Sunday, April 28, 2013


As predicted, this week was quite eventful.  Adding to the wedding, the sakura (cherry blossoms) were out which is THE annual event of events.  Also we are into GOLDEN WEEK which is basically a week (plus the weekends before and after) of different holidays that everyone looks forward to since a lot of people are off of work for at least part of that time and the kids are out of school.

Wedding Reception

Wednesday was Kazuya and Marie's wedding reception and it was as big as it was billed.  Here is Marie's mother making the bouquet:

And some of the kitchen help:

For some reason I didn't get a photo of the food but it was insane!  There was so much food that we could have fed twice as many and still had plenty left over -- but that is how weddings usually are!   Here I am putting the finishing touches on the wedding cake:

It actually turned out pretty good.  I used 3 1/2 cake mixes (thanks to Laura for bringing them) and I was impressed that it tasted good too!  Kazuya was so excited that it was an American cake with American frosting!

Here are the Rasmussens and Kazuya (and me) with "Stanley." 

I have not really heard of "Stanley" before but apparently you have "Stanley" who goes with you wherever you go and to the important occasions in your life.  I guess I should find more out about this tradition but quite a few people seem to know about it more than I do.

There was a dinner, program and cutting of the cake:

All in all, a success and the Japanese are ridiculous photo people so there were tons of photo opps for all!


So later in the week we decided to go back to Chuzonji because we figured the sakura (cherry blossoms) would be out.  Right . . . and Wrong.  The cherry blossoms were out, but there were no cherry trees at Chuzonji where we had seen such spectacular fall foliage.  This is the washing area before you enter the temple where you can wash your hands (and your mouth!):

And a look into the temple (shrine):

Just across the street from Chusonji we found some sakura trees in bloom:


But we found out not to worry about not seeing much in the way of cherry blossoms.  On Saturday we went with the branch to a park for a barbeque and wow! the sakura were everywhere:


And are some of us at our barbeque picnic:

I don't think the Japanese believe in tables or chairs; they just spread something on the ground and mostly just stand and eat.  There was a cement fire pit though.  We began by cooking hamburgers.  They were SMALL patties on English muffins.  Then they grilled some pork strips.  Then they made some soba on the same grill:

This must be standard fare because we have seen it before.  Done, it looks like this (yummy!):

I took some shishkabobs:

When the Japanese say "Barbeque" it translates into "MEAT"!  So there was more skewers of chicken (yaki niku), more pork, steak, and then hot dogs!  And all of this for not that many people.  Yes, we ate until we could not possibly eat more.  One couple brought some marshmallows for roasting (some had never had those before) and I brought seven layer dip, salsa and tortilla chips from Costco. 

I wondered how everyone would like seven layer dip (no sour cream here so I used plain yogurt).  They LOVED it!  They actually hadn't eaten much in the way of tortillas either but they ate almost all of it even with the salsa.  And I even had guacamole in it.  I found a guacamole dip mix on sale once at the local liquor/international store.  They do love avocados so I wasn't surprised at their love of guacamole.

Other Tidbits

In our travels we saw this sign for a hair salon.  I thought it was a little over dramatic:

And Souta (age five) was practicing using chopsticks at the picnic.  He was picking up little candies and putting them back into their container.  He was amazing!:

At our single adult family home evening tonight, Kaoru (who is a little mentally challenged) was proud of himself when he made this agenda for our meeting:

I originally made macho nachos for district meeting earlier in the week so we had leftovers tonight.  I discovered that if you want to get rid of leftovers, give them to the single adult guys--they will take care of them!
Hmmm . . . some things are universal!

Sunday, April 21, 2013


So as I figured, this week was quite an adventure.  We began with our senior's conference at the mission home on Monday afternoon.  There were 22 of us seniors there including the stake president and mission president and wives:

It was fun to see everyone since we NEVER get to see all of the senior missionaries as they are scattered all over the mission.  That night we had a "talent" family home evening.  It was a fun time and I was reminded that you are never too old to develop a talent.  Elder Oyama learned to play the sax four years ago!:

Also I had to show this photo of a "homemade" basketball hoop near the mission home:

Mount Fuji

So on Tuesday around noon we were off to Tokyo with a short Costco stop.  We got there around 8:00 p.m. and met up with Eric and Laura and family!  From there it was fun, fun, fun.  On Wednesday morning we headed for Mt. Fuji an hour and a half away.  This was our first view (a little foggy but still spectacular):

We went to a "music box" museum which was quite fun.  Here are Trey and Ramona at the entrance:

There were all kinds of music boxes including this HUGE one that took up the whole wall and had moving parts to it.  We got to watch a short demonstration:


There were all sorts of music boxes in different buildings and shops with every imaginable music box (like who would have thought of a music box banana or watermelon?!).  And Ramona even got to try being a music grinder:

We stayed overnight in a "hostel" type hotel in Kawaguchiko.   The hotel included a public bath and we also ate a traditional Japanese breakfast.  And we slept on the floor on futon mats.   It was from the hotel that we could take these spectacular photos the next day when it was clear:

From there we went up to "Fifth Station" which is the highest you can go on a road to Mt. Fuji until you have to start climbing on your own.  We didn't realize that it was the OPENING DAY of fifth station for the year so when we got to the bottom of where you go up this is what we saw:

There was a line-up of cars and we had to wait for 45 minutes for the road to open!  But it was worth it.  There were also news reporters, lots of buses and cars all over.  When we got to the top (about 20 minutes later) it looked like this looking up:

And like this looking down:

And us enjoying ourselves:

And the trail up Mt. Fuji which was not open because it was still iced over:

In one of the souvenir shops there was this sign at the restrooms:

They wanted $1 to use the restroom!  But when we told Trey that children were free he happily headed in.  We went to the information building next door where there was no charge (and was very nice!).

From there we headed back to Tokyo.  In the evening we went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building to the city view area on the 45th floor:

It had views all the way around the inside of the building and was really wonderful.


On Friday morning we headed for Odaiba--a part of of Tokyo that Laura and Eric had heard good things about.  We got there before things really opened but it gave us a good chance to explore:

It was unlike most of Tokyo because it was so spacious and modern.

You might think we were in New York City:

And of course we had to take this picture of Trey and his new friend:

We rode this ferris wheel which is actually a slow-moving view of the city:

And we went to a Toyota building that had tons of Toyotas (of course) that you could get into, simulators, and test driving (Calvin and Trey went drove a sports car).  They even had some mini cars for the kids.  And maybe we should get something like this when we get back home:

or not . . . .

We ate at a place where you cook your own food in front of you on small hotplates and let the kids play in the Lego store.


Saturday was the long-awaited wedding!  Marie and Kazuya got married!  It was a fun and happy time:

I will post MUCH MORE next week about this since the reception is this Wednesday.  But it was worth the wait and drive to be there. 

We drove back to Ishinomaki after eating at our favorite Indian curry restaurant and saying goodby to Eric, Laura and the kids.  It was such a quick trip that we all wished that we had planned for a few more days.

Back to Reality

So back to Ishinomaki by about 7:00 p.m.  And church today which featured this view of the outside:

Yes, it snowed for three hours straight!  But like most spring storms it has already melted but was quite cold today.

And after Church, the whole branch was getting ready for the upcoming reception:

Can you believe it?!  They took DOWN the drapes.  I think in America you put UP drapes for a reception!  Oh well, to be continued next week!

Sunday, April 14, 2013


Welcome to our busy world!  Funny this week has been SO busy that we couldn't go to zone meeting because we were double booked and we have spent long hours going from here to there but we actually have very few photos to show for it.

More Service

We were again doing wakame (seaweed) service in Omotehama.  We are becoming regulars I think.  On Thursday the mission president and his wife, the senior missionaries, AP's and most of the zone leaders went to do wakame service.  We were also joined by a busload of people from Tokyo.  It is interesting that things are quite well organized so when we arrive they already have our names down and assignments for the day.  We were with a man named Ito san who is from Kasugai.  He is actually not even a member but an investigator to the Church.  The interesting thing was that Calvin served in Kasugai 40 years ago.  At that time there was only a branch of the Church there but now there is a ward.  He was a fun person to be with because he really tried to communicate with us and acted like it was normal to try to speak with someone from another country.  Here we are cutting wakame:

We were cutting the ends off the wakame which, as you can see, are long stringy things.  On one side there is usually a stem part and the other side is the stringy stuff you see.  I never did feel all that comfortable trying to figure out where I was supposed to be cutting so hopefully the buyers aren't disappointed in my cutting job!:

We spent two long days of 8 a.m to 4 p.m. working.  They give us a break in the morning and a break in the afternoon and an hour lunch.  The places where we worked were small operations with small warehouses and pieces of wood for tables.  Luckily the temps were fairly good and we were dressed warmly because it is basically not heated and cement floors. 

But the people are always nice and try to give you something to eat for the breaks especially.  This first day the lady in charge made us some soup and wakame salad for us to eat along with the lunch we brought. 

The next day we went with our branch president and the sister missionaries.  The area all along the coast is beautiful.  Here is a forklift lifting some wakame and the bay in the background:

That day (Friday) we were working alongside two other elders:  Elders Carter and Uchida who are our zone leaders:

Most of that day we were also cutting.  But it was nice to have Elder Carter next to me, who is from St. George, and we could have a nice ENGLISH conversation all day long! 

The rest of our zone was also there on Friday (and the bus from Tokyo) and this is some of the group:

Unless you enlarge the photo, you may not be able to see that by that time of day (around 5:00 p.m.) it was quite cold and we were freezing!

I am assuming that that was not the last time we go do the wakame service.  They seem to need help whenever we can go.  It is really not bad work and the people are happy to have us.  And the wakame seems neverending! 

And yes, we are still eating wakame daily and I quite like it.  I am a vegetable eater and this is good eating for me--and very low carbs!


So I wanted to tell you about two miracles that happened this week.  These might not be the kind of miracles you might imagine we would have but nonetheless they are miracles to me.

The first miracle involves kokeshi dolls.  Here they are:

I may have blogged before a little about these dolls but it's been a long time so I will refresh my memory!  They are the dolls of this region.  The legend is that they were made popular many years ago because this area has a lot of
"onsens" which are natural hot springs.  And where the natural hot springs are they have the public baths.  And of course these natural hot springs are supposed to be very healthful and relaxing and are the places of choice to visit in the area.  Anyway, long ago they began making these dolls to sell as souvenirs at these hot spring resorts. They may have also been used as massage tools after your hot bath.

Every doll is hand made and hand painted.  Many artisans have been doing this for 50 or 60 years.  Anyway, I was not as much a fan of them when we first got here but they have grown on me as I realized that they were a part of this region that we have lived in and learned to love for over a year.  Also there is something about the fact that each doll is an individual just as we are individuals and each different. 

So the miracle came that I really didn't want to pay a lot for these dolls so I have been searching for them in second hand stores.  I have found a few but sometimes I still had to pay $10 or more for them.  This, I guess, is a bargain since they can be $100 or so if they are new but those who really know me, know that I do love a REAL bargain.

Well this week, I was walking to the post office and went by the second hand store and went in.  There was a display of kokeshi dolls.  Usually they are quite expensive at this store.  But to my surprise (miracle of all miracles!) the larger ones in the photo were $1.50 and the smaller ones were 50 cents!  Yes,  MIRACLE ONE!

Okay, on to the next miracle:

In order for us to get money to live on, we access our credit union back home at an ATM and can get out up to $500 a day.  When we arrived 15 months ago, our $500 would get us about 39,000 yen.  We were losing about 1/4 of our money in the transaction because the American dollar was so weak.  We figured that our $500 was getting us less than $400 worth of goods in Japan plus it was more expensive in Japan. 

BUT MIRACLE #2:  The American dollar has gotten so strong (stock market is up) that we are now just about even with the Japanese yen!  We now get more than $100 more yen per $500 than we did a year ago!  This makes a huge difference in our money.  Instead of 39,000 yen we are getting almost 50,000 yen for our $500. 

I guess I never did realize before that this could make such a difference but it does.  It now seems like we can stop worrying about spending so much.  Plus the added advantage is that our one year's experience here means we are much more savvy to what is a bargain and what is not.  A couple of weeks ago we had the sisters and Marie over for lunch.  Marie took one look at my tomatoes and asked, "Where did you get those?"  I laughed and said, "I know.  I got them at Ujie (a grocery store) but they are cheaper at Ainoya (another grocery store)."  She laughed too and gave me that "I'm glad you understand that" look!

In Conclusion

Though we were busy this week, not much noteworthy.  But a few tidbits:

*One of our sisters is one of the new sister leaders that the Church has recently created.  She is over the sisters in several areas.

*Our apartment apparently has a water problem.  Our water bill was five times the normal!  But the thing of it is that we are not using water and there doesn't seem to be a leak anywhere (including the toilet) so things are still under investigation.  Meanwhile the owner realizes it is not our fault and so is not holding us responsible for the huge bill!

*Yesterday and today we were able to watch general conference with the branch--always nice.  But also nice to listen in our apartment on the internet!  And -- was that Papparazzi jewelry that the Tabernacle Choir ladies were wearing on Sunday?

*We are also into Marie's wedding reception that is in a week and a half.  The whole branch is involved and I love being involved without being in charge!  BUT  I have to make the wedding cake!  I am sure that in two weeks my blog will be pretty interesting!

*At our English class on Wednesday it was on travel so I decided to have everyone come up and put a magnet on a world map where they have been.  We had nine people in the class.  I think there were 35 or 40 countries that had been visited!  We ran out of magnets!   These people are world travelers!  Every continent except Antarctica was represented several times.  We had in the Western Hemisphere:  Canada, US, Chile, Peru, Bahamas, Guatemala among others.  In Europe:  most all countries.  Asia:  most all countries.  Plus Australia, New Zealand, Mozambique, other places in Africa.  Really crazy!

*Going to Tokyo this week!  Should be some great photo opps!

See you next week with lots to tell!