Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Years Eve.

Common Japanese wisdom has it that it will be good if I dream about a falcon tonight. It will be almost as good, (but not quite) if I dream about an eggplant. But I will set my goal for the top. It will be best if I can dream about Mount Fuji. I'm sure that the average Japanese person knows exactly how these three logically fit together but since I am a gaikokujin (foreigner) I haven't got a clue.
With my limited knowledge of the subconscious and what makes it tick, I don't have a clue how to get myself to dream about one thing or another, and I rarely remember my dreams anyway so how will I know?
But just in case it helps I've decided to imagine that the falcon has built a nest, right on the edge of the volcanic opening at the top of Mount Fuji (I hope it doesn't erupt anytime soon) and is mistakenly sitting on the eggplant waiting for it to hatch. Is that logical or what!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Nengajo Straw.

In Japan as well as many other places in the world, it will soon be the new year.

As is customary in Japan we have been engaging in the cultural obligation of sending Nengajos (New Years Cards). Similar in procedure to the sending of Christmas Cards, these cards are basically a postcard with a picture or graphic of some sort on one side, address, postage and a lucky serial number on the other.
In the days leading up to Christmas it was my pleasure to design the graphic side of the Nengajo, and subsequently Aukje brought the computer file to a printing shop for publication. I was tickled by my design thinking it to be pretty good, (though perhaps an improvement here and there was warranted). Nevertheless it was publishable.

A few days later...
Aukje got off the phone with the printing place who refused to print the cards because the graphic was not exactly the right size.
This caused me an unjustifiable amount of frustration. An almost physical reaction at the audacity of the printshop. What is wrong with these people? Next I will be refused from entering the country because I don't look EXACTLY like my passport or I will be told I can't pay a bill at the bank because my signature isn't EXACTLY the same as before.
After I dealt with the frustration, (without throwing anything) we put together an emergency contingency plan, and ran out to Yodobashi the next morning to pick up a colour printer cartridge for out printer. We purchased blank inkjet nengajos as well, and I spent several hours babysitting the printer, alternatively massaging it and strong arming it to spit out each Nengajo.
In the end we were successful, (not without some stress) but we managed to get the bulk of them in the mail by about 11pm, with just a few (the ones I could not coerce the printer in to spitting out properly)to finish off.

The moral of the story you ask? Well I suppose (ala Christmas Cards) next year we'll start earlier.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Snow is falling!

This morning Aukje and I were standing on our tippy-toes, two Canadians longingly peeking out the very top of our fogged windows to peer through the clear hole. A feeling of quiet excitement had overcome us. The soft fluffy flakes were swirling and dancing; getting caught in slipstreams and updrafts caused by the buildings, streets and allyways of an urban landscape. The reminiscent peace and calm that I recall from my childhood in rural Canada, and the blanket like qualities that a snowfall has bring to mind warm thoughts of Christmas, family, home and snowball fights with my little brother Paul.

Oh how I long for my old home at times like this.

As soon as the stores opened Aukje and I seized the oppourtunity and ventured out into the blizzard. The snow was great packing snow, and I took the oppourtunity to make a beauty of a snowball and lovingly toss it at my wife, (I didn't hold back in the wind up though). Shockingly she used her umbrella as a sheild and said snowball simply trampolined off the umbrella and broke on the ground. This was outside of my realm of experience. I was taken aback! Nobody uses umbrellas when it snows in Canada, it would be ludicrous, but in Japan nobody would be caught in the snow without one. It is completely normal here! This is outrageous for someone who has not only braved but thoroughly enjoyed snowstorms of all shapes and sizes since childhood.
In any case I will have to rehash my snowball warfare theory and add this new wrinkle for future potential snowball altercations in the land of the rising sun. Speaking of which, by the time we made our way back home it had come out and melted the winter wonderland.
Easy come easy go.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Joys of Language Learning

These days whenever I hear my name followed by a torrent of Japanese, it is exactly like a test you didn't study for. You react like the proverbial deer in the headlights. Your eyes widen, you perk up your ears as if you can willfully make them bigger, and catch more tender morsels of language. All you hear amongst the barrage are the words you have learned so far, "you" "office" "going" "tomorrow", and you come up with the most likely scenario involving those words. As an example with the words above you postulate that someone wants you to go to the office tomorrow, and of course the prudent thing to do is to show up at the office tomorrow and see what transpires form there. However, half the time your speculation hinges on a key word such as "don't" and you end up in places you shouldn't or don't have to go to.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas at Asahi Plaza.

This evening we had a Christams party at my English Class. Pictured here are my students, just finishing opening the gifts we brought with us for our 500 yen gift exchange. The food was delicious, but conversation was almost exclusively in Japanese with the odd word translated for my benefit. The few words that I got were interesting indeed. They inluded diapers, colon cancer, Alzheimer's (which is pretty much the same in both languages) and sex change. I'm not sure if I'm disappointed I didn't understand the conversation, or releived.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A moment in time.

Henri Nouwen got me thinking about mountaintop experiences. My wife and I read a daily devotional in the morning at breakfast and in Mr Nouwen's Bread for the Journey, he has been writing about the fullness of time and mountaintop experiences over the last few days.

After reading them though, I feel he has missed out on a lot of what he is trying to get at. What he misses are a kind of poignant life moments, moments when you get a small taste of God's grace. Or perhaps another way of putting it, moments that stand still, or moments that are much bigger and more full of life than most moments are. It is a difficult thing to get at in words. It is difficult to describe and difficult to explain to someone what exactly you are talking about. I remember GCRC's former senior pastor Rev. Mark Verbruggen preaching a sermon about this, (although the content as long slipped from my memory). I have grown to enjoy the moments I am trying to describe, moments that drip with enjoyment, that ooze with life and I try to be on the lookout for them. I had one such moment today.
I was part of a fund raising effort with the Osaka YMCA (where I go to school to learn how to read, write and talk). We were raising yen for the summer programs they have for children. A group of us went to a nearby busy train station and stood out front (adjacent to the crosswalk) (and yet mostly out of the way). We did some carolling and and the Japanese amongst us called out to the passersby letting them know who we were, what we were doing, and like kinds of things. The end of each little short monologue was punctuated with Onegaishimasu and more polite variations thereof (which is laden with a "I beg you, implore you, please from the bottom of my heart" meaning). My part as well as singing Christmas songs (in Japanese) was to echo the Onegaishimasu along with everyone else in the group after each spiel.
As we were doing this in a bitter windy city sort of cold, we were singing Angels We Have Heard on High (the one that goes gloooooooooooooooooria in excelsis deo). I looked upward, across the intersection was a tall building with a glass facade, that reflected the beautiful blue sky and white puffy clouds. If I held my book up enough it caught the sunlight in the time before the sun disappeared around the corner of the building behind us. We carollers were huddled together for a little extra warmth. Every change of the lights another assortment of people came by. As I looked up I felt small, almost as if I could see myself from above, almost as if I could see the whole situation from a third person's perspective, and yet could still be me. The moment stood still, it tasted very sweet and for me it was filled with liveliness. I could almost touch it.

Friday, December 16, 2005

I'm Hungry Again

Lately I have been having cravings for big hamburgers or pizza or a nice juicy steak. I think it has to do with the length of time I have been away from Canada, the land of those big delectable fine meat products.

Today for supper I whipped up a wonderful approximation of a hamburger on a homemade slice of bread. It was satisfying!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Warming up.

We've been practicing Christmas Carols in Japanese for the last few weeks. Here we are warming up just before the service. Today we participated in a Christmas worship service for all the students of YMCA Japanese School. We sang four Christmas hymns all together and ended with Silent Night, Holy Night. We sang two of them ourselves and led the rest of the people with the other two. The message was given in Japanese by a former student of YMCA language school, and we read Luke 2:1-20 in Korean, English, Chinese (probably Mandarin) and of course Japanese. 90% of the students speak one of those languages fluently. Tanoshikatta. (It was fun.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

It does.

Getting your homework or paper all marked up in red, REALLY SUCKS !!!

Monday, December 05, 2005

It Speaks for Itself.

A Japanese friend of ours borrowed a New Yorker from the local library and was highly amused by this cartoon. She naturally thought that I would also find this funny. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Kaisu card caper.

We were in a great hurry, Aukje and I. We were on our way to visit Hope Chapel, a small bilingual church in Namba. We had to transfer subway trains at Umeda Station, the largest and busiest in Osaka. We were entering at one of dozens of automated ticket taking gates in the midst of the chaos. We hit that bad boy at great pace. In a whirlwind of motion Aukje deftly slipped her Kaisu Card in the machine and rushed through. I followed closely on her heels, and almost as deftly (but not quite) attempted to slip my own Kaisu Card in the insatiable machine. As it turned out the machine was actually (unbelievably) momentarily satiated, it was not yet finished processing Aukje's card. However, in the microseconds in which this whole event was taking place this was lost on me. As I continued to stride through the gate I fed my Kaisu Card to the machine. The Kaisu Card started to bend slightly under the opposing forces of my digits and the reluctant ticket taker. As the nanoseconds clicked by my Kaisu Card gained more and more kinetic energy. The innocent little Kaisu Card, bent like a spring, a pawn in the battle of wills 'tween this machine and I, could take no more. It leapt high in the air, its stored kinetic energy propelling it upward and forward, just out of reach of my desperate lunging fingers. It touched down beyond the gate which in the aftermath of the battle was flashing and making warning sorts of woop woop noises, which in any language can be understood. I stretched as far as I could and managed to get the tips of my fingers on my Kaisu Card. I backed up and under the tutelage of a ticket taking human being successfully managed to run my card through the machine. The machine stopped its complaining at this point and allowed me to proceed. I lost that battle of the wills, but the war is not over yet. I am confident I will triumph!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Four Degrees Celcius

I am extremely excited. It won't be long until the Ground open!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Retro Posting...

Some time ago,
In a land close to the rising sun,
There was this Japanese classmate.
One day he forgot his homework, and when it was time to hand it in, he told the sensei that he had forgotten his homework.
Some of us groaned at such a lame duck excuse. I must admit it can be difficult to think on your feet in a strange new language, but c'mon he had lots of time to think about it.
After the fact I suggested he try that age old adage, tried and true, tested by time and endured through the ages;
My dog ate my homework.
He considered that for a few moments, realized he knew all the words in Japanese and as the class ended decided to try this one out on the teacher.
So he did.
Sumimasen, Sensei, watashi wa inu wo tabemashita.
And as the sensei looked at Brandon with horror, shock and the like on her face, we who were nearby rolled in the aisles with laughter.
Excuse me, Teacher, I ate my dog.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Rain and Rainbows

On Thursdays I usually help lead an English conversation and bible class at the OIC office. Since it starts later than I finish school I usually bring some work with me, (ie homework) and make myself comfortable in a quiet corner of the building to get some things done. It is always a nice quiet get-lots-of-things-done kind of setting and today was no exception. I was working away at my Kanji homework when out of the corner of my ear I caught a few snippits of English conversation. When one is in a foreign country the sound of native tongue is as honey to the taste buds. I thought nothing of it but moments later a couple of foreigners invaded my quarter and carried on a loud conversation while I was trying to concentrate. Minutes later the whole area become a beehive of activity as students and teachers from the neighbouring school started buzzing around. It turned out that they were getting ready for an assembly (or the like) and all involved had turned up to practice. One of the girls was working on a speech. She went through it with two of the teachers near where I was sitting. It was about spending a year in the US learning English, and how it was extremely difficult, finding oneself in a foreign land unable to speak the language. She found it very discouraging and likened it to rain. But after the rain comes the rainbow, she made some friends and developed her English. I thought it was a very nice little speech, especially in a second language. I went back to my Kanji studying trying to memorize stroke order, Chinese readings and Japanese readings, and English meanings. A little later my studious work was interrupted by the same girl now practicing from the stage using the microphone. Foreign country, foreign language, rain, rainbows, applause. Well done says I to myself.
Back to the grindstone. Kuruma, sha, car, oh the vertical line is last on this one. So...
Difficult foreign language, rain, rainbow, friends, new language skills, not as good this time, sounding more like a technical run through than a practice of delivery.
Ok shoulder to the wheel, zen, mae, before... Again with the speech practicing invading my studying.
Wait a second, perhaps there is something here for me, foreign culture, learning a foreign language, my frustration, rain, rainbows. Yes , perhaps God is trying to get some point across, and as always it seems I need to be hit over the head with it.
Gambatte Kudasai.
Keep on Plugging Away.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Its the little things.

I quickly ran out to the grocery store to get a little dango. I found a small cheap package and hurried to the checkout to pay. The cashier punched the keypad of the till and announced the price. Hyakugo en. And without even thinking about it, I handed over the exact change. It was the first time I had ever done so without first scrutinizing the total (in roman numbers) on the cash register. I returned to our little pad, my feet ne'er touching the pavement.
What a rush!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Thank you for your patience

I have been having some computer troubles as of late.
The old beater is back up and running though there are still a few mites in the woodwork.

Monday, November 07, 2005


It occurred to me this morning as the sensei was taking the roll, that one cannot possibly put the names of a class of Chinese, Nepalese, European, Canadian, American and Korean students in any kind of Alphabetical order. This shocked me, and it continues to distress me. What do they do? Do they randomly put them in a list? How barbaric! What am I going to do in the future? All that alphabetizing practice in grade two and three is out the window. How am I going to organize my files? How will I organize my albums and 8-track tapes? This cross cultural stuff is really freaking me out. I am out of sorts.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Loose Data

I am currently stuffing my head full of different kinds of information, knowledge, and facts. It seems there is not enough room up there, or my noodle is rebelling, or maybe it has been misused and/or disused for such a long time that it doesn't actually know how to retain more information. Other facts and/or fiction have been falling out willy nilly. I don't know what to make of it. At times it is disconcerting and at other times downright funny. I'll do my best to keep you posted.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Close Encounters of the First Mind

I was out and about on my bicycle. Cycling eastward toward the mountains, wondering if I could actually reach them in a decent amount of time. Suddenly out of nowhere there appeared an interplanetary (or maybe only interstellar) ship. It had landed not far from our apaato, and here I was confronted with a developing situation.
Curiously, there were very few people about.
I wondered if it was a vessel made for a solitary evil smelling and ugly but gentle space creature (ala mork form ork) or if it was a vessel containing millions of little green creatures that were in a pissy mood, looking to bite the tip of your nose just as soon as look at you.
I surmised that perhaps I was an innocent bystander in a newly launched inter-galactic planetary hostile takeover. I thought perhaps I would be making first-contact and I prepared to be my most diplomatic self (oh where oh where did I put my Babel fish). My mind also presented other possible scenarios including that maybe it was just something as mundane as a large movie set for an upcoming epic production akin to that cough hack cough fine gem wheeze cough of a movie Independence Day.
But alas much to my disappointment this craft is none of the above but merely the architecturally interesting Namihaya Dome.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Good News

My kamera is back in action.

Friday, October 28, 2005


As my school term has been progressing, each day I have been improving my journey (both in terms of time and route) to school. I started by taking the easiest routes for the first few days. The last thing I wanted to do was to lose my way and end up in Kobe. The first two days it took me slightly more than forty minutes, but I was chuffed as I successfully completed my expedition and managed to arrive at school on time to boot. (Looking at it from arm's length, I find it interesting how one's measures of success change in a foreign land.)
By the end of the first week I managed to cut the time down to about thirty five minutes or so. In an effort to further decrease my commuting time, I thought I might find a (proverbial) shortcut. The first such likely spot to get noticed is the ruins of Naniwanomiya, which if I recall correctly is the site of a former emperor's palace. It is now a large park, and I thought I might jaunt diagonally across it (doing my best to recall my grade ten math and put Pythagoras' theorem to use).
So this morning (after doing a little preliminary scouting) I attempted the shortcut. At first everything went swimmingly, there were no stairs for me to negotiate, the park had a beautiful walkway for me to ride on. But then after making my way through most of the grounds, the stone walkway just ended. Well I didn't let it deter me and I proceeded up the grassy knoll, only to find a fence. I turned to follow along the fenceline, and encountered a number of temporary shelters where homeless people were still catching a few zzzs in the warm morning sunshine. I tiptoed through the slumbering folk and managed to drop my bicycle off the edge of a four foot wall, (with me jumping down after it), to the amusement and stares of several pedestrians. I found myself back in familiar territory.
It was indeed a proverbial shortcut, and left me to bust my hump to make up some time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Pelting Aukje

I was mentally exhausted, lying on the tatami. Vegging. Resting my mind after vigorously exercising and stretching it.
Aukje came by and tossed a little something into our cute little wastepaper bucket, and I noticed that I could read one of the Kanji (Chinese character) on it. My mind went back into action and I peered at the rest of what was on the label. I queried Aukje about some of the other Kanji. "What is this? Does that mean Kono? Does the romaji mean the same as the Kanji. What is that? Is this from Kobe"?
After subjecting Aukje to this barrage, she quieted me down by letting me know that I "sounded just like a two year old".
And I momentarily felt like a kid in my Dad's garage. I can clearly recall asking question after question of my Dad (as only an inquisitive child can) while he was fixing or building something at his workbench.
It is a memory that was buried deeply in my long term memory, until this moment, until the repeated experience brought it out.
It is curious how the noodle works.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Last Week...

I was running behind schedule, homework took longer than expected, I hastily prepared a little "leftovers" and wolfed it down. I left our humble abode a little late, no worries though. I hurried to the subway station at a quicker pace then usual to make up for my tardiness. As I was nearing the stairway that took me under the street and to the subway station, I realized my "Kaisu" card (a subway card which costs 3000 yen and then you get 300 yen for free) was empty. Time was getting tight now, my slush fund all but used up. I was still optimistic I would make my train though. I knew exactly where my 5000 yen bill was, and as I approached the machines that take your money and spit out cards, I saw that the machine that took big bills was available. Things were looking up, perhaps I could still catch my train.
I slipped my note into the machine and lots of buttons lit up. I knew I need to press the "Kaisu" button, but all my Japanese was completely vacated my consciousness under the immense pressure of the moment.
OH! There we go!! It is in Romaji!! (Western Letters). I pressed the correct button , my brand new card popped out and I'm ready to hit the stairs at a dead run.
But my change is not coming out of the machine, I paused, a little startled and wondering what to do.
Suddenly. A little door camouflaged in the bank of machines opens and out pops a station attendant's head. Summimassen he says with a smile, and disappears to rectify the situation. Mere eternal moments later I make off with my loot only to have missed the train.
Ahh, the joys of travelling by mass transit.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Todddling along.

Today I made several attempts at very broken Nihongo conversation. In contrast to the way I felt yesterday, I felt much like a toddler today.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A discovery

I was on my way to school, waiting for the light to change. I gazed at the street sign with out really thinking about it. (I momentarily enjoyed being in my own little world.) Suddenly I came out of my daze, as I recognized the kanji on the sign. (I only know about 20.)

Uemachi means Uptown.

It was almost an epiphany. After that I positively flew to school to get more of it.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Today at church we were on the receiving end of the Omiyage custom. We enjoyed red pepper chocolate from Korea. It was an odd sensation, that smooth sweet milky chocolate burning in your mouth.


Today at church I was reminded of the "Hot Body" conversation from a while ago. Only this time there were more church ladies involved and they were laughing more uproariously than before.

Friday, October 14, 2005

A Smattering of Political Intrigue

A smattering of political intrigue.

Today the privatization of the Post Office went through at the federal government level.  The current Prime Minister, Koizumi has been trying to push through this reform for quite some time.  During the summer the privatization was put to a vote.  Koizumi said to his party members that if any of them were to vote against the bill, he would see to it that they would not be elected again.  The bill was defeated because some of Koizumi's party members decided to vote against the party line.  
So Koizumi called a snap election.  He was not in good shape going in, but went against the odds.  He installed new candidates for any of the seats who voted against his pet bill, to keep them from getting re-elected.  
The Japanese people loved this political maneuvering and supported Koizumi with a majority government, something normally unheard of in Japan.  Koizumi then went ahead and proceeded with the Post Office bill, and today saw its successful completion.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Second First Day

Today was my first day of school.
My class is composed of several Chinese, several Koreans, a Floridian, a Swiss, a Russian, A Ukrainian, two Nepalese, a Korean Canadian and a Dutch Canadian (me).  The common languages for groups of people are Chinese, Korean, and English.  We are all now trying to develop the common language of Japanese.  I find that interesting when I sit beside a Korean or a Chinese, knowing we cannot communicate (except with gestures and grunts), but perhaps after a while we will share a common language and communication will happen.
This morning they taught me, believe it or not, how to say I’m not Japanese.  
After lunch we were riding the elevator back to our sixth floor classroom.  The elevator was full, with many of my classmates and an administrator from our school.  The atmosphere was very quiet as we ascended and I couldn’t help myself.  I had to let everyone know I wasn’t Japanese.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yesterday, was not Thanksgiving in Japan, but it was a national holiday. Formerly, I'm told, it was an emperor's birthday, but now it bears the very generic and politically correct title of "Health-Sports Day". I'm not sure what a native Japanese person traditionally does on such a prestigious holiday. I'm quite sure they don't stuff a bird full of bread and stuff themselves with it, but perhaps they do something similar with fish.
In any case Aukje and I felt we should go hiking on a day bearing the aforementioned moniker, so we planned to meet a friend of Aukje's and head out to see the Minoh waterfall. On the way up to the waterfall, we met someone we knew who was with some friends also hiking to the waterfall. I'm not sure what the odds are, living in an area with a population of roughly ten million, of meeting someone you know when you know hardly any of those ten million people, but you will have to take my word for it. We really did meet someone we know.
We carried on as a group of seven (not the Group of Seven) and after taking in the waterfall, got ourselves a look at Minoh Dam as well.
As we sat down to eat our obentos (a lunch you take with you) we were ferociously assaulted by the local wildlife. Now most people who have been to Minoh would assume I'm talking about the scads of Monkeys in the park, but such was not the case.
It was actually some sort of bee. It was like a bumble bee on steroids that had not only been working out in the gym but also has been eating way too much. The perp hovered around us looking for more food or perhaps little vials of bee steroids. It unnerved the entire group and after the bee scattered us in all different directions, we regrouped and headed for safer ground for lunch.
Before you judge our collective "manliness factor" I will ask that you keep in mind that we are in the land of the evil giant hornet, and its legendary viciousness does indeed play with your mind.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

I've been scouted.

I received an e-mail from someone near Osaka.

My name is Shorty in Shin-Osaka.

I happen to find your blog.

It’s really interesting!

This must be a weird question, but I wanna ask you as Canadian…

Did you make hockey team,already?

If you don’t, what do you think about joining my team, “Umeda Mapleleafs”?



Friday, October 07, 2005


As the teacher was preparing us for the placement test, she explained that it would be divided in to three sections and at some point during the test we would have to go down the hall for a one on one interview (I had old mental images of going to the principal's office for an "interview" kicking around in my mind). The first section was a dictation, for us to demonstrate our ability in Hiragana/Katakana (the Japanese equivalent of an alphabet). The second part was the grammar section, and third was the nomimono section. Now I know from past lessons that nomimono means drink, but I honestly didn't think we were getting a drinking test. I just assumed there must be another meaning for the word or perhaps it was some sort of analogy. In any case I figured it would become evident when we progressed that far into the test.
As I proceeded from excited anticipation prior to the test, to hopefulness that there would be something I knew later in the test, to acceptance that the test was not going to get any easier, and finally to the reality of being beat up, I had some idle time in between. During one of those moments I wrote down what the teacher had put on the board about the yomimono for later reference, perhaps it would be a good idea to look that up in the dictionary since it had not become obvious what or when that part of the test was going to happen.
When I got home, I asked Aukje what a nomimono test was, and she, (bewildered) looked at me as if I was a gibbering fool. I said "Here, I wrote it down see?" Yomimono.
Well she laughed at me, because I had mixed up the yo and the no. I was right that nomimono really does mean drink, but I was wrong because that was not what was written on the board. It was yomimono which means reading, and indeed the third section of the test was a reading exercise.
Aukje welcomed me to living in Japan and assured me that I was making the inaugural of many such mistakes, some of which will be humorous, but some of which might be downright embarrassing.
I'll try to keep you up to date.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

My First Day

Today was my first day of school. I approached it with a little trepidation, feeling not unlike I did when I went to grade one. I packed my sandwich and bottle of water, a pen and a notebook, as well as some mental preparation and off I went.
I arrived to find the fifth floor abuzz with students registering, filling out forms and getting sorted into several common languages for orientation. I ended up in the English orientation (surprise surprise) and voraciously absorbed all (as only one who is starved for information in his native language can), that the person behind the podium said.
She then turned us over to a Japanese teacher, (who does not speak English) and we were handed a placement test. I have to admit I got beat up pretty badly by the test. I couldn't read half of it, I couldn't understand half of it, and I didn't have enough vocabulary for the other half. I couldn't even land a punch.
But as I had time to kill I remembered a time a little about a year ago when I went through a placement test for a part-time class I attended. And I didn't feel quite so bad, at least I wrote something down this time.
It turns out that classes don't start until next week, so all my trepidation was for nought, and I get to experience the joy of it all over again next week.
Ahh the blessings of a language barrier.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Toliet Training

When I reached the end of the toilet paper this morning the cardboard roll had a message for me.

Maido Arigato Gozaimasu.

Thank you very much, every time.

The opportunity to practice my Japanese pops up even when I'm on the pottie.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


Whenever a Japanese person travels for a period of time they have to bring back Omiyage, or souvenirs. The souvenirs are not for the travelers themselves but for other people, their friends and acquaintances who were inconvenienced by the absence. The souvenirs are usually given in the form of food and are normally tied to the place where you have been. So for all your family and close friends, the members of your church, (if you missed church while you were away), your co-workers, all the people in your English class (in my case)... You get the picture.
I brought with me a bunch of maple leaf cookies and several bags of Stroep Waffles. Yesterday at church over lunch we set out the Stroep Waffles. They went over quite well.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


Today is national census day! (I think we are supposed to be excited about it.)

A moment capturing Aukje's agony over filling out complicated government Census forms, especially when we don't fit into neat little boxes the way governments always feel you should.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Giorgio de Chirico

On our day off this past week, Aukje and I attended an exhibition of Giorgio de Chirico's (click on "House Museum" to get to examples of his work) works of art. The exhibition was at the Daimaru department store, (a common happening) and Aukje acquired free tickets from someone she knows.
An Italian artist who was born in Greece, de Chirico painted both surrealist modern art and later turned to classical art. He was one of the pioneers of "metaphysical painting". Most of the works in the exhibition were of his surrealist works.
I gave it a big thumbs up but Aukje wasn't so sure.

Very Early This Morning...

In a half-waking jetlag induced stupour, I wished that the police car driving by our building had a snooze button on it.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


I enrolled at the Osaka YMCA for full-time Japanese Language study. I have been warned numerous times that this promises to be a tough challenge, cautioned that I will have no time to do anything else, and advised that I will have to work extremely hard just to keep up. I am getting more nervous and apprehensive by the minute, leading up to d-day (classes start on the sixth of October).
After sweating out filling in the enrollment forms, there was one left over, which needed to be filled out by a representative of our organization (MUP) vouching for my character and detailing what they thought of me and my character. The very busy Dan Ellrick is the senior representative in the area, so I made an appointment to meet him at 10:30 to get the form together. Aukje and I made an appointment for twelve noon with a staffer at YMCA to submit the application. I thought an hour and half would be piles of time but not to be. As Dan put the finishing kanji characters on the form, time was running short. I grabbed the papers and ran, up the hill. I turned the ten minute walk into about a six minute cross between a speed walk and a stumbling sort or forward leaning jog. I hopped the tube after waiting for two minutes (which lasted much longer than your average two minutes do) and exited at the next station. My watch told me I had four and half minutes left for the three minute walk to the YMCA building. I repeated the above and just made it in time to meet a slightly anxious Aukje wondering what exactly was taking me soo long.
Application submission went as planned.
I accomplished this entire exercise with a tiny but pointy pebble (that was more bothersome than a tiny pebble had any right to be) in my right shoe. It was exceedingly annoying, and wasn't there until I had no time to remove it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Uneventful Flight.

I stayed awake the entire night. My thinking was that I should work at getting a leg up on the time difference, trying to beat jetlag at its own game, without chemicals. It is also a good way to make sure you don't sleep in on the morning of your flight. My good friend Phil drove me to the airport, coming to get me at 5:15. I was early and was checked in by six. The plane was late leaving by a half hour, lifting off at around 9:30. Nearly five hours later I hurried off the plane in Vancouver, paused at the water closet and walked onto the next 737 bound for Osaka. (Needless to say the baggage handlers couldn't possibly work that fast.) The lack of sleep was catching up with me. I was trying to sleep only on Japan time, which was during the flight to Vancouver and the first part of the flight to Japan. The air crew had different ideas and wanted me to eat during the first part of the flight to Japan and sleep at the end. I managed a bit of sleep with the lights on but it wasn't easy. The guy beside me kept putting his table up and down and up and down; continued fiddling, a couple of elbows, more fiddling and Tweet! Two minutes for elbowing. Meanwhile, the person behind me was constantly hoofing my seat from underneath. He also felt the need to take the magazine out of the seat back pocket and put it back in, take it out and put it back in, while simultaneously wiggling the headrest, occasionally giving it a pop making me do faceplants into the seat ahead of me. I have no idea how he managed to keep all three things up. He was remarkably coordinated. After this peaceful nap, I took to watching an episode of Star Trek and That Thing You Do, as well as some light reading of a Bruce Sterling novel, Schismatrix. As I worked at staying awake I succumbed to a few cat naps and a rope-a-dope of caffeine and sugar in its various natural and synthetic forms. So much for trying to beat jetlag with out the aid of chemicals.
I didn't lose any eyes but marathon airline travel seems to be turning into a sport for me.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


I was taking the futons off the clothes line on our balcony this morning after making breakfast for my lovely wife. The city was quiet as it only can be early on a Sunday morning (early for a Sunday morning). The breeze generated by taifun seventeen was brisk making the temperature very comfortable for someone acclimatized to the Canadian summer weather. The quiet joys found in everyday life.
It is good to be home.
Soli Deo Gloria.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

I'm fairly certain it was unused.

On the airplane I used a barf bag for a bookmark.

Safely Home

Whenever I write to people in far away locations about being safely home, I sometimes recall the book The Hiding Place written by Corrie Ten Boom. I remember it being read to me when I was in grade school. The book is a powerful story about Corrie and her experiences during World War II with the Dutch underground and her imprisonment in concentration camps. While she was in prison she received a letter with a secret message under the stamp. "The watches in the closet are safe." This message told Corrie that the Jews that were being hidden in the secret room of their house were safe.

This watch made it safely to his home in Sekime.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Good Guessing

It is a big ass bruise. Before you get taken aback by the vulgarity of that statement, before you get caught up pondering semantics, let me assure you that I am using this particular phrase in the most pious way possible. It is not that I am in the habit of using such colourful metaphors (pun intended) but in this case it seems to be by a long shot the most apt description of the mystery photo.
The photo does not do the bruise justice. I would say it was about 230 millimeters wide and perhaps 130 millimeters high. (Oops, for all my readers in Burkina Faso and the United States still using antiquated imperial measuring apparatii, that is about 9 inches by 6 inches). Apart from being big it was also bad, although in the realm of pain, it only troubled me when I sat the wrong way.
I acquired this trophy during lunch at friends of mine where I had been doing some destruction work for them. I was about to walk down the deck stairs, with a plate of sandwich and carrots. Someone was sitting on the stairs so I stepped down the corner of the stairway. The treads were wet from rain and as I was about to take the first step, I thought to myself these stairs look kind of steep. To make a story shorter, I overestimated the coefficient of friction between the heel of my construction boot and the wet stair tread and applied a little too much backward lean to my stride. I lost my sandwich (the one on the plate) and carrots while landing with my cheek right on the corner of the stair. Itakatadesu. Oooh that smarted.

Friday, September 02, 2005


The Japanese government has seen fit to award a certificate of Visa with my name and mug shot on it. I'm not sure exactly how I managed to pull the proverbial bovine fabric over their optical sensory inputs but indeed they are allowing me to reenter Japan. As we speak the certificate is enroute to me via express mail and I should have it in my hands on or about Wednesday of this coming week. Once received I will need to take it to the nearest consolate and have my passport stamped. And having jumped through these last few hoops, I will legally be able to re-enter Japan. Of course the matter of finding a cheap airline ticket remains. (Notwithstanding fuel surcharges in light of recent price gouging at the oil barrel).

Saturday, August 27, 2005

What it is?

Today's photo is a mystery photo. I will leave it to your imagination as to what it is. If you feel so inclined you can let me know what you think it might be.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Still in Limbo

As I continue to languish here in Canada, (perhaps languish is much too strong a word to be used when the sojourn is in such a beautiful, green, and treeful country, while in close proximity to many of my closest friends and relatives) but nevertheless as I continue to await the finely grinding gears of the Japanese governmental Visa machinery, it is definitely feeling like a "much-too-long-a-time" to be away from my wife of four and half months. I suppose the length of the Visa application process should not surprise me given the number of times I've experienced the clanky and clunky workings of various arms of federal government mechanisms, but I was led to believe that less than three months would not be unreasonable to pin my hopes on.
Alas, the latest news is that "it shouldn't be much longer".
I'm not sure if that is an official governmental term or if that is just the way it interprets from Japanese into English. And I'm not sure if there was a form to be filled out in order to get such detailed information, or if that is the result of a very competent and verbose public servant on the other end of the blower.
Either way I'd better go stock up on deodorant.

Friday, August 05, 2005


From the archives...

Cough cough hack ack boku ack phlegm sputter snort me wheeze harumn. How do you work this thing? Why doesn't anything happen?!? What does this say? Why oh why did I buy a Japanese kamera? C'mon. Oops tee hee hee, there we go. Now if only I can do that again!

Monday, July 25, 2005

It's Running Rampant!

Cough Hack Micah Hack Sniffle Sneeze Wilson Hack Phlegm Cough.
I repeat it is not a toy! It is a serious piece of journalistic equipment. It should only be used by authorized personnel!

Thursday, July 21, 2005


Some missionaries are smart, some are funny, and some are strange. Then there is this feller. Some people you just cannot categorize. I will refrain from mentioning his name since I do not want to embarrass him. Cough Aaron hack hack cough wheeze DeLion wheeze harack hack.
He seemed like a capable fellow and all when I first met and got to know him, but then I found this 'self portrait' on my camera. I may have to revise my earlier impressions. I must confess that my camera is a small Sony and people are sometimes intrigued by it, but I am unconvinced if that was the case this time. I get the impression from this shot that Aaron (sniffle cough hack) was just fiddling around, accidentally and maybe even unknowingly snapping a shot of himself. I would say it is quite obvious from his pixel captured expression. It is one of stunned surprise, one that seems to say; How do you work this newfangled thang? What does this button do? Oops! Well I caught you playing with my sophisticated piece of equipment, mister!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Life imitating art or art imitating life?

A short time before I came to Canada, I was watching television. The program was demonstrating how a satellite could hit and blow up a meteor in space. It looked like news, (it seems that no matter what country and language, the news shows always have a 'look' to them). I thought to myself, "That's pretty cool". I was intrigued, but because I can not read or understand Japanese (other than a few useful sentences such as "I hit my head on the toilet door") I could not be sure. The detail of what I gleaned from the foreign TV screen was sketchy at best. I was at a loss as to what was going on. Was there a comet hurtling toward earth? Was this some kind of stop gap measure to keep the earth from being destroyed? Were we being attacked by an other worldly race of tiny green men (or more plausibly a race of dark, supersized yet muscular, armour bearing and batleth wielding beings with bumps on their foreheads)? Or maybe it was a rogue faction of the former Soviet Union with a spectacular 'star wars' type secret weapon of mass destruction, attacking the rest of the world looking to prove that Karl Marx wasn't all bad. I did not know what was happening and to be honest with you my imagination can be pretty active at times.
After I returned to Canada, I was talking with a good friend of mine and he was telling me about this thing NASA was doing, sending an interceptor to a meteor and blowing it up. It is the stuff of Hollywood. As we chatted, I connected the dots with what I had seen at that time and was able to put it all together. It seems there was a plausible explanation after all.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Samarai Will

A couple of weeks ago, I visited Osaka Castle in my full Samarai garb. I was hip.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Whenever one has been immersed in culture for a period of time, there is usually a culture shock of some sort that smacks you. Last year when I flew back to Canada after living in Japan for three months, it was the people, (or lack thereof). I wandered around for the first few days trying to figure out where everybody was. It was a little disconcerting, was everyone hiding? On vaction? The feeling went away.
This time, it was the silence. Living in Osaka is a constant barrage of noise, noise that never ceases, (especially with the windows open to let in the cool night air). As I went to sleep the first night in Canada, the lack of noise was very tangible, it was a palpable quiet. All I could hear was a whine in my ears.

Monday, July 11, 2005


I am trying to recover from jetlag. But, I am not very good at recovering from jetlag. I have not figured out if it is my technique, my physique or my metabolism.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


As we were zoomin along... I played with the map function on the monitor.
We had a 100 km/h tailwind, and I thought hmmm, if I was on my bicycle I'd really be cookin. We were cruisin at almost 600 km/h, and I thought wew, I like going fast.
We were over 11 kms above the surface of the earth, and I thought, well pondered would be a better way of putting it. I pondered the dynamics of lift and how they applied to my situation, and I pondered how much physical mass (weight) there was in the airplane. And I pondered the momentum of the mass in comparison to the amount of lift, and realized that a lot of lift is required and also that if there was suddenly no more lift, how much like a stone we would be. I pondered God's common grace keeping us aloft, and further God's common grace that keeps the forces of chaos at bay.
I had over 12 hours to ponder such things, but I watched four movies back to back to back to back instead.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Patience is a Virtue I'm told.

My Visa is about to expire. I applied for a newer and longer visa, but I have not been awarded the visa yet. I will be leaving for Canada at 5:55pm on the tenth of July and after traveling for about twenty hours, will arrive on the same day in Canada.
The wonders of flying across the international dateline. I will have to wait in Canada for the Visa, and hopefully not too long.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Coffee House

The day before yesterday, (asatte in Japanese, which seems more convenient to me) we held a coffee house with our short termers. The idea is to invite Japanese students to an open house sorta deal, to establish contact and hopefully develop relationships. All of the girls who came were already contacts though. Two of them have previously gone through the Alpha program and the other two are contacts through Kayti. (She is the funny looking New Yorker with her eyes closed.) We had a good time fellowshipping though.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Picking up the Culture

I am trying to learn the Japanese culture as much I can...

But I have not yet figured out how to sleep while standing up on a packed subway train which has no constant motion but accelerates and slows down, stops every five minutes or so, and wake up just at my stop.

I don't expect to be able to do that any time soon either.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Lost again.

It is amazing how many nooks and crannies there are in Osaka. I teach an english class which is near a major train junction. There are about nine different lines running in and out of the station. I know that there is a closer station to where I teach, and each week on my way home I have been trying to find it. I go in the direction I think I am supposed to be going in, and follow the train line, arrive at the station I think I am supposed to be getting on my train at, which turned out to be the wrong one.
I tried three different stations, and ended up going back to Tennoji.

Monday, July 04, 2005


Fridays, I usually attend a community center in my area that offers a couple of hours of Japanese teaching (for foreigners only). It is quite pricy at 300 yen for six months. (That's about 3.50 Cdn). This past week, instead of class they held a Tanabata party for all the attendees. Traditionally, one writes a wish on a piece of paper and then hangs it on a bamboo tree that is set up just for the purpose. I think we could liken it to the whole Santa Claus and Christmas tree thing we do in North America, minus the true meaning of Christmas.
We expressed our appreciation to the teachers and helpers with a song written by one of the students, and then enjoyed snacks and some light language learning fun.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Short Termers

For the next couple of weeks we have a couple of short term workers here from the US. Eileen is a Korean American from New York and Alana is from Indiana. They are keeping us long termers quite busy with various different things.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Getting on my Feet.

I have found that since I have been living in Japan I have gotten good at getting to my feet from sitting on the floor.

While living in NA it is not something I did all that often, and I can remember on the few occasions I would be sitting on the floor, (I honestly cannot think of a good reason I was doing such a thing just now) when it was time to get up I would roll around for a while, then carefully stick out a leg or maybe a hand, trying for some leverage or maybe some momentum, straining as the leverage and/or momentum was incorrectly applied, add to all of that effort some hefting and heaving, and I would arrive on my feet, still teetering and tottering with a little huffing and puffing but usually able to stay upright.

Now I deftly place a hand , give a little shot of umpmfh and voila! I am not only firmly upright but already striding in my intended direction.

I am still not used to sitting on the floor the way Japanese do though. They have this ability to squat on their heels comfortably for long periods of time. I can only manage to sit cross-legged at the kotatsu table, and usually not for an entire meal. I find the need to move my legs to a straight out position, which is usually OK since everyone else is pretty good at sitting "normally".

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Aukje's Adventure

My wife came home this morning after going to the tax office and a couple of banks to run a few errands. She had to go to pay some bills at the bank, cash a money order and get her name changed on two bank accounts and at the ward office. The bank wanted 2500 yen (that is a little less than thirty Canadian dollars) to process the money order. The name change at the tax office took 45 minutes. It took the bank twenty minutes to figure out that it would cost 2500 yen to process the money order. During that time she wanted to work on the name change and/or pay the bills, but that was not possible. When the bank finally figured out that it would cost 2500 yen they made Aukje go to the back of the line in order to pay her bills. She was vexed (in her words) and immediately upon her arrival in the door, I heard all about the friendly folks at the bank.

Monday, June 27, 2005


Late last night the garbage truck came to empty the bin from the pizza joint in our building. I have never noticed how often this happens, but last night the smell invaded our little abode sneaking in our open apartment windows and the assault was successful enough to make us hold our noses.
Early in the morning, I am not sure what time these things happened but it was always dark out, I was awakened more than once by the same residual smells wafting around the apartment. I can only assume the sickly sweet yet rank odour to still be coming from the pizza garbage storage facility. And yet later in the morning I was awakened by a couple in their apartment, in the building across the street. Their apartment at the same general height as ours, as they continued their weekend long row, very noisily arguing, tipping big items over, tossing stuff around their apartment.
As I awoke from my fitful slumber this morning I felt short changed on my sleep allotment, but didn't know who to complain to about it.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

A cultural observation

It is interesting to so how a culture deals situations. In Japan it is the sunshine and the heat. As the march toward summer continues I have noted certain things. The sun umbrellas (aka parasols) are out, but only women use them. A sun umbrella is different from a rain umbrella. In Japan, beauty is seen in the whiteness of the skin, rather than the tanned ideal in North America. To that end parasols are employed to keep the sun off one's face. There are many other precautions to be taken as well. Make sure all your skin is covered (with either long sleeves or long gloves and long pants). It is best that everything is black so that it soaks up the sun rather than reflects those evil damaging rays toward a sensitive patch of exposed skin. The umbrella however can be white, so it can reflect those rays upward before they get anywhere near a person.
It is not manly to be carrying a parasol so no men ever do. However I have observed one or two using an umbrella to ward off the sun. I think the key is to use a rain umbrella, that way everyone can see that this is a one time occurrence and that you don't usually engage in such feminine acts of comfort.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Dilemma upon Dilemma

I am wearing long black pants, socks and dress shoes. It is 31 degrees centigrade and the relative humidity is about 80%. It is not yet summer. (And yes I am wearing a shirt, but it has short sleeves). I am running late for the train by perhaps thirty seconds and I need to stop at the machine for a new K-card.
Given my state of dress and the current temperature methinks it would be inadvisable to make a dash for the train. Therein lies my dilemma. The next train is not due for another ten minutes. If I do not catch this train I will be late, but if I exert any extra energy I will be guaranteed to work up even more of a sweat.
So I ponder. Would it be better to go with a steady sustained jog or should I sprint and get it over with quickly. (With me there is probably not all that much difference between the two, but anyway).
I decide that the steady jog will leave me a little less winded and will also be slightly more socially acceptable. (It is an everyday occurrence to see people running for all manner of public transportation in Japan). (And it does not matter if you are wearing flip-flops, high heels, or dress shoes).

Update. I made the train, which fortunately was air conditioned, ahhh so nice and cool.

Oh yes, deodorant is not available in Japan.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Church Lady

On Sunday, Aukje and I attended our regular Sunday Morning church, which is a small Japanese church. Nobody speaks English (apart from the two of us), so it is a genuine immersion experience for me. After church we usually eat lunch together (the whole church) and some of the church goers have fun trying out their few English phrases on me as I try out my Japanese phrases on them. After the close of the service just before lunch the topic of discussion for some of the time was me.
As much as I try not to, I always seem to arrive at church with a very red face. Not because of embarrassment but from the walk to church which usually seems to take place in the sun. Sunday was no exception, and I was perspiring. Hmm, let me be frank, I was sweating. In Japanese the word to describe me is "atsugari" which means "a person who is sensitive to [can't stand] the heat" and the antonym is "samugari".
As one of the church ladies (the moniker "church lady" carries with it a lot of baggage, especially of the Saturday Night Live variety, none of which applies to this particular church lady), was trying to come up with an English equivalent (hot-blooded might be a potential English equivalent), she told me I was a hot body. Aukje laughed (bursting my bubble) and explained to our friend what describing someone with the words "hot body" referred to. After the explanation, to make matters worse (for me), she laughed too!
C'est la vie.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Lackluster blogging.

Every other Tuesday evening I teach an English class. Because of my lack of English teaching experience, it takes a significant part of the day to prepare for the class, I am apprehensive starting the day before, and it generally feels burdensome. This limits my time to blog either extensively or intelligently and all the above makes me a little grumpy.

Monday, June 20, 2005


Some days I get so extremely frustrated with being unable to get a handle on the language I would like to revert to my childhood, throw a temper tantrum and maybe some other things, and then become an adult again. Stupid na keiyoshis. Stupid vocabulary. Stupid pronunciation.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

And this is what I saw

Look Honey! A fire truck. It's tiny!

Friday, June 17, 2005

The View From Here

I was reflecting just a few days ago on looking out the window. My good wife thinks I have a tendency to gaze through the window.
I recalled my elementary school days. Each classroom had these big beautiful windows, picture a full wall of windows, looking out to the outside world. While sitting in class doing a tedious assignment or some other monotonous school work, the window and what was beyond always drew me. Ahhh, it is still there in my mind's eye, the glorious green of the grass and the trees, the birds chirping and warbling, the sunshine streaming through the tree branches, the soccer field practically shouting my name. It is no wonder the little box for the teachers comments on my report cards invariably declared that I was a really nice person, but tended to be a day dreamer.
These tendencies plagued me at home too, when my mother thought it high time I learned to play the piano. Our piano sat right beside the dining room picture window, looking into the one acre backyard of our country home. I could look at the black and white music and the black and white piano keys or I could turn my head and look at the same sorts of things as in school. I still cannot play the piano.
Then I thought about my career to this point and realized that I have always had a window in my office to look out. Being in the design field I could always get away with gazing out the window under the pretext that I was designing something.
Now that I am in the mission field I find myself living in a sixth floor apartment with a view over my neighborhood. There are many ordinary things that are interesting to me. "“Look honey! A truck with kin den on the door. I think it is a Japanese hydro truck!" I find myself intrigued with such things more often. Well this blog has gone on long enough, it is high time I go and see what is up in my neighbourhood.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


I am currently working through two books on how to read the Bible as part of my MUP (my mission organization) Phase II training. (I need to put this task (the task of reading the Bible well) into my own context so I can understand what I am doing better). The books are: How to read the Bible to Hear God Speak: A study in Numbers 22-24 by Calvin G Seerveld and How to Read the Bible for all its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart.
Not everyone is a biblical scholar. I think it is much easier for a biblical scholar to exegete scripture and engage in hermeneutics than for us normal folk. So. My mother, who is a Christian I greatly respect but not a biblical scholar, still needs to read the Bible and hear God speak. My big brother is also a Christian. Although he cannot read or write and has very limited intellectual capabilities, he too needs a Bible that speaks to him in ways that he can understand. How does what I am reading apply to them, how do my mom and my brother engage in exegesis and hermeneutics? And of course how can I apply it? Oh and one more, how does this affect the one holy catholic church? As wise men have said, "Learning without applying is not learning". I just needed to step back and look at the bigger picture. Yikes! That last bit is cliche is it not?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Sporting Landscape

Yesterday I went exploring on my bicycle. I toured the site of Expo 90, which is now a nice park with some of the buildings and features of the Expo still intact. It is a nice place to get away from some of the honking horns, people noise, sirens and such that invade life much of the time. (Such is the lot of anyone living in a large city). As I was cycling in the park I paused to watch some young lads in the midst of a baseball practice, one little guy could smoke an overhand pitch over the plate both faster and more accurately than I ever could. Next to it I was surprised to see a football practice going on, (I counted the number of players and they were not using Canadian rules). They were decked out like the Fighting Irish but of the 5 or 6 downs I watched the quarterback threw three interceptions. A short distance down the path I saw a rugby practice going on, and shortly their after a fine example of the beautiful game. Each one was very organized and the players all looked very competent.

Monday, June 13, 2005

A tiny bit of culture shock

This past week my stomach has been feeling a tad green, a little queasy. Fortunately there was some stomach medicine around the apt. We took a look at what we had and found just the right remedy for my symptoms. Aukje popped a little packet out of the box, and I was not surprised to see the pill(s) individually wrapped. I ripped the little packet open to pop the pill into my mouth and as I did a bit of powder spilled out. What is this? I was taken aback. Where is the pill? I am supposed to eat powder? Aukje laughed and said that most medication in Japan is in powder form. Well I got myself a cup of water, and got ready for the inevitable discomfort. I skeptically dropped the powder from the packet into my throat, which completely wicked all the moisture out of my mouth, and then drank the water. Whew. I can attest now that it seems to have worked. An interesting aside; in Canada most people "“take"” their medicine, weather it is in pill form or liquid form, but in Japan most people "“drink" their medicine, even when it is in powder form.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

See ya

Today we said sayonara to a couple of Luke 10 short-term missionaries. They have been living and working in Japan for the last nine months, learning by doing and getting a taste of missionary life. It was sad to see them go even though I had only been able to get to know them for a short two months.
I then reflected on this morning's conversation with my spouse about short-termers and their affects on people (probably initiated by the thought if their leaving).
First I thought about it from my perspective as a short term participant several different times. In the past I have landed at an airport with a small team (or on my own) and been met at the airport by the local missionaries (in several different countries). We would have a bit of orientation and then we were off to whatever is we might be doing. We generally would not see them very much during our stay and then we would get together for a debriefing. I always thought it a shame that I could not get to know them a little better, that getting to know them seemed worthwhile and that I was missing out on something.
Aukje talked about it from her perspective as a long term missionary, seeing short termers come and go. It is good to get to know short term people but a long term missionary sees many short termers go. After you have invested time into a relationship, a short termer leaves (that being the nature of a short term). As it becomes old hat to see them come and go, one does not like to have to say good bye all the time, especially when one is emotionally involved. While it is good to have short termers, it is also much easier emotionally not to get too involved.
We also talked about how the Japanese people see all these foreigners come and go. Many foreigners come to teach English in Japan and the large majority does not stay. One of the first questions a Japanese person asks is often "How long are you going to stay"? In the same vein as the long term missionary, the Japanese person who strikes up a relationship with a foreigner and invests time in it, will be disappointed as the foreigner goes back to their country. I have also found in my life that moving on to a new thing is a very different feeling than feeling left behind.
Now as Micah and Melanie return home, I wish them Godspeed on their life journey.
As we try and pick up the parts and projects that they started I hope that we can catch everything.
And I wonder how it will all work out, will we be able to fill their shoes in relationships they have started. I shall have to comfort myself with the knowledge that it is not I who am in charge of this, I just work for Him.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Its true I tells ya.

I was in the Loop (the grocery store) shopping for some supper. I decided against having a corn roast however. Corn was 198 yen per cob, that's about $2.40 Canadian each. If I could only figure out how to stash a lot of corn in my suitcase the next time I come over I could make out alright. They are soo nicely packaged though.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Its true I tells ya.

A t-shirt with English on it, camouflage pants or shorts and a pair of glitzy high heels are an essential part of a fashion-conscious teenage girl's wardrobe in Osaka.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Yaki = fried and Tako = octopus.
Osakans love Takoyaki and Osaka is renown for its Takoyaki.
The ingredients for a Takoyaki party are as follows;
Gather together a group of people.
Make sure the newlyweds bring their new takoyaki maker that they received as a gift from the group of people at the party (Do not forget the cord as this is an essential part of the apparatus).
Mix up a monstrous bowl of batter that the party goers cannot possibly in their wildest dreams finish off.
Make absolutely sure you have a bunch of octopus, chopped up into small chunks, (they look somewhat reddish burgundy, kind of the colour of a radish) (and ohhh sooo delicious with their yummy little tentacle suckers sticking out of each chunk hither and thither).
Sausage and cheese can be substituted but only for foreigners who can't really handle Japanese cuisine, (one feels inferior and barbaric if one succumbs to such nonsense).
Have an assortment of toppings including but not limited to very small but very plentiful little fishes, (I kept thinking of myself as a sperm whale who takes in a huge mouthful of sea water, then strains the water out through its teeth, leaving him with a meal of fishes) (the relative sizes being the only similar thing I suppose), fine but very green seaweed slivers, fish flakes, pickled ginger, mayonnaise and takoyaki sauce.
Warm up the fryer, grease er up, and pour in the batter.
Plop in a chunk of Tako, add some toppings and let er fry.
As the batter starts to become warm, you take a toothpick like thingy (or in a pinch a single chopstick will do) and spin each one around so it becomes a ball. (This is extremely tricky at first when the inexperienced newlywed has to try his hand at it, and he is more than likely to make a fine mess of it). (It is supposed to end up looking somewhat like a chicken ball, but a little smaller and much more round).
The Takoyaki is deemed ready to eat when the outside of the batter is cooked and able to be handled with chopsticks, but the inside is still very gooey.
Share the 20 or so takoyaki amongst all the party goers, add some takoyaki sauce and/or mayonnaise, fish flakes or seaweed and enjoy!
Caution!!! They are very very hot, especially in the middle, make sure you don't stick the whole thing in your mouth right away!!!
Repeat the above process as many times as you can, (I cannot believe how these slight Japanese people can eat just as much as me), and then cook up the rest of the batter and tako to save for later.
All the while conversation and frivolity can be the order of the intervals in between mouthfuls.
After everything is cleaned up, waddle out the door and see if you can make your way home.
One final note. If you own the takoyaki greasing brush from the dollar store, be very careful when you clean it, as it is likely to come apart in your hands, rendering it virtually useless.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Tako Yaki

We just now finished a tako yaki party. I am sick of tako yaki!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Cultural Communication Differences

The subject in the Japanese sentence is often left unsaid, and assumes that the listener or reader knows what you are talking about. It is preferred not to speak words that are apparent from the context.
From the jisho (dictionary): “In Japanese the verbal part of the sentence is the most important, and normally comes at the end. In a long sentence the listener has to wait till the end of the sentence in order to grasp the meaning. In English the grammatical subject is the most important part, and is expressed at the beginning of the sentence, and auxiliary information about the subject is imparted gradually. This makes for great clarity of meaning, whereas Japanese sentences can often produce ambiguities. But this is a product of the Japanese culture, where reticence is considered virtue and outspokenness vice.”

Canadian Culture

I blogged my frustration a day or two ago. My sister sent me an e-mail in response, advising me to "Keep my stick on the ice." Ah yes, a wonderful piece of advice from a great Canadian icon Red Green.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Ooishii desu!!

I got a kick out of this. The paper our meat is wrapped in has a cow, a pig and a chicken on the front. They seem to be ecstatic about giving us their tender juicy sides for us to enjoy. I'm not sure if this is how they are before they know they are going to be slaughtered or after, but it is good to know my meat is happy!

Tuesday, May 31, 2005


It was my assignment this morning to find some flyers advertising community Japanese learning courses that might be offered at community centres and the like in my neighbourhood. Aukje gave me two locations, pointed out where they would on the map, described where the were, and sent me on my way. I jumped on my bike with a little apprehension, since I did not know where I was going and don't have enough language yet to help things much. I zipped up the street toward the first location, a community learning centre. I got to the overhead expressway before I realized I'd gone much too far in my haste. I back tracked to the number 14 block and found the building I thought I was looking for. I was a little skeptical, it did look very communitycenterish but I wasn't sure. I parked and locked my bicycle and ventured in. I wandered around a little looking for a big flyer rack filled with brochures advertising this and that. All I could come up with was a pitiful little excuse holding about twenty flyers. The place smelled somewhat hospitalish as well. I snagged a couple potentials but didn't hold out much hope. This couldn't be the right place.
I decided to get to my next destination, the library. I found the NTT building right where Aukje said it would be, and turned the corner to look for the library. Where I expected the library to be I found a taxation building (the sign was in English). I looked a little further and found a building that looked like a potential. Again I parked and locked my bicycle and ventured in. Aukje had told me that the library was on the third floor and that I could take either the elevator or the stairs. I wandered around looking for a way up but I couldn't find either stairs or an elevator. Not to have been wandering around for nothing I stopped at the washroom which made me feel a little less frustrated. I found another pitiful rack of flyers on my way out, nothing potentially language like however. I left. I hopped on my bicycle and went round the other side of the building and, Eureka! I did indeed find the library. About time I thought. Yup. There were the stairs and an elevator. I parked and locked my bicycle and headed for the elevator. I entered and hit the button for three. Curiously the doors didn't close, so I hit the close door button. Then I didn't go anywhere. I tried the other third floor buttons (beside the button panel in the usual place there were button panels on each side of the elevator as well) and when nothing happened I repeatedly jabbed the buttons for a while. As I was jabbing I noticed a little sticky note on one of the buttons with some kanji written on it. Perhaps it had something to do with the elevator trouble. "Well no matter" sez I to myself, I shall take the stairs. I arrived at the second level only to find a chain barring my way. It now dawned upon me that perhaps the library was closed. Hmmm. I headed back down, to see a lady tossing a library book into the return book thingy at the bottom of the stairs, adding more support for my hypothesis. I hopped on my bike and headed home, feeling like a complete and utter failure. Such is coping with life in a foreign city.

My new neice

May I introduce Hailey Elizabeth, born on 22 May to my brother Paul and his wife Cindy in Georgetown.
May God richly bless this new life.

Monday, May 30, 2005

You are entering the Twilight Zone...

From the manufacturer Omron, whom I have (up to this point in my life) only associated with PLC controls and it's related doodads. A cute little kitty cat. A fake cat that seems too real to be cute, disconcerting would be a more accurate term. Quicktime movies of this furry little critter. I think this would have made a good basis for a Twilight Zone episode.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Coffee Time

Today, I shall post my heaps of appreciation to Chiemi (a friend of Aukje’s who lives near Tokyo), for the coffee maker she got for us as a wedding gift. Here it is almost finished concocting that delectable brew known as kohi. Behind the camera Aukje and I are salivating as we drink in the aroma, nay the fragrance of Blendy, (the locally available and most reasonably priced java). As you can see we are thoroughly enjoying this gift.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Today's Service

The centre of God’s will is our only safety. – Betsie ten Boom

The past couple of weeks at our meeting of the Budonoki Seru Chiyaachi (Grapevine Cell Church) the sermon has been related to World War II. The pastor we have been listening to is Hirano Sensei (Pastor Hirano) of Horizon Chapel in Tokyo.
The chapel creates a DVD of every service and sends it to all their subscribers. We use these DVDs as a way of conveying a message from a Japanese pastor at our Thursday meetings. It has been very educational to be a party to hearing a Japanese pastor speak on this topic, getting a glimpse of how this topic resonates with the Japanese. His message of taking responsibility for one’s actions and then seeking forgiveness is very biblically centered, and I think relevant though now fading with the passing of the generation who was directly affected by the war .
Since I am a first generation Canadian of Dutch decent, I know well this feeling of hurt related to WWII, from the Dutch community I grew up in. I’ve heard many a tale and many a heartfelt recollection of the war from a large group of people who emigrated immediately after the war. Experiences which were related to me from my family, has given me a much closer tie to WWII than the average North American.
I think that most North Americans were largely insulated from WWII since most of the war (apart from Pearl Harbour) was fought in other parts of the world. The North American pain is tied largely to those who sent their sons, brothers and fathers to war.
In the pocket of Canadian-Dutch people where I grew up there was still some animosity against the German people, and only by the grace of God and Christ centered forgiveness can such gaping wounds be healed. I appreciate this work of Tokyo Horizon Chapel, and hope they continue working out God’s sovereign plan of redemption.
Seek the centre of God's will.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Rapid Transit

Last evening in my travels I was near Tennoji, which is a major hub for train traffic. As I was coming to this bridge, I thought to myself very cool, two levels of trains and under that a road. To my left there is also the expressway which goes over top of the whole kitandkabudle. While I was enjoying the urbaness of it all and snapping a photo, a train sped by adding (for me) to the ambiance. I briefly toyed with the idea of standing there until two trains (upper and lower)came by at the same time with maybe a car and a bike underneath. But after mentally going through some probability calculations, I realized I might be there for quite some time (even in Japan).

Monday, May 23, 2005

A Commotion

I heard some odd noises. I poked my head out of my apartment window to see what the commotion was. I saw school kids, millions of 'em. Well that might be a slight exaggeration. There were at least 49. And they kept coming, stretching from around the corner of our apartment building, along the street and around the next corner.
My memory went with nostalgia. Thinking about being a school kid and school trips of yore. Although they involved long arduous busrides to and from our destination. Yikes, I'm not quite so nostalgic any more.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

A Jaunt

I took out my newly put together bicycle, and headed down 163. (163 is one of the major streets that comes past Sekime.) I didn't know where I was going, but I knew I would find something interesting. I found this rice paddy, squeezed between apartment buildings and automotive shops. The dealership a few doors down had a couple of Lambourgini's for sale. It was a quite a contrast.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Diver Down

As a person gets used to a new culture there are always many surprising and interesting moments. Something that was completely unexpected for me, Osaka has more dive shops than Tobermory does. I guess I shouldn't have been so taken aback since Japan is surrounded by ocean.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A cultural moment.

When a North American person points to themselves, they point to their chest, but when a Japanese person points to themselves they point to their nose.

I'm not used to it yet.
I get distracted thinking about the cultural differences when I should be concentrating on what the person is saying, especially with my nonexistent level of Japanese.
Communication is so much more than language.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Green Tea

This my friends, is a Green Tea Chocolate Chip Cookie. I wasn't sure what to expect. Green Tea flavoured things are quite popular here. Particularly Green Tea flavoured ice cream. (Which is quite good as well). The green tea with the chocolate makes for an interesting combination. Food combinations are quite a science in Japan and a lot of R & D seems to go into it.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Fun with learning the lingo.

Lately I have taken to telling people here in Japan (with a furrowed brow and a very serious look on my face):

Watashiwa nihonjindewa arimassen.
I am not Japanese.

It usually gets a quiet response for a moment as the person tries to figure what I really mean, and then when I smile, a good laugh.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Unknown Continued...

Yesterday I met my little friend in the elevator again. I was arriving home, and as the elevator got to my floor, she was getting on. She politely bowed to me (which I thought to be extremely cute) but seemed a little nervous as she looked at me. I said in my very best Japanese "Konichiwa" (Good Afternoon) to which she replied with a smile, "Konichiwa".
I was chuffed.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Hey Heather!

This post is dedicated to a friend of mine who works at Jergens Canada. Biore in Japan! I snapped this picture as I was leaving the 24 hour grocery store on the other side of the tracks from my apartment. I chuckled as I checked out the Jergens website. It seems they are on a campaign to make people's skin darker no matter the season! Now I am no advertising, branding or product expert, but I think I'll offer a little free marketing advice for the fine folks at Jergens. Don't export the campaign to Japan! The societal ideal here is for woman to be as pale as possible. Any exposure to the sun is terrible, and many precautions are taken to ward off the sunshine when women are out and about. However as I said I am no expert and perhaps you can change thousands of years of cultural and historical trends and make everyone feel they need your product. You could corner the market if you are successful, and I for one would certainly be interested in watching your attempts.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


I mailed my bike to myself. It is over ten years old and not an expensive bike or anything (note to any thieves out there, It is not worth stealing!) but it is like a good pillow. I had to deconstruct it slightly to fit it into a box that was mailable. I added some books and computer equipment and I managed to slip it in the mail at 29.5 Kg. I was cutting it close as the limit for Canada Post is 30 Kg. The box was slightly too long so I had to pay a surcharge. I'm sure you've heard of the "slow boat to China", well I sent it on the slow boat to Japan. As it turned out, I beat my bike to Japan by only several days. The six weeks quoted actually turned out to four and a half. Snags: Pumps in Japan are made for Japanese valves. Locks and lights are mandatory and you might be pulled over if you don't have them. A kickstand is a good idea, and the one I bought was too short. All situations are rectified, but I probably will need to get some fenders as it rains quite often here.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

This wisdom has recently been imparted to me.

The average time it takes for a Japanese person to go from thinking about Christianity and thinking about becoming a Christian to actually making some sort of commitment is about eight years.

If the person has been exposed to Christian education in some fashion (ie Catholic School) or has otherwise had some form of alternate exposure to a Christian worldview in the process of their growing up, that time can be decreased to a period of about three years.

It may be the radical nature of the Christian world view that causes problems when compared to the options that are generally presented in the process of growing up.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A walk by the shore.

Late last week Aukje and I went to see one of her previous Alpha students in Nishinomiya. Nishinomiya is a city between Osaka and Kobe. After the visit we took a stroll down to see the ocean (since we were in the neighbourhood). What we saw were mostly man made land areas built in the bay on which Kobe and Osaka were established.
In light of the recent devastating tsunami, I was impressed by the preparation of the people in Nishinomiya. This sea wall was constructed to turn quite a large wave over. In other areas there were thick steel doors/gates that are normally open to allow traffic flow but are ready to be closed just in case. These preparations are not new, but I don't think they would be robust enough to stem a tsunami the size of the one which recently took place.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Our washroom is soo small...

You have to be careful you don’t hit your head on the door when you sit down.

Watashi no atama ga toire no doaa ni butskarimashita. Itai! (Itakattadesu) (past tense of Itai.)

I hit my head on the washroom door. Ouch!

(Based on a true story) (again)

Woo. That smarts.

I wondered how I would take to saying Itai instead of ouch as I try to become bilingual. I don't know if I'll have enough wits about me when I hurt myself to translate to Itai! before Yow! comes out.

Hmmm, I may have to practice.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

It's a Good Thing Aukje was Home

Watashi wa kagi o wasuremashita.

I forgot my key.

(Based on a true story)

Monday, May 02, 2005

Old Fridge New Fridge Small Fridge Green Fridge

Well I am no Dr. Seuss that is for sure. But we do indeed have a new fridge. It is three times the size of our old fridge and we no longer have vegetables and fruit and diet coke lying around on shelves and/or the floor. We successfully bought our fridge from a smallish appliance store in Den Den Town and felt we got a very good deal. Our fridge is a Sharp and the other two fridges we were looking at were made by Toshiba and Sanyo. All are major brand names in North America, but none are associated with fridges. In Japan these companies are very diverse, and many major companies make a large variety of different types of products. Our fridge has an upper refrigeration compartment with a door that can be opened from either side, a freezer drawer under that and at the bottom a vegetable drawer. Let me reiterate, Cool! A door that opens from both sides and drawers!

Saturday, April 30, 2005

A Japanese Barbeque

It was my distinct adventure to be a part of a Japanese Barbeque yesterday. Yesterday was Greenery Day the first day of Golden Week, a string of four holidays almost consecutively. The church that Aukje has been attending most Sundays while she has been living in Osaka, had a church barbeque at the hanabakutsurumiryokuchi (a big park a 25 min walk from our apt.). The park has barbequing areas and the church had secured one of these. The affair lasted for about 5 hours and we were eating most of the time. Food comes in small quantities but flows continuously. I sampled a large variety of different foods many of which I am not used to. I stayed away from the grilled squid, but sampled the cow intestine, the bamboo chutes, and the dried squid. I thoroughly enjoyed the beef and the sausages. I also enjoyed a tin of Kirin and got a taste of some really enjoyable rice wine.
Communication was not easy when I was engaged on my own but we managed with my few Japanese words and their few English words and some gestures as well. For more in depth conversation my wife did some interpreting for me. I was exposed to many interesting cultural moments. It was an enjoyable time but also very tiring.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Den Den Town

We are shopping for a fridge. Shopping for a fridge in a foreign country is different from shopping for a fridge in your native country. It can be more difficult because you are attacking the problem without much knowledge. First of all we didn't know where to go. We happened across a small appliance store in our neighborhood and had a boo, checked the prices and sizes. (There are scads of different sizes of fridges here). Later we realized there were fridges at the Yodabashi so we checked prices (which were cheaper than in the neighborhood) and selection was much more varied. We found two which would be suitable, but decided not to buy just yet. As we were headed to Yodabashi we met and talked to Noelle a Japanese friend (who speaks English) and she suggested Den Den Town was the place to go. I went on a scouting mission and discovered a place of nothing but electronics and related products. Spectacular to a technophobe such as myself. I discovered a very large variety and even better prices in an area that spans city blocks. Jackpot!