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

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