Saturday, December 29, 2012


I, being the ridiculously goal-oriented person that I am, thought this would be the perfect opportunity to talk about goals.  I noticed on KSL's website, they listed the top New Year's Resolutions of 2012 (last year).  The top five were:
     1.  Lose weight
     2.  Get organized
     3.  Spend less, save more
     4.  Enjoy life to the fullest
     5.  Stay fit/healthy

So I have to admit more than once, these things have been on MY list of New Year's Resolutions.  And before I even saw this list I had decided on my resolutions:  DIET AND EXERCISE!  What?!  We are missionaries and I still have the same resolutions I have EVERY year?!  Well yes.  It seems that in my life if I can stick to the diet and exercise routine, everything else falls into place. 

And in defense of "spiritual goals" I have to say we are inundated with spiritual goals (after all, we are on a Church mission!).  You see, I think I mentioned in a prior blog we have mission goals, zone goals, district goals, stake goals, branch goals, companionship goals, and personal goals.  Sometimes I think if I could attain even half of those, I would be pretty much translated!

So I do have a diet/exercise plan.  It includes walking at least five days a week and eating healthy.  We have actually done fairly well in the walking since last June or so but the cold weather has dampened my spirits on walking so this will hopefully be my added incentive.  Wish me luck!

Oh, and I will mention that Elder Sakamoto (Calvin) said his New Year's Resolutions include:  getting through the Doctrine and Covenants in Japanese, reading the missionary Gospel library (Jesus the Christ, True to the Faith, Our Heritage, and Our Search for Happiness), and creating missionary lessons in Japanese.  (You can tell who the spiritual one is!)

Christmas Week in Ishinomaki

This week we had a great time skyping our family and even watching them open the presents we sent them!  Sounds like everyone had a good Christmas.

Calvin has been sick most of the week so we kind of took it easy but we did have some fun times.  On Christmas Eve we went to the Church with about twenty others and our branch president cooked us dinner:  roast beef and salmon!  It was delicious and everyone had a great time.  We played the candy bar game!

On Christmas day we went out to eat with two other missionary couples from the mission home to an all-you-can-eat place near Sendai.  They have wonderful food!  The Jahanas and Thomas' will be leaving in the next month and we will miss them so much!  They are pretty much the only missionaries left that were here during the big earthquake and tsunami.  In fact, the Thomas' were here three days when it hit!  What a ride they have had!

On Thursday we had district meeting and they surprised us with a photo of us:

We have really grown to love all of the missionaries we work with:

Thursday night we went out to eat with the sisters and a couple of branch members to Sushiro--one of the 100 yen a plate sushi places that are so popular around here.  You can order plates of sushi (usually two on plate) or take them from a belt that goes around next to your table.  This is what our table looked like AFTER we ate:

This is the real explanation:  There were seven of us.  You get the dishes and at the end the waitress counts your plates to see how much you owe!  Notice:  there are about 60 empty plates plus several other dishes that had desserts, soups, etc. in them.  So each sushi plate is 105 yen (soups and desserts could be more) which is about $1.25 American dollars so you are probably looking at at least $100 but I guess not bad since it WAS sushi!  And I probably mentioned before:  NO TAX or TIP!  That is actually quite a big deal since tax and tip would probably add another $30 to the tab!

One day we drove the sisters around to visit less actives.  It turned out to be a rather long but productive drive.  We updated lots of addresses, statuses, and visited with some.

And yesterday we were invited to the Saitos (sorry no photo) for dinner.  It was really good.  We had do-it-yourself sushi and tako-yaki.  I had almost lost faith in tako-yaki which are balls kind of like popovers with octopus, and a few other veggies with special sauces and toppings since every time I have bought them they haven't tasted that good.  But last night's were wonderful--and we even got creative using fish, shrimp and even cheese in some!

Right now I am at the Church doing this blog and two hours after Church has formally ended, there are still a lot of people here.  And we were given a great take-home gift:  MOCHI for the New Year!  We'll have to go home soon and have some (BEFORE my diet starts!).

Okay, another resolution has to be:  Be sure and take our camera with us all the time since we missed some good moments this week!


Sunday, December 23, 2012


I have to admit, Christmas has come suddenly.  I thought it was a ways away and now I realize it is only two days away!  I am pretty much in denial since I thought I had another week or so to go!


We had our "Christmas" district meeting this week.  I offered to make us lunch and it turned out good!  I opted for "easy" since it seems like we have been so busy lately.  We had spaghetti, jello, relish tray, French bread, and lemon bars!  And it was a nice time for us missionaries to relax for a few minutes and enjoy lunch:

The oddity in our district is that we have the same amount of sisters as elders.  Usually the elders outnumber us!  Can I say:  "It's amazing how much food missionaries can eat!"


Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a soft spot for care centers.  It has been many years since my time as Relief Society president at the Bennion Care Center but those years have not dampened my feelings of love for those people.  This week we were able to do a "Christmas Concert" at a large care center about a half hour away.  We were a little apprehensive since it was just us missionaries and also Brother Watanabe from our branch who really has a wonderful voice.  But then just before we left Brother Watanabe called and said he was bringing "someone else." 

The "someone else" turned out to be his son who is the professional opera singer that we went to see a couple of weeks ago!  Words don't even begin to tell how amazing his voice was as he sang three famous opera songs acapella and then did an encore performance at the end.  The people (50-60 turned out!) were captivated and oohed and aahed after his performances.  It was a testimony to the power of music in all of our lives.  His singing touched these older people as if they had been visited by an old friend.

Here are some photos of the "concert."  First everyone watching attentively:

The decorations at the care center.  Actually this is really good for Japan!:

Koi Watanabe's wonderful performance:

And an entrance from a couple of Santas and a reindeer (you can hardly see him but he is in the back).  And yes, one of the Santas is a woman:  equal opportunity Santas I guess!

The rest of the missionaries and Brother Watanabe did a great job too.  And just as a side note I will say that we took "presents" for all the people in the audience and I worried that we would not have enough.  But, of course, we had EXACTLY enough!  I have always said that God looks over these people with a special eye and we were not diappointed.


We got "heart attacked" by the sister missionaries:

Visiting some less actives:

One of the most impressive light displays in the area is at our children's English class community center:

And don't say we don't have the spirit!  Calvin sitting on Santa's lap (we have yet to see a live santa whose lap you can sit on):


We want to wish you all a Merry Christmas!  The year has gone by incredibly fast and we are glad you have been part of our year.  We know that just over 4,000 hits have been made to our blog and we consider you part of us because you are interested in what we are doing.  That averages out to about 75 people a week reading about us.  We are humbled and impressed! 

The people here have become like family.  We are always amazed that they think WE are serving them when it seems that THEY are supporting us in so many ways. 

We have been blessed in so many ways.  We hope that you have been able to use this season to reflect on the things that matter most in your life.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012


True, the Christmas season has arrived . . . even in Japan!!  This week has been full of the busy season with all kinds of happenings.


This week was our zone conference and we were not disappointed.  We had music from the missionaries:

Calvin got the Alma O. Taylor (the first missionary to come to Japan) award for reading the Book of Mormon in Japanese:

And we all opened our $2 RED presents that we exchanged:

And the highlight (which I didn't get a photo of) was opening big envelopes of mail wishing us Merry Christmas from our families at home!  Thanks to all of you who wrote!  It was wonderful. 


Another activity was with some of the sisters singing at the handicapped temporary housing unit.  We went along, gave a few hand/arm massages, and handed out a few gifts:

The people seemed to enjoy it (at least no one left in the middle of it!):


And (ta-da!) our Branch Christmas party!!  This was the long awaited party which has been in the planning stages for months.  The day before we put together bags of goodies for everyone to take home:

We began with our sights set on maybe we could get 50 people to come (remember we only get 35 to Church on Sundays!).  Then we decided to work even harder and personally invite non-Members and inactives.  So we decided that maybe 60 bags would be enough.  But then as we were bagging, we scrimped to put together a few more bags.  And guess what!?  We had SEVENTY people come!:

The Church was so full we could hardly get everyone in but everyone seemed to have a great time.  There was a stained glass craft, singing, a Nativity program:

And LOTS of food:

Plus a SPECIAL visitor and two helpers to give out the gifts:

Really, everyone seemed to have a great time.  We had so much food that we ate the leftovers after Church for lunch!

Today (Sunday) the members couldn't stop talking about how amazed they were that so many people had come.  They were filled with the missionary spirit that if they could get that many people out, the branch needs to really redouble its efforts to get more members.  Everyone was so tired today from all of yesterday's efforts but no one was complaining (except a couple of people who said they had never seen such long food lines at the Church!).  It really was a great activity and a tribute to everyone's faith, prayers and hard work.


It just so happens that we were with the sisters a lot this week and got some fun photos so I thought I would share them with you.  First, creating a heart attack:

Next at our children's English class next to the tree we have been decorating with ornaments and garlands that the children made:

And finally, at the Branch Christmas party:


There are a lot of cars in Japan just like at home (well not everyone has a car, but there are a lot).  I may have mentioned it before but in the U.S. a Toyota Corolla is a Toyota Corolla but here there are sub-names for Corollas and other cars.  Most of the names are fairly normal (I ask myself in the states:  What is an Avalon or a Camry or a Civic?)  But there are a few here that I don't get at all:

And I'm totally clueless to this one:

Don't think about it too long . . . just smile!

Sunday, December 9, 2012


It's true, this week has flown by.  And probably it is a sign of things to come.  We find ourselves involved in so much here in Japan.

With the Rasmussens

Monday we were lucky enough to get another sister here in Ishinomaki.  The threesome sisters are having a wonderful time now that we have added Sister Chikamori to our group.  President and Sister Rasmussen brought the threesome together on Monday and then Elder Sakamoto and I were able to enjoy some time with them over dinner.

We led them to the mall (they were so impressed!) and restaurant row inside the mall.  We looked at every display (plastic food menu in the windows) and finally decided on a yaki-niku place.  Translation:  you cook your own meat in front of you.  Actually it ended up meaning we had an all-you-can-eat shabu shabu which, if you remember, is veggies and meat you cook in front of you in a broth and then dip it in a sauce:

It was really great and we can add this to our growing list of places we like to eat!  And then, of course, we had to wander the mall for a bit:

And even found jolly ole Colonel Sanders waiting for us to pose next to him:

Birthday Party

I wouldn't normally tell you about every birthday party we go to but this one was really fun.  It was Brother Oyama's b-day and so the young singles and missionaries wanted to celebrate.  Brother Oyama was completely overwhelmed.  He is an active member of our branch,  lives with his family in one of the temporary housing units,  is pretty much the sole support of his family, and celebrated his 44th birthday.  This was his FIRST birthday cake since he said usually his family just bought a cake for Christmas (it's a big thing here to have cake for Christmas) and that was his birthday/Christmas cake.  (His birthday is December 4!)

You might take a look at the cake which is very typical of a Christmas cake.  It is generally a white cake with whipped cream frosting and strawberries on it.  Sometimes there are MOUNDS of whipped cream.  And this is the typical size.

And I thought this was a fun picture.  It is a photo of the bachelors in our branch.  Oddly enough, there are not really any single sisters so the guys get together often to have fun:

Christmas Concert

Yesterday we were lucky enough to go to a Christmas concert.  One of our members has a son who lives in Tokyo and is an opera singer.  He came here to give a free concert.  There were about 50 in attendance.  Most of his concert (2 hours) was singing of short opera pieces which was really enjoyable and then towards the end he sang some Christmas songs.  It was nice to hear White Christmas sung in English (albeit with a Japanese accent!) and parts of the Messiah:

And speaking of a white Christmas, I have been saying that we hardly ever get snow but this is what we woke up to this morning:

Primary Program

It was getting a little late in the year for a Primary program but today was ours.  The thing is is that there are FIVE kids in our Primary--ages 5, 8, 10, 11 and 12.  And they are ALL BOYS!  And they are a lively group:

But today they were on their best behavior and all by themselves they took up 30 minutes singing and talking their way into our hearts.  Luckily their mothers (2 brothers from one family, and 3 brothers from another family) are some of the best singers in the branch.  These boys had nice, clear, loud voices both in speaking and singing.  Much of what they said was memorized and ALL of it was wonderful.  Which just goes to show what I have said all along:  The Primary Program always seems to go without a hitch!  It was delightful and spiritual.


For those of you who have not heard, on Friday just past 5:00 p.m. we had an earthquake centered just off the coast of us which had a magnitude of 7.3!  Most people were home (including us) which was good.  We felt the shaking for about 90 seconds.  And it was fairly violent.  But nothing really fell down in our apartment.  Japan is amazing since the same magnitude earthquake in SLC would probably have caused major damage.  But here nothing was damaged.  The real concern was the threat of a tsunami.  Every TV and/or radio was on PLUS there are huge intercom systems outside for this sort of thing announcing that there might be a tsunami threat.  Luckily after about two hours it was announced that there was no danger. 

Our neighbors from downstairs came up to our apartment for a while in case there was some danger and many people left soon after the earthquakes in their cars (although we heard later that the roads were jammed so it was probably really good there was no tsunami). 

That night almost everyone we knew called us to see if we were okay (probably more mentally and emotionally than physically).  Also our branch president stopped by to check on us. 

It was a HUGE reminder of the past for all the residents here.  We are so glad things turned out allright.


Today in Church I received an unexpected reminder of the blessings of missionary work.  Our lesson in Sunday School had to do with faith and how you receive blessings after exercising faith.

Marie (our 21 year old soon-to-be bride who we have befriended) is the gospel doctrine teacher asked if we had any examples of how we had shown faith and then received blessings.  I hardly ever answer questions since my Japanese isn't so great but I raised my hand and said, "Before, we had faith and decided to serve a mission; now we can see we have great blessings."  I was pretty proud of myself that I could say that much and not break down crying!

Anyway, when I finished, the unexpected happened.  Marie broke down crying and went on for three minutes talking about the blessings that had come to her and the branch because we were missionaries here!  I was so overwhelmed that I am still crying.  It never once entered my mind when I gave my answer that the blessings we had were blessings to the others as well.

Well till next week.   We hope this time of year brings that special spirit of love and giving that we should probably feel the year round!

Saturday, December 1, 2012



So it is true that the most newsworthy news in our family comes from Utah.  First, we have a new granddaughter!  Sorry I don't have a picture (you can blame the new parents and actually I haven't even seen her yet since she was in the nursery when we skyped.   But yes, Tyson and Bethany are the proud new parents of a baby girl!

The little one arrived at around 11:30 a.m. on Friday, November 30.   She already can be deemed as very obedient.  Tyson had rotations in Illinois until Thursday and Bethany was having pains that day.  Tyson must have willed it to be false labor because she waited until Friday when Bethany was induced and only about two hours after getting to the hospital, the baby was born.  I am not sure of her name so I better not say what I think but she came into the world weighing just over six pounds.  All are doing fine!

And earlier this week we found out that we should be having another granddaughter soon!  Ben and Alyssa have gotten their final approval for their adoption--in China!  They are planning on leaving next week and getting their little girl on December 10th.  They have to stay in China until December 22 to do paperwork and fulfill other requirements but then it will be back home with their little girl!  Her name right now is TingTing (which will probably change) and she is just over two years old!  This has been a long time coming so we are very excited!


So back to earth, I can blog about what we are doing here in Japan.  The theme for this week seems to be "cooking."

On Monday we went to the mission home for their monthly family home evening.  It was actually the first time we have been but we chose a good one!  Although it was technically still November, they had a Christmas theme complete with lots of decorations, a Christmas DVD, and good food!  There were about 40 present.  Here are a few photos:

And the best surprise:  homemade cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate for refreshments!

Then at our children's English class we made little gingerbread houses.  It was quite an adventure!

And the finished products:

And then for the really BIG cooking project:  I was asked to do a Relief Society activity on Friday  for lunch and again on Saturday evening (same menu) which was billed as "Christmas Meal in America."  Not sure what that means but at least I got to choose what I wanted to cook!

The menu ended up being cream of chicken vegetable soup, rolls, relish tray, seven-layer Jello, chocolate fondue, and chocolate pudding cake cooked in a rice cooker (with ice cream).  Yes, I know.  It was pretty heavy on the desserts but I wanted to show the rice cooker cake and I knew they would love the fondue.  And yes, they had NEVER had chocolate dipped strawberries!  The pictures tell the story:

One of the good things is that the Japanese love to cook on the table in front of them so they use these small propane burners which are great for demonstrating!  Finished fondue:

And I will admit that the hit of the meals were the rolls!  It seemed that they could not have enough of them!   I did not really give them the recipe but promised that next month maybe we could do a dinner rolls/apple pie demonstration and do the whole thing justice.  Just not enough time this past week to show it all!


And if you haven't already figured it out, whenever the Japanese get together, they MUST take a group photo.  I guess I have dozens of pictures showing that I was REALLY at some activity

For a few weeks I have been wanting a Nativity set that featured Japanese figures.  I have been looking on line and found what I wanted.  The funny things is that this lady sells from her home in:  Salt Lake City!  She works through someone in Japan who makes these figures in Japan but then ships them to Utah and then she ships them wherever she has orders.  I contacted her and she arranged for this set to be sent directly from Tokyo which, of course, was cheaper and faster.  If you are interested, she has more things than just nativity sets, just google Kokeshi Designs.  It is actually fairly tall and the painting and wookwork are all done by hand.
Calvin and I decided to get this for our joint Christmas/anniversary present since it is a little pricey:
We love it and it brings the true meaning of Christmas into our home.