Sunday, May 26, 2013


As I say in about every other post:  The weeks fly by.  At the end of the week I usually look at the photos and am amazed.  Did that really happen THIS week?!

So a few of this week's adventures:


So one of our members has been after us to go walking with her on Monday mornings.  Last week I finally relented and said I would go.  The catch:  she wanted us at HER HOUSE at 5:00 a.m. and that meant basically that we had to awake at 4:00 a.m. in order to get up, get ready and walk to her house.  And lest you think that it might be dark at that hour (4:00 a.m.):  Wrong.  It is light at 4:00 a.m.   So here is the school we walked to (after a steep incline):

And here is proof that what I am telling you is true:

Every school has a clock on the front.

The Japanese Way:

In people who live across the street from our church building have been doing some intense landscaping lately.  They have a big backhoe and have pulled out trees, added full-grown trees, and hauled in tons (literally) of rocks.  I wonder sometimes at the rock placement in this land of earthquakes since these next to the road look pretty precarious:

And for HOURS at a time they are working on the landscaping.  This is the Japanese way:  There is a man who drives the backhoe and directs two old grandmas on where to shovel the dirt so he can place the trees and rocks properly with his high-tech machinery:

One Man's Junk is Another Man's Treasure

On Tuesday we did some more hand massage service at a temporary housing unit that we have never been to before:

There were quite a few older people who came in and took advantage of the service.  But one of the highlights was that I brought a bunch of stuff that I did not want (bags I had sewn, trinkets, hot pads, cookies I had made and bagged), etc.  We put them all on a table and let whoever wanted have at it.  It was more popular than the "free box" at a garage sale.  Within just a few minutes pretty much everything was gone and by the end of the day, not a thing was left.  If I would have known this would have been so popular, I would have been doing it long ago!

We Oughta Be in Pictures

One afternoon we met a film crew from Salt Lake at Miyato:

Elder Halvorson (on the right) called us the night before and asked us if we could go and help the cameramen who could not speak Japanese because they were filming a documentary to be shown between general conference sessions about the aid given in Japan after the great earthquake and tsunami.  Elder Halvorson had to be on some conference calls right at the time they were going to be there so he wanted some help.  We took the sisters (Sister Watanabe is fluent in English since she went to BYU Hawaii) and watched them film a segment featuring a large building that the Church had donated which houses several refrigerated rooms. 

They made a "fake set" and pretended to be carrying in boxes of nets with seaweed (nori) seeds attached which had to be refrigerated:

Then we were treated to the real thing.  They gave us several packages of nori--actually HUNDREDS of sheets!:

While we were there we also went on a beautiful hike up a small mountain (in Japan EVERYTHING not level is a mountain):

And from the top we could see the bay below:

Expensive Haircut

Another day I got a haircut and color.  It was good to get a nice, short cut.  Anyway, while I was there Takie, the hairdresser in the branch, said, "Here you can have a pair of my haircutting scissors.  They are quite expensive."  So she pulled out a few scissors and I tried each one and chose one.  Then she also gave me some thinning shears:

She put them in a box which wasn't really the box for that particular model of scissors but my interest was piqued when I saw how much the sticker price for the scissors that were supposed to be in the box was.  So when I got home I googled the scissors I got and saw how much they were worth:  $578!  For one pair of scissors!  I really doubt that I will get my money's worth out of those things but they ARE nice!

Eating Out

And, of course, always there is eating out.  When we went to district meeting we decided to go out to lunch at an "all-you-can-eat" place that lets you cook your own meat in front of you, has anything else you can imagine like salads, sushi, desserts, even do-it-yourself cotton candy.  The food was
actually pretty decent for what we got:

And it's always fun when we have our district to eat with.

Stake Conference

This week was stake conference.  At our Saturday evening adult meeting the Young Women were selling key chains, brownies and plates of curry to raise money for girls camp. 

And it was a great conference because we had a visiting authority:  Elder Yamashita and his wife of the Seventy.  On Saturday he had a demonstration of how to HUG each other (rarely done in Japan) and on Sunday the general session of stake conference was held in a concert-type hall and was very nice and comfortable (a far cry from the seats at the stake building I must say!):

Even Calvin looks happy!

Well, enough for this week.  We hope all is well with you.  Go out and HUG someone for us!

Sunday, May 19, 2013


So on Saturday I realized I had hardly taken ANY photos all week!  It wasn't that nothing happened, but we just didn't seem to have our camera handy at the right time.  Like we didn't get any photos of us inspecting the young missionary apartments and cleaning out disgusting vents or even going out to this WONDERFUL Indian curry restaurant and gorging myself with this huge cheese-filled nam that I hate to admit:  I ATE IT ALL!  And we didn't take any photos of our district going out to eat at the 100 yen sushi place and again gorging ourselves.

And, of course, I didn't remember to take photos when we had the Relief Society presidency over and played PASS THE PIGS!  And I didn't get any photos of how we took our drapes to the cleaners and they came back with no hems and a big rip down the middle!  Really it wasn't their fault:  they were so sun-rotted that it was inevitable.  And we actually MADE money on the deal because they wanted to make us NEW drapes but we said if they would refund our money and let us keep the drapes (I could mend them) it would be fine.  So now we have newly mended sheers and cleaned and pressed drapes that look great.

Looking back, I guess none of the above was really PHOTO-WORTHY but at least you know some of the little things that happened this week!

Learning a New Cooking Trick

So one of the things I am really excited about that I learned about was a new way to make noodle soup!  On Monday, a non-member came over to the Church and taught us how to make suiton nabe--a kind of soup.  I was so impressed because she took some flour, a little salt and a little water and began kneading it together.  We took turns kneading until it became a nice smooth ball and then we set it aside to rest (the ball, not us!):

Then we cut some veggies and a little chicken:

We made a soup with all of that adding a little flavoring and soy sauce.  By then, the dough was nice and spongy.  We then broke off small pieces of the dough and made small thin pieces which were supposed to be the size and texture of your ear!  We added those to the soup:

We let it cook for a few minutes and it ended up like small flat noodles and was delicious!:

I will definitely do that again because it can be done in any kind of soup and it would be a great project for kids to help in the kitchen!

Saturday Service

Saturday we did our third-Saturday in the Month service at the handicapped temporary housing units.  We did hand massages as usual:

And I am getting smarter.  I took a bunch of things I had lying around the apartment that I don't really want:  some hotpads, eco bags, cosmetic bags, candies, flowers we made, etc. and let people have what they wanted!  A great way to dispose of my leftovers!

It has become a fun activity because over the last several months we have come to recognize the people there and they us.  They pretty much know I don't speak Japanese that well so they just smile and are glad that I brought something for them!

Computer Class

The Relief Society has been sponsoring computer/genealogy classes for the past few weeks (there are to be six in all I think).  Our branch president has access to several computers through his work (he works for the Church employment) so he has been our teacher.  But even though there aren't a lot of us, it has been really a great way to get to know a little more about doing genealogy work and the sisters are amazed at what they are able to do:

Daily Exercise

So most days I got for a walk around the area at about 6:00 a.m. give or take a half an hour.  Somehow I got talked into going with one of the sisters in the branch tomorrow at 5:00 a.m. (be at HER house at 5:00 a.m.!) and I am already not sure about this!  Anyway, getting back to my REGULAR walking, here are some of the things I see on my walk. 

First it is 6:00 a.m. and our neighbor downstairs ALREADY has her laundry hanging out for the day!:

Next, I thought I would mention that there are small neighborhood businesses EVERYWHERE.  Someone once mentioned to me that in America there are certain areas where there are houses and there are other areas where there are businesses.  Not in Japan.  They are all mixed together.  You will see both homes and businesses together wherever you go.  Here are some small businesses (I have NO IDEA what the business is!):

And right on a busy main street here is house with a large garden in front:

And this was Saturday and by 6:00 a.m. we had heard several cannons going off.  They were announcing "exercise day" at the various schools around the area.  Here is one that I passed:

The schools are huge--and I think this is an elementary and I am not even showing you the building next to it that is just about as big!  And there several schools around:  it's not like there is only one.

So then my walk continues on to what I would call the Jordan River Parkway of Ishinomaki.  It is a nice paved path between a river and a canal:

They are working on upgrading this parkway but it will not be done for quite a while.  The river:

And something funny:  Notice the fence:

I thought it was faux wood or something but then I realized, no, it was:

rebar and cement!  At least it's sturdy!  So that is my walk and I really love it.  At 6:00 a.m. the weather is usually wonderful.  The only thing I didn't get photos of were the people walking dogs.  One woman in particular who walks her dog:  She CARRIES the dog!  I have never seen the dog walk--she is always carrying it in a blanket, facing forward, so it can see where it is going I guess.

A Few More Tidbits

*  So I keep forgetting to talk about the musical road that we went on when we went to Mount Fuji.  There are only a few in the world.  As you drive along the road, the road has strategically placed grooves so that when you drive over those grooves, they create music that you can hear in your car!  The tune lasts for about 20 seconds or so I would guess.  It was pretty amazing.  There are signs before you get to it to alert you that it is coming up.

*  Sometimes I know I take our Church for granted.  I take sacred things in stride and don't reverence them as I should.  Today we had a lesson in Relief Society and priesthood (separately) on temples and temple work.  In the lesson they talked about the Nauvoo and Kirtland temples and how the people were so excited to have a temple.  I hadn't really realized how these people must have felt.  And then something amazing happened.  In our little branch of 30 or so adults I saw three people pull out their tickets that they had kept from the Nauvoo Temple dedication that they had gone to in the stake center.  That was twelve YEARS ago and these people STILL carried around their tickets because it was so important to them.  I was so humbled.  I have so much to learn.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


So last week I posted a photo of Calvin eating black sesame ice cream and my friend Carolyn wrote and basically said it looked disgusting.  And then I thought that if I would have said it was black licorice ice cream she wouldn't have blinked an eyelash . . . and would have wanted some.  That got me thinking about FLAVORS and the "flavors of Japan."  What is it that is different here?!


So I guess I am digressing a bit but I did want to begin with a questions that will be answered at the very end so you can be thinking about your answer.  What do we get GIVEN to us more than anything else as a gift?  We have gotten this once this week, once last week, and once the week before.  And I would say we have averaged getting this at least once a month throughout our mission.  What is it?

So Japanese:

So, of course, one of the flavors of Japan has to be the rice fields.  They are just now being planted, basically, under water.  About the time they are harvested, we will be leaving.  So sad.

And we are not absolutely sure why but the tractors can plow through them without sinking.  It must be VERY hard ground underneath!:

Hmmm . . .

There is such a difference in houses here.  In the same neighborhood you see really nice houses and then you come across a house like this and wonder who could live in something like this:

And then you look a little closer to the house and you see something interesting on the roof:

A satellite dish!  Maybe the inside is better than the outside . . . .


Another flavor of Japan is that most of the houses are quite drab BUT every once in a while (and quite often actually) you see quite the colorful array of homes and apartments:

I can say the same for the cars.  Most cars are white, black or silver.  BUT very often they are any other color of the rainbow and especially PINK.  And don't think that that is a woman's color.  Oh no, men are very into pink.  In fact, men wear pink and even carry around pink man purses.  And I still haven't gotten used to men wearing hooded jackets with that thick fluffy fur on the hoods.


Everywhere you see vegetable gardens.  They actually plant many of their gardens in the fall (things like onions and other hardy veggies) so right now they are looking really nice.  But also there are gardens EVERYWHERE.  This is a photo of some veggies growing outside of a business next to one or the busiest intersections in the city.  They are eggplant and cabbage:

Primary Activity

So with four little boys in the Primary, who would have thought that a good activity would be making carnations for their mothers for Mother's Day?  It turned out to be a fun activity that those little boys stuck to for at least a FEW minutes!:

Flower Arranging Activity

And not to be outdone, some others got together at the Church on Saturday and did their own flower arranging.  It was really a great activity even though I must say I don't feel all that comfortable arranging flowers.  I am way too left-brained I guess.

Flavor of Missionary Work in Japan

This week saw some interesting goings on in our mission.  We had zone meeting:

Our zone is pretty big and may soon be split. It was also transfer week and so when we had zone meeting the missionaries already knew if they were going to be transferred in the next day or so or not.  We have one area in our mission which is called Niigata.  Beginning July 1 that area will no longer be in our mission but will be part of the new Tokyo South mission.

So this week the missionaries basically found out if they will be in the new mission or not.  It was totally bittersweet for all of us but especially the two from our zone that will be leaving our mission.  Elder Carter, our zone leader and Sister Stubbs, our newly called sister mission leader will be in the new mission.  It was pretty heart-wrenching when we sang, "God Be With You Till We Meet Again" and Elder Carter gave the closing prayer as Sister Stubbs sat next to us and sobbed.

The missionaries get so close to one another and love this mission and all that they do.  We lost Sister Shuto this week when she was transferred.  Everyone was sad to see her leave (and she was also in tears whenever she said goodby to anyone).  Here are some of the branch members with Sister Shuto:

But we got Sister Watanabe who will be a great asset to Ishinomaki.  She has been to BYU Hawaii for two years and speaks English!:

Long-Awaited Answer to the Question!

So what is it that we are given so often?!!:

The answer:  Strawberries!  I have to admit they are good although I am not a  total strawberry lover.  But Calvin LOVES them so it is a wonderful treat for him because they are pretty pricey (ONE of these packages is $3-$4).

Saturday, May 4, 2013


So this has been Golden Week!  And an eventful one it was.  In Japan they have four holidays within a seven day period (birthday of a former emperor, constitution day, greenery day dedicated to nature, and boys' day) so it becomes the third most notable holiday time of the year.  The first and second are New Years and Matsuri in August.  PLUS this week was also highlighted by the blooming of the sakura (cherry blossoms) so everyone was in a festive mood. 

Monday Activities

On Monday we usually spend the morning skyping with our family but last week it was cut short unexpectedly when one of our members Takie came over to the Church where we were and asked us if we would like to go to lunch with them.  We went to a soba (noodle) place that is SO good.  In fact it is so good that this is the second time in two weeks that we have gone there with her:

And then you have to know Takie to know that that was only the beginning.  We were off to Wakuya Castle!  It is a small castle about an hour away where there were tons of people celebrating Golden Week:

While we were there they had a children's activity where the children could go into a pond area and catch fish with their bare hands!  Here they are waiting for the action to begin:

Notice, some have bags hoping to catch them that way.  Some even had water in their bags!  Once the go-ahead was given it looked like this:

And if you look closely there is a girl in this picture wearing black that has a BIG carp that she caught:

On our way home we stopped at a vegetable shop and I spotted this that I had to buy because it reminded me of my childhood.  It was bota-mochi which is a mooshed up rice ball with sweet beans on the outside.  It was delicious.  Even more than I remembered:

Tuesday:  Lunch at the Church

On Tuesday we had lunch at the Church with some ladies we know.  Kimi's (on the left)  daughter was here from Tokyo and she lived in the U.S. for quite a while and wanted to practice her English with us so we obliged.  I made some pasta and rolls and they brought sushi and other goodies.  It really was a nice time and we ate a lot!

Wednesday:  Sendai/Mission Home

On Wednesday we decided to go to Sendai to check out the senior discount shinkansen (bullet train) passes.  We got to the train station right when the travel office opened but decided against getting the passes because (1) they cost to get them and (2) they were good for a year and we were only going to be here five months and (3) I could get a 30 percent discount but Calvin could only give a 5 percent discount!

Anyway, we still had a nice time buying the only 2 lb package of powdered sugar that we have come across and eating this:

They are these balls made of something like corndog batter and inside are fish cakes!  They are actually really good and you eat it with ketchup on it!  Apparently they are native to Sendai.

Afterwards we went to the mission home to get some things to give to another missionary couple we were going to be seeing the next day (see we do missionary work!) and also Calvin fixed Sister Rasmussen's PC which she was excited about.

That evening we had our English class and it was great (for me!) because we divided our class into Beginning and Intermediate and I had the intermediate group and they are so fun to teach!  They are pretty much fluent and LOVE to speak English!  Calvin's class was a little more trying.

Thursday:  District Meeting

Thursday was our district meeting in Furukawa just over an hour away.  It was fun because we now have two couple missionaries and then just four other young missionaries.  We got to see the Wright's (couple missionaries) apartment and I must say I am a big jealous because she has an oven!  Elder Wright grew up in Taylorsville around 4800 S. and Canal Road and went to Cottonwood High School so we had lots of the same memories.

On the way home the sisters asked if we could go out to eat so we did.  We went to a 100 yen sushi place here in Ishinomaki.  It is the place where the sushi goes around on a belt and you pay $1 per plate.  It is so fun and GOOD! 

Saturday:  Golden Week in Matsushima

On Saturday we decided to BRAVE the crowds and go to Matsushima to see how the holiday festivities there were.  I say "brave" because this is how the traffic was:

There were people everywhere and it took us twice as long to get there than usual.  This is the park in Matsushima:

So I decided if this was our LAST golden week, we needed to eat accordingly.  So here are some photos of food we ate that day.  First we had some octopus, squid, scallops and sea snails:

Calvin eating an octopus leg:

And then some black sesame ice cream (yummy believe it or not!):

AND a cream-filled donut in the shape of a fish that was wonderful (how could you NOT think that anything with the words "cream filled" and "donut" was delicious?!):

And the fish brings us to the celebration of Boys' Day.  In Japan they fly big fish to commemorate boy's day.  The black one represents the father we heard and then there are others to represent the other boys in the family.  We are not sure what that top fish that is just decorated and doesn't really look like a fish represents:

Other Things

So that was basically our golden week review.  But I did take a few other photos along the way that I thought were of interest.  First, a sign advertising a chiropractic clinic nearby that I find a little disturbing (not sure I would want to go there):

Then some photos of how close to the railroad tracks the homes and apartments are:

Hold on to your kids (and your ears!):

And a CLOSE UP photo of our outside entryway.  It was so filthy that I went out and scrubbed it.  Before it was dark gray and the grout was completely black:

And not to be outdone, here is McDonald's rendition of Golden Week festivities:

Hope your week is GOLDEN too!