Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nov 30, 2008

Dear Family & Friends,

Thank you for all your good wishes and kind thoughts. We enjoyed both the cute and the sublime in the Thanksgiving messages and forwards you sent to us. It’s interesting how getting and receiving emails makes us feel not-so-far-away from all of you. Thanks for updating us on what you are doing and how your families are. We look forward to your Christmas letters to catch-up even more.

We had a wonderful week. Monday and Tuesday were all about preparing for Wednesday’s All-Mission Gratitude Conference. And what a highlight it was!!! It was fun to see every missionary in our mission in the same place at the same time. They are a wonderful-looking group!!!!

The Theme of the Conference was: “The Power of the Book of Mormon—Especially as It Testifies of Christ.” Pres. and Sis. Hill both gave powerful talks about the Book of Mormon and it’s warnings to follow the prophets and be obedient to what they tell us to do. Pres. Hill read a testimony written by one of our missionaries who told of reading the book in Japanese (must have been a gaijin) and then praying to know whether or not it is true. He received a warm and powerful witness that it is true and was sent by God to help us come unto Him!!

Then some of the missionaries stood up and shared their favorite scripture from the book and what it meant to them.

We also heard from Elder and Sister Aoyagi who bore their testimonies, and Sis. Evans who talked about what the Book of Mormon meant to her. Then Elder Evans spoke about how we need to teach about Nephi and Lehi and what they teach us right from the beginning of the Book of Mormon—about the importance of families and obedience to parents, about prayer, about the guidance of the Holy Ghost, about following the prophets, about forgiving others, etc.

We also had 4 musical numbers: a men’s sextet, a violin duet, a women’s duet, and a piano solo.

Everything was so beautiful and reverent and filled with the Spirit, that we felt we had been very richly blessed for being there.

Then, after the meeting was over, we went into the Cultural Hall for a feast prepared for us by the Relief Society of the Tokyo South Stake, both gaijin and Japanese sisters. The food was so delicious (ham and all the trimmings), the tables beautifully set with cute stove-pipe pilgrim hats filled with candy and a sweet Thanksgiving message on top, also flowers and other lovely decorations. They served us with such kindness and love that we stood and sang “As I Have Loved You” to them and clapped and cheered.

We were overwhelmed with the feelings of love and peace and joy that were with us throughout that day.

Then Thursday we had a quiet day, some of it at the office and some of it at home, until 6:00 when we went to the mission home for a true Thanksgiving dinner. There were 24 around the tables (3 set end-to-end) and we ate turkey, stuffing, and everything else. I contributed the rolls and Waldorf Salad. It was such a wonderful feast and we enjoyed it very much.

Friday was a regular office day, and Saturday was “clean up the apartment and wash the clothes” regular P-day stuff.

Our thought for the day is: "The face of sin today often wears the mask of tolerance. Do not be deceived; behind that facade is heartache, unhappiness and pain. .. YOU be the one to make a stand for right, even if you stand alone. Have the moral courage to be a light for others to follow." Thomas S. Monson, "Examples of Righteousness", Ensign, May 2008, 65–68.

A saying that goes along with this is: Wrong is wrong even if everyone does it, and right is right even if nobody does it.

We love you all and hope you will always “Choose the Right.”

Love, Jim & Pat

Sunday, November 23, 2008

November 23, 2008

Dear Family & Friends,

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

We hope you will all have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, with lots of good food, family, friends, and fun!!!

Our coming week is pretty special: on Wednesday, we will have an All-Mission Gratitude Conference—which means that all 170+ missionaries will be gathered together in one place to hear from Pres. David Evans, Area General Authority, and Pres. Hill. We will have a big luncheon (put on by the sisters in the foreigner or gaijin wards—but it won’t be turkey as it is too expensive here), then finish the conference with other talks, music, and testimonies. I can’t wait to tell you all about it next week.

On Thursday, we will have Thanksgiving dinner at the Hills’ home. She did buy a small turkey for about $40 and will serve it and all the trimmings. I will make dinner rolls and Pomegranate Waldorf Salad (they have beautiful pomegranates here, and my sister has told me a new way to get the seeds out. After I try it, I will let you know how it works). We will have other food, too, but don’t know yet what the pies will be. So we should have a very nice time.

This past week was nice, especially Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. Friday evening we had one of our favorite young couples, the Josens, over for dinner, along with a sweet young sister in the Ward who translates for us—Sister Tan. I fed them Spaghetti, which they loved, and brownies for dessert, plus they brought a delicious chicken dish and a small fruit dessert .

Saturday I did an “English-cooking Class” and taught how to make my version of cinnamon rolls that I make into Christmas Wreaths (many of you have had these). They were very impressed, as were their families when they took them home to share. It was so fun to do this and to show them how to do something that I love so much. They were very appreciative.

Today at church a sweet older lady (in her 80’s) gave us a gift of cookies just because we took a photo of her in her yukata (summer kimono) at the Ward party last August. We finally printed up a copy of it and gave it to her about 3 or 4 weeks ago, and now she gave us this nice gift. People treat us so well here—we have been warmly welcomed and love them in return!

Something fun happened at our little gathering on Friday night—we asked the Josens to bring a game that we could play. They pulled out a deck of cards and said we would play “Rich man and poor man”. As they started teaching us the game, it turns out they were teaching us “Scum”!! This is a game we played one year ago on Thanksgiving Day at our cousin’s, the Tuft’s, house!! We were so surprised and pleased—it made us feel so much at home—the world is really a small place, isn’t it!!!!!!

Our word for the day is one we have taught before: Arigato gozaimas – thank you very much!

Our thought for the day is: “Live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.” Alma 34:38

So we want you all to know we love you and hope you are healthy and happy, feeling God’s love in your life and thanking him for it. We are thankful for your love and support and especially thankful to our Savior for great gifts to us all.

Love, Jim & Pat

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Nov 16, 2008

Dear Family & Friends,

This past week was Transfer Week and things went very well. We had 1 Japanese sister, 4 American sisters, and 4 American elders go home. They were some great missionaries and will be missed!! Coming in we had 1 Japanese sister, 2 American sisters, and 10 American elders. Though tired from the long trip on Wednesday, they did well at the training on Thursday and looked ready to go to work. Of course, we enjoyed the breakfasts we had at the mission home on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and the luncheon on Thursday, too. This is a bittersweet week—lots of good food and corresponding weight gain!! I need to walk more and eat less!!!!!

Friday we worked all day to take care of all the stuff from everyone coming and going. It was a harder weak because poor Elder LeSueur had the flu and was only in the office 1 ½ days total all week, but he is better now and no one else has gotten it so far (knock on wood).

Yesterday Jim & I had a dai bo-oken: we went to the Edo-Tokyo Museum. This is a wonderful museum, built in 1993, with a very modern look on the outside, and a lot of large-scale models of villages and enormous castle enclaves of the Edo period (1660 to 1867), the Meiji period (1868 to 1923), the 1923 earthquake and resulting fire that changed the look of the buildings to much more European/American, the Pacific War time, and the post-war technology boom. There were lots of artifacts from the earlier times and scale models of things, and photos from the later times. They had some dancers and musicians who put on a really good show. We spent 5 hours there and enjoyed every minute (and were so worn out when we were done!!) Check out the photos on our blog. Then we went to the temple and had some nice quiet, reflective time.

Today was a quiet Sabbath and we feel ready for the doings of the coming week.

Our thought for the day is: “Therefore, strengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings.” Doctrine and Covenants 108:7. “Do not indulge in put-downs, in pessimism, in self-recrimination. Never make fun at the expense of another. Look for virtue in the lives of all with whom you associate.” President Gordon B. Hinckley. Good words to remember.

Our word for the day is: “tai yaki” which is a bean paste pancake shaped like a fish and “dora yaki” which is two small regular pancakes put together with bean paste in the middle so it looks like a pancake sandwich. They are really quite good, though Jim doesn’t think very much of them. Anyway, fun to try new things.

We love you all and pray you are all doing well—

Jim & Pat

Edo-Tokyo Museum Movies

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Edo-Tokyo Museum Movies

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Edo-Tokyo Museum Photo and Movie

A picture of the musicians playing traditional Japanese music.
















Picture of traditional Japanese women dancers
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Edo-Tokyo Museum Photos

This is the actual sword and scabbard from the original Shogun of 1860's. See how well-preserved it is and the fancy decorations on the scabbard.















Pat and our wonderful tour guide. She spoke English quite well, but like all Japanese, kept apologizing for her poor English. They are so polite.
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Edo-Tokyo Museum Photos

This model of a park and European-style building is built under the floor--you can see Pat's tennies standing on it.















Model of a town of the 1890's.













Traditional bathrooms like this are still in use today. Pat has to look for a "Western bathroom" sign (if it is written in English--it's usually in Japanese kanji)
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Edo-Tokyo Museum Photos

An actual portable shrine that is used in parades. Notice the rooster on top--this is a symbol of good luck. They really like to make these elaborate.














Full-size mannequins wearing the apparel of the kabuki theater. Very rich and beautiful.












Jim standing in front of a full-size model of a kabuki theater--notice all the minute detail.
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Edo-Tokyo Museum Photos

The last 4 panels of a woodblock art print. Notice the layering of colors and designs. This kind of art is very popular in Japan.


















The inside of an ancient department store that sells kimonos and assorted apparel.












The outside of the department store showing their unique roof style.












A 1/10th scale model of a fishing boat with Pat standing in the background.
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Edo-Tokyo Museum Pictures

This is a model of the commoner's village in edo time-period.

















A full-scale model of a box-makers shop, which is also his home. Notice the futon on the back corner.
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Pictures from the Edo-Tokyo Museum

This is a scale model of the compound of the daimyo (lesser lord over a bunch of samurai warriors) showing the Shogun gate. The Shogun was the head of all of Japan and had more power than the Emporer, who was more of a figurehead during the Edo period (1660 to 1867).
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Sunday, November 9, 2008

November 9, 2008

Dear Family & Friends,

The weather has gradually turned colder and colder, so now we are wearing sweaters, coats, scarves, hats, and gloves. The highs are in the 50’s and the low’s in the 40’s, heading toward the 30’s. It does snow here occasionally, but doesn’t stay around long. We had had a few sunny days, but mostly cloudy, and sometimes rain. Sis. Evans, wife of our Area President, said that the next 8 months are like this. She remembers one Christmas day when it was balmy outside. You just can’t tell what the next day will be like.

Last week we did a variety of things:

Monday we went to the Area Office for our monthly potluck dinner. The theme was Fall and there were no assignments given. I took one of two salads, and we had 2 chilis, 4 soups, and 3 desserts, so it was a great potluck.

On Wednesday, for Eikaiwa, we talked about driving and cars. Of the 7 students in the class, only one owned his own car, but everyone had driven their parent’s cars (the students range in age from @22 to 70). But not one of them had ever changed a tire!!! We were so surprised. They had all had some interesting experiences while driving, but now most just took the trains and subways and rode bikes. And they didn’t know what a “back-seat driver” was and laughed when we told them.

Our word for this week is “yakiniku.” On Thursday we out to eat at a yakiniku restaurant. I didn’t think we had ever been to one before, but we had, only not as nice as this one. At a yakiniku, they have thin-sliced raw meat or fish or shrimp. When you get what you want, you go back to your table where there is a grill in the middle. You put on the meat and vegetables and cook them the way you want. This restaurant also had several salads, a soup, some pizza (Japanese style which looks and tastes different from American), some curry and rice, and a nice selection of desserts. So we ate well and stuffed ourselves!! We were with Pres. and Sis. Hill and the 4 office missionaries and the 2 sister missionaries who live close. So we all had a great time!!

Saturday we went to a special symposium on the family—and had 4 speakers in a panel discussion, 2 women and 2 men. One woman had been a stay-at-home mom and raised 10 children. The other had one set of twin girls and had worked as a teacher while her husband was a teacher and a principal. One man was from America but spoke fluent Japanese and was President of a local bank. The other man was one of the main officers of Nissan. All were members of our Church and talked about how hard it was to raise a family here in Japan because of the work culture. In the Church we teach family first, church second, and work third. In Japan they teach work first and second, family third, and they don’t need church. Workers are not supposed to leave until their supervisor does, so they all stay very late at work (not necessarily accomplishing anything). Also, they often stop at a bar for awhile and go home very late and often very drunk.

Our thought for the day is: “Kindness is the essence of greatness and the fundamental characteristic of the noblest men and women I have known. Kindness is a passport that opens doors and fashions friends. It softens hearts and molds relationships that can last lifetimes.” Joseph B. Wirthlin, Ensign, May 2005, 26-28.

We hope everyone had a fun Halloween and are planning a great Thanksgiving!!

We love you—

Jim & Pat