lanterns on the end, seeing the slightly obese man trying to work off too many meals of good ramen, thinking about a blessed day at our ladies meeting and God answering my prayer of how I could befriend one of the young moms who has started coming, and thanking God for His goodness and His love.

The hydrangeas are gorgeous now--everything is as green as can be because it is the middle of the rainy season and very humid.

June 29, 2008


When I go home and hear of people who often check my blog for updates, I feel a bit guilty when I don't update very often. Nothing too much new here, but I'll give you a few happenings.

We got a new little car to replace the old one that I wrecked. We like it and it gets twice the gas mileage as our van. With gas prices reaching about $6 per gallon (and you think your $4 is bad!) and with all of the miles that we drive each week to church and to work several hours away a few times a week, we decided to get a car that was a little bigger than the previous one so that it would be safe and stable on the highway. Akihiro also researched and found an inexpensive GPS navigation system that speaks English! Yippee! It can even be used on a bicycle or on foot! The map still has things in Japanese, but it is a very big improvement--I don't just push buttons until I get to the screen I want!

I had an invasion of ants in my kitchen and it took almost a week for me to figure out where they were coming from. I am happy to report, though, that they have been found, and the problem rectified! Akihiro thought I was getting a little out of hand when I was saying, "Ah, I see you...prepare to meet thy death!" "Ah, your seconds are numbered, you little booger!", etc. as I smashed them. I also found out that a shot of bleach kills them pretty much instantly--a good thing with a metal countertop and sink area. I did think, though of how the Bible says to observe the ant. They sure are busy little fellers!

I've turned my bathtub into a wash station for some big organizational boxes that I found at our new old house and am getting organized with the extra things I have found at the house. Feels good to have a little extra space.

Tomorrow we go to a showroom to start picking things out for our house--siding, shingles, counters, etc. Depending on how things go, we might not be moved in til next April.

We got word that our book will be in major bookstores in the middle of July! They are already wanting to talk to us about another book--this time a book to help Japanese give English presentations at conferences, etc. I'm not sure how Dr. Do-Something and Nurse Know-It-All will fit in with that, but we'll see.

This week should be pretty busy--babysitting, a Tokyo tour with the Klaus's helper, etc. Loren and Betsy Schrenk from St. Louis will be here this weekend, so we will be helping to take care of them some too.

July 15, 2008

Keeping busy!

A few odds and ends of the last week or so. We had Loren and Betsy Schrenk and their son Matthew visit us last weekend. Akihiro suggested that they stay in a hotel instead of our home. With limited space and privacy, that was a good decision. We look forward to having a bigger home where it is easier to keep guests! As it was, we found a little hotel near our home and then we just provided breakfast for them.

The early part of last week I watched some of the little Klaus kids so Jana could get packed up for their trip to America on Thursday. Can you imagine getting a family of 10 ready to travel and be gone for about 6 weeks!? Well, they made it off ok and now we are in charge of their dog, Jack. He gets walked and fed twice a day, so it makes for good exercise, riding my bike over there and then walking him. We have learned, though, that if we are careful, we can take him by bicycle. This makes walking him go a little faster--not only does he have to walk/run faster, but he can't be as tempted to sniff everything along the way! Here's a picture of Jack in his cage--very happy to see me because he knows he gets to go for a walk..and later, the river path where we walk him.


Otherwise, I've done a bit of cooking for Marie who broke her arm, worked in the storage unit of our "new" old house, scavenged a few goodies from the house and cleaned them up, went to a showroom with our architect to pick out stuff for the new house, etc. On that note, it is funny to see the showroom people's face when they hear about an American size oven (twice as big as the biggest Japanese residential oven!) I think the biggest one at that showroom will be very nice--I can fit a 9X13 in it!

We've been getting lots of good fresh veggies from Ehnle's and other peopler recently and I stumbled across a really good dip for cucumbers today--miso and wasabi flavored mayonnaise--sound good?

Oh--I almost forgot! Our book is published! Too bad I don't know what the title is! Anyway, it is kinda fun to finally see the finished product. Here is a picture of the cover. Now they are wanting us to write a book about giving presentations at international conferences. We've got to think about that one!

July 17, 2008

Still a foreigner!

I was hungry driving home from a ladies meeting at the Tokyo church (where, by the way, I got rid of lots of my stuff from the old house--yippee!!!!!!!). I spied the McDonald's (Macdonaldo in Japanese letters!) and felt a craving for a double cheeseburger rise. So, I tried out the drive through. I saw the dabulu chizu ba-ga on the menu and told that to the voice on the other end of the speaker. She said something to me that I didn't get but I just said "hai" (yes). So, I drive up to the window and she asks for 100 yen ($1). Hmm...didn't think they were that cheap...but oh well, maybe it's like the dollar menu. She graciously hands me the receipt with two hands and disappears. Her smiling face appears with a tall vanilla ice cream cone. Her smile faded when she saw my downfallen face. Ah...machigaimashita! (I made a mistake!) I repeated the dabulu chizu ba-ga and she immediately understood! I was too flustered to quick buy the cone as the supervisor came to rectify the problem on the register. Pretty soon a very apologetic girl appeared with my burger! I snarfed it down--ahh, tasted just like America!

July 23, 2008


It was a hot day here in Japan! 36 degrees celcius--my brain is too hot to translate that to Fahrenheit--sorry! I spent the day at Ehnle's harvesting some of their garden goodies and helping one of our Sunday school kids clean the church. Ehnle's left today for America for 5 weeks, so we get to harvest their garden stuff. The next two weekends three out of the four ministers in Japan will be out of the country, so Akihiro has it set up so that he can preach in one church and broadcast to the other church at the same time.

Yesterday we went to see two of the houses that our architect designed. He especially wanted to show us the bamboo flooring that one of the houses used. It looks like light wood and is like flat hardwood flooring, but is supposed to be really durable and comfortable (temperature wise and comfortable to stand on). He says it is the same price as the other floorings, so I guess we are going to go for it. The lady of the house where we went said she likes it, so that was a good sign. The architect said we need it especially since we aren't going to have any tatami (rice straw mats)--something that really makes a house "Japanese". We didn't think it practical for our house, so didn't choose to use any, but hope to use it somehow via a rug or something. He also showed us some washi paper wall paper that has flecks of bamboo in it. It too is not more expensive, and looks pretty Japanese, so I think we will go for it.

Monday I got my souvenier shop pretty well washed and organized, so I am ready for our next visitors! I made the mistake of stacking some drawers of dishes and they went crash! Well, there is more than one way to get rid of dishes!

Tomorrow is our third year anniversary--seems impossible that it was three years ago that I almost ran down the aisle to marry the man who has become my best friend. We are going to try out a special tofu restaurant nearby to celebrate and thank God for his many blessings!

August 4, 2008

Still hot!

It seems like this humidity and heat will never be over! Our air conditioner seems to be having a hard time keeping up with it too. Our current place has one pane windows and not much insulation to protect from the outside, so it will be interesting to see how much cooler we are in our new place with two pane windows and better insulation. Speaking of the new place, we recruited Li-san, our Chinese friend, to help us last Saturday to get rid of some of the junk at the place. It was hot, but those two guys seemed to enjoy themselves--throwing old furniture out of second story windows and destroying some furniture so that it could be removed easier. We were traditional Japanese workers with our long towels hanging around our necks. I wet mine with ice water around my neck and it really helped to keep me more comfortable. I worked on unpacking the Japanese doll set and armor set that the man from the recycle shop said would not sell. It looks like I may have a bit of a museum in our attic in the new house! We were especially grateful for our "parents" next door. "Otosan" (Dad) saw them struggling with renches on some frames and came over with his proper tool and completed the task so easily. "Okasan" (Mom) supplied us with cool tea in the morning and crisp cool watermellon in the afternoon. I continue to marvel how God seems to have sort of "cloned" my parents in a few ways and made it His will to make them our new neighbors. We went for lunch and I was suprised to see a taco salad--you know--those fried tortilla shells that look like a crispy bowl? I had that--with a Japanese dresssing of course--and a quesadilla and it was delicious. We don't see much Mexican food here in Japan. That night we had Kan and Li-san for vegetable pancakes and had fun playing Akihiro's board game "Rich Dad Poor Dad". On other food notes, we ate recently at Subway and it was interesting to see the Japanese version--wasabi, shiso, sesame, etc. No rice, though!

Sunday we went to Tokyo church and were able to meet Bro. Bob and Sis. Rika Allen from Philadelphia. Rika is Japanese and they are here visiting family and friends.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that on Tuesday we had a short service for one of our elderly Shioda sisters who passed away last Sunday. They plan to wait for the funeral til September because they and their friends are very busy with peach harvest and they would like Bro. Willis to have the service, so they just asked for a short service before the cremation. Akihiro was a bit nervous about his first "funeral" service, but it went fine. Nearly everyone from the Shioda church came to support and sing. This was my second experience with a cremation service and it was much easier than the first. The place was very nice--out in the country with a view of the valley and mountains. We were the only group there, so we didn't have to listen to any Buddhist chanting, etc. We had a nice visit with the family over our cooked eel lunch boxes while we waited for the cremation to be complete. We are so thankful that the family agreed to have a Christian service for our sister. This is not the case in all circumstances. We pray that the scripture and prayers would comfort, yet convict her family as they are not yet Christian.

August 12, 2008

Garbage men angels, a few culinary notes, summer fellowship meeting, etc.

Last week we had a Japanese man and his wife working at our house to take out all the metal out of the storage area. I am so grateful for my Japanese mom for finding them for us as they would do it for free! They were so nice and worked so hard and took so much stuff for us! One day we loaded up the stuff that we wanted to take to our storage unit in Yamanashi. It was quite a feat to get a fairly large and very heavy safe moved from the second floor to the truck we had rented. We ended up wrapping it in a blanket, tying a rope around it, and basically letting it fall down the stairs! We also moved a nice big washing machine (hope it works!), another smaller safe, a few chairs, a small couch and chairs, coffee table, decent dresser, and quite a few other odds and ends. Our storage there is full, except for room for the piano which will come later. As it is in the upstairs of the house, we need to hire a crane to remove it once one part of the office is demolished. Apparently when the piano was originally delivered, there wasn't a house in front of our house, so it was easier. Oh well, this should work out ok.

On Friday and Saturday we had our church fellowship meeting at Tokyo church. We had Bible studies on Friday afternoon and then ate a delicious lunchbox supper and went to the local public bath. Then we all went back to the church to sleep on the rented futons. It was like a church slumber party! Men downstairs and ladies upstairs. In the morning after breakfast (first time for me to see eggs scrambled with chopsticks, I think!), we had another Bible study, ate curry rice for lunch, and went home. We had a very blessed time. It was a smaller group this year (about 10-20 depending on the time) with no visitors and some of our congregations in America, but that made for good discussions around the table at meal times and during Bible study. As people shared their hearts, I was reminded of how important it is to pray for each member. Many have difficult situations to deal with and need extra portions of God's grace.

Saturday we added Leo the cat to our pet watching responsibilities at the Klaus's. He is such a cute cat! We let him run around in their house while we walk the dog. He really misses his owners who will return the end of August!

As we had ate too much at the fellowship meeting, I wanted to make a light supper. I had seen an advertisement on a natto (fermented soy bean) package and thought it would be something that Akihiro would really like. I was right! In the bottom of the bowl was cold udon noodles in a soy sauce soup. It was topped with shredded Japanese ginger (myoga), daicon radish sprouts, ume (plum) flavored nato, mashed ume, and topped with toasted sesame seeds. I had gotten the myoga at our old house. My Japanese mom had informed me what that plant was. There are big leaves, but under those leaves are tiny little root like pink things. I made some pickles out of some of them too. It is fun to eat things from our own land--makes me really look forward to having a garden!

Sunday we were able to assemble again in Shioda--nice to be in our home church again. I put on a bit of a bazaar with some of the stuff from the house and was so glad to see about 14 bags of stuff leave!!! There's still a lot more, but the stuff that is left is probably going to just get pitched as it isn't that great. Yesterday they came and got all of the desks and office furniture out of the office--again, good riddance! Later this week, the garbage people come to get 8 large dressers, 13 smaller furniture pieces, a sofa, massage chair, old chairs, etc. We are getting there!

Just a side note, but we are tentatively planning to come home to Tremont on November 10th through the 20th. Akihiro needs to present lectures at SIU and UOI in Peoria before the end of November. Already looking forward to seeing many of you!

August 26, 2008

Yo, Mo, O, and Company

For the last week, Akihiro's parents' company had some Chinese guests here for some business issues. This is who Yo, Mo, and O are. The Chinese man (Yo-san) brought his wife and 9 year old daughter, his business partner, and an interpreter with him from Shanghai to consider buying some property. We took them to the north island to go fishing for a few days. We had fun catching squid and eating them both raw and cooked that night for supper. I think I had blogged on squid spaghetti last year about this time. The Chinese girl could speak pretty good English, so we got along good. She reminded me a lot of my neice, Laura. Her father was a Chinese version of one of the song leaders in Tremont church (perhaps some of you can guess--tall, deep voice, a bit rudy complexion)--it was almost uncanny! The mother and daughter seemed pretty bored with all of the business talk, so we decided (Akihiro and I) to take them to the aquarium on Monday. It rained (and has been raining for the past 5 days, it seems), but we still had fun. She taught me a little bit of Chinese and we became friends. She stays at a boarding school where she never wears her own clothes--even has uniforms for pajamas! She said the food is good and she really likes pizza--that surprised me. She only sees her parents on the weekends. I also had the sort of weird expereince of having my Japanese translated by the Chinese translator to my Chinese "uncle" as Yo-san insisted we call him. We will probably be visiting Shanghai in the next month or two to do further business with them and they can't wait to show us Shanghai and feed us the "best Chinese food". They also have business in Hong Kong and want us to visit there to. We'll see. Before I got married, I liked to travel, but I had no idea that God had China and Chinese friends on the agenda!

When we were at the north island there was one day that we spent with another business man and his wife and their young daughter (Japanese).. It was my first experience to spend a whole day speaking basically only Japanese to these people. They were very patient with me and we had a nice time. We did a big maze, rode 5 small bikes that were hooked together, and ate really good sushi.

Speaking of speaking Japanese, I also had a chance at teaching Sunday school last Sunday. Toru-san wasn't there and Akihiro encouraged me to give it a try. The two boys were patient with me and encouraged me to try to read the Bible story (Sa-moo-eh-ul "Samuel"). I could read it, but I couldn't understand it all. The kindergartener read better than me, but somehow I felt fairly satisfied with my accomplishment. We played some Bible games and got along pretty good. I can "get by" ok, but want to learn more verbs and grammar, so will probably start classes again near our home soon as I am nearing the end of the cleaning out things at the old house.

This week Judy Bauer and her cousin Elaine Young will be visiting Japan and we will keep them at our home for two evenings. It's still much easier to have English speaking guests!

September 7, 2008

Catching up on the last week or so....

We had a nice time with Judy and Elaine! It was my first time to check into a Japanese hotel by myself (I stayed with them in Yamanashi while Akihiro was working at Tateyama). I was getting pretty proud of myself when I saw the room keys being withdrawn from a little box, but my pride was short-lived! She started talking about putting our shoes in our room or in the lockers in the lobby. I said in the room was fine. Hmm. that wasn't the answer she was looking I tried the locker answer. Well, that didn't work either. So, I said that I would go get the other guests and our luggage and return. When I returned, the girl at the desk said very clearly (in Japanese), "Put your shoes in those lockers!" Then I figured it out--we took the shoe locker key back to her and then she gave me the long-awaited room key! As is many times the case, the hotel people were using very polite Japanese, which is much different than regular Japanese. Oh well! We enjoyed our stay there and the onsen--one that was wine scented and colored, and lots of other varieties--even a salt sauna!

Here's a picture of a watermelon we saw in Tokyo station for over $400! The large peaches are $20-40 a piece! Must be really good!

We went to a Japanese garden and thought this was a funny sign in the bathroom! This means that there is a toilet where you can sit versus squat!

Thursday we took Akihiro's two grandmas and his grandpa for a little trip to Hakone (the mountainous area about 2 hours from where we live). Akihiro's grandpa had been wanting to go to an onsen and since Akihiro had a half day work near Hakone, we decided to make a little trip out of it. It was quite an experience for me rooming with the two grandmas. I am about twice as tall as both of them, so I felt like a giant! We decided that it was better to do a lady's room and a men's room since we didn't think one of the grandmas who is really forgetful should be left alone. We had quite a few laughs--starting with one grandma looking for her glasses and finding them on the other grandma's face! Then it was the other one who was looking for an article of clothing all over, not realizing that she had flung it over her shoulder! One little grandma laid out her clothes for the next day at the bottom part of her bed and crawled under the covers. I was amazed to find out that in the morning the clothes were still lying perfectly--she wasn't tall enough to disrupt the bottom third of a bed! We did a bit of sightseeing with them and enjoyed the onsen and food very much!

We returned from Hakone on Friday evening and prepared for the next event--Sis. Haruko's funeral in Shioda on Saturday. I was a bit nervous as Akihiro asked me to play the electric piano to assist our singing for the funeral. There were about 70 people there! Yikes! Well, it went ok and Willis and Akihiro's service went well too. After the service, we ate a big dinner after listening to lots of speeches by family and local government officials. One interesting thing was that there was a glass of orange juice poured and placed in front of the picture of Sis. Haruko at one end of the dining room. Depsite the funeral being Christian style, the funeral home still practiced some of the Buddhist traditions of offering drink to the deceased person.

Currently I am in the Narita Airport Lounge waiting for our plane to Shanghai, China. It will be part business, part pleasure. We will be introducing Akihiro's businessman cousin to our Chinese friends as they may do some business together. Akihiro is really excited about eating Chinese food and the fact that we may get to ride the Maglev Train, a magnetic levitation train which is the fastest in the world from the airport to the city center! We return on Wednesday and leave Thursday morning for a long-ahead-planned trip to the north island with his parents and sister. We hope to catch lots of squid and other fish!

About Life in Japan

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

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