Sunday, September 30, 2012


We enjoyed another week with Eric and Laura and family.  It was great to be in our own territory (Ishinomaki) and not in the big city, although that was an adventure too.

On Monday, our friends the Kikuchis, invited us to spend the day with them.  First, we went to the Akiu Falls which were beautiful, even though it was raining:

It was not a long walk down to the falls but there were deep steps and the next day I was pretty sore!  We are excited to go back sometime when the weather is a little drier and warmer.  It would be a perfect picnic place.

Next, we headed to a hotel nearby and went into the onsen (public bath) which was enjoyed by all.  (Some of you may be skeptical!)  Anyway, afterwards we were treated to an incredible traditional Japanese lunch:

The thing that looks like an angel food cake pan with milk in it was actually a soup with a burner underneath it and you put your meat and vegetables in it to cook your own and then put it in the sauce below the soup.  It was basically a taste of everything you could imagine.

We got home around 3:30 p.m. only to have Takie say, "Let's go out for ice cream!"  So Laura and I headed off to her favorite ice cream shop which features hard ice cream in a dish with soft on the top.  I had all soft ice cream but Laura had pink grapefruit sorbet with soft ice cream on top and said it was very tasty. 

That was not the end.  Haruyoshi and Takie still wanted to take us out for sushi at 6:00 p.m.!  Laura and I were stuffed but Calvin and Eric obliged and went out to a nice sushi place (the Kikuchis don't like the cheap stuff) which Eric said was the best he has ever tasted.  I guess he found out that the belly of the fish is the best tasting and costs an arm and a leg!  Eric still talks about the melt-in-your-mouth sashimi.

Meanwhile Laura and I and the kids went to the mall and had a good time.


On Tuesday we went to district meeting in Sendai and then went to the zoo.  It ended up being really fun.  The weather was cool and so the animals were very active.  We arrived just as all the hundreds of school children were leaving from their field trips so we had the zoo pretty much to ourselves.  Also we were treated to seeing the zookeepers checking out the HUGE elephants and having them do tricks like raise up their legs, kneel down, check their ears, etc.  We saw monkeys, elephants, hippos, tigers, lions, zebras, giraffes, and lots more.  This is Trey behind the bars with a sign that says, "Man."

Ramona with a hippo:

Tuesday evening we had our English class.  We showed some short Disney clips which everyone liked.  We popped Orville Redenbacher's microwave popcorn which everyone loved.  Funny, they don't do much microwave popcorn around here.  Maybe because the wattage on the microwaves is so low.  At least ours is--the one at the Church works find.


On Wednesday we went to Matsushima.  We walked across the bridge to the Fukuura Island.  It turned out to be really fun.  We found out own private beach by using a rope to get down to it. 

The island itself is green and lush with plenty of view spots:

We ate lunch and then Calvin and Eric took the kids on a boat ride which features seeing all the islands and feeding the seagulls:

Wednesday evening we had a lesson with Abe san who announced that he will be getting Sundays off beginning in October!  This is a major achievement since he works at a store and that is one of their busiest days.  So now he will be able to come to Church all the time.  He is getting very close to being baptized!


Thursday became our more rest and relax day, if you can call it that.  Takie cut and colored Laura's hair in the morning.  Then Takie wanted to take us to lunch at Gochisoiya.  They have a good variety of food and we had a variety--noodles, rice bowls, cheese sticks, beef stew, and curry.  Yum!!

The kids took a nap and then we had to go to our other English class.  Laura and Eric took the kids shopping at the secondhand store.  I forgot to mention that on a previous day we went to another secondhand store and Laura got 2 pairs of shoes and a pair of boots which were all new and at this other store she got a purse.  The secondhand stores basically carry new things here.  We aren't sure why they are called secondhand.


On Friday we headed off to Matsushima again.  Calvin and I took the kids to the aquarium.  And Laura and Eric went to see the sites and do some shopping.

We also saw Hiyoriyama Park where you can see great views of Ishinomaki:

And the rice fields are now being harvested and they cut the rice and stack them like this:

Sorry that picture was a little washed out.  I may have to take some more this week!  But our Friday night ended with a trip to the food court at the mall (Takie's niece and nephew wanted to meet Trey and Ramona):

And going to Marie's work and saying goodby to her:


We took Eric and Laura and the kids to Sendai on Saturday morning so they could ride the shinkansen (bullet train) back to Tokyo and do a little more sightseeing before getting on their midnight flight.  We were sad to see them leave but we had had a great week.  On our way home we decided to go to Akiu Falls again just to time it to see how far it was since our district was looking for a place to go.  This time there were food stands open and it was quite fun:

Eric and Laura may be a little disappointed when they hear that they had some great souvenir type things, not to mention these goodies:  teriyaki grasshoppers!


You may have noticed how much Takie and Haruyoshi did with us and how much it must have cost (hundreds of dollars!).  We were a little upset that they were so lavish although they always are.  Takie always insists that this is her way of doing something for the missionaries--service she calls it.  And at Church today she had her own version of how things went.

When I first saw her Takie she said, "You must be so sad that they left.  I am really sad too."  Then she told the story in Sunday School about her niece and nephew.  Her niece who is 17 (Aya) really wanted to meet Trey and Ramona because they are Americans.  Instantly Aya loved the kids.   But the real surprise was the nephew who is 12.  He is quite shy but warmed up to the kids.  But apparently later that night he told Takie how impressed he was with Laura and Eric as a family and said he would want a family like that.  In Japan, the fathers are much more rigid and don't do much with the kids.  Also it opened up a discussion on prayer and some interest in the Church.  And, of course, he said he would like to go to America some time.  Takie, ever the missionary, was thrilled.

Takie also expressed how she had felt so close to Laura.  She said that she really was impressed by Laura's genuineness. Takie often talks about feeling the spirit and she said this week was amazing to her to see a young LDS family in action.  She felt like every moment was worth it.

So that was the other side of the coin.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Wow, we have had an EVENTFUL week in Tokyo with Eric, Laura, Trey and Ramona.  We started on the overnight bus on Monday night (10:00 p.m.) and arrived in Tokyo at 5:45 a.m. on Tuesday morning!  The bus was fairly uneventful but we probably should have taken pictures of the inside of the bus.  The seats are all separated so there are three seats across with plenty of room inbetween.  The curtains are drawn the entire time and you are given slippers to wear!  I can't say it was super comfortable or that it was cool (air temperature) because it was basically a little stuffy like the Japanese like it but we made it!

We headed over to the temple (Church next to the temple where we were staying to be exact) and got there around 7:00 a.m.  It was our first time trying out the trains in Tokyo which are pretty insane.  The train lines go every which way and there are millions of people everywhere.

We went through a 10:00 a.m. session at the temple and explored the park across the street which was pretty amazing.  It was gorgeous and had huge fish, turtles, and a large playground.

In the afternoon we headed towards the station where Eric and Laura would be coming.  We managed to find them (barely) and then we went back to the Church where we were staying in a crowded room with three bunk beds!  At least for a couple of nights the place was pretty dead so the jet-lagged kids were not bothered by others (or a bother to others!)

Here are some pictures of our adventurous week.  First the Tsukiji Fish Market.  (tuna are on the truck bed):

Having fun at Sea Disney:

On Friday we went to Mt. Takao.  It turned out to be beautiful, interesting, and lots of fun.  We rode up in a gondola, ate our lunches in great surroundings, walked to some shrines and temples, saw a monkey park, and rode down on a chair lift.  This is us making a wish after going through a big ring and hitting these smaller rings with a big stick:

One of the "friendly" spirits that we saw:

Trey and Ramona at the monkey park:

And going down on the lift (which had no seatbelts or front rail but was only about 10 feet from the ground):

The views all over were absolutely gorgeous.  Unfortunately, the weather was a little misty and cloudy so photos just didn't do it justice.  We would definitely do this again.  It was such a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo!

We left on Saturday but not before we at at a great Indian curry restaurant and fed the fish at the park and played on the playground:

And the bullet train was great.  It almost took us longer to get to Tokyo station and wait for the train than it took for our entire ride back to Sendai (less than 2 hours).

And finally when we got back to Ishinomaki we were greated by these guys:

And Sunday at Church:

And Ramona showing off her new "clothepin" hairdo:

In Retrospect

We had a great time but it is always great to get home and now I KNOW why we weren't sent to Tokyo.  The big city, tons on train rides and transfers, and millions (literally) of people:  give me Ishinomaki with its narrow streets and very few people anyday!

It was a fun adventure while it lasted and now I think I am more Tokyo savvy.  The temple is always fun because we meet new people and see others that we have seen before. 

Today at Church it was so good to see people we really knew and they LOVED seeing Eric, Laura and ESPECIALLY Trey and Ramona.  Trey went to Primary with five other boys (that's the entire Primary).  When he first went in, the leaders were a little concerned and wanted to know if we wanted to come in with him.  We said, "he's fine; no thanks."  They thought we were crazy because they hardly speak English.  But ten minutes later I went back to check on him and the teacher shooed me away and said, "He's fine!"  I actually marvelled the whole week at how the kids made friends wherever they went:  the temple, sightseeing places, the park, etc.  We should all be more childlike and not let our inhibitions get in the way of having a good time or making new friends.

More Adventures This Week

Stay tuned for more adventures this week.  We were able to trade our car for a big van for the week, compliments of the AP's (assistants to the president).  Tomorrow we are headed for the onsen (public bath) with Takie and her husband.  We are pretty exhausted but hope to catch up on a little shut eye this week too!

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Sometimes we see change as bad.  Many people are afraid of change.  We are told that addictive behaviors can be marked  by sudden changes in personality.  Women look to THE CHANGE as not a good thing.  I have been reading in the Book of Mormon.  It is amazing to see that people can change from good to bad in a matter of a few short years.

However, Change Can Be Good!

This week I have been thinking about changes all around us.  Close to our apartment where we walk there is a canal.  It has actually been quite unsightly and the canal itself has been filled with trash--old tires, junk, etc.  I assume that it has not been cleaned up since before the tsunami and so I shudder to think what might really be in there since I am sure the tsunami deposited a lot of unwanted trash into it.  This is what we have been seeing:

But recently, there has been a HUGE cleanup effort going on.  There is actually a parkway above those weeds and now this is what it looks like:

Amazing isn't it?!!  My next example is our car.  We have been using an old, dented car for the past month.  It actually ran well for us (the previous owners will NOT vouch to that fact!) but it was quite old and was dented in several places:

This week we got a new car!   It came with only 40 kilometers on it, 4-WD, backup sensor, CD player, and great AC.  And it fits in great with our family because it is a Corolla!  Four of our six kids have Corollas so this makes the fifth.  In Japan there are different models of Corollas and we seem to have gotten a really nice one!

As I have been saying, we recently got new young sister missionaries in our area.  Sisters Fukuda and Shuto:

Can I just say that this change has made all the difference in the world.  We struggled giving lessons for nine months (I am NO help at all) and suddenly these sisters came in and are experts at giving lessons!  They are always prepared and bring with them visual aids and a great testimony of the Gospel. 

Back to our walking:  this is a photo of a yard I took a while back because it was so bad:

This week it suddenly transformed to this:

Yesterday, we were able to do another service project.  It was giving arm/hand massages at a temporary housing unit:

We love doing this for these people (mostly old and many disabled) and hope it helps them in this time of change in their lives.  We have noticed that the people in Ishinomaki have changed.  Now eighteen months since the tsunami they are getting back to living and and look to the future.  We seldom hear those fearful cries of what might happen again and many see the blessings they have had since that fateful day.  We hope that this change for the better continues.

Today we had our "linger longer" after Church known as "shokujikai" here. The sisters and the brothers take turns providing the meal. We remember a few months ago the branch president appealed to the brothers to "step up" and provide something good because the sisters were clearly doing a better job than they were. Today we came to Church (the brothers were in charge of the meal) and an hour before Church was to begin, there were several men preparing for the meal which would not be for four more hours! They did a great job and made soba (cold noodle soup eaten in the summer) for all:

So I hesitate to put these next pictures in but here goes.  This is a photo of me in May:

And this is the new dye-job:

So you have it.  Well it is a change!

The biggest change in our lives has been the tranformation from civilians to missionaries.  Sometimes this seems to be so easy;  other times it seems we struggle.  One day we miss our family terribly; another day we can't imagine leaving these wonderful people.  Sometimes we think we fit in pretty well; other times we KNOW we are foreigners.  When we go to the grocery store we see huge fish, octopus, tofu, and soy beans in every shape and form; we wonder where did the steak, turkey, sour cream, and tortillas go to? 

One day in the not-so-distant future we will return to all that we knew and loved before; all of this in Japan will be like a dream I am sure.  But right now we are satisfied with the change in our lives.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


I was trying to think of a catchy title for this post.  My intent was to say that we are scheduled to be here until September 13, 2013 so now the countdown is that everyday we experience here will be the last one of those dates we will be here.  For example, on September 20th it will be the last September 20th that we experience here in Japan.  That brings us many mixed feelings.  We will be happy to get back to friends and family, but sad to see our days as missionaries gone.  Also sad not to be around our wonderful friends here.

Rice Fields

I posted a photo of the many rice fields here several months ago.  The rice plants began as green shoots in fields of water.  But now they are like this:

They are now fields of yellow.  The little rice kernels are in the bent over heads of rice.  We have been told that in about a month the harvest will begin.  Individually, the plants are bent over and look like this:

Japanese Ice Cream

The ice cream here is very good!  The Japanese pride themselves on their ice cream, especially that from up north in Hokkaido.  So having said that I think I am now on a quest to see how many different flavors of SOFT ice cream I can eat.  This may actually be a challenge for me because I am usually a vanilla purist.  But this week I began my quest with sesame flavored ice cream.  And not those little brown sesame seeds.  These are ground up BLACK sesame seeds:

Yes, the ice cream was extremely GRAY.  But it wasn't bad.  Just tasted like sesame seeds.  I will have to start making a list of flavors and keep you posted (literally!).

Relief Society Activity

Yesterday we had a Relief Society activity on food storage.  I quite like the fact that the branch has decided to have monthly activities.  Everyone seems to like them.  Anyway, there was a display of different food storage item possibilities.  Most of the items were fairly normal (just different packaging).  There were canned tomatoes, corn, rice, oil,  water, cold cereal, mayonnaise, soy sauce, and probably a few things you (or I) wouldn't recognize!:

Then we had a cooking demonstration using some of the items.  The two sisters in the middle are our new sister missionaries who arrived just in time for the demonstration:

And finally the finished meal:  noodle soup, canned fruit (in the cups), mochi which was so interesting and easy I am going to have to make some.  Usually mochi is mooshed up rice but this was made of potato starch, skim milk, and sugar rolled in kinako powder.  And guess what else?!  Dried wakame (remember that--the seaweed) which had been reconstituted and embellised with some canned tuna!  (The corn on the cob was just an extra treat someone brought!)

All in all quite tasty and we even got recipes!

Tasty Lunch

We were in Sendai this past week and stopped for lunch at the eki (train station).  We got the lunch special which was a bit of everything:

Literally a bit of everything:  soup, rice, fish, veggies, shrimp, pickled veggies, tempura, and a sweet tofu for dessert!

Reading the Scriptures

Since being here on a mission I have had a lot more time to read and get immersed in the scriptures.  Each time I read the Book of Mormon I have tried to focus on something different (one time I underlined the words faith, repentance, baptism, and Holy Ghost in different colors).  Anyway, I recently began reading the Book of Mormon and listening to Discussions on the Book of Mormon--a round table discussion of the Book of Mormon broken down into segments of a few chapters each.  You may have seen this on KBYU but they are really informative and helpful in learning more about the chapters as you read.  There are four BYU professors in each segment (not always the same professors) and they just talk about different things they got from certain chapters.  For example, they may be talking about Alma 1-4.

 If you are interested in this Google "Discussions on the Book of Mormon" and see for yourself.  You will probably have to go to "all seasons" and "view list" to go to where you want to go.  Or if you want to get some insight into what will be taught in Sunday School the next week you can do that also.  There are 70 discussions in this series!  Each session is about 26 minutes long.

Another series is called "Insights into Isaiah."  It is a similar series on Isaiah that I am planning on listening to.  There are 30 discussions in this series.

Happy reading!

Sunday, September 2, 2012


So we were able to do a new service yesterday--participating in a Japanese dance (obon)!  It seems that we get to help do things that are actually the service projects of others most of the time.  This time we were invited to participate in what I would call the half-time activities of a track meet. 

We went to Kitakami about a half hour away to a junior high school where they were having an undo kai (exercise meet).  This is some of what we saw. The opening ceremonies going around the track:

May I just say that at times such as these, I realize how much I love our country:  the USA.  I am grateful to see these people with their flags and posting of their colors but I long to see those stars and stripes.  The Japanese are not as passionate about their country as we are.  Some did not even stand as their flag was raised, let alone revere it with hand over heart.  When we return, I will be much more thankful for the opportunity to stand and pause.

After the opening ceremonies, the "games" began.  There was a baton-passing relay and an obstacle course race among other things:

And there were plenty of fans to cheer them on:

I guess these things are serious business because they began promptly at 9:00 a.m. and were still going strong when we left after our performance.  At noon, they stopped for lunch (everyone brought their own). 

In the meantime, we were getting ready for our part:

Some people from fairly far away brought 40-50 yukatas (lighter weight kimonos worn in the summer and as robes at home) to give to people who lived in the temporary housing units.  So first they organized them into piles of yukatas for men and women. 

And then we donned our yukatas as well:

Voila!  This is how we looked:

And like I said, we get more out of these things than what we give, we were given these yukatas to keep for ourselves:

At this point we went down to the track, the yukatas were put on tables, and the announcers made the announcement that the yukatas were to be given away to those living in the temporary housing units if they would come up and dance with us.  With not much trouble, 50 people came forward and we began to dance in a large circle.

Unfortunately, the camera person was dancing so we don't have pictues of the actual dance but I will try to paint the picture:  we were in a circle and doing a short dance.  It went something like one arm forward one arm back, other arm forward other arm back, repeat, both arms to the side, repeat on other side, form mountain with hands, clap twice one side, clap once the other side.  Repeat from the beginning.  All the while we were moving around in a circle and supposedly doing some dance steps.  It was a pretty long song so we probably did this a hundred times!

It is kind of the Japanese version of line dancing . . . .

Afterward, the people got to choose their yukatas:

And I think most people went away happy with the event:

Miracles and Blessings

Our friends, the Franks, are on a mission in Germany.  They recently posted on their blog something that I LOVED.  They told about daily miracles that they were seeing.  So today I am stealing that idea from them and talking about miracles and blessings in our lives.  I pretty much decided that all miracles are blessings, although some blessings may not be considered miracles so that is why I have lumped the two together.

Daily, we are also blessed.  Just being on a mission is a HUGE blessing.  I think we are all blessed with miracles daily but sometimes we fail to see them.  Here, I think they are more noticeable because most of the time we are not distracted by the worldly side of life.  Some of the miracles and blessings we have seen lately are:

*  We have been telling you about the young sister missionaries coming to Ishinomaki.  Finding their apartment was truly a miracle.  We had been looking for a few weeks (going through apartment realtors) but there are just not many apartments available here because they are all taken by tsunami victims.  Finally, a couple of weeks ago our mission president called and said if we could not find an apartment right away he would send the sisters someplace else.  That night Elder Sakamoto and Brother Watanabe from our branch went out searching.  No success.  But then they both said a silent prayer and decided to go to the house of the landlord of our Church building.  The landlord was just pulling up to his house and they explained the situation to him.  The landlord was elated!  They were just going to list an apartment and they would be glad to rent the apartment to the Church because they knew they would be good renters.  Upon seeing the apartment, they knew this was a miracle.  It was everything they wanted:  close to the Church, post office, grocery store, convenience store, and  really a nice place in their price range.

*The next blessing always comes after I complain that I can't speak Japanese:  I am reminded that things are okay and I am doing allright.  Last week I went out to eat with Takie while Elder Sakamoto was at the baseball game.  We talked and had a good time.  All of a sudden, Takie said, "You can speak Japanese and understand too!"  I was pretty amazed. 

*We feel it a miracle and a blessing to be living in the land of our ancestors.

*This may not seem like a miracle or blessing but it is:  Last week we were at the store and I wanted to buy some pants for when Laura comes to visit us soon.  I looked at all the sale racks and found two pairs of pants for only about $10 each.  And because I am living in Japan, they don't need to be hemmed!

*One blessing we had lately is that we found a spaghetti squash at a store!  This may not seem like much but it was the best spaghetti squash I have ever eaten--because it was a taste of home.

*Another miracle that I may or may not have mentioned earlier is that I have met three people who have lived in the area we are from on three different occasions.  This may not seem like much but we were able to reminisce of people we knew and it was like God was telling me that he knows us personally and made sure we were able to connect with each other.

*The weather has been quite hot and humid lately.  These are two of the blessings I count as paramount in our lives:

Above is our air conditioner!  It actually works pretty well although we try not to run it 24/7.  Not that many people have these here--pretty much like not having anything in Utah only with 90 percent humidity!

*And lastly, our greatest miracle and blessing are all of you.  Can we just say that without the miracle of the internet and our family and friends back home, this would be a much harder thing to do.  We hear news, updates, and encouragement from you all.  Thank you so much.