Sunday, April 15, 2012


Okay I think I need to talk about Matsushima.  Matsushima is a town about 30-40 minutes from here.  We have gone through there several times on our way to and from Sendai or other places we have been.  When we first saw Matsushima we couldn't believe how beautiful it was.  Then we learned that it is listed as one of the three most beautiful places in Japan.  Matsushima is a town on a bay and there are over 250 islands dotting that bay.  Because of the islands, Matsushima was sheltered from very much damage by the tsunami.  When you drive through the coastal road, you might see some views like these:

It is really gorgeous.  Anyway, our zone is having their p-day in Matsushima tomorrow and so we volunteered (!) to check the town out and see what there is to do.   Some of the main attractions are the Zuigani temple, the temple grounds and caves and a couple of other shrines.  We did not go into the temple but we walked the grounds which are wonderful and they are lined with "caves":

These caves were used in the 1100's to 1800's for the burial grounds for ashes of the deceased.  You cannot actually go into them but you are close enough to see into them and they are fascinating.  Also the rest of the grounds are beautiful and peaceful as well.  We have not gone into the other shrines yet (sorry about that) but tomorrow will probably be the day and we have heard those grounds are wonderful as well.  Also in this area are other points of interest and museums that grab your interest.

As far as the islands, they are beautiful also.  There are three islands that have bridges to them but the two longer ones are currently closed due to the earthquake but are due to open this summer.  Once you cross the bridges on foot, you are free to explore the islands which are covered in pine trees. 

The town also has plenty of shopping (nice souvenirs which are actually not that easy to find in Japan) and restaurants.  Matsushima is known for its oysters and during oyster season (October through March) they are know for their "all you can eat oysters" in 45 minutes for about $25.  They say many people can down 75 oysters in that time and that they have pretty big oysters there!  I do love shellfish so that may be on my list.  We'll keep you posted for this next winter!  Other than that, Matsushima is known for its seafood so we went to a small restaurant that had great food:

The top picture was the boiled and raw fish (notice the shrimp) and the bottom picture had the fried fish and shrimp.  Very delish.

Well, we went home well fed AND THEN on Friday a member of the branch invited us to go out to eat with her and another younger member.  When we got to her house she said she wanted to go to Matsushima to a place with a view to die for (not her words--she said it in Japanese but that is just my loose translation).  Well we ended up on the 7th floor of a hotel with a view:

It was gorgeous and the meal was one of those "once in a lifetime" events.  There were 5-6 courses (appetizer, soup(cream of pumpkin), rolls, fish plate, main dish plate (steak and lobster), and dessert plate(ice cream, custard (what is that French custard called?), and a torte).  It was scrumptious:

The above was the fish plate.  None of the courses were huge--just big enough to give you a great taste of some great food.  Matsushima--Thank you for a great time!


After being here three months, I thought I'd tell you about some cultural differences between Japan and America.  These are in random order and are not meant to put either culture down--just some differences:

*In Japan, the people love the dark meat chicken.  The breasts are cheaper than the thighs.

*In Japan, when people laugh they cover their mouths with their hands.

*In Japan, when you go to a restaurant (like the one I just mentioned above), you do NOT say "thank you" to the waitress when she brings you your food or when they refill your water glasses.  We were told that that is because the Japanese are shy and don't feel like they know the waitress well enough.

*When you leave someone's house in Japan, they walk you out to your car (even if it is snowing or raining) and wait for you to leave, even directing traffic so you can leave the area, and bow and wave to you as you leave.

*When you go to a cheaper restaurant (say Applebees in America) when you are ready to order you ring a bell similar to a doorbell and it chimes throughout the restaurant and then the waitress comes right over to help you.  Also if you ever need anything during your meal, you can ring the bell.

*The cars in Japan do NOT turn on their headlights until it is pretty much DARK.  And they don't turn on headlights in the rain or snow either!  And no cars have automatic headlights during the day like in the States.

*The high school students wear uniforms.  The girls' skirts I would describe as "cheerleader skirts"  They are super short and pleated.  Even in the dead of winter you see these high school girls with the short skirts and bare-skinned legs.  You do see a few with a little longer skirts, but not many.

*The police cars in Japan always have on their flashing lights.  If there is an emergency, they also have their sirens on.

*The Japanese bow for everything.  The clerks bow when you buy something, the people bow in their cars when you let them in front of you, the toll booth men bow when you go through the toll booths.  Last week we did some service at a temporary housing unit and gave hand and arm massages to the older people (I learned to give hand and arm massages!) and one lady came in to the rec room and got on her hands and knees and bowed so her head touched the ground as she came in.  Even the Japanese people thought this was kind of extreme!

*The schools (high schools?) play chimes at 7:00 a.m., 12:00 noon, and 5:00 p.m. every day.  It is actually a little tune.  We live close to a school so we always know when it is one of those times!

*The Japanese are very sheltered when it comes to food.  Almost anything I have made, they have never eaten.  Today at Church we had lunch afterwards and we each brought something.  I brought sloppy joes.  They really liked them but had never had anything like that before.  Except at McDonalds, their hamburgers have no buns.  Other firsts that they have eaten and liked that I made are:  rice krispie treats, chocolate cake with frosting, carrot cake and Costco cookies and, of course, chocolate pudding cake!  But I have to admit I have eaten things that they eat for the first time:  wakame (seaweed stem), okada (veggies with soybean fiber), natto (beans in this sticky stuff that even Calvin doesn't like), and okonomiyake (kind of like an egg foo yung only the egg part has flour in it like a pancake).  Hmmm  even though I don't HATE any of these things, I think I'll stick to sloppy joes and chocolate cake!


  1. Wow, what a beautiful place. You do such a great job with your blog. Thanks for sharing with all of us.

  2. *sigh* you guys sound like you are having an amazing time out there! I am so jealous! Every week is still an adventure for you and you have been out there for over three months now! I love your blog and all the pictures!

  3. wow! I am so glad the two of you are seeing and doing such amazing things!

  4. Julie and Calvin,
    I'm enjoying reading your blog and getting caught up on your day to day activities. I enjoy seeing the pictures of the people, places and things that exist in your new adventure. Thanks for sharing!