Sunday, July 29, 2012


This has been a week of diversity.  We began on Monday when Calvin went to the doctor because his allergies had flared up into asthma.  The good news was that it hadn't really gotten to his lungs; the bad news, he still didn't feel that great and went home with an armload of medication.  But over the week he has progressed to feeling much better and now just has occasional bouts of coughing spells.  Also good news:  we have Japan medical insurance so a doctor visit complete with chest x-ray and breathing treatment, three medications, and two different inhalers cost about $70.  Not bad.

Garbage -- literally

The Japanese are pretty serious about their garbage and recycling.  I have wanted to post for months about having a big poster on the fridge with many details of when and what to do with your trash.

On Mondays and Thursdays you can put out "burnable trash" which includes food scraps, plastics, and other things that can be burned:

Note:  there are no trash bins, only plastic bags which are certain types of garbage bags you purchase at the store (cheap).  Then another day (you can refer to a chart), it might be bottles:

You put in the bottles (mostly liquor bottles) according to their color into baskets of similar color.  There is also a basket for aerosol cans (not shown).  Another day is PET bottles (recyclable plastic) which ONLY include soda pop and soy sauce bottles(!):

Another day is non-burnable trash.  Another day, metal cans and other metal things.  The days are like:  2nd Tuesdays or 4th Friday or 1st and 3rd Wednesdays.   It is all very confusing and we are always consulting the poster and the calendar to find out what day it is!  But if you should mess us this is what happens:

They refuse to take your bag and it remains there all alone!

Go Rakuten Eagles!

Friday was the big night for President Rasmussen (mission president) and Calvin:  they went to a Rakuten Eagles professional baseball game!  I guess it was all in part of the missionary work (or so they said) because one of the managers got to know the Church's humanitarian person and President Rasmussen was told to keep in contact with him (forget that Pres. Ras is an avid baseball freak!).  So out of obedience they went to the game. . . .

At first they were sitting in the nosebleed section:

But later (because of their connections) were upgraded to box seats behind home plate:

The seventh inning stretch included launching off a bunch of balloons:

And all in all they had a marvelous time.  Side note:  The game ended in a tie and there were NO extra innings!

Good Idea

While the guys were at the game, Sister Rasmussen and I stayed at the mission home and worked on a project for an upcoming youth conference.  I thought it might be something someone out there would like to use.  We used the candy "Hy Chews" (you can get it at oriental food stores).  Then the handout read:  I CHOOSE (Hy Chews) to:  (and it gave a few things they should choose to do)

Relief Society Beauty Workshop

Saturday we had a couple of Beauty Workshops as a Relief Society activity.  One of the RS counselors is a beautician so she had it at her shop (attached to her house) and it was quite fun.  One idea when your polished nails chip:

It might be kind of hard to see but file down the ends of the nails and then add a glitter nail polish on just the tips of all of your nails to make people think you meant them to be that way!

Our group before:

And some of the girls AFTER their 5-minute makeovers:

We actually had an afternoon and an evening session and learned about taking care of your hair and saw our hair and skin magnified through a magnifying camera:

That is someone's  hair and you could see the pores, oils, damaged hair, etc.  It was pretty interesting.  We also saw our skin:  the texture, oils, and wrinkles!

And afterwards we went out for Japanese fast food:

I had spicy noodles  and a couple of large pieces of tempura and it came to less than $5 so not bad!

Exciting Sunday News!

Today (Sunday) we had the stake president and mission president both show up to our Church meetings (along with about 35 young volunteers from Tokyo that we weren't expecting!).  The stake president and mission president didn't even know that each other was coming but afterwards had a meeting and pretty much decided that they were going to open up Ishinomaki (where we are) to the young missionaries soon!  We are so excited because that means for the first time since the tsunami the younger missionaries will be here and we will be able to help them.  This is what we have been hoping and praying for.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Public Bath

So maybe this is the blog you have all waited for:  the public bath or onsen as they call them here.   In high school we learned a saying in our English class that has always stuck with me:  Anticipation is greater than realization.  This is generally true.  We often worry, plan, and anticipate with a lot of emotion and then when we actually go through the event, it is not as bad as we thought it might be.  So, be prepared, this blog may be more boring than you think!

Our friends, the Kikuchis, have been dying to take us to an onsen (public bath) for a long time.  Sister Kikuchi (Takie) is a member of the Church but her husband (Haruyoshi) is not but he was just as excited to go as Takie was.  They called us a week before, and said they wanted to take us to this onsen the next Monday.

They picked us up at 8:00 a.m. (you read right!) and we were off.  The onsen was about two hours away but true to Japanese ways, it took us about four hours to get there!  They had given us explicit directions not to eat breakfast so we didn't.  The first stop was a 7-11 about a half hour away.  We stopped and got drinks and snacks to eat along the way.  I turned down an ice cream cone and Takie thought I was sick or something (it was 8:30 a.m.!). 

Back on the road for another hour or so we then stopped at a shopping area:

It was actually a little more exciting than it looks!  It had a nice vegetable-grocery area, some food booths in the inside and outside, and a few little shops inside.  Here we had a bowl of noodles and the Kikuchis bought a bunch of food because "there's nothing to eat at the onsen."  Oh, and we left with ice cream cones in hand.

Next stop:

They wanted to show us the Katanuma Swamp.  It is a nice lake but is a bit smelly since it is a bit sulphurous and no one was really there.  Then on to the real destination only a few miles away:  the onsen.

As we neared the town there were quite a few hotels along the street.  We were told that there was a natural hot springs along that street so there were many hotels with onsens in them and the place was quite wellknown.  The one we were headed for was up the mountain and a windy road.  The hotel was quite large and when we went in, we got our own room:

The Kikuchis knew the owners and they provided us with this large hotel room that was more like a timeshare condo for free.  We stayed there the whole day! 

As soon as we got there, Takie said, "Let's go in the onsen!" so we did.  For those of you who have never had the experience this is what it is like:  We went into a room about 12x12 which resembled a swimming pool locker room with lockers and baskets along one wall.  We had two towels, a small hand towel and a larger bath towel.  Men and women are separate!  We got undressed (no small locker rooms) and put our clothes in one of the baskets.  We went into the next room with our small towels and there were 3-4 hand-held showers along the wall.  Each person showers before entering the onsen.  There were two pools:  one inside and one outside.  Both were fairly small, like a small pool or a large hot tub.  We got in and it was quite hot!  Apparently you can't regulate the temperature because they are NATURAL hot springs!   So you get whatever the temp is that day.  It actually felt good, although hot, but after about two minutes, Takie said, "It's too hot, let's go!"  Yes, that was the experience!  We had to go back, get dressed, and go back to our room!  We did go back and get in again a few hours later before we left, but we didn't stay more than 10 minutes the second time!

So, the thing I think is funny is that Calvin made a big fuss beforehand about being "shy" (which I would not recommend).  So, Takie and Haruyoshi kept encouraging him on.  Well, the whole branch heard of his "shyness" and got details of how he did!  Did he put a towel around himself?  Did he go in?  How long?  etc. etc.!  And it is still the talk of the branch wanting to know if he will go again!

For me, I quite liked it and the girls (other sisters in the branch) are planning on going again--probably without the guys!

Later in the day we were able to give a gospel lesson to the owner's wife.  Their three children are members but they are not.

The rest of our day was spent eating and eating and eating.  We even stopped off on the way home at a small restaurant where you grilled your own food on a grill in front of you that was very tasty.    We didn't get home till amost 8:00 p.m.!  I was so tired!

Oh, when we got back, Takie said, "I bought you this vegetable and it's really good and you cook it and it really tastes good.  Once in the apartment I examined the vegetable:

It was a zucchini!  Being a zucchini-freak, I was so excited!  I made zucchini bread for Institute on Wednesday.  Everyone was amazed!

Goodby Maki Shimai

On Friday our branch hosted a goodby party for a sister missionary who was just released.  Her mother and brother had come to pick her up so she was able to visit some of the areas she had served in.

That's Sister Maki in the middle.  She is quite famous around here.  When the earthquake and tsunami hit, she was in Ishinomaki where we are.  In fact, she lived in our apartment.  The members adored her.  For 3-4 four days afterwards the mission looked for her and her companion but could not find them.  Then, they finally found them in the school where they had been evaculated to.  They had spent the last three days doing service--mostly cleaning toilets!  We had met her briefly before but meeting her again was a real treat.  She is so outgoing and attracted so many people from all over.

As a sidenote, Calvin found out that her grandfather was the first to join the Church so she is third generation LDS.  Her grandfather visited the World's Fair in 1970 in Osaka and signed his name as interested and was later contacted and joined the Church.  It was the same World's Fair that Calvin served at 40 years ago!

Some Blessings are More Visible Than Others

When we went to our family English class this week, the director of the civic center where we teach came in and said, "I have a present for Sister Sakamoto."  He went around the corner and gave me this:

It is a HUGE orchid plant!  Those of you who know me,  know that my thumbs aren't naturally green.  So please let me know if you have any tips on keeping this plant alive---the humidity here is about 90% but the tag said to water it every five days with 2 cups of water.  That seems way too much!


I don't usually give weather updates, but I have read about the heat in Utah and the whole US this year so I thought I would tell you about the weather here the past few days.  It has been unseasonably cool (which I don't mind at all).  It has been in the mid 60's and feels wonderful especially since I know that the heat will be here with a vengeance soon.  We have heard several complaints that it is "too cold" but I would NEVER complain about the mid 60's!  

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Some weeks just seemed packed.  Like this past week.  I was surprised when we downloaded our photos for this past week because it seemed like some happened a long time ago!  Besides that I distinctly remember that we did not have our camera at some photo-op moments this week.


Monday, our p-day, we were scheduled to go to the zoo with our district in the afternoon.  The zoo is right around the corner from the mission home and we needed to trade out out car there (long story but in a month we will be trading out again for a new one).  We took Marie and picked up two sisters from Tagajo (city on our way) who wanted to check our the clothes at the mission home that returning sisters had left for others to browse through and take what they wanted.  It was a "free shopping spree.":

The girls had a great time and after realizing that, it was true, the mission president's wife WANTED to get rid of the clothes, they were happy to oblige and left with bags FULL of clothes!

Just when we were going to leave for the zoo, we got a call.  THE ZOO IS CLOSED ON MONDAYS!  So we opted for Plan B:  We drove into Sendai, parked at the Church parking lot which is a 15 minute walk from the train station and downtown Sendai.  First, we walked to the train station and ate at Cold Stone!  Yes, you read right.  It was Marie's birthday in two days so we treated the girls to whatever they wanted.  This is where we forgot the camera so you will have to use your imagination.   You choose a creation (such as chocolate ice cream, nuts, brownies, syrup) and then they mix it together and you choose what you want it in:  cone, cup, waffle cup, etc.  It was a yummy experience, albeit a little more expensive than at home but we were in the celebrating mood.

Then we went across the street to this gigantic open air (but covered) mall that is about 4 blocks long and walked and gawked at all the stores and restaurants.  Such a girl-thing to do.  But it was fun and we headed back to drop off the sisters and go home ourselves. 


Tuesday was district meeting.  It was our district leader's last meeting since he will be heading back to his home in Boise this week since his 2 years is now over:

After district meeting, those who could went out to eat for lunch.  After much deliberation we chose an Italian restaurant and we were not disappointed.  It was really good and featured an all you can eat salad bar and bread bar plus drinks along with the meal.  Usually Italian is not that great in Japan but this was yummy.

We headed back and in the evening had English class.  We had a record number come:  9.  We had a good class and played a jenga-like game which is always a hit:


Wednesday afternoon we visited and played games with Mari and Moto:

Mari is the mother.  Moto is the daughter.  Moto has some severe mental problems.  She gets extremely depressed and suicidal at times.  This day she was quite good.  You can usually tell by her hair color and what she is wearing how things are going.  Sometimes we see her with wild hair colors (pink, blonde, or whatever catches her fancy) and wild outfits as well.  Anyway, we had a great visit and talked about the Church as well.  They are an active LDS family but Mari seldom comes because she can't leave Moto but her husband comes most of the time.  Moto will hardly ever come but has come a few times.  Her mental condition is really fragile to say the least.

Later in the afternoon we had a lesson planned with our investigator Abe san.  Then after the lesson a few members had an impromptu fellowshipping dinner/birthday party for Abe san and Marie:

The food turned out really good.  We had some sushi rolls, pasta, and I brought some BBQ chicken sandwiches.  Then we had cake and lemon bars for dessert.  I am getting these people Americanized.  They had never had BBQ chicken sandwiches or lemon bars and they loved both.  They were waiting for the exotic recipe for the chicken and  were probably surprised when I told them it was only chicken and Yoshida BBQ sauce (which has the same taste as BBQ sauce at home).  And I haven't found a Japanese person yet who doesn't believe I made the lemon bars and who doesn't love them (even the Japanese elders and sisters love them).

After the dinner was Institute class.  I think we went home exhausted!

I will just say here that Thursday was our family English class which is always a bit of excitement!

Temple Trip

Friday was our trip to the temple in Tokyo.  The driving time itself is about 5 1/2 hours each way.  The toll roads are a killer and it takes about $125 each way for the tolls.  The trains are around $200+ per person I think.

We wanted to make a stop on the way so we drove:

Yes, what would a trip to Tokyo be without stopping at Costco?  After loading up our cart until we couldn't get anything else in (and $500 later), we went to the food court and had hot dogs and pizza.  And believe it or not, the food court prices are surprisingly the same as in the states!  And the the same food quality and quantity.  Actually the ice  cream was even better because it it this creamy Japanese ice cream.

Then on to the temple:

The temple is ALWAYS the best!  So nice to relax, and feel the Spirit and the strength of those around you.  We stayed in the Church next to the temple which has dorm-type rooms downstairs and are cheap to stay in.  Not the Hilton but adequate.  They even have vending machines (which I wouldn't recommend):

Yes, for only 350 yen ($4) you can get french fries, rice balls, ramen, tako yaki (octopus balls), or chicken nuggets.  Really it didn't look so appetizing.  We went for McDonalds shrimp burgers and sushi sold on the street:

And then we were on our way home.  But one more observation.  When we were at Costco I bought a large container of liquid Tide made specifically for use in cold water since we have no hot water hookup for our washer.  I was a little hesitant since I had to pay $28 for that container of Tide.  BUT when we were shopping a little ways from the temple I saw the same container of Tide (maybe even a little smaller!):

It was 3999 yen--just OVER $50.00!  I breathed a sigh of relief.  I wasn't so crazy after all.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


As missionaries, we have learned a lot about conversion.  Here is a short quiz to test your knowledge of what we have had to learned:

1.  If you see this sign at a gas station:

It says that you will be paying 132 yen per liter of gas.  How much are we paying per gallon in US dollars?

2.  If grape juice is 100 yen for 1000 ml how much are you paying in US dollars and what is the equivalent of 1000 ml?

3.  This car (small SUV?) has a sticker price of 1,632,750 yen!  How much is it in US dollars?

4.  In June we drove 1331 km.  How many miles did we put on the car?

5.  If you order from the Flying Pig online, what do you get and how much will it cost you after all the conversions?

6.  A sister in our ward said she was baptized sanju roku nen ago.  She was yonju roku nen at the time.  How old is she now?

(Answers given at the end of the blog.)

More Conversions

In the Church, conversion is even more difficult.  We often talk about when we were converted as our baptism date, but that is only the beginning.  Conversion means changing by believing and doing as Jesus Christ would have us do.  Conversion also means that the Spirit guides you.  Conversion is life-changing and is a process which basically involves our whole lives because we need to continue each day to become better.

Lately we have been teaching two people (investigators of our Church) about the Gospel.  They are both great people.  One is a man about 50 years old.  Another is a woman in her 60's I would guess.  The man lost his wife in the tsunami.  The woman ran to a nearby mountain with her friends.  Some of her friends went back to get a few things at the last minute.  They never returned.  Both have trouble sleeping at night.  Both are searching for answers to their questions.  Both are finding joy in learning about Jesus Christ, the hope He gives, and attending Church.  They are both changing their lives as they learn more.  Both are feeling the Spirit as they learn.  They are beginning to be converted.

One of the things we do as missionaries is to help branch members as they continue on their paths of life.  In fact, all of the branch members help each other.  I have mentioned that once a month we have a "linger longer" meal after Church services.  It is really great as we mingle together and strengthen each other in a casual setting.

This week one of our members took us to a restaurant:

The food was great but even better was the fact that we were able to see one of our young members who works at this restaurant.  He has been a life-long member but recently took this job and now is not able to attend Church services because of it.  It was great to see him and let him know we were thinking of him.  Plus, the restaurant will probably do even better because we heard at Church today several others who plan on going there!  We have learned that sometimes conversion means helping others as well as ourselves.

As for ourselves, everyday is another chance to progress.  We have had great experiences that have strengthened us.  But like everyone, some days we feel like we progress less than other days.  (Luckily I post this blog on Sunday nights after we have had a chance to add to our spiritual gas tanks!)  As we look back at the past six months, we feel like we are moving forward.  Thank you for your support.  It helps us a lot.

Answers to the Quiz

1.  $6.25 per gallon  (this is really good--it was about $7.40 when we first got here!)

2.  Grape juice is $1.25 for a quart. Juice is fairly reasonable here.

3.  The cost of the SUV is $20,417

4.  We drove 827 miles

5.  The Flying Pig is a service of a company that sells online to those who want American food.  They get food from Costco (there are several Costco stores in Japan) and add about 20% to the Costco price and ship it to you.  They have a per box shipping cost. I am not that desperate but many people (including the mission president's wife) buy from the Flying Pig.  I think it gets its name from "when pigs fly" meaning it is impossible--like it's impossible to get those things in Japan but this company makes it possible!

6.  She is 82 years old.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


It's true.  We been on our missions for six months!  I asked Calvin what his feelings about this are.  This is what he said:  It has gone by fast; it seems like we just got here.  We have done, seen and experienced a lot of things.  I love the people who try hard to live honest, productives lives in the face of odds against them; and they are succeeding.  I have enjoyed the culture and the beautiful sites.  I wish I could stay longer as a missionary.  I look forward to seeing the family, fishing, gardening, genealogy, writing a personal history and family history,  and possibly more missions.  What I miss the most:  being in shape and exercising more!

My feelings:  I don't think I had very many expectations or foresight as to what this might be like.  The time has gone by rapidly and it has been an incredible journey.  The more I am here the more I realize that we are all God's children and all related as such.  I see more and more of the same things as I see at home:  hopes, dreams, enduring hardships, loving your family, trying even though it is sometimes hard, and the impact that the Gospel of Jesus Christ can have in your life.  The culture is different but that is just their way of coping with all of the above.  In the end, it seems like the more we are different, the more we are the same.  My greatest realization, I think, is that that God has a plan for us, there are no coincidences, and God loves us more than we can even imagine.

More Service

Tuesday we were at Omotehama doing oysters once again.  This time it was our zone (about 30 of the younger missionaries) and our mission president and his wife (President and Sister Rasmussen) were also there:

Most of the younger missionaries ended up stringing shells:

Until they looked like this:

Each time we go we find out a few more tidbits of information that we didn't know before.  This time we learned that from the stringing (above) they go into the ocean and somehow the oysters know how to spray their eggs onto the shells (apparently this is quite the timing process--the reproductive life of oysters!) and then they are retrieved and there are five days to get them back into the ocean on the ropes like we were doing.  The other incredible thing is that when they finally harvest the oysters two years later, there are 50 oysters attached to each shell!!  Yes, we did THOUSANDS of shells and that was just on our 4-hour shift!

We found out that there are different fishermen that are part of the co-op but they work independently of each other.  So this time we were helping a particular fisherman and his family:

They were working along side of us and really appreciated out help.  When we would take a break, the wife would set up a shady spot with a tarp and some places to sit and lay out a HUGE amount of snacks and drinks for us to eat:

And finally, the young sister missionaries worked hard for this photo:

Unplanned Eventful Day

Friday we didn't have much planned but it turned into a fun and eventful day.  It began when Marie came over to study English with us (since she just got her mission call, she wants to study some English because it is now required of all the missionaries in Japan to learn English).  We studied for a while, ate tacos for lunch and then went over to the Church because we thought there was a Relief Society activity at 1:00 p.m.  No one was there so we went over to another sister's house, only about three houses away since she is one of the counselors to see what was going on.  She said it was at 6:30 (originally they were going to have two sessions but cancelled the afternoon one) but invited us in.  She has a beauty shop at her home so was working a bit but we continued to teach Marie and had lots of snacks.  Calvin helped Takie (pronounced "talk-ee-ay) with an upcoming talk when she was finished with her work and then she asked me if I wanted my hair cut.  I was happy to oblige:

As you can see, she has a nice spacious salon and always does my hair for free (because it's a service she says so I can't pay!)  Hmmm. . . look closely and you may notice something different:  my hair is now ONE COLOR!  Not salt and pepper.  I have to say, with Takie you don't get too much of a choice.  She knows what she wants!

We got back home around 5:00 p.m. and I decided to make another batch of lemon bars for Relief Society.  We had eaten the first batch at lunch with Marie and then taken some to Takie's and they were such a hit that I decided to make more for Relief Society. 

At 6:30 we were back at the Church learning how to organize you home:

The teacher is a young and married and hardly 30 but she did a great job.  The Japanese are notorious for keeping STUFF and she read them the riot act about throwing out what was not needed--and also added organization skills.  I am always amazed when I go into people's houses how much STUFF they have especially since the tsunami was supposed to have destroyed almost everything! 

She also had this other BRILLIANT idea which could be used anywhere for Relief Society.  She had us divide into three groups and we were given the assignment to organize one area of the Church:  the cupboard, the refrigerator, and the kitchen (an area about 5 feet by 5 feet BEFORE adding the cabinets and stove!).  Anyway, we took about 20 minutes for that and the results and findings were amazing!  In the fridge there were eggs (no idea how long they had been there), other suspicious food, the ever present old ice in the Church freezer, etc.  We did the cupboard and it was pretty disorganized and non-functional.  It now looks like this:

The stuff on the middle counterspace are things that the Relief Society president announced today in Church that if they are not claimed, they get thrown away!

After the activity we enjoyed lemon bars and other cookies.

Then we had just enough time to go out to dinner with the young sister that taught the lesson and her husband who is in the branch presidency.  We went to a Indian (as in India) curry restaurant.  They insisted on paying because they said, "It doesn't cost much because we have a coupon!"  Yeah, who would have thought we would be hobnobbing with coupon people in Japan!  And for the record, it was really great food, you chose your curry (chicken, seafood, mutton, tomato base, cream, cheese, etc) and how hot or sweet you want it and it comes with rice or these giant elephant ear sized breads called nam (sp?):

And, of course, me being me, I grabbed another coupon on the way out and plan to go again before the 14th because that's when they expire!

For the Record

Just thought you'd like to know:  no typhoons or earthquakes over 6.0 this week (did have some over 4.0 though).  The weather is wonderful.  We still haven't turned on our air conditioner!