Sunday, February 12, 2012



I thought I would begin this post with a quiz.  The Japanese often give their businesses an American name but those names are often a little far-fetched.  Try to guess what types of businesses these are (answers at the end of the blog): 
1.  Gleam House
2.  2nd Street
3.  Sun R Us
4.  Soft Bank
5.  Joy Park
6 . Joyfull
7.  Homac

For the past few weeks, as you know, we have been visiting members and non-members of our Church.  We have gotten into about ten homes and visited outside with about the same number.  I thought I would give you a glimpse of our visits.

All of the places we went into have one thing in common.  They all have a small area--3 or 4 feet square--right after you enter.  This is where you are to remove your shoes.  The trick is that there is a step up to the main area of the house and you must remove your shoes and step up without your stockingfeet ever touching the bottom area.  This is very hard(impossible?) if you are wearing boots!  It is not actually that easy if you are wearing slip-on shoes.  Anyway, I have pretty much given up wearing boots when we visit.

Once in the house you are led to a livingroom area.  Of the ten houses (most are actually apartments) only two had western style living areas.  One had a sofa and a baby grand piano (they are very into music) and the other home had a family-type room with a large dining table and a large hutch and a flatscreen TV.  All of the other livingrooms were small rooms with a square low-to-the-ground table with cushions surrounding it to kneel on.  Yes, this can get pretty excruciating after sitting for 30 or 40 minutes but at least these people know we are Americans so they don't get too upset if we squirm or adjust our position.  In fact, at least three of the places had tables with blankets on top of them that hung to the ground.  Under the table was a heater so you are supposed to put your legs under the table to keep warm. 

Which brings me to the next point:  No house or apartment has central heating!  Our apartment has a heater in the main livingroom-kitchen area which we turn off when we leave and at night.  The bedrooms and bathrooms are never heated (they are closed off with a door) and that means they get pretty cold.  Right now our computer says that Ishinomaki is 30 degrees but feels like 17!  So as we visit, the rooms are cold and as we enter, they turn on a small heater that will hopefully warm up the room a bit.

Usually we are offered a small refreshment, a hot drink, rice crackers, cookies, etc.

Then we begin talking and getting to know the people.  These are some of their stories:

One man is 91 years old and has been blind since he was 30.  He has a picture of Christ on his wall and happily points to it just knowing it is there.  He cooks, cleans, and does his own laundry.  His wife has died and his entire apartment is probably about 10X30 (bedroom, livingroom, kitchen) plus a bathroom I imagine.  His apartment is very cold.  He loves talking to us.  He used to give massages for a living and now comes to church and gives massages after church for free.  And he is good.

One lady is older and can hardly walk.  She lives in an apartment on the 4th floor with no elevator.

One family has a daughter who is mentally unstable.  She is suicidal (age 20-25) and has tried numerous ways to end her life.  She is in and out of mental hospitals.  We met her and she is nice but we can tell she knows she has problems.

One family lives in poverty.  They have five adults living in a small apartment but only one is capable of holding down a job and he lost his job when the tsunami hit.  He was working for a fishing company which no longer exists.  They have two pictures of relatives they lost in the tsunami sitting near us.  One is of a young child.  We ask how old she is.  They tell us 50:  there are no other pictures left of her because the tsunami destroyed everything.  The man who is looking for a job goes everyday to employment places but there are many without jobs.  In the evenings he often goes with us visiting.  He never complains, in fact, feels he is blessed and needs to help us.  He is always upbeat and happy.

One lady lives in an area where the tsunami hit hard.  The water was up to the second story level but somehow her house was restorable.  Many people helped her to get her house liveable again.  She lost both of her parents in the tsunami.  They drowned in 3 feet of water because the mother could not walk well enough to get to the stairs and the father was trying to help her. 

The amazing thing is that not one of these people were complaining or were wallowing in self-pity.  They all try not to look back but look forward.  I am sure there are times when things are very hard but they refuse to give up.  The last lady I told you about is a beautician.  She has a shop in her home and is having a grand "re-opening."  She also has several photos on her wall of the volunteers who helped restore her house.  She is so thankful for them.


Answers to the quiz:  1.  Gleam House is a barber shop:  2.  2nd Street is a 2nd hand store:  3.  Sun R Us is convenience store like 7-11:  4.  Soft Bank is a cell phone store ("soft" ware?) :  5.  Joy Park is a casino and gambling hall:  6.  Joyfull is a restaurant (had enough to eat?):  7.  Homac is a store like Home Depot or Lowes.  All except the first one are chain stores or businesses.


  1. Thanks for the quiz. My guesses wre not even close to those answers. I don't knpw if I could live under those circumstances. They are very strong people. Until your next post
    Keep Smiling!

  2. That names of stores are hilarious! I had no idea what to even guess.