Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The columnist is up

I will be away from the keyboard for a few days while I make my way from Sekime to Georgetown.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Hi Mom

Everyone put your hands together and please give a warm welcome to my Mom. This could well be the first time she has surfed the web, and she is especially going to surf the web to visit this site. Today I posted a picture particularly for my mother so she can see I am alive and kicking and in generally good health. As you can see Mom my head is very large, almost as big as Osakajo (Osaka Castle). I will be bringing you more about Osakajo in furture blogs, but for today you will have to be content with my mug in front of the kamera (that is camera in English).
Hi Mom, thanks for visiting.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Shades of olive drab

This morning I was strolling past a construction site, and much to my amazement all of the construction workers, perhaps thirty or forty, were doing callisthenics. Generally they were in sync with each other. It looked very programmed, as if they knew the routine better than their phone numbers. Some were wisely stretching out, preparing for the days physical labour. The younger ones in the back reminded me of Hawkeye and BJ doing their best impression of callisthenics under Frank and Margaret's heavy glare in that oldish TV sitcom MASH. I could not help but chuckle to myself as I walked by.


This is my school. I attend class here every weekday morning from 10:00 until 12:00. They are trying to teach me Japanese. It is a difficult language to learn, but I think I'm making progress. I think I managed to get past the discouraged stage when I didn't think I was learning anything while having expected to be able to carry a conversation by that time. I have learned the hiragana and the katakana alphabets. I can read them and write them, though that doesn't neccesarily mean I understand what I'm reading or writing. Vocabulary tends to be my biggest challenge. It is difficult but also enjoyable.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The roach conspiracy.

Yonder, evil roach does spite me.
He sits in the darkened doorway,
What he is plotting I know not.
But he spites me.
Evil roach
He does not move until the light strikes him.
He mocks me.
Perchance if he had moved out of sight
Before the door opened
I wouldn’t know his existence.
But he spites me.
Evil roach
As the light dawns in the doorway.
He scurries
But only to the corner
Again he spites me.
He sits in the corner knowing completely
I cannot fit my rounded toe into the corner
Ohh how he spites me.
Evil roach
But alas I have a plan!
I shall remove my shoe
I shall lie in wait
I shall feint him, with my rounded shoe
He will scurry out of the corner
With a sly grin on his face
Knowing fully he is escaping
To his hideout
Evil roach

So I smote him.
I smote him with my shoe.

He no longer spites me
Poor little roach
He was a tribute to his kind
He will be missed by so many of his piers
But not by me

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Alpha Osaka

This is my Alpha group. I am the "leader" of this group which meets Friday evenings. We started the course shortly after I arrived here in Japan, but we will not get finished before I have to leave again. (unfortunately). Brad will be capably taking over from me after I've returned home. The course is being sponsored by Osaka International Church. Besides the people in the picture there are three more attendees as well.
Alpha is an introductory course about Christianity, and is designed to present the facts for Christianity, trying to look at the Big Questions of life, while allowing time and freedom to ask any question one desires.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Taifun 6

Today Taifun (Typhoon) 6 passed near Osaka. (They are numbered rather than named.) A Taifun is akin to a hurricane.
Osaka is a geographically protected city so Taifuns generally pass by and don't affect things too much, but today was a little different. Schools were closed (including mine I found out when I got there), and the streets generally seemed more quiet. Many a cheap umbrealla turned windside out today. At times things were quiet, sometimes buckets of rain, and other times lots of wind. Enough wind to topple bicycles and motorcycles with their covers on them.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Pumps and a wedding.

Yesterday on my way home from school I took a slightly different way home. As I was just about to cross a canal I happened upon these crates being loaded into a truck. Hmm no big deal so far right? Well these crates are Grundfos pumps, (and they look to be a decent size at that) and my brother Paul works for Grundfos. (My buddy Anthony also is a former employee). Paul is an excellent employee who goes above and beyond the call of duty, he's conscientious, teachable, and is good at customer relations. Grundfos is fortunate to have him.
Paul is getting married soon. I have the distinct honour of being the best man and will be back in Canada just in time for the wedding. (Looking forward to playing a game of golf with the rest of the usher dudes.)
So this post is dedicated to my dear brother.
Hope things are going well for the immenent event Paulus.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Space Too

This formed concrete building is right beside my Japanese language school. It intrigues me. From this angle it looks to be about three feet thick, but it is triangular. It is probably at least ten or twelve feet wide on the other end. I think it is an art gallery, in which case it doesn't need to be really wide I suppose. I'm not certain though because even though the name is in English, there seems to be nothing else to tell me what is inside. It certainly doesn't scream "Please come in and see the great works of art that are inside me".

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Wednesday's Blog

Here I am typing up a blog entry. On Wednesday’s at 1:30 I have a little sit down with Dan the missionary man. We just have a little discussion about how things are going with me, discuss a bit of Japanese culture and how that applies to missions in Japan. I look for particulars of Japanese culture in my daily observations, and then look for relevant biblical text.
I always have to kill a little bit of time between school and meeting Dan. Sometimes I stroll around the Umeda * area, but today I decided to sit down and get ahead of the game by typing a blog entry early. I stopped at Makudonarudo for a quick bite to eat and a place to sit down and type. The McDonalds is at Tammatskuri Station, the station close to the church where I meet Dan. I had the McGrand which is having its “Grand Debut” and then I sat down to work. Uh Oh 1:22, I have to hurry to get there now.
Today I was thinking about how physically tiny the churches in Japan are and how vast the many Buddist Temples and Shinto Shrines are not to mention the pervasive problem of idols and charms in many households. Approximately 90% of the Japanese people go to a Shinto shrine or Buddhist temple each year, while less than 1% attend a Church.
The text I was interested into today was Acts 17:16-34. Very Japanesque.

The Church Door

The church I am currently staying in is part of the Budo No Ki Saru Chaachi, or in English that would be the Grapevine Cell Church. The specific name of the location where I am is the Sekime Chapel.

Dan and Karen Ellrick along with Aukje vanden Berg are the missionaries I have been working with. The method arrived at after much forethought and deliberation was a cell church plant. The cell church model is one that seeks to build a church out of small spaces such as homes and allows for a lot of expansion based on a very small amount of space. In Japan homes are not a feasible option, so the small spaces turned into rental spaces. The building I’m in is a commercial building on the first two floors and the rest are residential. The front of the building is on a major street, so there are a few restaurants, a dentist and a travel agent amongst other things, while the back of the building is office type space. The church is in one of these units.
The plant is not growing so well. There are no regular attendees other than the missionary staff at this time. In the last year sustained efforts were made at making new contacts and trying to develop the contacts. Through short-term projects such as stuffing mailboxes and public concerts the staff had developed a few attendees but they have since dropped away. This is a very normal scenario in Japan and it is not uncommon for church plants to go 10 years before seeing any real growth, (measured in the 10’s). It can be very discouraging and disheartening for those involved.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Miyakojima Kyokai

(More about my digs tomorrow). I went to Miyakojima Kyokai Sunday morning. This church is part of the United Church of Christ in Japan aka Kyodan. At the time of World War II the Japanese government forced all churches and denominations to form one denomination. The governments leverage was join the one denomination or you will forfiet your land. This effectively forced any church of significance to become part of the Kyodan. The United Church is generally thought of as a dead church, but I think God is faithful and will not let go.

I understood very little of the language but I think the spirit of the church was alive and well. Even though it is a Japanese United Church, it has become an Eastern Orthodox Church. Interesting to find such a church in Japan. The Pastor there sees the Eastern Orthodox Church with its many visual practices and its consistent liturgy as a good fit with the Japanese people since they are comfortable with the visual and ritualistic parts of the Shinto and Buddhist religions which so many Japanese are familiar with. The liturgy is very set. The melodies of the songs are very familiar to me even though I don’t necessarily understand what I’m singing. Communion is done weekly there, and every one there today participated. The pastor was richly dressed in a very red and orange and gold cloak which he wore over his black robe. The church was packed, about 20 or 25 people. Very typical of the churches in Japan. Mostly women, mostly older people, very few young children.

I had to introduce myself which I was able to do in my very limited Japanaese. I got a real sense of peace from being in that church right from the time I sat down. I felt it was a spiritually healthy church. Wonderful feeling that. Wonderful for me but much more for the people worshipping there.

Today made me ponder some more the best way to present the gospel to the Japanese people, and to wonder about the best way to do church in Japan. But I'll have to ponder that some more and I'll leave that for another day.

Friday, June 11, 2004

My Futon

This is where I sleep. It is customary to sleep on the floor in Japan. Because space is a premium, many people keep their futon in the closet and get out for sleeping. In my case I put it back on top of the pile. There is a pile here because occasionally I have roommates.

Home sweet home too

The inside of my residence looks like this. It is actually a church. You can see the kitchen area, with a shower beside it and a toilet behind it (they are usually separate in Japan). The meeting area in the middle is where the church meetings take place. It is a very small church at this point. I'm standing at one end and you can see 80% of the floor area from my vantage point.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Home sweet home.

This is the back of the building I am currently living in.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004


Saturday night I ate supper at this place called Tobe. Yup that's what the sign says. It is a chain of restaraunts and I had a bowl of hot and spicy ramen (noodles). Totemo Oishii!

Saturday, June 05, 2004

The Day After Tomorrow

While riding the Tanimachi Line back to my pad I did my best to read this ad for the movie "The Day After Tomorrow". In Japanese there is a word for the day after tomorrow, Asatte. They are still going with "The Day After Tommorrow" though.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Covered Street

On my way to school this morning, I walked down this covered street. There are a lot of these streets around town. Typically the roof slides open to keep the rain out and let the sun in. It feels like a mall but cars and bicycles happily mosey through trying their best to avoid the pedestrians.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Cardboard Condominiums (Part Too)

I recently read an article entitled Cyberpunk, Orwellian Fears, and the Faces of Tyranny: Changes in the Future, and What They Tell Us about What We Fear by Daniel Silliman in the most recent issue of Comment, (The Work Research Foundation's Monthly Publication). He compares today's Cyperpunk authors (represented by William Gibson) with work that reflects our fears during the Cold War era (represented by George Orwell).

Comparing the dystopian future of today with the dystopian future of yesterday can bring up, in the similarities, the nature of our persistent fears, and, in the differences, the particular dangers of our age. The differences come in three areas that offer themselves for investigation-changes in technology, changes in society, and changes in information can tell us about our fears of today.

As I walk by these cardboard condominiums, my thoughts turn to William Gibson's book and it is no longer imaginary. It is real. I suspect Gibson has seen similar dwellings in his travels. In another of his books (I think both in Johnny Mnemonic and Idoru, unfortunately I can't check since my library is in Canada) he describes the Golden Gate Bridge as a place of complete metamorphous. In a very Japanese way the bridge has been taken over by the less fortunate, the riffraff, the lost sheep and the immoral and become a world of noodle shops, narrow alleys, and small out-of-the way dwellings. Gibson applies the population density paintbrush to this world of his making.

Nevertheless his extrapolation of increasingly higher population densities is perhaps telling of another one of our societal fears. In seeing these cardboard shanties my I think my fear was exposed.

Incidentally I was also published in a previous issue of Comment. The Craft of Machine Design.

What to do?

I plan to get back to a continuation of the cardboard condominums, but first I have to prepare a little something for a meeting tomorrow.

One of the first days I was in the city of Osaka, I was acting as a tour guide for a couple of visiting Korean-American Pastors. We were riding the train back to our abode. It was a Saturday evening at about ten or so. As we boarded the subway car the reek of alcohol was in our faces. Most of the people in the car were in their business suits. Japan is notorious for its long workdays and workweeks. It struck me at that moment that these Japanese business people had finished their work for this week and had spent time after work drinking. It is to some degree a national pastime. This seems to be another of Japan’s idols, (there are many, both virtual and real). I have wondered a bit about it since. How do we approach this problem from a real-world biblical point of view? How do we make God’s Word relevant to the people on that subway car? Do we thump our bibles and preach abstinence at all cost? Do we do nothing and hope that eventually the problem will go away? Do we sit down for a beer and discuss the problem and see if we can’t come up with a good solution? In a moment of profound wisdom, I thought I should see what the Bible has to say regarding the subject. I turned first to the Psalms.

Psalm 104 parallels the first chapter of Genesis. The psalmist portrays God as Creator of the heavens and the earth, (vs. 1-9), who also adapted the earth for all living creatures, (vs. 10-23) who has dominion over all creation, (vs. 24-32) and who is naturally worthy of praise (vs. 33-35). As part of the earth being adapted for all living creatures we find that God “brings grain from the land and wine to make people happy” (The Message).

I then turned to Ephesians 5. Paul is writing to the people in the church of Ephesus, and instructing them in the art of weaving together belief and behaviour. In verse 5 Paul lets us know that “using people or religion or things just for what you can get out of them - the usual variations on idolatry - will get you nowhere, and certainly nowhere near the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God.” (The Message). That I think applies to the many variations on idolatry that exist not only here in Japan but also all over the world. And later in verse 18; “Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of Him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.” (The Message).

And on to First Timothy where Paul is writing to Timothy, mentoring and guiding him in leadership. In chapter five Paul is giving Timothy some advice in the shepherding of the people of his congregation. In verse 23 Paul says “Go ahead and drink a little wine, for instance; it’s good for your digestion, good medicine for what ails you." ( The Message).

I haven’t yet come to a conclusion. My lack of knowledge toward the landscape of the culture leads me to postpone my conclusions until I find out a little more. I have started to build a solid foundation though by stepping through some of what God tells us regarding this subject.

I'm chuffed.

I received compliments on my Glob.