Sunday, March 25, 2012


We had a busy week this week!  On Tuesday and Wednesday we had Couples Conference; on Friday and Saturday we were at the Tokyo Temple, and on Sunday we had branch conference.  Here is the rundown of what we did:

Tuesday and Wednesday found us in Sendai (one and a half hours away) at Couples Conference.  There are six couples in our mission:  three from Japan and three from America.  All of us connected  immediately and we had a great time.  Those Japanese couples are incredible!  They bring with them so much enthusiasm and experience that it is hard not to learn from them.  We arrived at the conference wondering what else we needed to be doing and if we had enough to do.  We left the conference wondering if we had enough time to do everything . 

Some of the things we talked about were:  how we can find service opportunities in our communities, how to visit and help the less active people in our branch, how to work with and help the members of our branch, and how to help and fit in with the younger missionaries in our mission.  We had such a strong spirit of what we are doing here and had fun at the same time.  We went out to eat at a great Japanese restaurant and got to know our mission president and his wife better.  PLUS it was great to stay in a real house (the mission home) and be served food without having to cook!

Here is a picture of us at the conference:

Friday morning at 6:00 a.m.found us on our way to Tokyo.  But before we actually got to Tokyo we made a stop at COSTCO!  Yes, Costco here in Japan.  We brought plenty of cash (cash only except a Costco credit card) but didn't spend as much as we had hoped.  There were lots of things that were very familiar (lots of Kirkland brand products, Orville Redenbacher popcorn--microwave and plain, Skippy p-nut butter, snacks, etc.) but there were a lot of Japanese products which we bought some of those:  especially brown rice.  Some noticeable absences were:  no sour cream, powdered sugar, or granola bars.  An interesting price:  $40 for 2 lb. of butter!  But all in all it was a great experience as you can see below:

The above photo has a caption:  WHERE'S THE BEEF?  Notice that they have all-PORK hot dogs!  This is not a complaint:  just a cultural difference.  It was great anyway.  Plus one funny note is that the Japanese love their pickled veggies and sauerkraut is no exception.  They had a big tub of sauerkraut with the other condiments and lots of people were just taking a scoop and eating it whether they had a hot dog or not.


And I had to add this picture of a store near the temple in Tokyo.  Notice the Bettty Crocker cake mixes.  They have a price of 787 yen.  That's about $10 for one box of cake mix!

We finally made it to Tokyo around 4:00 p.m.  Destination:  the Tokyo LDS Temple.  We stayed in the basement of the Church next door to the temple where they have dorm-type rooms.  Since it was our stake's temple day the place was so crowded.  In fact, Calvin and quite a few of the other men ended up sleeping on the floor in the chapel!  But it was a wonderful time to attend the temple.  We went to an English session on Friday night and 2 Japanese sessions on Saturday morning (we had English headphones).  Our one regret was that some of the members of our branch were going to come but didn't make it because they were driving overnight and there was a big snowstorm in the Ishinomaki-Sendai area and a big rainstorm in the Tokyo area.  We left Tokyo around 12:30 and arrived back in Ishinomaki around 5:30 tired but energized by the great week we had had.

On Sunday we had branch conference which meant that the leaders from our stake came and attended our church and had lots of leadership meetings.  After our Church services we had a meal with food brought by the members.  I had to include this picture which is incredible.  One of the members brought this sushi that I have never seen before.  It has a square of egg in the middle with pink rice and white rice and a quarter of a cucumber.  It was so beautiful I had to take a picture.  And for all of you fish haters--no raw fish!

So that has been our week.  So exhausting but so great.  Plus, we had the biggest earthquake that we have felt thus far tonight.  Just thought I'd mention that.  But we are fine . . . .


I just wanted to mention something about the mail service once again.  On Tuesday afternoon we asked the missionary couple in the office to order us some "mugi."  It is a wheat cereal.  Anyway, I am not sure when it got ordered but on Saturday when we got back from Tokyo we had a delivery attempt notice that they had attempted to deliver it on Friday at 12:30.  The mugi company is about 2-3 hours away.  We called at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday night because it said they would answer anytime.  Well, within FIVE MINUTES of when we hung up they were at our doorstep!  Yes, this was 7:00  on a Saturday night!  Unbelievable.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Okay since some of our most interesting moments this week have centered around food, I decided to let you in on what we have eaten.  First, by far one of the strangest and stinkiest moments was this:

We went to the grocery store and saw this package of what appeared to be some fish parts and it said "nabe" which means pan.  That meant it was for soup.  Anyway, when I got home and decided to make the soup I opened the package and what had been hidden is that I had two fish tails and a fish head!  The heads had been turned downward so you couldn't see the eyes and the tail fins had been tucked so you couldn't see them either!  My what deceptive marketing!!!!  But being the adventurous person that I am I decided to cook this up anyway.  The result:  okay fish broth but the worst smelling kitchen ever!  I did make the soup and it was allright but I will NEVER do that again since the stench was just not worth it.  I still think the house smells bad.

Okay on to something else.  The next day (Thursday) we were invited out to eat with one of the sisters in the ward and the Relief Society president.  We went to this restaurant that I think was VERY expensive.  They served this exclusive meal that was top quality:

It had lots of food but not too big of portions.  The rice was in these little bowls that had some other things (fish and vegetables) in it and had been cooked in the cast iron bowls so the rice was just a little crispy on the bottom.  It was called tamameshi.  It was served with miso soup, a couple of pieces of sashim (raw fish), some tempura shrimp and veggies (batter fried), a bowl of noodles, and probably something else I haven't mentioned.  By the end we were stuffed and it was SO good.

On Saturday morning we went to a town about 30 minutes away to do service at the temporary housing unit.  We ended up making the soup for people living there:


Those big pots above held the soup and others helped clean the temporary housing units which are lived in by those displaced by the tsunami and many of them are older.  The people who volunteered were from the Church in Tokyo and they were instructed to help them deep clean and talk to the people.  The picture below shows some of the units.  It is hard to tell in this picture but they are not separate units but are hooked together and each family has only a small living space.

On Saturday evening we had our Relief Society social.  We had dinner and I was amazed at the plethora of food (this is only half of the table!):

There was tons of sushi, salads, meats, tempura, strawberries, and desserts.  Unfortunately, I am feeling rather large after this week's feasting.

BUT I am sure you will be interested to know that my FAVORITE of all this week still has not been mentioned!  We walked 2 miles to a small vegetable shop in the downtown district and bought a large head of lettuce.  I have not really seen that here before.  Anyway, this lettuce was so crisp and juicy and made the BEST grilled chicken salad I can remember.  It was topped off with red pepper strips, mushrooms and green onion and caesar dressing.  It was by FAR my favorite food of the week (some of you are laughing because you know I love grilled chicken salad!).  Calvin will probably disagree because he loves sushi and other Japanese food but I can have my opinion too I guess.  I am now looking forward to many more salads here in Japan!


*  I loved getting out and walking this week.  I have decided to stop complaining about the weather here.  It has started to warm up (it is usually at least 45 degrees!) and at least we aren't freezing in our apartment either.

*  I took some banana cake and cookies to institute class on Wednesday.  Everyone loves refreshments and around here they gladly take home leftovers.  The funny thing is that they are convinced I cook American food although I get everything off the internet and buy all the ingredients here.  Plus hardly anyone cooks from scratch around here.

*  We felt the 6.8 earthquake this past week.  It was actually quite a ways away from here but we did feel it.  It was not that strong but the unusual thing was it lasted over a minute.  Most earthquakes we have felt don't last more than 10 seconds.  Then that evening we felt 3-4 more small aftershocks.  That is also unusual because there aren't usually more than one a day.

*  We are going to the Tokyo temple and Costco this week.  Stay tuned!!!!!!!

Sunday, March 11, 2012


So today is the one year anniversary of the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011.  Another missionary couple that we know had just arrived in Japan two or three days before w this happened.  They said they were in their car when the earthquake hit and it lasted for TWELVE MINUTES!  It came in waves but never really stopped.  It was so violent at times that their heads were bouncing off the inside top of their car.  Then about a half hour later at 2:46 p.m. the tsunami hit.  Almost everyone remembers the time.  In that short amount of time people were being warned of the tsunami and told to go to higher ground.  Sirens were sounding.

Today we went to Hiyoriyama Park which overlooks Ishinomaki.  We could see all around the city, to the ocean, and the river that empties into the ocean.  We were there with a few hundred others who wanted to be there when it was 2:46 p.m.  At that time sirens sounded for about 30 seconds.  There were large tents set up with dignitaries in one and a Buddhist service in another.  No one spoke out loud.  Everyone whispered.  This is a picture of part of the view that we had:

This picture above is near the mouth of the river and there is an island which was just about totally leveled.  There used to be buildings on it.  In the middle there is a statue of liberty.  Interestingly enough, that statue is about all that made it through the tsunami.  The water was up to the top of the statue.  The land around the river was flooded a lot.  The main downtown area is to the left of the picture and it was hit hard.  Most of the buildings are gone.

Yesterday we had a service project south of us near Sendai.  We went to a school which had been damaged, probably not fixable, to make some paper lanterns with candles in them to float down the river there today in memory of those who lost their lives.   We made 3,000-4,000 lanterns.  Altogether about 12,000 died in the tsunami.  Here are is a picture of that service project:

And here are some pictures from the school.  Notice how the fence which is made of iron or steel is all smashed down.  Also there is a clock on the school which has stopped at 2:46 (when the tsunami hit).

This next picture is a boat which is in back of the school.  There were three boats in back of the school.  We could not even see the ocean and there were still boats in the back yard.

This picture below shows the area around the school.  There is nothing but a lot of foundations from houses that used to be there.

The rest of these pictures are random photos of what we have seen:  huge heap of garbage (several stories high), concrete building on its side, building with a car on top of it, rubble, and what is left of a cemetary:

Whenever we go to these places it seems like we are on hallowed ground.  It is like there is still a spirit there of these people.  Everyone we talk to talks about the tsunami.  Many people are still haunted by it.  Today there are 340,000 people living in the three hardest hit prefectures (kind of like states) that are living in temporary housing units.  They are allowed to live there for one more year.  No one knows where they will go then.  Some may rent their units but they are tiny.

Today I realized that I thought of the events as a remembrance of what happened.  The people here think of it as a life-changing event in their lives and a day of REMEMBERING.  I also came to realize that I have a long way to go in learning humility, compassion and charity.  These people are way better at it than I am.


This has been a pretty serious blog but I wanted to tell you a few lighter moments we have had this week.  Last week I think I mentioned about how sometimes things are lost in translation.  This week a few more things were said that I thought were funny.

Today in Sunday School we were talking about "feasting" on the words of Christ.  The teacher asked what the difference was between a regular meal and a feast.  Here are a couple of responses (the Japanese can have a great sense of humor):

           *A feast has a lot more calories.

           *You can eat a regular meal with chopsticks.  A feast involves a knife and fork.

After church I approached one of the women and volunteered to bring some food to our Relief Society (women's group) social this Saturday.  They were very excited and said yes could I bring a dessert?  I then said (in English) "I can bring chocolate cake and ice cream."  They jumped up and down and clapped.  Apparently chocolate cake and ice cream is universal language.

Yesterday I was talking to one of the younger sister missionaries from Utah.  She was paired with a companion from Japan.  She was saying how they were teaching each other their own language and that sometimes it became a fun experience.  Her Japanese companion had had a problem and she came to this sister and said, "I had an accident!"  This American sister stifled a laugh and said that was probably not the best choice of words.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


So I couldn't think of any huge and monumental thing to write about this week so I decided to write a few random thoughts and happenings around here.  (For those of you who think ALL of my thoughts are random, sorry about that.)

Lost in Translation?:

It is kind of a tradition in Japan to give food to the missionaries.  We have heard that some areas get lots of stuff but we have not been overwhelmed (thankfully).  Anyway, when the people give you something they say, "I want you to have this furuto basketo."  Translation:  fruit basket.  Never mind that they have just handed you a plastic grocery bag with no fruit in it!  And since I know some of you are dying to know what is really in these bags, these are some of the thing we have gotten:  fresh fish, ham (more like bacon around here), Johnsonville hot dogs (really expensive), canned corn and beans, spaghetti and macaroni, and salsa.  I think they are trying to give us American food.  But, nevertheless, we are always grateful because many of these things are foods I don't buy because they are expensive. 

Why We Don't Order Pizza:

This week we got an advertisement in the mail (not all that usual) about a pizza delivery place.  Apparently it is one of the more well-known places for pizza in Japan.  Here is a sample of what you can order (no tax or delivery charge or tip): 
           Thickly sliced bacon with corn pizza        small:  $10.97             large:  $29.66
           Seafood Italian pizza                                                                     large:  $44.49
           Purokogi Potato pizza (teriyaki?)                                                  large:  $33.89
           Tuna Mayo pizza                                                                           large:  $35.33
           Hawaiian                                                    small:  $14.39             large:  $35.33
I converted the prices into US dollars.  Also the Hawaiian is considered a "kids" pizza.


Calvin suffered from a cold much of this week so we didn't get out as much as usual.  Here is his sickly picture:

We went to our branch president's house this past Friday evening and had a family night with his family.  They served us dinner (ham, rice, avacado-mayo-shrimp salad, miso soup, potatoes).  Then we had a lesson on the Parable of the Talents in Matthew and then everyone showed off their talents with a talent show.  It was a fun activity and the boys (ages 10 and 11) actually got into the fun by showing us some of their talents (magic trick and yo yo tricks).  My talent was the dessert.  I made chocolate pudding cake in a rice cooker!  It worked great, especially topped with vanilla ice cream.  For those of you who don't know what chocolate pudding cake is, it is a chocolate cake or almost a brownie which ends up in a pudding sauce on the bottom.  Very yummy.  This is the recipe:

            Chocolate Pudding Cake:
            Butter the rice cooker pan (or 9X13 pan for you less adventurous)
            Mix together in a bowl:  1 c. flour, 3/4 c. sugar, 3 Tbsp cocoa, 2 tsp baking powder,
                    1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 c. milk, 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil.  Pour into pan.
            Sprinkle on top of batter:  3/4 c. brown sugar, 1/4 c. cocoa
            Pour 1 3/4 c. boiling water over all.
            Punch the rice cooker button.  (or cook at 350 till done)
            It should come out with the pudding on the bottom.  Don't overcook or the pudding will
                      absorb too much into the cake.  My rice cooker took about 50 minutes and then I
                      left it for about 10 minutes more to cook a little more.

Everyone loved this!  The Japanese LOVE chocolate and ice cream.  I couldn't go wrong!

Holidays in Japan:

We have seen a few holidays in Japan.  Nothing major. 
            Feb. 2:  Setsubun Day.  You throw beans out of your window or doorway to ward off
                         evil spirits
            Feb. 14:  Valentines Day.  Not nearly as exciting as in the States.  The girls give
                          chocolate to the boys (romantic inclinations, office workers, just friends)
            Mar. 14:  White Day.  Hasn't come yet but apparently the guys now give chocolate
                          back to the girls that gave them chocolate for Valentines Day.  Sounds like a
                          retail scam to me!  The guys are encouraged to outdo the girls.
            Mar. 3:  Girls Day.  The girls display their dolls and are honored.


We are tired of winter!  Our new hope is that spring will come soon and we will WALK wherever we can.  Nothing is that far away!


For me, I bought an ice cream sundae at McDonald's.
For Calvin,  we bought two boxes of Swiss Miss hot cocoa mix which were on clearance ($2.50
      each/10 in a box)

Look forward:

That's about all I have to write about but next Sunday is the anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami.  We are doing a service project this Saturday for it and we have been saving our pictures to show all of you what we have seen.  I noticed on the internet (KSL, MSN, etc) that they have been having video clips in remembrance of the tsunami.  Many of the clips are from here in Ishinomaki.
So till next week:  Have a good one!