Saturday, October 27, 2012


I have been waiting (somewhat patiently) on three continuing stories and hope they will all have happy endings soon.  But in the interest of having to say something this week, I decided to post these three "to be continued" stories this week.

Story #1:  Driver's License

When we came to Japan nearly a year ago we had international driver's licenses which we got with no problem from AAA and only about $15 apiece.  But those licenses expire a year after we got them so Elder Sakamoto has been going through the process of getting a Japanese license these past few weeks.  I have never driven here and didn't see the need to get one (who needs another crazy American driver on the roads of Japan?!). 

A couple of weeks ago we went to the Ishinomaki driver's license place only to be told that since we were not real residents we needed to go elsewhere for the license.  First, we were sent to Sendai (an hour and a half away) to get a translation of our information.  After about a half hour wait and a few dollars less, we left for Izumi (about 1/2 hour away) for a 1:00 p.m. appointment.

Once there we saw lines like these:

Look familiar?  Visions of DMV?  Well, luckily that wasn't our line.  We got in a much shorter line only to be told that we didn't have a paper stating that we were residents of Ishinomaki.  We were sent back to Ishinomaki (our town) to go to the government center to get the paper and were told to come back the next day at 1:00 p.m.  Okay.  So we went to the city building (an hour away), and a few minutes later left, paper in hand, and a few dollars poorer.

Next day:  Back to Izumi (an hour away) at 1:00 p.m.   What?!  This time we didn't have Calvin's passport, only a copy?  Apparently they recently changed the law to require the real thing and not a copy.  So off to the mission home (1/2 away) to retrieve our passport which was being stored there.  Instructions were to go back to Izumi the next week at 1:00 p.m.

The next Monday:  Back to Izumi (an hour away again!) at 1:00 p.m.  Good news!  Calvin had all the proper paperwork.  Just pay some more fees and come back the next day for the written and driving tests.  It could have been worse.  Others waiting took a longer time than we did:

So the next day:  Calvin took the written test and aced it!  Only ten questions, but hey, an ace is an ace!  Then pay more fees and off to the driving test which looked like this:

A half our and then:  What Calvin FAILED the driving test?!  Make an appointment and come back next week?  After a couple of hundred dollars and a lot of time . . . TO BE CONTINUED

Story #2:  Relief Society Blanket Project

Last spring I had this idea to do a blanket project.  We happened to be with Elder Halvorson who is in charge of humanitarian projects here in Japan and he told me if he could do anything for us, to let him know.  (He asked for it!)  It was then I told him about a project I had been thinking about.  I wanted the branch to get involved in making fleece blankets (them learning to crochet around the blankets), they would be able to keep one blanket and then we would make others for less actives, non members and even people living in the temporary housing units or nursing homes or hospitals.  It would be good for the sisters here because they had all been impacted by the tsunami and it would give them a good service project.

Elder Halvorson thought it was a great idea and told me to email him with the details.  It didn't take long to realize that I could not purchase fleece in May.  I would have to wait until fall.

So a few weeks ago we went to the fabric store to find out they had just received their shipment of fleece.  I talked to the Relief Society president and told her about my idea.  She was excited and said maybe we could do 50 blankets!  Quite a stretch for such a small branch.  Then I emailed Elder Halvorson and ran it past him.  He replied quickly and said he thought it was a great idea and I could have double the amount of money I had suggested!

So off to the fabric store (they were right in the middle of town and had been impacted by the tsunami--much of their store was ruined) and bought lots of fabric:

Luckily they were already cut in a size that was just right for a nice-sized blanket.  And I am sure we made these ladies' day!

Since then we have organized the fabric, gotten matching yarn, and put the holes around the edges so we can crochet:

I made a few samples and the project will get started this week on Wednesday morning and Friday night . . . TO BE CONTINUED

Story #3:  Abe san

Last March or so we came to Church and met Abe san.  At first we didn't even know that he wasn't a member of our Church.  He was probably in his mid 50's, wore a nice suit and brought with him a well-marked and tabbed copy of a triple combination.  It may have even been the next week that we cornered him again at Church and asked him if he was interested in having the missionary lessons!

You have to realize I guess that we were fairly new to the area and didn't know all of the people yet.   At least that is as good an excuse as any!

So from then we began teaching him.  He had already had all of the discussions in Tokyo earlier in the year and has a sister-in-law and her family who are members.  We had weekly meetings with him except when his work became to busy that he couldn't meet with us, which wasn't that often.  He seemed to love hearing the lessons but always said he wasn't really sure yet about making any commitments, but at the same time he had given up coffee, tea, alcohol, and  read the Book of Mormon 4 times (!).  Plus he was attending weekly Institute classes.

Finally, around June he said he wanted to talk to his four daughters (his wife was killed in the tsunami) about getting baptized and hopefully  get their blessing.  This went on most of the summer but they live further away and only two returned back here and he talked to them and they said they respected his decision.  The other two he wanted to talk to face to face but finally a couple of weeks ago he was talking to them on the phone and told them that he wanted to get baptized.  They basically said they felt it was his decision. 

The next Sunday (last week) in our lesson he told us he was ready to be baptized!  Yesterday we had the district leaders here and next Sunday he is scheduled to be baptized.  All of us with the district leaders:

And Abe san and the sister missionaries filling out the forms for baptism:

And I forgot to mention that he works at a nursery-type store and worked on Sundays because it was one of their busiest days so he would come to sacrament meeting during his lunch hour on Sundays.  But then a month ago announced that he had talked to his boss and gotten permission to have his day off on Sunday!  This is a HUGE thing in Japan to be able to get Sunday off at that kind of business!  So ever since he has loved coming to all the meetings and even staying after.  So after next Sunday TO BE CONTINUED . . .

And a Continuation of Last Week:

This week at district meeting I made Halloween treats:

What's Halloween without popcorn hands and peanut butter eyeballs?!

In Conclusion

TO BE CONTINUED next week!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Sorry About the Delay
Maybe some of you are wondering if we fell off the face of the earth or something earthshaking like that but no . . . computer problems.  We were not able to post the blog last week as usual but are hoping that today will be a different day.  And wouldn't you know it, we had tons of photos and things to tell you last week!  So here is the wrapup:
Halloween Happenings
Who would have guessed that the Japanese celebrate Halloween?!  Yup, they do, albeit a subdued version (nothing could be as intense as the U.S. right?).  The Japanese, being Japanese, are somewhat embarrassed to get dressed up but they do like the festivities and the IDEA of having costumes.  This past week in our children's English class we made paper plate skeletons:
And the finished project:
They turned out really cute and later I took my sample to the Primary Halloween party and they had never seen them before and loved them.  These are some photos of our Primary Halloween party.  First, Calvin and his prized carved pumpkins (also a hit--haven't seen those yet either!):
Then us in our costumes (me as a witch and Elder Sakamoto as a broom if you can't tell!):
Bobbing for apples:
Souta (our little Primary boy) in his costume next to our bean bag toss game:
And the rest of the kids with hardly any costumes!:
 The party turned out really fun and who would have guessed that one of the real highlights was that I brought unfrosted cupcakes and let them frost and decorate them with sprinkles and M&M's.  Even the adults insisted on decorating since it was such a novel idea!  And several asked what the frosting was!
Service Project
We helped at a service project at a temporary housing unit that has mainly disabled/handicapped people.  They had what they call "undokai" which is a sports activity.  There were several activities to get them moving.  There was a ring toss around food which were the prizes:
Racing to get goodies with your teeth:
And the highlight (lowlight?) of the festivities was racing to sit on balloons and popping them.  One man missed the chair.  Another man actually jumped to sit on his and met this unfortunate demise:
Yes, the entire chair broke and luckily he was not hurt!  Other activities included volleyball, learning the hula and listening to some singers.  It was a fun activity and the weather was perfect!
Other Random Happenings
Our week was filled with other random happenings.  One of which was eating our first (but not our last!) oyster burger which was really yummy.  It was fried oyster and the funny thing was the bun was delicious too.  I hadn't realized it had been almost a year since eating a bun!:
When we were walking one day I decided to take a picture of the manhole covers here in Ishinomaki.  This one is painted but not all are so colorful; most have this same design.  It says "Ishinomaki sewer" or somthing like that.  Anyway, it pictures their biggest industry--fishing, and their summer fireworks which they will proudly tell you are the biggest display around.  Oh and the fireworks are above this bridge.
Another store along our walking area is this Dart Store.  Who knew you could make an entire business out of darts?  And who knew there were dart accessories?
One day we were starving and couldn't get back to our apartment for several hours.  We stopped at a roadside place and had this authentic (but pricey) food.  It was fresh seafood (oyster, scallops, sea snail, shrimp, and something else!) and some clam soup:
And finally we had a Relief Society project making book covers for our hymnbooks.  I was a little leary about this but they turned out really nice so our Relief Society room now has really nice hymnbooks!
All in all a great week.  And we have lots more for next week since many things have overlapped and we needed to finish the stories before telling you about them. 
And as a great ending to a great week, we learned on Sunday that our investigator Abe san has talked to all of his daughters and is now ready to be baptized!  This will be happening soon so we will keep you updated on that.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


I have to admit it is kind of strange when I look at the photos we took this week and they all have to do with my birthday!   Usually I think of my birthday as something that comes and goes without much fanfare but apparently this year I was the center of attention at least for this week.

On Monday, the Kikuchis took us out to their favorite restaurant:  the Taikanso Hotel (7th floor) above Matsushima Bay.  Of course, it is full of ambiance and has an incredible view, not to mention the French cuisine!  Here we are:

And as I said the food is incredible.  First the appetizer, four little tidbits that all are amazing:

There are wonderful rolls, cream of pumpkin soup, and the main dish:

Above is Calvin's steak;  I had mini lobster.  Then there is a dessert plate which I guess we didn't get but it had I think four small desserts on it.  You may think there wasn't much food but really after eating it all, you are plenty full.  And I enjoyed it a lot:


My actual birthday was on Tuesday but the celebration began on Sunday when a couple of members gave me gifts:  a really great children's book in Japanese which is, I guess, legend (there is a statue at one of the Tokyo stations dedicated to the dog in this book) and a bagful of other goodies.
Monday we went to the Taikanso.
Then on Tuesday we had English class and I was once again the center of attention as they sang:

I got some wonderful ice cream bars and these delicious pastries:
Through the week, others also remembered me with other gifts.  My favorite was given to me today by a member who drew this picture:
It is a picture of our granddaughter Ramona who was here recently.  Sister Umehara drew this picture from a photo (she loved Ramona's one year photo with her two little teeth in the front).  It is actually a really good likeness of her.
All in all a good week.  We actually did quite a few other things but I guess not much photoworthy.  But this week should produce more--we have a Halloween party and RS activity to mention a few things.  Plus I have some Halloween treats in mind.  (Hint:  I couldn't find that red clear frosting glaze that you use for blood so I put some food coloring in some honey and it worked like a charm!)
I have been thinking lately of the many blessings that I have and how I have never realized that many of them were blessings. 
*  Even though Japan is a modern country, the people we associate with are not wealthy.  In fact, I even took off my engagement ring because NO ONE has a diamond on their finger, let alone one around their neck.  Sometimes I find myself feeling too showy or too prideful in the things I wear or have.
*We watched general conference yesterday and today.  It really struck me as to how blessed we are to listen to a prophet's voice (and the Apostles).  Here you listen to a person who is translating what these General Authorities are saying.  They never get to really know the real voices or their intonations.  Our branch president once asked us if it was scary going to general conference because the Brethren might be so forceful in how they said things.  They never hear the love and concern in their voices.
*I must admit I was looking forward to a new car (a Corolla!) but now the members ooh and aah over it and I find myself feeling a little too showy.
*Last week our RS president said they would like to do a project in January which involves crocheting around fleece.  I had told them about this project (which I had learned in Utah) and that I thought we could get funding from the Church since it would be a service project.  Anyway, we decided we wanted to do around 50 blankets so I emailed the person in charge of humanitarian service in Tokyo and explained what we wanted to do and suggested a dollar amount.  Within 24 hours he wrote back and said it sounded like a wonderful project and we could have double that amount!  The great thing is that now we can provide blankets for all the branch members as well.  It will be such a blessing to do these blankets. We can actually do more than 50 blankets because some of them we will be cutting in fourths and making lap quilts.
*With all the complaining I do about the weather, I am the first to admit that our apartment is very comfortable.  We have a king-size (!) bed with memory foam, heating and air conditioning (not central air or heat but it works non-the-less).  We have a sofa and table and chairs and really all the comforts we need (plus we now have a dryer that works!).
*We have MORE than enough food!  We are given food fairly often but we are also not hurting for food money.  In fact, I am in the process of trying to downsize our food storage.  We have been to Costco three times so you Costco shoppers out there will realize what I mean when I say we need to use up what we have!  We are leaving in less than a year, you know!  Plus the other great gift I got for my birthday was from our kids:  they gave me 90 Balance Bars for my diet!  YES!  Hopefully in a later blog I can tell you how that goes . . . .

Sunday, October 7, 2012


So I think fall has arrived in Ishinomaki.  One major indication is that in Church today I had SEVERAL people ask me why I wasn't wearing long-sleeves.  Wasn't I freezing?  After it all, it was 70 degrees!  You may remember from when the weather was cooler last spring and winter that I was constantly asked why I wore short sleeves when it was cold.  And actually this time I was a little prepared for this barrage of questions.  I did wear a short sleeved sweater over my shirt.  But alas, not good enough.  So maybe this week I will have to drag out my winter clothes and see what I can come up with. . . it may be a long winter!

Other Evidences of Fall

These are some pictures of what we have been seeing on our morning walk lately.  First a pear tree:

Then a persimmon tree.  We actually saw one that was LOADED but I didn't get a picture of that one.  I haven't decided what you do with hundreds of persimmons anyway.

And a fig tree.  Figs have shown up at the grocery stores and I am determined to buy some and fig-ure out what to do with them!  I will probably have to google it but I think you cook them somehow.  They look like little pears: 

And also I found this tree that is covered with these little things.  I picked up a few off the ground and tried tasting them but they didn't seem fruity so I am not sure what they are (besides a mess on the ground once they all fall off!)

The gardens have been harvested or are still in the process.  The Japanese love onions and it shows:

And here is an up close and personal view of rice.  These people planted rice in grow boxes (they actually looked really nice all summer):

And now those stalks are hanging in their carport:

Other Random Things

I found this at the grocery on sale for 50 yen (60 cents):

It is a bottle of diet 7-up!  I was wondering if it was spiked or something what with the "strong and dry" logo.  But alas and to my happiness, no.  Diet drinks in Japan are scarce but I also found a bottle of diet Sprite a while back.  And for the record, Diet Coke is pretty much nonexistent but you can find Coke Zero.  And no Diet Pepsi but something called Pepsi NEX.

And you may recall a LONG time ago that I said that our dryer didn't work or at least didn't dry our clothes.  I heard from several people that their dryers were very effective either.  And really, most people in Japan hang out their clothes so I didn't give it much other thought.  Then Eric and Laura came.  Eric totally took apart our dryer (I think it bugged him that it didn't work) and found out that it was broken!  A belt would not work because another part had broken and it was not fixable!  So guess what?

When we told the people at the mission home, they ordered us a new dryer!  And it works!  This is especially good news since hanging the clothes in the wintertime is not so effective.  And anyone visiting us this next year should be especially appreciative.

This next photo is what we did in English class this past week. We were learning about shapes and colors and so I had the kids (11 of them) make pictures out of the shapes.  They loved it!  I should have gotten photos of their pictures which were really great but here are the examples I gave them (theirs were nothing like these):

I got some stickers at the 100 yen (dollar) store and gave them some colored paper and they really had a good time. 

Also, Marie and the sister missionaries wanted a cooking class this week so this is what we made:

Navajo tacos!  Yum!  They turned out quite easy and were a hit. 

Sunday Activities

I thought I would just mention that Sundays here in Ishinomaki can be rather long.  We came to Church this morning at 9:00 a.m. for branch presidency meeting.  Church began at 10:00.  We had Relief Society, then Sunday School, then sacrament meeting.  After that we had a lesson with out investigator Abe san.  We waited for a RS planning meeting to end (Abe san ended up getting a massage while we waited by our 90-year-old massage-giver) and then we went to Takie's house for some dinner.  And now we are back at the Church doing the blog and other things.  It is 6:10 p.m.  Luckily this is not a Sunday with young adult family home evening because that would start at 7:00!  There were actually others here until 5:30 as well. But really it has been a really nice day.  Pleasant weather, good company, and a spiritual feast!  No one seems to mind the time spent here.