Sunday, October 26, 2008

Oct 26, 2008

Dear Family & Friends,

This email has two parts: Visits and Things to Know

First, Visits—

Last Monday, we were honored to have Elder Richard G. Hinckley visit our mission offices. For those who don’t know, he is a General Authority in our church and is the son of recently-deceased President Gordon B. Hinckley. He is a wonderful man with lots of warmth and personal interest. We had heard he would be coming about a week before he came, so we spent a lot of time cleaning and fixing up and making everything look nice. After he was shown around the mission office, missionary apartment upstairs, and mission home, we were invited over to the mission home living room to sit and visit and enjoy some light snacks prepared by Sis. Hill. What a gracious and kind man!! We very much enjoyed the time spent and the interest he showed in each one of us. He remembered his father spending a lot of time in Japan and other Asian countries and how much he loved the people and the various cultures. He was glad to come and enjoy places that his father had loved.

Then on Wednesday Jim and I were able to have lunch with one of my old school friends. Chuck Olson and I had gone to the same elementary, junior high, and high school, often being in the same classes. He has lived here for the past 34 years, has a lovely Japanese wife and two beautiful daughters, and, after going through a wide variety of jobs, is currently CFO of MTV Japan. We had such a good time eating at a nice Italian restaurant and remembering old times and old friends, plus bringing each other up-to-date on where we are now in our lives. We still have much more to talk about, so will get together from time to time. We would love to see more of Tokyo through his eyes.

Second, Things to Know—Some little things about Japan that we want to share with you—

Every home or apartment in Japan has a small area inside the front door called a “genkan”, pronounced to rhyme with “get con”. This is where they take off their shoes and leave them. Extra shoes are kept in a small cupboard or shelved there. Sometimes there are small stands containing 2 or more pairs of slippers for guests to use. No one wears shoes inside. The exceptions are offices, including our mission office, the church, restaurants, and stores, etc.

It is considered “very Japanese” to give a small gift to someone when you go to their home as an invited guest or to someone who has done something for you to show appreciation. So when I took some homemade dinner rolls and cinnamon rolls (thanks for the recipe, Christi) to our lunch with Chuck, he said “How very Japanese!” And today at church, one of the sisters who regularly leads the music when I play the piano in Relief Society gave me a gift bag containing a bag of cookies, some candy, and two individually-wrapped oranges to thank me for sharing my talent. This is such a sweet and thoughtful thing to do.

Everyone here still bows to each other as they meet or say goodbye, though they also often shake hands, so you get the best of both worlds.

They still have tatame mats on the bedroom floors, and still sleep on futons, which I have mentioned before. Often the size of a room will be described by how many tatame mats are on the floor (our bedroom is a 6-mat room).

Slurping soup is totally appropriate as you suck the noodles in (Jim says I am better at slurping my cereal!).

So that’s more about life in our part of the world. Thanks for sharing it with us!!

Love, Jim & Pat

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Oct 19, 2008

Dear Family & Friends,

We enjoyed a wonderful Zone Conference on Wednesday. The theme was “Unity.” As we have unity with God and with our companions, we will be able to do the Lord’s work so much better. Truly, as a married couple, we know how important unity has been in our home and with our family. And as we have worked in the Church throughout the years, we have found that whenever there is disharmony, things do not go well and the Spirit leaves. We have loved the harmony we have felt here on our mission. We enjoy working with Pres. & Sis. Hill because they have such a spirit of unity. The elders who work in the office treat each other and us with love and respect. It is the best feeling to go to work every day and enjoy the Spirit of God in all we do.

This is the best!!!

From Jim: This week I was audited by the Church audit system. The audit went well, I passed with flying colors (yippee!), and the best part was the visit the auditor and I had after the audit. Brother Etoh is a convert to the church and joined some 30 years ago. I asked how he was introduced to the church. He told me that when he was 18 years old he began to wonder about whether or not there was life after death. I do not know why he began thinking about that, but he said that even though he had no belief in a god, he decided to pray and ask that, if there is a god and if there is a life after death, that he would have a foreigner contact him and help him to know. The very next day he met missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was taught the gospel of Jesus Christ. After study and prayer, he received the answers he sought and was then baptized. What a great example of faith in a god he did not know, but asked in faith anyway and received an answer. I hope we are all asking in faith to receive the important answers we seek.

Our weather this past week has been gorgeous!!! The leaves are starting to turn color and fall, the temps are in the 70’s during the day and 60’s at night. I asked our mailman what to call this kind of weather—the phrase is “sawayaka des ne” which means “pleasing, nice, comfortable isn’t it?” Then the missionaries taught me the phrase “I ten ki des ne” which means “good day, huh?” Well, it is great!!!

We have been saddened to learn of the passing of some dear friends from Glendale, AZ: Randy Black and Stan Buell. Both are close to our age and both died of some form of cancer. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their wives, Joy and Holly, and their families. Also, we pray for our family members and friends who are struggling with various illnesses and cancers that their treatments will be effective, and my sister who is trying to endure shingles.

Please know that we love you all and are so grateful for your notes of encouragement from time to time. We are so glad to feel your support and to have you share what you are doing in your lives with us.

Our best to you all—

Jim & Pat

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Oct 12, 2008

Dear Family & Friends,

We just finished a week with two wonderful experiences:

First, this past Saturday and Sunday we were able to watch the Semi-annual General Conference in Salt Lake City. We heard such wonderful and uplifting things. A few of the thoughts we want to share and remember are:

5 new temples are planned for Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Cordoba, Argentina; the greater Kansas City area; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Rome, Italy.

“Faith is not just a feeling, it is a decision,” Elder Neil Anderson

“How we react to adversity makes a difference in our lives and our happiness.” Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

“Angels are sent from God, both seen and unseen….People are angels, too.” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

“Zion will only come as we are unified, become a holy people, and care for the poor and needy.” Elder D. Todd Christofferson

“To help our prayers become more meaningful, we must 1) counsel with the Lord in all our doings, 2) express heartfelt gratitude, and 3) Pray for others with real intent and a sincere heart.” Elder David A. Bednar

“To love our enemies takes faith and Christian courage. True disciples of Christ see opportunity in the midst of opposition.” Elder Robert D. Hales

“We will always have change, but we need to find joy in the journey. Always give thanks.” Pres. Thomas S. Monson.

Second, we were able to take a quick, one-day trip to Mt. Fuji. We rode there by bus with a great tour guide who helped us understand how much Mt. Fuji means to the people of Japan. We saw beautiful country and mountains—turns out Japan is mostly mountains, which we didn’t know because we spend all our time on the plains of Tokyo.

As we were driving closer, we could see the tip of Mt. Fuji above the clouds, but by the time we got to the Visitors Center, we were under the clouds. The hike up has 10 Stations (they call them Steps), and you can drive to the Fifth Station, which our bus did. But we were in the clouds there so we could still not see Mt. Fuji. Then we went to have lunch at a hotel at the base of the mountain. We ate with newfound friends from York, England, Bill and Joy Hawthorne. They were great people who have done some traveling so we had fun visiting with them. We also had people on our bus from Australia and Sri Lanka and, of course, Japan.

After lunch, they took us on a cruise of one of five lakes at the base of Mt. Fuji. The one we were on was Lake Ashi. They let us off at the bottom of a cablecar run up Mt. Komagatake. We enjoyed the ride up and the spectacular views of Hakone and Lake Ashi and, in the distance, the Pacific Ocean. But it was pretty hazy so we couldn’t see it clearly.

After we descended, they took us to the train station to ride the Shinkansen (the bullet train), home. Because it was dark, we didn’t get any photos. We hope to take it again sometime and get some pictures. We did post our photos and copies of postcards onto our blog, and it included a postcard of the Shinkansen with Mt. Fuji in the background.

What a subarashi week!!!

Hope you are all doing well—

Love, Jim & Pat

Mt. Fuji Trip

The temple at the top of Mt. Komagatake with its Torii gate. The temple is not currently in use.

Jim with the beautiful Lake Ashi and some of the town of Hakone in the valley below.
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Mt. Fuji Trip

We are having a Japanese style lunch with our new friend, Bill Hawthorne, from York, England. His wife Joy is taking the photo

This is the tour boat we took on the cruise of Lake Ashi.

This is the pirate tour boat we wish we had been on

Jim is getting ready to board the gondola on the Mt. Komagatake Aerial Cableway.
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Mt. Fuji Trip

This is the countryside of Japan on the way to Mt. Fuji. Turns out Japan is mostly mountainous, which we didn't know because we spend all our time on the plains of Tokyo.

Jim is standing at the beginning of the trail from the Fifth Station. Notice the start of fall color behind him.

You can see Mt. Fuji peeking above the top of the clouds. When we were at the Fifth Station, we were totally in the clouds and could not see the top of Mt. Fuji.
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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mt. Fuji Postcards

We visited Mt. Fuji yesterday (Thursday, October 9th). We picked up these postcards that show Mt. Fuji in different seasons and from different points of view. We will post our own photos and story on Monday.

Mt. Fuji Postcards

Sunday, October 5, 2008

October 5, 2008

Dear Family & Friends,

Well, we survived Transfer Week again!! Things went smoothly—partly because we only had 6 missionaries leaving and 6 arriving, so we can get everything done much faster. We get three great breakfasts: Tuesday was pancakes and scrambled eggs, Wednesday was Breakfast Casserole and cinnamon rolls, and Thursday was French Toast. Then we also get lunch on Thursday, which was Lasagne. This is one week where we all gain weight!!! even though you would think we would burn it right off with how busy we are.

We had such a fun adventure on Saturday—we became kids again! Because the last of the Hill children, Andrea, and her husband and family came on Friday, the Hills took them and all us office missionaries to a great park called Showa Kinen. It is huge!!! We had to rent bikes to get around the park. We would ride to different places, park the bike, enjoy whatever activity was nearby, then get on our bikes and ride further, etc. Now I know you are all shocked—when was the last time you saw Mom/Pat/Trish on a bike?! But I did it (we even have photos to prove it).

The activities we participated in were: miniature golf (Japanese version is a series of putting greens without any silly stuff), a huge hammock play area (a series of nets strung out for the kids to play on), a humongous bouncing dome (air trampolines), several climbing hills that look like Central American Incan temples, a dragon area of different sizes of dragons with colorful mosaic tiles on them, and a couple of roller slides (like what you see at the post office or airports only these are for people and not packages).

There were gardens we didn’t get to see, an observation tower, and a museum in honor of the Emperor Showa whom the park is named after. We plan to return for another fun outing to see these other things.

Jim has finally had success in doing some money transfers—he has been waiting for the fix to occur in SLC at the main computer center there, and it has finally happened!! Yeah!!!!!!

Our thought for the day: President Abraham Lincoln was once criticized for his attitude toward his enemies. “Why do you try to make friends of them?” asked an associate. “You should try to destroy them.” “Am I not destroying my enemies,” Lincoln gently replied, “when I make them my friends?” We are trying to make many friends here in Tokyo, Japan. And we are so grateful for all of you dear family and friends.

Love, Jim & Pat

Showa Kinen Park

Showa Kinen Park

These are the awesome dragons with mosaic tiles on them. They were quite colorful and fun for the kids. The red one even had a roar that would go off occasionally. One time a little girl was inside the mouth when it roared and she came out of there like she was afraid he was going to eat her. It was so cute!!!

This was a walkway with windmills, and a beautiful fountain area. They do many things that beautify an otherwise plain area.
This is part of the jumping dome, an air trampoline that extended a long way. You can see Elder Hartzell up on top with his arms up. He is one of the missionary white shirts.

This is the whole gang, The Hills, The Driskills, The missionaries, and Jim at the very top. Doesn't this climbing hill look like something from Central America?

The missionaries doing "Hurrah for Israel", Pres. Hill looking presidential, and Sis. Hill pointing the way we should go.
Yes, that's Pat on a bike!!! I did pretty well actually, since it is a huge park and this is the best way to get around it.

The missionaries had a great time playing miniature golf.

This is the hammock play area, a huge series of nets strung out for kids to climb on.