Sunday, January 27, 2013


This is definitely January.  Last week I reported on the latest snowfall here and just as that was starting to melt, we woke up to six inches more this morning!  But it was beautiful and the skies were blue today so much of it has already melted.

And because it is cold, we find that most of our activities are indoors.  I decided to try doing some games at our children's English class because I think they are tired of crafts.  So we took the sister missionaries and they helped me with some games.  We did a beanbag toss, some relays, and even a donut eating contest.  And the winner?  Well, those little tubes of plastic bubbles with small straws.  They LOVED blowing bubbles:

Ping Pong Night

And always a hit on Friday nights is ping pong night.  I was amazed when I think 14 people showed up and they all loved playing ping pong.  Who knew?  Not me!  (I made some cinnamon rolls and donuts and that made it all the sweeter!).  Even the branch president (on the left) and his two sons came:

And Elder Sakamoto was supposed to be in the finals but they quit before he got to show his real prowess:

Activities at the Church

On Saturday we happened in on a Primary activity and an art class at the Church.  The Primary activity was that the kids made hamburgers!  But unless you think out of the bun you have the wrong picture.  They wanted hamburgers with NO buns and YES to rice and salad!:

And the painting class I thought was incredible.  They were painting fruits and veggies on postcard-size paper.  One of the members is an art teacher at a junior high (I think) and she was teaching everyone to draw (for obvious reasons I wasn't invited:  I could not more make an orange look like an orange than fly to the moon!)  But here are some of their results, incredible!:

Nabe:  Yum!

And today at Church we had our linger longer meal after the meetings.  The MEN were in charge and made "nabe."  The word "nabe" means "pot" in Japanese and so they make a meal in a pot.  I have to say, I really like nabe and we haven't really had it since we came to Japan.  So I was really excited for this and I wasn't disappointed.  Basically it means a little liquid (soup) and a little meat and lots of veggies and even noodles cooked in one pan.  The different veggies and meats are not really mixed together (although they do get mixed a little in the process) so you can kind of just pick and choose what you want to eat when it is all done.  This photo is of our branch president and counselor:

The big pot cooking in the kitchen:

And Brother Kawatsuna inspecting the veggies:

And some of the branch members enjoying nabe:

Pretty impressive for the men.  None of the food was pre-cooked; our Church ends at 1:00 p.m. and we were eating by 1:30!

Food for Thought

So today in Relief Society we had the lesson on President Uchtdorf's conference talk on regrets and resolutions.  The three regrets he mentioned were:  1) I wish I had spent more time with the people I love; 2) I wish I had lived up to my potential; and 3) I wish I had let myself be happier.  So what often happens in these lessons is that then we divide into groups and each group discusses one of the topics.  That happened.  But then we had a few extra minutes at the end of our group discussion and a couple of people started talking about food and maybe we would regret not having tasted more (different) foods!  Since my Japanese isn't all that great I didn't understand the whole conversation but it got me thinking in my own realm.

I realize that almost every week I talk about a food experience.  What is it about food that is so appealing?  I look back at my life and I can tell you several good food experiences:  New Orleans (no need to say more!), eating escargot in Paris, going on a cruise (although by the end I was more than happy to eat at Subway!), eating in Japan, eating in China, my favorite Mexican food restaurant, my favorite BBQ place, etc. 

Does food actually bring happiness or is it the people we experience it with (I doubt that because I can eat by myself and enjoy it--or maybe I just enjoy my OWN company)?  What draws people to food?

I actually think of myself as a "take it or leave" kind of person when it comes to food MOST of the time.  But I, too, am drawn to food even if it is just to look at it and drool.  I think that is why I like to cook:  I like to please others. 

I don't have any answers for these questions.  Just some random wonderings.  Is this blog making you hungry?  Me?--I'm on a diet!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

SO I LIED . . .

This week in Ishinomaki where we live, the weather has taken center stage.  Previously I made several statements about the weather here, and now I stand corrected (as in I made some falsehoods!):

#1 Falsehood:  "It doesn't snow that much in Ishinomaki and when it does it is only about 1-2 inches."

Well, last Monday it began snowing and didn't stop until it looked like this:

I guess this was the snowstorm of the century (I can say this because we are only into the century thirteen years) that everyone is talking about.  There ended up being about twelve inches of snow!  Bicycle riding has come to a standstill (unheard of) and everyone walks carefully (not many sidewalks except on main highways--of which there are two or three!).

#2 Falsehood:  "The snow melts here after a day or two."  Well, one week later and the snow is still here!  In fact, the main roads are mostly clear but all of the other roads are pretty much snow-packed and icy (as in 2 inches of ice everywhere):

#3 Falsehood:  "It gets cold here but rarely in the teens."  Well, this week we had a couple of days in the SINGLE digits!  Hence, still snowy:

Our Church:

Gifts from Miyato English Class

So last week I said that we got some gifts from our English class in Miyato.  So we were given a banner with owls (symbol of happiness) on it:

AND two tubes of oysters!  Each plastic tube had about 30 oysters in it.  They had already been shelled and so we ate oysters all week.  And to make the deal even sweeter, they had been harvested THAT DAY!  Here is what they looked like:

Some of you will probably not think these look so great:

But I must tell you what they tasted like because most people probably aren't huge oyster fans.  They were really good!  We were told how to cook them (rinse in salt water thoroughly before cooking).  We were given several options of soup, grilled, fried, and raw.  Calvin tried the raw and thought it was really good.  I tried cooking all the rest of the ways and they were really delicious.  They also gave us a bottle of soy sauce/vinegar mix which was good as a sauce.  No strong taste like oysters usually have.  Of course, I am the shellfish lover so go figure!

And who knew that fresh dried seaweed was a treat?!  We were given some dried seaweed that had been processed recently:

Can I just say, I didn't notice that much of a difference in taste (!)

Relief Society Activity

Yesterday we had a Relief Society activity (we have them once a month!) and I have to admit I was a little skeptical about who would show up.  It was a "stained glass" activity which you used "stained glass" paints that you get at the dollar store.  I did them before at our children's English class on plastic you may remember and our branch did them at our Christmas party but because we had so many people turn out to the Christmas party, the members didn't really get to do the activity.  So they wanted to use the leftover paints and let the members do some painting. 

Basically you outline in black beforehand (so it will dry) and then the day of the activity you let everyone use their imaginations in adding color.  The activity was held on Saturday afternoon which is sometimes a problem because a lot of people work then.  But, lo and behold, the sister missionaries worked hard to get their investigators to come and guess what?!!  We had FIVE INVESTIGATORS come to the activity!  That is amazing since they really only have one or two real investigators on their list.  But everyone had a great time and it became a great missionary activity. 

The sisters also worked hard beforehand outlining some fun pictures for their investigators to color.  Here are the photos from the activity:

And Finally . . .

Yesterday we were able to do service (once again) at the handicapped temporary housing unit.  We learned that the plan is to do this once a month for the next several months.  I did not get a picture of this but I have posted photos before.  Mostly we do arm/hand massages and yesterday I took some oatmeal bars for everyone who came (they were impressed!). 

Anyway, the point I wanted to make was that I have always felt a little uncomfortable about giving these massages because most of the people who do this are TRAINED at this and seem to know what they are doing.  Me, I just basically massage the arms and hands and hope that I am doing what I am supposed to do.  (There is a CERTAIN WAY you are trained to do it!)  Anyway, yesterday during a lull in the action the director said to Sister Usui who was there to give me a massage.  She did.  Then she asked if I would give her one.  I was a little hesitant but what else could I do?!

As I gave her the massage, she began RAVING about how good I was!  All those years of sewing pillows gave me strong finger and thumb muscles!  And she couldn't believe that my thumbs were able to massage so well.  Afterwards she said it was so relaxing she felt like going to sleep! 

I can't even begin to tell you how relieved and encouraged I was!  It was as though I was being told that I was being blessed for the service I was giving.  I think the lesson I learned (and everyone can learn) is that when you are giving of yourself you can bless the lives of others as well as receive blessings yourself.

Friday, January 11, 2013


So in an effort to do the trendy thing, I am listing the top ten things that we have done this week.  Here goes:

#10  Reminders of Christmas

Christmas was not that long ago and we had some reminders of this.  First, our branch president gave everyone a poinsettia!  This is actually a pretty big deal because we didn't really see any of them around and PLUS it was in a small pot but has really nice big blooms:

And this is a "Christmas Tree" we saw in our travels.  It is made of boards found after the tsunami:

#9  Year of the Snake

In Japan they follow the Chinese signs.  This is the year of the snake and we are reminded of this quite often.  Even in the bakery:

#8  New Year's Eve Soba

Right as I was getting out food for dinner on New Year's Eve, our doorbell rang.  It was our branch president and his wife.  They brought us (unbeknownst to us) the traditional Japanese New Year's Eve dinner.  It is soba with buckwheat noodles.  Everything is symbolic of something around here.  So the noodles are symbolic of a long (noodles are long) and healthy (buckwheat) life.  (Plus some shrimp tempura to go with it)

#7  All You Can . . . "

On January 2 we took the sisters to the mall!  This is apparently a big tradition (like Black Friday?) to go to the mall during this week!  We found out that a big thing this week was the "all you can buy" in a small bag or basket frenzy.   We saw this lady putting all the yarn she could get into a small basket for 1000 yen ($12).  These people know how to make walls on the sides, stack high and get the most for their money!  Hard to see in the photo but she had stuffed extra skeins of yarn into bigger ones and got really creative in her stacking!  I am sure she ended up with over 20 skeins of yarn if not more.  The basket was pretty small.

And we caved and bought all the dried sweet potato slices (good) you can get into a small bag.  The thing is you can get tons into it because you basically can layer and balance and so forth.  Then when you have balanced all you can, a store helper helps you put all of it into a plastic bag.  This is what we got (really a lot for how much it usually costs!). 

#6  Single Adult Party

We invited the single adults, sister missionaries, and branch presidency and families to a party at the Church.  We had a good time eating sloppy joes, chips, baked beans,  jello, and do-it-yourself crepes.  And someone brought rootbeer and ice cream for floats!  We played the "candy bar game" and sang Happy Birthday to one of the members who had a birthday a couple of days before.  Oh, and one of the highlights was that I made homemade French bread.  They are LOVING this homemade bread thing!

#5  Eating at the Church:  Yaki Niku

We had a wonderful dinner at the Church with the branch president's family, missionaries, and and some non-members.  These non members really love the members and love to have yaki niku dinners.  That is we cook MEAT on grills on the tables. (Yaki is grilled and niku is meat.) There was a HUGE amount of meat and everyone couldn't  believe that we were in Japan and eating so much!

A small amount of the meat:

Some of the sister missionaries and their investigator enjoying themselves:

#4  Going to a Jinja

I put this at #4 but the next few could probably be quite equal.  On New Year's Day we visited a Jinja which is probably the biggest deal in Japan as a New Year's activity.  A Jinja is a Buddhist shrine but it doesn't seem to matter what religion you are.  THIS IS A TRADITION.  Many people go and ring the bell at midnight.  This wasn't really midnight but you get the idea:

There were TONS of people there as I said before and even booths lining the streets.  We ate some soup and something that amounted to a small round thing made of some crepe-like batter with an easy-over egg inside! 

And then we made our way to try to see a shrine nearby.  The lines were long -- as in 2 HOURS long!

So we settled for just looking around the grounds and taking some pictures:

And we even saw an area where you could get your CAR blessed!:

#3  Writing Japanese Calligraphy

This is apparently another Japanese New Year's activity that people love to do.  We put a tarp on the floor, newspapers on the tables and took ink and brushes in hand:

And these were some of the finished products:

Note:  Not sure what you are supposed to do with the finished projects but it seems that this is one of the "joy in the journey" projects.

#2  Eating Traditional Japanese Food

Sister Usui and Taeko made us some traditional Japanese food that was fit for the gods.

We had tons of sashimi (raw fish), make-your-own sushi, already made sushi, traditional Japanese foods, fruits and veggies.  We were so stuffed afterwards!  A big thank you to Mieko and Taeko Usui!:

#1  Best Family Photo of the Season

And in the Number One spot as the best New Year's happenings  goes to the best family photo of the season:  Ben, Alyssa and Celesta Ting-Ting Green (and Ting-Ting's little dolly friend):

May we all be as happy as they are this year!

Post Script

Since it has taken almost a week to get this blog to post I will not be doing another blog this week.  We have had a pretty full week getting back to English classes, zone meeting and specialized training meeting.  Probably the highlight of the week was when we went to our English class in Miyato which is right next to the ocean and is a fishing village.  When we got there they gave us PRESENTS!  Unfortunately the photos have not been downloaded yet so I guess that will be a discussion for NEXT week!  Have a good one.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Sorry.  we are having problems with our blog again.  I wrote all of the text to this week's blog but couldn't get the images to insert.  When I click on "insert image" there is no place to click to go to a file (usually it says "browse.").  If any of you know what to do let us know!

In the meantime we hope we can fix this in the next few days!

Elder and Sister Sakamoto