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!