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."
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!
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY
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.