31 December 2008
Finished work on 22 Dec, caught over night bus to Tokyo and did some sightseeing in Tokyo on the 23rd. It was the Emperor's birthday, so I went to see one of his public appearances. Plenty of Japanese flags and cheering! After that, visited the Australian Embassy, University of Tokyo, Ueno and Nihonbashi (where the "centre" of Japan is).
Then had to catch a train to Narita, but before I did, I had to get my stuff from the lockers in Tokyo station. Did you know how many shops, restaurants, lockers etc are in Tokyo station?!!! I spent more than half an hour trying to find the locker where my luggage was. Finally I asked someone and they asked me to show them the key of the locker. Dir! Then they told me where it was! I was starting to sweat because my flight was soon. Anyway, caught the Narita Express to the airport, borded the plan with no worries and heade for Australia with a nice night view of Tokyo in the distance.
Then, Australian culture hit me. The flight attendants were wearing santa claus hats! What a stark contrast to the the very professional, proper manner of most Japanese customer service people (even at McDonalds in Japan!). And, then began all the "Wow! Australia is so casual and relaxed" thoughts and expressions. And, also, "Haven't seen, heard, smelt, tasted etc. that for more than a year" thoughts came.
14 December 2008
30 November 2008
Today was cleaning day at the church/school. All the teachers, pastors, and others were all there cleaning windows, re-waxing floors, cleaning filters, mopping, sweeping etc. It's an annual thing, and most companies, places, homes etc get their yearly clean before December 31, in preparation for the new year.
19 November 2008
The October change meant that I could start closing a few doors (which were always open before due to the hot weather), I used hot water for showers, and a the days became really pleasant.
But, we've skipped into November, which is when the cold weather begins. Flicked the swtich on the heated toilet seat (so it's on now), wear a jumper to work almost everyday, the washing dries slower, and there's an extra incentive to cook a hot meal (even if it is just some quick soup).
Yesterday was the biggest surprise. This November was a little warmer than usual, but still cool. We had temperatures averaging 10 to 20 degrees, quite nice. But, yesterday, caught us all by surprise and temperatures stayed at about 10 degrees all day, dropped to 5 degrees by 8pm, and snow started falling in the nearby mountains, just out of Hiroshima! So, winter is truly here now.
Together with the temperatures dropping over the last few months (from 35 down to 5), the petrol price has done just the same. Yay! From more than 180 yen/L in August, it's now down to 121 yen! A drop of a third! That means, when I drag out the kerosene heater next week, it'll be a lot cheaper to keep going :-)
And, in a couple of days, we'll be off to our annual retreat for SDA English teachers in Japan. About 10 to 15 of us will be there. We're headed to a nearby (1 hour away) town. It'll be from Friday to Monday and will be nice to meet up with the gang.
14 November 2008
Get up = get out of bed or engage my brain (eg. Bible reading, prayer) and not return to sleep; waking up and falling asleep again does not constitute "getting up"; "sleepy prayers" (where thoughts wander from subject to subject and back to sleep again) also do not count as getting up.
Going to bed = being physically in bed with the lights out, not thinking too actively about anything much, and remaining in bed (unless I have stumble my way to the small room).
So, since I will publish my sleep times, this might help me get to bed a little earlier, because ... hmmm, someone might be watching! The aim is to get up by 7:00 am and to go to bed by 11:00 pm.
My bedtimes are since today (14 November 2008). I started off with a bad record on the first day. This was the catalyst which prompted me to start drastic measures to begin good sleeping habits.
by 6am and 10pm is really good (blue)
by 7am and 11pm is good (green)
by 8am and midnight is not good (yellow)
by 9am and 1am is bad (red)
after 9am and 1am is dreadful! (pink)
Here's the link: http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=pjjIUa5ILqejd8ZC6Q3O5PQ
11 November 2008
Why hanging out the washing now in my Hiroshima, Japan, apartment? Well, it's all about mission. Before hanging out the washing, I was preparing a talk for this weekend. The talk is about eternity... preparing hearts for eternity. The talk will be given, urging people to consider eternity and prepare for it.
Mission is not confined to the jungles of Africa or the islands of the Pacific. In the urban cities of Asia today it is very difficult to find the message of hope and eternity. It's the message that Jesus, the only person to have the power over death, can offer us eternal life.
In the cities of Japan, a super-developed country, not lacking any material things, people work, live and continue with life. Industry continues. Generations grow up. Where are all these people headed? To eternity? Do they have hope?
Buildings, streets, clubs, parties, offices, homes, schools, temples, shrines, families, parks, shops... This is life.
2am noise... the country doesn't sleep. It continues on, but headed where?
28 September 2008
Sobetsu near Toyako, Hokkaido
Hakodate, Furano & Sapporo in Hokkaido
Nagano & Chubu Region
And, as of last night, we've had nice cool weather! The first cool weather since probably May earlier this year. I saw the thermometer on the building outside our apartment go below 20 degrees for the first time since summer has ended.
And... I'm loving the weather.
17 September 2008
Just letting you know there's a typhoon coming to Hiroshima! Yaaay!
Well, I'm only excited because it doesn't look like it'll be a bad one for here.
Anyway, here are some helpful links:
I think this is the best link: http://www.jma.go.jp/en/typh/
That page should show you any typhoons that are of any threat to Japan.
This link shows specific info for this typhoon: http://www.jma.go.jp/en/typh/0813l.html
That website (www.jma.go.jp) also has earthquake info and probably anything else that could be of "disaster" information.
I think they say Friday sometime it might come to Hiroshima, but probably just the edge of it with lots of wind and rain.
09 September 2008
01 September 2008
It's now spring! Got home just after midnight, so now it's the 1 September, first day of Spring back home in Australia, first day of Autumn here in Japan, and also, first day of work for my second year working in Japan. Let's make the best of it again (more than last year)!
I just thank God for the first year I've had in Japan... so many good experiences, made some excellent friends, learnt many things (I hope), good work and good holidays.
Here is the conclusion of the matter... fear God & keep His commandments. This is the whole duty of man. God will bring everything into judgment, wheather it's good or bad, secret or not.
Trust me, it's true.
27 August 2008
Ahead, there were some lavender farms. The colours were amazing. Didn't expect that at all! And, free... no entry. Tomita Farm was a beautiful place, flowers of all colours. Visited a few other places in Naka-Furano, and then kept riding as the sky was just starting to grow a little dark.
A few more kilometers and I made it to Kami-Furano. This was my place for the night. The chain came off my bike, but no real problem... just put it back on (but then had greasy hands!) Found the campsite and got an early night after eating some dinner.
Up early the next morning, packed up the tent and headed to the train station to get the 7am bus to go up the mountain. Then realized I didn't understand the timetable, and the first bus was 9:33 am! Anyway, got that bus, and enjoyed a superb onsen. 600 yen, but I got it for 400 yen because I stayed at the campsite the night before (for only 500 yen).
Then onsen had a washing area, hot dripping water section, sauna, cold water pool, quite hot water pool, bubbling pool, and then 3 different out-door hot pools (two of them impossibly hot!), and there was also a covered section. Like usual, men and women in seperate private areas and naked (that's the style here in Japan), and there was also a mixed section (for those with swimming clothes) which had little slipperly slide into warm water. The pool in the mixed area was quite large and deep... large enough to do swimming! The weather outside was about 15 degrees, foggy, cloudy, misty, rainy weather. The steam was rising off the hot pools outside, and just let all worries drift away...
Up, on the bus, back down the mountain to the train station. The bus got back 20 minutes after the train I wanted to catch had left. The results are cascading, meaning my whole itinerary is changed for the next 5 days until I get back to Hiroshima. I can still just make it back home in time for work on Monday... I'll have to do some bike riding though... at least I don't have to pay any extra money.
Well, time to go... been good talking with a person next to me on the computer. He's from Hong Kong and reminds me of my Asian friends from Melbourne. Good to talk.
Now, to study more Japanese on the train.
26 August 2008
25 August 2008
Aug 13 Wed - Shinjuku, Yoyogi, Harajuku, Shibuya, Akihabara (all Tokyo), Kanagawa Odawara
Aug 14 Thu - Shizuoka Fujieda, Mt Fuji
Aug 15 Fri - Kanagawa Odawara
Aug 16 Sab - Shinjuku, Tokyo, Odaiba, Kanagawa
Aug 17 Sun - Kamakura
Aug 18 Mon - Yokohama, Shinjuku, Mito, Iwaki, Sendai
Aug 19 Tue - Morioka, Aomori
Aug 20 Wed - Hakodate, Toyoura
Aug 21 Thu - Toya
Aug 22 Fri - Toya
Aug 23 Sat - Toya
Aug 24 Sun - Toya
Aug 25 Mon - Toya
Aug 26 Tue - Asahikawa
Aug 27 Wed - Sapporo, Oshamambe
Aug 28 Thu - Hakodate, (sea tunnel), Aomori, Akita
Aug 29 Fri - Akita, Niigata, Naoetsu
Aug 30 Sab - Naoetsu
Aug 31 Sun - Naoetsu, Nagano, Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima
I can't say I've been having a bad time. Quite the opposite. It's Sunday morning and been away from home almost 2 weeks. Another week to go. It's definitely a worthwhile holiday.
Currently I'm at Toya Lake in the southern part of Hokkaido, the northern most of the 4 main islands of Japan. I live in Hiroshima, Japan, and have taken a holiday which has lead me up Mt Fuji, around Tokyo sightseeing and catching up with friends, and up to northern Japan by train.
I left Tokyo Monday. Stayed in Sendai at an internet cafe, only to find myself having no sleep due to booking flights for Christmas holidays, uploading photos of the trip so far, emailing and planning the next part of my trip. At that stage, I didn't know exactly where I was going to stay in Hokkaido.
Made my way onto the train about 6am Tuesday morning in Sendai. Grabbing bits to eat on the way from 7-eleven and small noodle shops (eg. onigiri, soba etc). After no sleep, was very tired, and slept a little on the trains, trying not to miss any train changes.
Could only make it as far as Aomori that day. It was a rainy, cloudy day of travel. Spent a little while at a small station during lunch time and had to wait for more than 2 hours for the next train. Had a nice meal at the family-run restaurant across the road... very nice. The cloudy weather made for nice, cozy travel, making it easier for me to sleep on the train, and for others to fall asleep on me!
(Japan is quite a safe country, so it's not uncommon to see sometimes more than half of the people on seats sleeping on the trains. Then, of course, people tend to "fall" and end up sleeping, leaning up against someone. I'd say, on Japanese trains, if you're not using your mobile phone or reading, then you're probably sleeping.)
Found a business (capsule) motel in Aomori across from the station for 3000 yen for the night. You get a capsule (about 1m x 1m x 2m) with TV, radio, clock and bed. Also, there was a shower and ofuro (bath) and lounge area. Good price and jost what I felt like I needed. I'd had anough of internet cafe sleeping... time for something a little nicer.
Got settled, did some washing at the laundromat (coin laundry), went for a bike ride just after dark in a tiny bit of rain. Ate some dinner, had a good scrub in the bath, relaxed, watched a little olympics (go Australia!) and had a good rest.
Up the next morning, another bath (just because I could), some breakfast at the station (soba and tempura) and then raced for the train! Oh no! Only seconds to spare... racing down the escelators (with suitcase, bike, tent, backpack, clumpsy!) and just as I got to the platform, the train just started to move.
The next train was about 2.5 hours later, cutting my trip right down for that day... but... the train driver saw me, slowed and stopped the train, let me on! I couldn't believe it! I've never heard of that before. I was so thankful, and stood on the train trying to catch my breath and calm down for the next 5 minutes. Then thanked the trian driver. I doubt that would ever happen in Tokyo.
From there, caught the train to the northern tip of Honshu (the main island of Japan). Changed trains for the next interesting leg of the journey. To get from Honshu to Hokkaido (two islands) there's a 50km train tunnel under the sea. So, we caught an express train and completed it after 20 minutes of travel, and passing 2 underground train stations! I don't know what you would do there, but I think they're for maintenance and emergency escapes etc.
On that train, I met Daiki, a young man from Tokyo tripping up to Hakodate (the next stop). We had a good time, and, in Hakodate, shared a nice meal and enjoyed good conversation. It was a pleasant time.
So, we'd now made it to Hokkaido! Let's compare the trains. In Tokyo, fast, new, 16-car electric passenger trains with few seats and plenty of standing room to jam people into during peak hour. In Hokkaido, slow, older, 1-car deisel passenger trains with seats and not much standing room. Hmmm... I don't know why they go so slow, but now I know why it takes so long to get around Hokkaido by local trains. I shouldn't complain. I still love train travel and Hokkaido.
About 5:30 pm Wednesday, left Hakodate (main centre for southern Hokkaido) and caught a train to Toyoura station, a little to the east along the coast of Hokkaido from Hakodate towards Muroran. It's a very small town.
When I got there at night, it was dark and rainy. So, reassembled my bike, saddled it up with my suitcase on the back, and made my way to the onsen place down by the coast (1 or 2 km away). They said there's no accommodation, and the onsen was closed, but the map I had said there was a campsite next to it, so I found it, setup the new 3000 yen tent and got settled.
But, I was hungry, so I rode up and down the main street (not very long!), saw a karaoke bar and a few other bars, and then finally found a place where they served up some nice Hokkaido ramen (noodles) with vegetables. That really did the trick and suited me fine. Rode back to the tent and had a good rest.
Good morning, Thursday morning! Woke up to the sound of waves washing up on the shore. The day before, I'd planned that I would spend a good 3 or 4 days next to the mountain lake about 10 km away, Lake Toya. So, that was today's plan. I checked out the map, planned which tent site to stay at next to the lake, packed up, bought some good groceries (finally descent food, not 7-eleven style), and headed up the mountain.
Rode through some tunnels (scary! on my tiny wheeled bike, loaded up, low gears and trucks coming up behind!). Made it to the next town about 5km away, and at the station there, there was some stuff about an international summit etc. Anyway, headed up the mountain from there. Was a good, tough climb.
Rode past some smoldering (what was probably a) volcane, and saw some destroyed houses. Hmmm... Anyway, kept going and cruized down the hill to the Toyako town next to the lake. Found that my $50 bike has it limits, especially in the "brake" department. They smelt hot! Smelt just like car brakes when the get too hot. Luckily I had the front brakes to use also. The back brakes haven't worked as good since.
When I got to Tokako, it was much bigger than I thought. There are free hot foot and/or hand baths scattered around the town. Post office and bank, plenty of hotels, really nice visitor centre, volcano museum and pretty much everything you need for a good holiday. Not to mention, the really nice scenery, the fresh mountain air, beautiful lake, and overall healty feel to the place. Also, there were quite a few eco-friendly things around the place... solar panels, wood things, natural feel etc. Then, I found out, this was the place where the G8 Summit was last month! Didn't even realise! Anyway, wasn't time to rest yet, because I hadn't made it to the campsite.
So, another 10km or so around to the west side of the lake, I finally made it to Toya and found a nice grassy spot beside the lake. In this little town, there's also a post office, bank, konbini (convenience store) open til 11pm, info centre (with good price fresh fruit and veges and bread), free internet, great camping places, and, not to be missed, a nice onsen on a hill overlooking the lake.
Boy, was it good to have a nice meal and get settled. This was the destination of rest. I'd spend the next 4 or 5 days here. This was one of the aims of the trip... to rest, relax, refresh and revive in a rural place in Hokkaido. It was good to unpack and settle.
I later found my way to the onsen, got clean, slept a little in the relaxation room, ate some dinner, saw some fireworks across the other side of the lake, did some reading and slept. It was a cloudy day with a tiny bit of rain, but a very nice day.
19 August 2008
Firstly, you're getting somewhere and it's often interesting to see what's out the window. Good chance to eat a meal (even though it's not super-culurally acceptable to do so, it's still ok). Sometimes there are toilets on the trains. You can strike up a conversation with someone (practice Japanese). Read a book. Study some Japanese. Write some blog. Sort photos. Do anything on a laptop. Listen to music. And, of course, like so many Japanese people do, catch up on some sleep (and if the train is empty, lie down on the seat and try to wake up at the right place).
Currently travelling from Tokyo to Sendai about half way up the coast from Tokyo to the top of the main island of Honshu. The trains stop there tonight. Tomorrow I'll head further (catching the first train about 6am) and make it into Hokkaido, my destination for the week. Accommodation tonight will probably be a 24/7 internet cafe in Sendai :-)
Let's back track a bit to since my last blog post.
Last Tuesday arrived Shinjuku station just after midnight. Rode around Shinjuku with my luggage on my fold-up bike to find an internet cafe (which would be the place to stay the night). The place I was looking for had closed down, but right next to it was "Mamboo". Proved to be a good alternative. The deal: 7 hours (1-8am), shower, unlimited drinks (water, juice, tea, coffee, miso soup), internet (of course), probably other stuff, comfy foldback chair for 980 yen. I was very happy. I have to say, the sleep was not that great, but it did the job for the night.
Wednesday morning relaxed in the park and meditated on Bible teachings. Communicated with God. Headed up Shinjuku Metropolitan Government building for a very good free panoramic view of Tokyo. Sky was a bit hazy. Rode my bike through Yoyogi Park and Harajuku to Shibuya.
(Shinjuku is the skyscraper district of Tokyo, is a business and shopping district, and contains the worlds busiest train station (3 million passengers per day) with well over 200 exits. Yoyogi Park is a very park and a good escape from Tokyo's continuous buildings! Harajuku is a youth/fashion district... any form of fashion imaginable (beach, gothic, minnie mouse, casual, dress up etc). Also in Harajuku is the Tokyo Central SDA Church. Shibuya is a youth area also. It also has many love hotels.)
Met up at Hachiko Statue in Shibuya, with Kouda (good friend from Hiroshima) and Mari (good long term friend from Nagoya). We had a good meal together. Great to catch up.
Kouda and I went to Akihabara! Akihabara has "Electric City", which, I would say, is the most "electric" retail centre in, probably, the world. So many electrical products for sale (eg. computers, cameras, TV's and everything else). It's a crazy place with bright, visual advertising, loud shop assistants shouting out their products, music blaring, jingles jangling and everything moving. Good prices for many things. Cheap cameras (yet good quality), 50 blank DVD's for 1000 yen etc. Good place to get bargains, but I didn't buy anything :-) When I need something, and if I can get there, I'll go there. Recommended (for buying things and just seeing the craziness!)
Akihabara has a real unique culture. Apart from the geeky side of it, there is the manga culture (Japanese comics), and also the "maids" among other sub-cultures. Maids are dressed up like European "maids" and are seen advertising and giving out things. Maid Bars are places that pretty much only men go to have someone give them some wanted attention.
Kouda and I headed back to Meiji-jingu, one of the most famous Shinto shrines in Tokyo (located next to Yoyogi-park). It was quite impressive, and very peaceful. A good environment for thinking about the things in life that really matter. We then walked around Harajuku a little. Quite busy. Then we caught a train to Kouda's home.
Kouda lives about 100km south-west of Tokyo in Kanagawa Prefecture (near the border of Shizuoka Prefecture). We caught the Odakyu line train and met his parents, who took us to a "kaitensuzhi" restaurant, where the sushi goes around on a conveyor belt and you just take off what you want :-) It's really cool, I think. His parents welcomed me to their home, I had a nice bath and rested well.
13 August 2008
But, the reality is, God's does give eternal life. God has given us all life. An enemy has caused trouble in the universe and the conflict continues. Soon the conflict will cease. There will come a time when the way we lived our lives will determine our destiny. The choices we make each day have consequences.
It boils down to: will you live for yourself, or will you live for God and for other people? Will you live a life that is 'universal peace' compatible? ie. being willing to put your own wishes aside when necessary. It's summarised in: "Treat people the way you want to be treated."
God wants to overlook our faults and forgive us. If we turn away from our wrong actions, God forgives and gives us eternal life. Can this really be true?
If you are not sure, determine to search for God. Determine to find your purpose in life. Seek each day to live the best life you can. As you give to others, your life will be filled. As you open your heart to the truth, peace will come. The Bible reveals a message of hope, despite the seemingly hopeless situation the world is in.
Yes, each person has value and is precious. The world might not tell you, but the Spirit of God will tell you. Think about reality. Think about the most important things in life and in eternity. Take time each day to consider these things. If you don't, you've thrown away eternity. But, as you do think about these things, you won't want to turn back. You will have found the path to life!
Put the seat back and get some sleep. Can also use the shower for 30 minutes and have unlimited drinks (juice, tea, coffee, softdrink, miso soup etc). The guy next to me was smoking, but he's stopped now so that's ok.
The staff were ok... not super friendly. I don't speak good Japanese, so that didn't help. I guess it doesn't really matter, as long as you get the rest and shower you need.
Plenty of entertainment around... after all, it is a comic cafe too. Movies, comics of all types and varieties. Plenty of things to distract from real life and many things to make oneself disatisfied with life. I have to say, close your eyes to a few things in here to keep your heart pure.
The train ride today was good. Left Hiroshima 8:45 am and, 10 trains and 15 hours later arrived Shinjuku about 12:10 just after midnight. All for 2300 yen. Now it's nearly 2am, after trying to find an internet cafe with 'sleep' mode, having a shower and typing this up.
I have to be out of here by 8am in the morning. Try find some locker to put my suitcase for the day. Meeting friends at Hachiko Statue in Shibuya for lunch and then doing some Tokyo sights after that.
12 August 2008
So, the big trip has started. The origin of this trip goes back to primary school when we had Japanese classes. Ever since, I've wanted to come to Japan and climb Mt Fuji (and catch a bullet train, see the cherry blossoms and have a hot spring/bath). So, 12 or so years later, I'll be able to climb Mt Fuji these holidays!
12-17 Aug: Tokyo & Fuji.
19-27 Aug: Hokkaido.
28-31 Aug: Arrive home.
Aug 12 Tue: Catch local trains from Hiroshima (8:45am) to Tokyo (11:46pm) for only 2300 yen using Seishun 18 Ticket. Stay the night in an internet cafe in Shubuya or Shinjuku.
13 Wed: Meet friends in Shubuya, see a bit of Tokyo, stay a friends house in Kanagawa-ken (outer Tokyo) that night.
14 Thu: Visit friend in Shizuoka during the day. Climb to Level 8 on Mt Fuji and stay the night with a friend.
15 Fri: Wake early, climb the rest of Mt Fuji to watch sunrise from the summit. Sightsee a little around Mt Fuji area. Stay friends house in Kanagawa-ken.
16 Sab: Head in to Tokyo late morning and relax. At night, hang out with friends and stay the night at friends house that night.
17 Sun: Probably head to Kamakura with friends. Stay somewhere (?) in Tokyo that night.
18 Mon: Catch trian headed for Hokkaido (2 days by local train north of Tokyo). Stay somewhere on they way.
19 Tue: Keep travelling to Hokkaido and stay the night there.
20 Wed to 27 Wed: cruise around Hokkaido, camping here and there. Spend a few days in the one place doing almost nothing except relaxing, reading, praying, meditating, a bit of Japanese study, some Bible reading, maybe a bit of bicycle riding and a few onsens (natural hot spring baths).
28 Thu to 31 Sun: Head back to Hiroshima by train (about 3 days travel).
Sep 1 Mon: Work :-)
08 August 2008
Apart from the being the day the 2008 Beijing Olympics start (and being a lucky number for them), it's also a friends birthday among other things.
Holidays just around the corner starting on Tuesday for 3 weeks, during which I hope to climb Mt Fuji, visit Tokyo and stay in Hokkaido for a week or so. Really looking forward to it.
Work starts again on September 1 (Monday), so the break will be nice.
Tonight we'll have some friends from work and church over for dinner, so should be a nice Friday evening together.
28 July 2008
10 July 2008
George (previous flatmate and colleage) has returned to Papua New Guinea. He was great to work with, live with and become good friends with. Miss him.
David (new flatmate and colleage) has come from Australia. It's been great chatting with him and today's his birthday (Happy Birthday, David!)
Truly summer now, with most nights warmer than 25 degrees and the day about 30 degrees. Very humid. Typical Japanese summer weather. Have been to the pool twice this week (and today got a bit sunburnt).
Last weekend went to Iwakuni to study the Bible with friends. Went together with them to a sushi train restaurant (kaitenzushi). It was stacks of fun! The sushi (usually raw fish in rice, among other things) goes around on a little conveyor belt past all the different tables... just take off the food you want! Then we headed to a nice onsen (hot spa) and rotemburo (outside bath) for about 3 hours.... greeeeaaaat... nice and relaxing.
Among other things, have been to the summer concert at the nearby SDA high school. Continue to learn Japanese, meeting with people to learn more. Continue to eat out and hang out and go for bike rides :-)
English Bible classes are going well. Some new students have been coming and are enjoying them. I enjoy teaching English and Bible. It's fun.
Classes are winding down now towards summer holidays. Kindergarten English classes finished. Primary school English classes finish next week. All classes finish Monday 10 August, and start Monday 1 September, giving three weeks holiday.
I hope to see the fireworks show soon, hope to go to a nice beach, go swimming and spend time with friends. When holidays start, I hope to go to Nagoya, Shizuoka, climb Mt Fuji, visit Tokyo, see a bit of Tohoku region (north part of Japan's main island), and spend a good week in Hokkaido (the northern most of the four main islands of Japan). I'll probably travel by local trains (stopping at almost every station along the east length of Japan!), but it's cheap.
I'll go home to Australia in the winter holidays (Christmas time) for about two weeks from about 24 December to 7 January. I'll visit Cairns (brother, sister-in-law, and "someone"), Brisbane (parents and brother), and if I can, I'd like to visit Sydney (relatives) and Melbourne (church friends). But, petrol keeps going up, so I don't know about flights.
Next year, short holiday in April, and then finish contract in August. After that... who knows.
For now, I'll be keeping busy teaching English and Bible, continuing to do my best. Making friends, learing Japanese language and culture, enjoying Japan, sharing my faith and working for God.
09 July 2008
15 June 2008
This link gives a map of Japan showing areas which felt the earthquake:
Red dot indicates magnitude 7.0. Blue dot indicates magnitude 1.0. It's clear to see Tokyo felt part of the quake. The quake was felt about 500 km from the center. Hiroshima is about 1000 km away (by line of sight). On the above webpage, you can see a great stack of aftershocks indicated by different times shown under "log" on the right-side of the webpage.
Quake was in Iwate Prefecture, about 400 km north of Tokyo. Japan's advance earthquake warning system predicted the quake at least 12 seconds before Tokyo felt the earthquake as shown on this video: http://youtube.com/watch?v=zlDeRzUYFkI
The video was taken in Tokyo and shows a countdown to the earthquake on a computer screen. At zero seconds, the video shows the room with things beginning to wabble. Incredible!
If you're in Japan and you see or hear this on your TV, then I would get out of the building: http://youtube.com/watch?v=0AmrTnBaChE
Six seconds into the video, on the TV appears a map of northern Japan with a red X. You can see 4 Japanese words which are the names of the prefectures affected. This warning appeared within 7 seconds of the quake striking. You also here the "d-d-ding d-d-ding" alert sounds on the TV. At 21 seconds, a man appears live on TV to give earthquake updates, times and affected areas. The number of affected prefectures is increased. Later the video shows footage.
Iwate Earthquake YouTube videos (Japanese): http://youtube.com/results?search_query=%E5%B2%A9%E6%89%8B+%E5%9C%B0%E9%9C%87&search_type=&aq=f
09 June 2008
Took a few snap shots within a few meters. Handed a note to his chief of staff, so I suppose he'll get it. Afterwards, met the driver of the car Kevin Rudd drove in. We swapped business cards and took a few photos of the car.
Media was a bit crazy (probably like usual), especially when Kevin Rudd stood in front of the A-bomb dome, the most famous building in Hiroshima and a reminder of the destruction caused by the atomic bomb. I heard one person say, "That was a bit of a scrum."
Anyway, interesting and surprising to meet my Prime Minister (at last a few meters away) in the city I live in overseas.
16 May 2008
07 May 2008
Because I left Kobe late, I couldn't catch local trains all the way home to Hiroshima. The last train wouldn't take me home! So, I had to get a shinkansen ticket for the last leg from Fukuyama to Hiroshima... and extra 2410 yen. Should be home a little after mid-night, then wake about 8am ready for work around 10 am. First class is with the grade 1 students.
Back track to last Wednesday. Just relaxed a little around Osaka and went for a nice few-hour bike ride to some part of Osaka. I really like bike riding around cities.
Thursday I went to Kurama, a small rural town on the northern side of Kyoto. Went up some mountain... Actually, I think I've already written about this! Ok, next...
By Saturday, a good group of us had gathered in Osaka, most of us SDA English School teachers from Hayato, Kagoshima, Hiroshima, Osaka and Yokohama. Others joined us. It was great to hang out with "foreigners" again. Nice to be able to converse freely and share experiences and common feelings etc. I felt like I was back to my normal self. My Japanese self has already taken back over now :-)
Saturday we had English church in Osaka, group lunch in the room above the church, then prayer meeting (encouraging time), before walking up to the nearby Osaka castle. Had pasta for Saturday night.
Sunday was a packed day at Kyoto. So many people! Probably one of the busiest days in Kyoto in the year. The train from Osaka to Kyoto was quite busy, and, after getting busy chatting with some other people, I distracted them from getting off at their destination! Oops.
We passed through the Gion district (where all the geisha ladies are meant to be, but didn't see any). Looked at Yasaka Jinja and saw a Japanese wedding! It was very serious and formal. Nice to see though.
Headed to Chion-in in Maruyama Park and then had Kyoto style okonomiyaki for lunch. Caught a very full and slow bus to Nishiki Food Market where there is plenty of good cultural taste and suveniours. Bit more shopping, walking around, and then headed back home.
Monday the group went to Byoudouin Temple (which is on the 10 yen coin) and hiking. I went solo to Nara and Kyoto. At Nara I saw the the largest wooden building in the world, Todaiji Temple, which contains a huge buddha. The building site dates back to about AD 800. Heaps and heaps of people visiting and worshipping by washing hands, burning incence, bowing and praying to buddha.
Before going further, I want to say that I am a Christian. Visiting these kinds of places for me is out of interest and the purose of learning about other religions. It has not been an act of worship for me to go to these places. I hope to understand different religions and peoples.
My experience with God has been real and I continue to search for God and for the truth each day. There is only one truth and I hope to learn more. I serve the one true God.
After seeing a few other sites around Todaiji Temple, I headed to Kyoto. Hired a bike and went to Kiyomizu-dera, a huge complex of buddhist temples and Shinto shrines up on a hill overlooking Kyoto. Many ways to worship... throw money, buy prayer cards, wear good-luck charms, stroke a statue, pray, burn incence, bow, ring bells etc. There were also many, many shrines and places to pray. This place seemed like a very central and key place to Japanese religion and culture. Again, so many people there!
Then pushed out of the crowds and pedalled through some rain to the other side of Kyoto to Kinkakuji, the Golden temple, one of the most famous in Japan. It's covered in old covering. A very beautiful temple, tucked in amongst a nice Japanese garden.
Rode slowly back past a few more shines, temples, the Botanical Garden, the Imperial Palace, Nijo Castle, without going in to any of them. Returned the bike and ate some dinner at Kyoto station. Kyoto station is another thing! It's huge! Many train lines, 11 stories high, very modern and futuristic looking (quite opposite Kyoto's style), big, busy etc. And, had a photo with a geisha lady... Caught trains back to Osaka after dinner.
Got up nice and late today. Some Japanese ladies showed us how to do some cooking, which was fun. By the time that was finished, it was time to pack and go. So, said the good-byes and caught the train to Kobe.
02 May 2008
Had a really nice day there yesterday. I took the train from Osaka, through Kyoto, to Kurama. It's only about 900 yen one way by train. The train, after Kyoto, weaves up through some mountains, forests and beside rivers. It was perfect weather. A bit overcast, but that made it nice as we walked up the mountains in the forest.
I met some young people and they were happy enough for me to join them. There are many shrines (Shinto) and temples (Buddhist). It's a very peaceful place and relaxing. It's a good walk up the mountain (don't wear high-heel shoes like one of my friends did!). I recommend it.
After the walk back down the mountain, we had a nice lunch in a small town by a river. Perfect way to end the walk. I said good-bye to the people I was with. They were very nice, friendly, and welcoming. I wish I could thank them more.
I after wards, walked back to Kurama along the road and up to the onsen (hot spring). A little expensive (2500 yen), but I think it was worth it. I got really, REALLY, clean. Tried out the very HOT sauna (110 degrees celcius), and the spa etc. Dried off and put on a yukata (Japanese bath robe). Relaxed and actually slept a little in the relaxing room.
Later went to the outside spa (rotenbura), met a couple of young Japanese guys there. We had a good chat, using my broken Japanese. Nice guys. They live in Kyoto. Then dried off, ate a little, caught the train back to Osaka and went to bed.
Now it's almost a day later and I still feel clean! :-) Four English teachers from Kyushu have joined us. They too the overnight bus from there. Another from Yokohama is coming soon. We'll all enjoy some good times together for Sabbath, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Good to hang out, catch up, sight-see Kyoto and Nara, do some cooking, worshipping God, sharing etc.
In conclusion, I say, "Go to Kurama."
30 April 2008
With 8 days holiday for "Golden Week", it was my best chance to see Osaka, Kyoto and Nara. Thinking I may have only a year in Japan, I went to Kyushu last Christmas holidays, planned for Osaka and Kyoto for "Golden Week" holidays, and then Tokyo, Tohoku, Hokkaido (northern Japan) in Summer holidays (August). Well, I'm (99% sure that I'll be) staying in Hiroshima, Japan another year teaching English at the same SDA school. I enjoy it. So, this coming Christmas, I'll return to Australia for holidays to see family, so that will be good!
I caught JR local trains from Hiroshima, planning to get to Osaka. Other options included shinkansen (bullet train; more expensive), or overnight bus (more tired; more chance of travel sickness; can't stop at places on the way; don't get to see as much of the country side).
So, yesterday, after leaving Hiroshima, we passed through Higashi-Hiroshima, Mihara and Fukuyama. Just before stopping at Okayama for lunch, we passed through Kurashiki. Had lunch a few minutes walk from Okayama station by some stream flowing through the city. It was nice and relaxing. Here in Japan, there seems to be so much water!
Rivers (small streams etc) are plentiful and always flowing, so there is plenty of water for irrigation and other uses. It's nice to see so much water (myself being an Aussie from "dry" Australia).
And, this time of year is when the rice fields are planted. I saw tractors plowing up the small rice fields tucked in between railways and rivers, beside building, next to houses, and at the bottom of hills and moutains. I haven't see large rice fields here. Most fields are no more than 100 m long. This is stark contrast to Australian fields where often the fields are kilometers long and wide. Yet another example of the "compactness" of Japan. Many things are small here. Japan seems to be made up of mountains, cities, and ricefields.
Many rice fields look like they are "flooded" now. They look like little "ponds" or "dams". They thin rice plants are in rows with muddy, but glassy looking water covering the soil with the rice plants sticking up above the water. The water reflects the view well, giving a nice mirror image.
After lunch, caught the next train to Himeji. There's a very famous castle there which I visited. Make sure you have at least an hour to see it. It's large, has many sections, including walls etc. There are nice parks and shrines (among other things) around the castle, and you could easily spend half a day there seeing reasonably good attractions.
Didn't have time to see anything else in Himeji, but had a small meal beside the moat (water around the castle) and stone wall. Nice and relaxing. The sun began to set and gave a nice cool feel during the last lingering moments around the castle. Walked back to the station and headed for Osaka, about 1 hour away using the special rapid service (no extra cost).
On the train yesterday, had time to read some of the Bible (on my mobile phone of course!... this is Japan and technology). Practiced a bit of Japanese with the book I have. Do some praying, relax, look at the window, think about life. Got to meet a few people too. Some high school students filled the train, so I began talking with them. They practice English and I practiced Japanese. We all enjoyed talking. They were quite decent people, offering me a place to sit, some food, and being quite polite.
Met some nice people from Osaka too. From Himeji to Osaka, it's pretty much a continuous strip of built up town/city. Osaka is the second largest city in Japan (after Tokyo), and the 9th largest metropolitan area (including connected cities such as Kyoto, Kobe etc) in the world (!) with about 17 million people!
I saw Osaka from the shinkansen a few months ago, and thought that it did not look that big. So, when I arrived last night in central station, I began to see how large Osaka is, especially after having a salad on the 29th floor overlooking the city! So, yes, Osaka is a big city.
Had some difficulty making my way to the SDA Church in Osaka. There are many train companies, with many train lines, so I asked for some help. The young man with his partner were willing to help. He missed his train (on purpose) so he could help me. Then he said good bye to his partner, caught extra trains and walked me right to where I needed to go! He wouldn't accept anything for helping me. It really showed me something. He's probably not Christian, but he acted just the way I would imagine Christ would want us to act. I was really touched with the kindness of him.
After arriving, met Jermaine and Joseph who are teachers at the SDA English School in Osaka. They English school, church, English church, conference office, and apartments (homes) are all here in the 7 story (SDA) building. I'll be staying here (not far from city centre) for a week or so.
Today I'll probably just cruise around, not doing too much here. Thursday, maybe get out into a remote place, into nature, find an onsen or something like that. Friday, 5 other SDA English teachers will join us! It'll be our last little reunion until we go different ways after we finish our 1 year in July/August this year.
Friday, a bit more around Osaka. Saturday at church etc. Sunday probably Nara. Monday probably Kyoto. Tuesday probably Kobe and then go home.
29 April 2008
16 April 2008
Just watch the Gardening Australia TV program via podcast from ABC... and you'll miss it even more!
And, you can now practice your English (or Japanese kanji) vocabulary on your mobile phone with:
Mobile English Game! (or in Japanese, モバイル英語ゲーム):
15 April 2008
Anyway, off to the check-out I go. (By the way, Aussie trollies are huge compared to the little carts they have here). Pay for the food in yen. Pack the groceries in the plastic bags and... "Hello!"
One of the grade 2 girls from the primary school I teach English at comes up and says g'day. Shops close at 10pm, but it's only about 9pm now. She tells me about school and a few other things in Japanese. I understand some of it. She points to her big sister and mum who's almost ready to leave.
"Bye bye", she says, after her mum says it's time to go. "Oyasumi", I say.
... it's things like that that make life here nice.
07 April 2008
06 April 2008
For those in cooler climates of Japan, you time will come soon, but for everyone else, you'll have to wait until next year :-)
04 April 2008
And, flowers are out. Cherry blossoms are blooming and making a beautiful scene around this city and much of Japan. It's a real culture thing. Families, work colleages, group of friends, out under the cherry blossoms, eating, kicking a ball around, taking photos and having a nice time in the sun!
Now, time for a bike ride into the country (get out of the city!).
And then... Sabbath rest starting this evening.
02 April 2008
Fresh fruit and vegetables are a little expensive but good quality.
Cherry blossoms are about to reach their full bloom.
Wrote emails to friends back in Australia today.
Enjoyed another day of English teaching.
April 1 is when many people in Japan begin a new job.
Learning Japanese challenging, but fun and interesting.
Walking around the streets of Hiroshima at night seems to be quite safe.
I'm trying to get to bed at a reasonable hour.
Things in Japan are very organised and structured, defined and often predictable.
Sometimes in the morning in Hiroshima I can smell something in the air which I think is the "fumes" or "burnt metal smell" from some of the industries in the city here (maybe Mazda or Mitsubishi?).
Japan knows how to present things well... many things look really good here... and often, they ARE good (quality etc).
Japan knows how to give presents. It's a gift giving culture.
Some new staff members came to our school recently.
I look forward to making some more friends and working together.
A good friend just left Hiroshima and moved to another city.
Now it's time to do the washing up.
31 March 2008
10 March 2008
6 February 2008 Japan.
I Can See A Rainbow
If You're Happy & You Know It Clap Your Hands
See the video!
09 March 2008
It's almost end of school year here in Japan. Japanese school year begins April and ends mid-March. English classes in the Primary school have finished, but still have English School classes. Gives me a slightly lighter work load for a few weeks until mid-April. The weather is warming up and all the graduation, end-of-year, good-bye things are happening now.
Last month the middle grade from the kindergarten I teach at performed a small concert. I played the piano and they kids sung in English. It was a bit of fun. See some of the songs on video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAmKt-hB9xM
Each grade from the primary school performed a song or act for a Grade 6 Farewell concert last Friday. Tomorrow, I'll be playing the piano for the grade 2 kids as they sing at the parents meeting. Should be good!
Yesterday at church was another pleasant Sabbath. Greeted some of the kids as they came to school around 8am. Sung and prayed in Sabbath School in the church. Sadly, one of the church members had passed away. It was quite sad. I did not know the person, but they were only in their 40's.
I lead out in English Sabbath School. We usually sing, pray and then George or I share a short 15 or 20 minute Bible study. I took it on having a relationship with God. If you don't spend time with Him, you can't expect a relationship to grow. In the Bible, you can find the keys to eternal life. And, if you search for God with all your heart, you will find Him.
We later worshiped in church. I really enjoy worshipping together with the kids, parents, teachers, friends and church members... all together, honouring and praising God. About 7 of the grade 6 students gave short testimonies (stories) of their belief in God. One of the ladies from chruch translated so I could understand, and their stories really encouraged me.
Said hello and good bye to a number of people after church before heading up stairs to the 3rd floor to eat some soba noodles. Chatted over dinner and then spent some more time talking with some of the school kids parents. It was a very relaxing time.
Last Thursday, some new people came to the free English classes that our school (Hiroshima SDA English School) offers. We use the Bible (stories etc) to teach English. This is the first time some new students have come since I arrived here 6 months ago. I'm quite glad! They enjoyed the class and will probably come next week too.
Most people I asked did not feel the small earthquake we had. Most were asleep. It didn't make it on the news. It wasn't big at all.
Ate out with friends from work this afternoon. Had a nice time. It was Asian buffet, but I had a later breakfast and wasn't so hungry, so I just ordered some Vietnamese noodles. Checked out a few shops, bought some groceries on the way home, and had some dinner.
The last few weeks my Japanese has become a bit more intense. Meeting with a few different people each week. Studying kanji. Have completed first grade kanji (about 80 characters) and hope to start grade 2 soon. I want to finish grade 3 kanji by the end of the year, and complete the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) level 3 or 4 (run by Japan Govt). Slowly picking up more and more each day. It's fun!
So, skiing was a lot of fun! That was quite a few weeks back. First time I'd ever gone skiing. By the end of the day, I got a bit of the hang of it. Had one little accident when I hit someone, but they seemed ok after a minute. Sorry. But, the day was great fun! Photos.
We had a few inches of snow one morning a few weeks back. I had not classes, so I headed off to Shukkeien Garden for the first time. It's the best Japanese Garden in Hiroshima. And, the few inches of snow, with the sun coming out during the fresh hours of mid-morning, made it really nice. Photos.
We had a few more days of snow scattered here and there. The temperature didn't really get below zero much over winter. We had afew days of maximum temperatures around 3 or 4 degrees. They were quite cold. Minimum of zero and maximum of 6 degrees was quite common. There were quite a few sunny days during winter time.
But, now it seems that the weather is warming up. We've had up to 15 degrees now, which feels quite warm. Even 10 degrees feels warm, after the long winter. The peach and plum blossoms have already come out, but weather here is cold, but you can feel the promise of warm weather just around the corner.
This time of year brings something very famous in Japan... Cherry Blossom! It's a very important, cultural and popular thing to do for Japanese people. Enjoy a picnic under the blooming flowers! It's my first, and I look forward to it. The Japan Meterological Agency predicts when the blooms will start. See the chart: http://www.jma.go.jp/jma/en/News/sakura.html
Also this time of year, the dust gets blown across Japan from the rest of Asia. The JMA also predicts this: http://www.jma.go.jp/en/kosa/
English School concert in two weeks. It's the story of Jesus resurrection! I'm looking forward to the kids singing :-) Next week is busy too: kindy grad on Sunday, primary school grad and grade 6 dinner on Monday, teachers dinner at chuch Wednesday, teachers dinner at restaurant on Friday, Easter program at church on Sabbath. Also, tabletennis next Saturday night. All the usual English school classes as well, plus Japanese lessons I have.
I have to say I'm enjoying my time here. Three things I can think of as important things for me to do while I'm here: mission (share God & faith); language (learn as much Japanese as I can); travel (see as much of Japan and it's culture while I'm here).
I thank God I can serve Him here in Hiroshima, Japan.
08 March 2008
3:51 am - still asleep
3:52 am - feel floor wabble, hear something rattle
I often feel the floor shake a little as trucks drive along the busy road we live on, but this time, i woke up! Jump out of bed, flick on the computer, check the Hiroshima and Japan earthquake websites, nothing there.
Two minutes later, records showed on the JMA website. Magnitude 4.5 earthquake a little distance from here. Magnitude of between 1 and 2 where I am in middle of Hiroshima.
All is well for us here.
Japan Earthquake Info (JMA):
Hiroshima Earthquake Info:
26 February 2008
12 February 2008
11 February 2008
Today: English class then Ebayama Meterological Museum (fun!)
Tomorrow: First time to go skiing for me! We're going to Kanbiki, Hiroshima, Japan.
Hiroshima Weather / Earthquake (and more) Info in English! (very useful, only just found it tonight, and wished I'd known about it long ago):
News: I'll be staying here in Hiroshima, Japan, teaching English at the SDA English School for another year. That keeps me here until August 2009.
30 January 2008
And, I didn't see the thermometer get about 2 degrees all day yesterday... except for at about 10pm when it "warmed up" to 3 degrees. I didn't really think I'd consider 8 or 10 degrees "warm", but, I do now :-) Haven't seen it warmer than 10 for about 2 weeks now. It's probably not going to get colder now. It'll probably stay about the same for another week or two, and then begin the slow (too slow!) warm up to spring. We'll be out of the cold about April... meanwhile, the kerosene heater works overtime, doors stay closed, I stay indoors, and the washing dries by the heater (instead of outside).
What else... hmmm... Badminiton was fun on Sunday. English teaching is till fun. It's time to decide whether to stay another year teaching at the Hiroshima SDA English School (any advice?) I'm enjoying mixing with the church members. Finally learned all my katakana (one of the 3 Japanese alphabets). Spending a good chunk of time learning Kanji (the hardest alphabet with thousands of characters). Preparations for the English School concert are going on now. Concert is in March and the topic is "Jesus Comes Back to Life!" Plenty of kids songs.
Going skiing (my first time) on 11 Feb. Should be great! Plenty of things on. Usually a combination of work, friends, church, meals, sport, learning Japanese, Bible study, cold, house chores and fun.
The aim? To know God, care for people, do my best, and enjoy it.
24 January 2008
Had a good rest last night, got up, good hearty, healthy breakfast, went to school and prepared a few English classes. Just before going to the Gr 2 class, I look out from the 3rd floor of the school and see this white stuff falling lightly down from above... snow! Only the second time I've seen snow fall, and, the first time I've seen it fall where I live!
Grade 2 and 1 classes went nicely, with a bit more variety than normal, fun games, kids behaving pretty well and enjoying class :-) The kids are nice... some come up to say good-bye after class, show me something or tell me some of the English they learnt.
Organised a bit of badminton for Sunday afternoon with some of the younger teachers at the school here... should be good! Then, headed outside to play with the kids outside during their school lunch break. Played "tag", played on the slides and other stuff there, had a lot of fun.
Rode my bike to 7-Eleven, grabbed a bit of salad, rice-thing, cheese roll to eat for lunch on the way home (only 2 mintes away). Ride back home, the snow continued to swirl around the streets making a nice scene.
I get home, look out the window, feel the sun streaming in the window, see the snow falling outside, notice the thermometer says 5 degrees, listen to good music and eat some lunch!
Five more English classes today... Thursdays are the busiest days. Friday is always a day off... time to relax, tidy up and get ready for a good weekend.
22 January 2008
On Sunday it averaged about 3 degrees during the day, with a bit of snow on a nearby hill. Rain all day made it "fun" sloshing through puddles on my bike to get downtown to eat out with friends. The marathon runners here in Hiroshima (for a nation-wide annual event) braved the freezing weather to compete.
Who knows where the marekts will end up? Things look quite bleak. How is it going to affect people around the world? Where do we put our security? Do we put it in the stock market? Can we put it in our house or possession? Can we put it in our health? Our education or work? Our insurance? Our own life or family? Sickness, natural disasters, violence, bad economy,
random accidents... pretty much everything we have or are in life is at risk. Where do we find security?
Only in the God who made us. The only complete security we can have is to trust God. He is our Father, He loves us, He cares for us, He has a rescue plan for this earth (read about it in the Bible), He offers us eternal life. If you search for God with all your heart, you will find Him. This is where we can find security and peace.
Last night, spent some time teaching English and then learning Japanese with a friend. I think this will really help me learn Japanese. And, singing in church is a little easier now, than when I first arrived in Hiroshima. I can read the Hiragana quicker now, so I can join in singing most of the songs.
But, the cold weather continues... maximums of 6 degrees are quite common now. So, we just keep the kerosene heaters at home going, while we wonder if it will snow today or tomorrow.
18 January 2008
So, after two weeks of work already, English school is back into routine, primary school English classes are going well. It's a down hill run to the end of March when I'll teach the last class for the grade 2 and 6 classes and probably a few students from the English school.
It's Friday, our day off. It's about 10 degrees outside at 1pm. The sun in streaming through the open doors of our apartment facing south (nice mix of cool air and warm sun), but it's quite noisy since it faces Route 2 (which is 8 lanes of traffic). Friday are good days to relax, do the washing, bit of shopping, write emails, catch up on things, plan a little, clean up the house for the weekend and get ready for a restful Sabbath.
Today is pretty much a typical Friday as described above.
I'm getting to know a few of the youth from the church here. Making good friends with them. Some are teachers at the primary school or kindergarten. Some work around town here. My Japanese is quite poor. They don't speak a lot of English either. Despite that, we have a good time. We've gone for onsens, eaten out together, done a bit of shopping, etc. They're good friends. Glad I have the chance to know them.
Also been making some friends at the Hiroshima International Center. Been eating out and will start learning some Japanese from them. I'll share some English with them also. Many (maybe most) Japanese people either know some basic English, would like to learn English, are learning more English, or know English. It's seems like they all would like to know it.
We have English Sabbath School 3 times each month on Saturday mornings. George and I lead out in that. Also, English Church once each month, which either George or I preach at. Friday night vespers programs are also on once a month, where we eat dinner, share a short Christian message, sing and pray.
Tomorrow night we're going ice skating with the English school... mostly kids and parents... it's going to be a lot of fun! Sounds like we might be having a few sports evenings coming up.
Hope to get to the snow for some skiing (which I've never done before) before it starts getting too warm again. Also, would like to visit Shikoku (the smallest of the 4 main islands of Japan, not far at all from Hiroshima). Cherry blossoms should be out in late March, early April, so it'll be a ncie time to look around Hiroshima. Golden week (late April, early May) I'll probably go to Osaka, Kyoto and Nara for about a week as a tourist. And, after 10 August, I hope to see a bit more of Tokyo, northern Honshu (north of Tokyo) and Hokkaido. We have a three week break in August.
But, who knows... haven't decided if I'll stay another year or not. If I finish up, I'll end in August. If not, I'll still be here!
Sabbath Peace to you all.
14 January 2008
Here's a bit about my holidays:
Thu 3 Jan:
Caught 700 Series Shinkansen from Hiroshima to Tokyo.
Saw Kyoto, snow and Mt Fuji along the way.
Caught local train from Tokyo Station to Shinjuku Station.
Stayed with friends from Melbourne, Australia in Oakwood Apartments in Shinjuku.
Went shopping in Shinjuku.
Met friends at Hachiko Statue just outside Shibuya Station, near Shibuya Crossing.
Fri 4 Jan:
Went to Tsukiji fish market and Hamarikyu Gardens
Took a boat up Sumida River to Asakusa
At ramen, visited Sensō-ji Temple (as a tourist) and saw Kimono
Sat 5 Jan:
Worshipped at Tokyo Central International SDA Church in Harajuku
Relaxed at Yoyogi Park near Harajuku Station
Visited the Apple Store, shopped, ate out and in Ginza at night
Visited friends apartment with nice view of Tokyo Tower
Sun 6 Jan:
Caught N700 Series Shinkansen back to Hiroshima
Back to work at Hiroshima SDA English School
08 January 2008
03 January 2008
Finished work on 20 December. Relaxed over the next few days. Christmas Eve we had a special Christmas program at night. Was able to sing Japanese Christmas songs in the church choir (after much practice!) and enjoyed the evening with many of the teachers from the SDA primary school, students from the nearby high school, some students I teach and friends from church and other places.
Headed up into the mountains for a one-day bus trip for Christmas day, hoping to see some snow and have a white Christmas! There was no snow, and felt a little travel sick, but enjoyed the onsen (hot spring) in the mountains and ate some soba noodles for Christmas lunch. Christmas Day is not a big thing in Japan... all the shops are open, people go to work, and some of my friends didn't know which day was Christmas. Kind of felt like Christmas a little bit, but not really. Missed family on Christmas day, as we usually are all together with family, grandma and pa, relatives etc on a hot Australian Christmas Day.
The day after Christmas was the start of the Kyushu trip. Spent most of the day on local trains (slow, but cheap using Seishun 18 Kippu) and arrived in Nagasaki, Kyushu. Met a few Australians, Japanese and Taiwanese travelling around Japan and had a nice time catching up. Visited the main Cathedral Church there (the oldest Christian church in Japan), and is a symbol to indicate the place where Christianity was introduced to Japan a few hundred years ago. Saw Glover Garden and went up the ropeway to the mountain viewing area at night, both of which I recommend.
There are lots of European buildings in Nagasaki. Japan was mostly isolated from the outside world for a period of a couple of hundred years before the 1860's, except for a small part of Nagasaki. Here, many Europeans and Chinese people lived, and many products were imported and exported through this gateway city to the outside world.
While in Nagasaki, I had the chance to visit the peace park, in memorial of the people affected by the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in 1945. Visiting these places just fills me with sadness, solemness, and a huge hate for war and hurt. Hard to imagine what it must have been like for people involved. I actually met an elderly Japanese man near the park, who was 10 years old in when the bomb was dropped. Both his parents were killed instantly. He was about 10 km away when the bomb exploded, and he said it was very loud and bright. It also flattened the house he was in. He showed me a scar on his hand from the injury. May we look forward to a time when wars will cease!
After Wednesday night and Thursday in Nagasaki, I woke early on Friday morning to catch about another 8 slow local trains to Hayato, Kagoshima. Japanese trains are extremely punctual! Of the 20 or more trains I've caught this past week, they have all arrived and departed on the minute which the timetable indicated. It's Japanese style... on time, reliable, dependable, exctpected. Arrived in Hayato about sunset time, just in time to rest for Sabbath.
I was kindly invited to stay with Andy's friends who life in Hayato. The family there was very kind and have become excellent friends over the few days I was there. We went to church on Saturday, ate lunch, chatted, shared a nice dinner and then stayed the night in Kagoshima with a friend who my previous work colleague in Melbourne knew!
Sunday we visited the Kamikaze museum in Chiran. This showed the history and story of the Japanese warplanes which flew into warships during World War II. One picture is stuck in my head... it shows a few young boys (in their late teens) smiling, laughing and playing together with a young puppy. This photo was taken the day before these same boys flew airplanes into warships and dying. It also showed ltters written by boys to their mothers before the went on their missions. It revealed to me the horrible attributes of war. There are many things we don't understand, but one thing we understand, is that war hurts people.
After the museum, we were treated to a lovely Japanese meal. It was a very cold day, but the warm restaurant, the tasty noodles and rice, made for a nice time together. We visited the Sumarai houses in Chiran, and saw the old-style homes and gardens they used to live in. Again, it was very cold! On the way home, I got some nice pictures of Sakurajima, a high volcano across the bay from Kagoshima.
Monday, December 31, would be a hard day to match. Hiromi and Megumi (from the family we stayed with) with Andy and I drove up into the mountains of Kirishima (near Hayato). We stopped by and made some pottery from some spinning clay... that was fun! After, we saw a little bit of snow falling! It was my first time to see snow and was quite excited! We kept driving and the snow kept getting heavier and heavier. We stopped to put chains on the car wheels and saw some friendly deer on the side of the road!
We arrived at the ice-skating place, and enjoyed outdoor ice skating with the snow falling and swirling around, another thing I had not seen or experienced before. It was a lot of fun, even though it was about -5 degrees and I forgot to bring my beanie (head warmer). So, my hair got stuck together from the snow and ice!
Lunch was quite late (5pm) but was a nice tamago don (egg and rice). Then found a really nice (probably one of the best in Hayato) onsens and relaxed, letting all of the years worries drain away. After some dinner, we watched the New Years Eve concert on NHK TV on the hours leading up to midnight.
New Years is the biggest family time in Japan, when everyone comes home or visits family. It is typically not celebrated with fireworks or large parties, but most people are at home with their families, gathered together keeping warm from the winter cold. The concert finished at 11:45 pm, and the 108 bells were chimed at hundreds of temples all around Japan.
Before midnight, it's Japanese culture to eat soba noodles before midnight. (Soba noodles are used because they are easy to prepare, after so much work has been done to clean and prepare for the new year). Mikan (mandarines, the fruit) is eaten usually during this time and tea is common also. So, together with Hiromi, Megumi, their mum and dad, Andy and I, we welcomed in the new year of 2008!
After a good nights rest, we woke up to eat some mochi (a very thick, sticky, rice dish), which is done on New Years Day for breakfast. Sweet bean soup is also eaten New Years Day. We then went to church for a New Years message. Since temples are usually visted on New Years Day (most important time of year to go), many churches are also open for New Years service. We heard a message about Abraham offering Isaac (Genesis, Holy Bible), and had a small meal together.
The rest of the day we relaxed, watched a bit of TV, I tidied up my room, went for a walk, went up the Hayato lookout and enjoyed a bit of time at home. Usually on New Years Day the whole family is at home, mostly stays inside (becuase it's cold outside), everything has been cleaned for the New Year and so it's Japanese culture to not have a bath or shower on New Years Day! I found that really intesting! Nevertheless, we went for another onsen (yes, natural hot spring water!), went into the sauna at 87 degrees C (which had a TV in it!) and refreshed ourselves. After sweating a lot and getting nice and clean, you feel really good after an onsen.
When we got home we met Hiromi and Megumi's brother, his wife and 3 kids. Had a lot of fun just spending time in the lounge room until late. It was a memorable time. After a few hours sleep, Andy and I got up early to catch the 6:19 am train which left Hayato. We've been travelling since and will arrive at Hiroshima at 8:45 pm after a day of trains. We met a lot of nice people on the trains. You just need to step out, say "Hi", start talking in the limited Japanese you know, and make friends!
New Year is a good chance for me to think about life, about the previous year, about the new year and about the future in genearl. I have to appreciate what 2007 brought. I began the year 2007 leaving home to live in Melbourne and do volunteer work with my church. During my 6 months in Melbourne, I went through some challenging experiences, but it was through these experiences, that I learnt to trust in and believe in God. I want to thank Him (with all I am) for revealing Himself to me. Although I never have seen God (with my eyes) or heard God (with my ears), I know He is real, because He made me, my family, everyone, this world and everything in it. He is worthy of my worship, so I have given' myself to Him, to live for Him and servie Him. Thank-you God, for 2007.
After 6 months in Melbourne, I spent about 4 weeks back at work at USQ as a computer systems administrator before coming to Japan in late August to teach English and Bible for 12 months at the SDA Kindergarten, Prmary School and English School in Hiroshima Japan.
This year, I want to do my best as an English & Bible teacher, love God and people more, put my best effort into learning Japanese while I'm here, seek to understand different cultures and peoples (Japanese), and travel parts of Japan during my stay here.
After a short sleep at home tonight, I'll be up about 5am to catch the first shinkansen from Hiroshima bound for Tokyo. Frinds from Melbourne will be in Tokyo and it's going to be nice to catch up with them. I'll also see one of my friends from Tokyo, be a tourist in Tokyo for a few days (haven't really seen Tokyo yet), and worship God in the Tokyo Central International SDA Church. We're expecting fine cold weather, which I think will be quite nice! Last time I was in Tokyo, it was very hot, humid, sticky, smoggy and not so nice, but am expecting a nice change.
Early Sundy morning I'll be catching the first shinkansen for the week bound for Hiroshima (Nozomi 1, fastest shinkansen in Japan). It travels at speeds of up to 300 km/h, and goes from Tokyo to Hiroshima (890 km, with about 7 stops) in 3 hours 47 minutes. I arrive at Hiroshima Station 9:47 am Sunday morning. Then I'll jump on my bike, ride to work to begin another year of work at 10:15am with my adult English class. Life will then take on some kind of normality again :-)
But... it was all worth it! Happy New Year!