Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Baking my Noodle.


This is the book I am currently reading titled ゆうたはともだち by きたやまようこ. It was a gift from a good friend, Motoko, who really enjoyed it and thought I might too. It is all about a dog and his boy. Yaknow how some books, like novels, can be easy to read, but how others, like your philosophy text book from university, can really bake your noodle? Well this is one of the latter.
Let me give you a marvelous sample from the first page.
おれはいぬ。 (I'm a dog.)

Hmm, in retrospect, perhaps not so marvelous, how about something from the more meaty part of the book.
おれはあしをあげる。(I lift a leg.)
おまえはあげない。 (You don't.)

Can you not just touch the brilliant wit, the concise substance, the deep profoundness of the thought processes. I will concede that there is a possibility you have to be able to see the pictures, (you know what they say about the value of pictures) and I must admit something has been lost in the translation. Nevertheless, if and when I am able to plow through the content of this book (all twelve or so pages), the next two parts of the trilogy await me!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Ho Ho Ho

Merry Christmas
メリー クリスマス

Saturday, December 16, 2006

For what it's worth and no more.

Some people think I am an optimist.
I would say I am just telling the truth.
Truth be told, deep down I am a pessimist and I try to hide it.

Friday, December 15, 2006

I apologize for lack of blog posts.

Terribly Sorry.
Please please, oh please I humbly beg your forgiveness.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Neko

It is some time ago now, nevertheless, while I was in school I had one elective class each week that was devoted simply to writing. Even though I like to write in English I was surprised to find that I liked writing in Japanese too. Sometimes it is frustrating in that you want to express something but lack the ability, but generally I enjoyed it. I remember working through this exercise, (we were given the pictures and had to make up the story), chuckling here, smirking there, thoroughly enjoying my astonishing wit and the prose I was weaving. I thought I would post a sample of something I wrote in class and you my faithful readers can enjoy my brilliance for yourself. I must admit something may be lost in the translation, so for anyone who can read Japanese I will include the original text as well, in case you find my chicken scratch on the pictures difficult to read.

ピンポン
おばあさんは「はい、何にか」といいました。
雄猫くんは「今日は、わたくしは山田雄猫ですけど、あなたのせんたくとそうじのしごとにおうぼをします」と答えました。
「でもあなたわ猫ですね」といいました。
「はい。しかしだいたい猫はせんたくとそうじが上手です。」
「どうぞ」
Ding Dong
"Yes what is it?" said Ms Oldlady.
"Good Day, I am Little boy Tomcat Yamada and I am applying for your washing and cleaning job" Little boy Tomcat replied.
"But you are a cat aren't you?" she said.
"Yes. But generally cats are very good at washing and cleaning"
"Please come in"


「インタビューをはじめますか」
「はい、お願いします。」
「なんさいですか」
「四十さい猫年です」
「ああなるほど。 あなたは結婚していますか」
「いいえ、まだですが、こいびとがいます。」
「血液型は何型ですか」
「私はA型です」
「ええ、自分のエプロンがありますか」
「もちろん。ポケットの中です。」
「じゃ今からしごとをはじめましょう」
"Shall we begin the interview?"
"Yes, please."
"How old are you?"
"Forty, cat years."
"Ahh I see. Are you married?"
"No not yet, but I have a girlfriend."
"What blood type are you?"
"I am A type"
"Ahh, Do you have your own apron?"
"Of course, it's in my pocket."
"Well you can start work right away."

山田雄猫はニコニコをしています。
「信じられない」自分に言います。
「ぼくはメイドです」
Tomcat Yamada is chuckling to himself.
"I don't believe it" he said to himself.
"I am a maid."


雄猫くんはせんたくとそうじはあまり上手ではありません。 雄猫たからです。 しかし、お金がほしいです。人とビールのようにぎゅうにゅうを飲みます。高いちゅうどくですが。
Little boy Tomcat is not very good at cleaning. He is a tom cat after all. But he wants money. Like people and beer he drinks milk. It is an expensive habit.

There you have it. Upon giving it a second reading with a little perspective, I find it akin to something I wrote in grade three. Well no where to go but up I suppose.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

On the Kotatsu

Recently I've been muddling my way around the IT department. My wife's good old Windows 98 computer has only been able to boot in safe mode for quite some time, and now that school is over I am able to attack the problem with gusto. I quite enjoy tackling these kinds of problems, back in the day I used to do it for PROMAT Engineering. Aaahh, nostalgic reminiscing always makes a situation more palatable.
I tried to find the reason why windoze would not boot and next decided to do a reinstall of windows. After that adventure came to naught, I resorted to restoring the machine to its original state from the original manufacturer's CDs. Things were going quite well... until the harddrive started to make noises that I am quite sure hard drives are not supposed to make. I hastily powered down, and on the next bootup my good buddy, (we had by now spent enough quality time together to become good buddies) the computer, informed me that there were no hard drives anymore and could I please do something about it. Well I couldn't let him down. I disconnected all vitals and laid him down on the operating kotatsu. I opened him up and removed the offending old dead internal organ and inserted an older working harddrive I had lying around. You are probably thinking at this juncture "that is no way to treat a good buddy!" and well that was exactly his reaction. As I tried to restore him to health he cacked and and informed me that this new harddrive was much too small and could I please do something about it. I tried a few things but in the end decided to head to the organ bank and shell out for a new harddrive. I returned home and inserted said new harddrive (roughly eighty times the size of the original) (something you do for a good buddy) but he was still mad at me over the first insertion. It's still too small he wined. We got into a bit of a kerfuffel at this point and words were exchanged. I lost my patience and he remained insolent and uncooperative. After a good nights sleep, we started afresh. I was able to cajole him into accepting the new organ, and restore him to health. Sounds like a happy ending, but meanwhile back at my own desk my old buddy the laptop was becoming jealous of my new buddy, not enough quality time and all I suppose. He too began wining. I hastened to his attention and quickly turned off the data drive, disconnected and laid it on the operating kotatsu. After going in and proceeding with the initial exploratory surgery, I found loose diodes that had fallen off the circuit board floating around in the drive enclosure. When it rains it pours and relationships always need a genuine effort.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Kotatsu


This is our kotatsu. Kotatsu in Japan are plentiful, traditionally used as a gathering place for families to enjoy dinner and each other's company. In recent years, from what I understand, kotatsu usage is in decline as homes come under the influence of western design. In our humble abode we have one though, a handmedown from MUP Luke10ers Micah and Melanie. One would sit at it on a pillow and be able to use it for most anything. Under the table is a built in heater, and it comes with a blanket and an underpad. In the wintertime, the pad goes under the table legs, and the blanket is draped over the legs but under the table top. Apply the heater and voila, you have an extremely cozy place to gather round and fall asleep.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Continuing Education II


Now that I am done with full-time Japanese language school, I must look for other options to continue to pick up the local lingo. And, one never knows where one will find peachy opportunities. This sign beside me as I was sitting on the potty made for some meaty study material. I found myself enthralled!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Today's Quote du Jour

I like rice. Rice is great if you're hungry and want 2000 of something. - Mitch Hedberg

I don't know Mitch. Rumour has it he is an American Comedian, but the quote is particularly apt to the culture I am living. It is funny, until someone like me who has been born and bred with a fork and spoon in his mouth, tries to handle two thousand of something with hashi (chopsticks). Then you just have to laugh.

Monday, October 09, 2006

おっとり


To celebrate the end of my classes at YMCA Japanese Language School, we had dinner at a charming little restaurant in our neighbourhood called Ottori. According to the dictionary the name means affable, agreeable, suave, smooth, one person said it is a place where you can kick back and relax. Ottori's specialty is chicken, and they serve other kinds of food as well. The shop's owners studied and met in California before getting married and returning to Japan. Our communication tends toward half Japanese and half English, but it gives me chance to practice my Japanese anyway.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

On My Last Day of School

I left a piece of my heart at school today, but then I try to leave a piece of my heart wherever I go, and what ever I do.
It is a bit of a catch 22. It is painful to do so. It is the right thing to do in my mind, to do something well enough, to wrap yourself in it. My view of success too I suppose.
I did not pass the course, although I ended with better marks than expected. Passing is not neccesarily part of success. If passing is neccesary than you ought not to try anything difficult, you will always pass.
It was a bit embarrasing sometimes, not wanting to reveal my poor marks to fellow students. We all received report cards (not final ones) and I didn't want to look, I quickly put it in my bag. I was too anxious to look and I did not want to be embarrassed. Everyone else was comparing.
Just prior to that we received the marks back from our interview test. I usually did quite well on the interview test, and this time I got 22 out of 25. Everyone one else was comparing.
I had checked and quickly put mine away. But I was asked and had to say what I got. Turned out I was seconnd in the class. I went down in a blaze of glory.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Showing off my Japanese Conversational Prowess

Returning home from school on my bicycle, on the last leg of my journey. Riding beside the Keihan train line, which is mostly elevated, but for a small stretch where it ducks under the JR freight train line. The area looks some what like you would expect an area near the train tracks to look, industrial areas and dilapidated housing, dirty. I was at peace, in my own world, thinking about the day's events, kanji, grammar, listening, and reading tests. I was transitioning into the more bedroom community like Sekime area where I live, suddenly, from amongst the bicycle, scooter and foot traffic around me, a very jovial, weathered, friendly face I have never seen before, jumped out at me and exclaimed "元気そうなー" (roughly translated that would be "my you look healthy don't you!"). He seemed delighted, I not sure whether with me, himself, or maybe just life. I was taken aback (being in my own world and all) and I could only manage a curt はい(Yes) in reply, at which he laughed with surprise at the fact that I actually understood what he had said.
I must confess at this juncture that I do know why he would say such a thing to me. You see it has recently turned Autumn here in Japan, as in many parts of the world, and as every one here knows, no one in their right mind would wear a short sleeve shirt in the fall no matter what the temperature might be. I however, have taken to continue wearing my short sleeves, Japanese fall feeling pretty much the same as the latter half of a Canadian summer. I should not succumb to the weather when fashion is on the line, it is simply a matter of mind over matter after all, but I am not yet Japanese.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Here Comes Lunch


The day before yesterday. With friends.
We headed into the Japanese countryside, amongst mountains and rivers. It did my soul a lot of good to see some of Creation rather than the usual cityscape with all its concrete beauty. Our destination was a famous noodle joint where the noodles are distributed from the other side of a river over long stainless steel channels and then caught either with your chopsticks or the basket strainer. Traditionally, of course, this would be done using bamboo chutes but because the stand we went to features the longest somen chutes in all of Japan, bamboo just would not be sufficient. One then dips the captured somen noodles in the concoction provided (which can be augmented with wasabi and chives) and then finds its way into your mouth.

Woo wee!


Nice snag!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Sleepless in Osaka

With all the Japanese that I have been trying to stuff in my head, some nights my subconscious insists that I dream in Japanese. At this juncture my vocabulary is simply not big enough to accommodate my subconscious' wishes. The resulting struggle usually causes me to wake up.
Occasionally, however.
I am able to appease my self conscience by dreaming about Japanese rather than in Japanese. Nothing yet about showing up to school in my underwear though.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It was one of those times you just dream of.

Have you ever had one of those dreams? You know, that time when you were dreaming about being at school or work. You are well into your day when you realize you have nothing on but your underwear? You wonder how you didn't notice, you wonder what to do now that you noticed and you wonder where to hide out, wonder what to do to salvage your dignity.
The other day.
Dawn, a Missions to Unreached Peoples missionary in Shikoku was in and around our humble little town of Osaka. While in the area she dropped by for a visit with us. Aukje threw together one of the house favourites for supper, after which Dawn and Aukje went for a little walk. They wanted to get out of my hair so I could get down to studying for my two-day Japanese test, (it requires a bit of prep) and then Aukje was going to drop Dawn by the train station.
After they left, I got down to work. I studied so hard, well I was working up a bit of sheen, (it is still stinking hot here) and well you know, I made myself a little more comfortable. Suddenly I heard the door open and not one but two voices in the doorway. Our apartment is very small and I didn't have much time. I didn't know what to do. Panic was rising. I spied my shirt and managed to get it on outside out and with the logo in front. But my shorts were nowhere to be seen. I didn't know what to do. I heard people approaching and quickly sat down at my desk. Fortunately I don't wear one of those new-fangled thong thingys that are so popular with all the kids these days. In spite of my panic-stricken mentality (I didn't know what to do) I did my best to look nonchalant.
Dawn came into the room, I said hello but couldn't politely and nonchalantly turn to face her without keeping my dignity intact. I felt rude. I pretended I was busy studying but I didn't know what to do. Eventually she left and I was able to relate to Aukje what really went down and why I was rude. So, now by way of apology and in an attempt to stave off a sudden rash of underwear nightmares I pen this blog. I've been rude. JつれいJまJた.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Its More Scrambled Than Ever.

I have been learning to write in Japanese. One of the common letters is shi which is denoted by the symbol し. The trouble with this is, of all the conceivable memory mechanisms there are, my brain for some strange reason associates this character with J. This has become a problem for me. My brain (without thinking) thinks they are pretty much interchangeable. So if I am hurriedly writing a sentence with a J in it, it will end up saying, "It's しust a しoke". Havoc I tell you. Before you know it I'll be getting all my English and しapanese characters mixed up. JつれいJます。

Monday, August 21, 2006

It has become the season when watermelon is delicious.


The salutation on the card says so anyway. I get the feeling that Masumi is trying to put a nice facade on this stinking hot summer. I say call a spade a spade. It has become the season when it is so hot you might as well try and find a nice cool air conditioned department store to browse in; and take your time! Try and make it last! Yes I know it lacks poetry and it is a little too long for the card.
Like we do with Christmas Cards, Japan does New Year Cards, but they also do a mid summer card. There doesn't seem to be as much enthusiasm for the summer cards though. Perhaps it is because it comes across as more of a sympathy card than the celebratory nature of the new year's card. Sending a card to commiserate with you for the heat of summer, it does seem to lack some appeal, on the other hand we do like getting mail.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Night Time is the Right Time.


It's three in the morning, the sultry, dog nights of summer in Japan are upon us. As I lie on my futon, an occasional slight breeze brings a hint of relief through the open window, but it is only teasing.
It's dark, that is the sun is on the other side of the world, but there is so much artificial light here that you hardly notice the moon let alone any stars.
Under our window a truck idles, it's driver who is 'working' snoozes in the air conditioned comfort of his cab.
At the LTL truck depot, kitty corner, as always, work goes on. Some nights they are not as noisy as other nights. This morning they aren't quite so exuberant in their toil, but they are making up for the lack of any big noise by a constant niggling of smaller noises. The jiggle of a forklift's cables, the bouncing of it's forks as it moves around the truck dock. Or the sound of yet another truck's diesels coming to life, the whoosh of air brakes, all of which seem to happen way out of proportion to the actual number of trucks in the dock at any one time.
The sound of a finely tuned motor cycle changing up through it's gears far too quickly for our little street, whining by just under our sixth floor window.

Looking at the city as if I were one of its ugly crows (making a Canadian crow look almost cute and petite, like a pet you'd name); looking down...
The beginnings of a Lord's prayer being offered up. Lazily filtering upward through the sweaty night, not unlike the steam that rises from a sewer grate in the dead of a Toronto winter, though immediately two things come to mind. The dissimilarity in temperature that such a metaphor construes, and the fact that the steam dissipates quite quickly in those low temperatures. No. In fact, similar to the contrast of temperature, this prayer is not dissipating as steam would, it is continuing to be offered, and heard. Hallowed be thy name. It joins with other's prayers continually being offered and heard. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Not just Japan, or Canada, but on earth in its entirety. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts. We ask for what we need most, and with much learning and practice can see the wider meaning of both. As we forgive our debtors. With our supplication comes responsibility. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Prayer is our shield.
From my perch, I wonder for a moment how many driftings of steam rise from this city. It may be the only one at three a.m. in Osaka, but probably not. And to step further along on that train of thought, together with Christians across not just city and country borders but also the borders of time, prayers constantly drifting Godward from all over this ball we live on.

Since my soul has not yet arrived, my body doesn't know it shouldn't be taking all this in, that it shouldn't be listening, let alone comprehending and pondering. Ahhh, the benefits of jetlag.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Confessions of an Airline Passenger

William Gibson's Pattern Recognition's Cayce Pollard's friend Damien has a theory.

[Cayce] knows, now, absolutely, hearing the white noise that is London, that Damien's theory of jetlag is correct: that her mortal soul is leagues behind her, being reeled in on some ghostly umbilical down the vanished wake of the plane that brought her here, hundreds of thousands of feet above the Atlantic. Souls can't move that quickly, and are left behind, and must be awaited, upon arrival, like lost luggage.


While I await the arrival of my soul and perhaps my wits as well, (I'm not certain weather or not your wits stay with you or your soul). I am forced to face up to certain facts.

I'm not sure, but I'm worried I may be a terrorist. You see I unwittingly at first and later wittingly brought my toothpaste with me to Japan. (Without my wits I have been unable to determine the ramifications of jetlag (with my tethered soul) and how that relates to my being unwitting, as I had my toothpaste even before I left Toronto). In any event we went through US customs in Toronto. Getting through security was quick and easy since it was early in the morning, not busy and because the news of the latest terrorist plot had not broken yet. We arrived in Dallas without losing any vital plane parts, and while we were in the lounge awaiting our next flight I heard snippits from a nearby TV about a plot to bring liquid on board airplanes. There was also a very insistent man who kept announcing that passengers were not to bring any liquids or gels though the security gates or on board any aircraft. Before we could get in any kind trouble, Aukje and I surreptitiously not to mention hastily chugged the remainder of our bottle of water. With a satisfied expression I wondered what other illegal contraband I had with me that could be a problem. After a few moments of pondering I realized that I also had a tube of Japanese toothpaste. As everyone knows it is a luxury to be able to brush your teeth once in a while during a twenty five hour journey. Since our journey had just begun I wasn't willing to scarf down the remainder of our toothpaste, just to become airport compliant. After brushing our teeth, (since it may have turned out to be our last opportunity) and then checking around to make sure we were not under surveillance, Aukje determined that I would continue to keep the toothpaste in my carry-on. We boarded our flight and left Dallas-Fort Worth Airport forty-five minutes late due to increased levels of security. I still had my toothpaste though. We arrived at Kansai Airport in Japan a little over thirteen hours later. The authorities here had their dogs on patrol sniffing us passengers and our baggage. We were stopped on the way out of the airport by the security officer so he could inspect our luggage.
We are now safely at home and I managed to smuggle my toothpaste through three countries. I must confess that I feel absolutely no remorsefulness, nor have any feelings of repentance, but perhaps when my soul and my wits are reeled in I will feel more. convicted.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Bout sums it up.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Brings a tear to the eye.

On 6/6/66 my father bought a Chevelle Malibu. Today being 6/6/06 I thought it fitting to remember. Being born less than a month earlier, we were the same age, and at the ripe old age of forteen one of us went to the great junk yard in the sky because of a cracked engine block.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Power of Story

I was reading in my Bible, (I am currently using the Message as translated by Eugene Petersen) and it struck me;
How important stories are. Especially in the culture in which I currently find myself.
Matthew 13:10-17 The Message (MSG)
Why Tell Stories?

10The disciples came up and asked, "Why do you tell stories?"
11He replied, "You've been given insight into God's kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn't been given to them. 12Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. 13That's why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they're blue in the face and not get it. 14I don't want Isaiah's forecast repeated all over again:

Your ears are open but you don't hear a thing.
Your eyes are awake but you don't see a thing.
15The people are blockheads!
They stick their fingers in their ears
so they won't have to listen;
They screw their eyes shut
so they won't have to look,
so they won't have to deal with me face-to-face
and let me heal them.

16"But you have God-blessed eyes--eyes that see! And God-blessed ears--ears that hear! 17A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance.
Matthew 13:10-17 The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
The Message at Navpress NavPress


The passage made me think about stories like those written by JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis, which have recently been made into movies. There are also many stories of smaller stature, that are less famous but no less important. And it made me think of many more "stories" in the form of artwork or songs.
In the light of this passage they become very significant tools and I think we need more of these kinds of tools in Japan.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Continuing Education

It is far easier to learn a language before you turn forty years of age. Your language learning ability decreases significantly after that age. I recall reading that as part of my preparations before coming to Japan. So far the lingo has been difficult to learn at best. So; I am definitely not looking forward to Monday.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A revisit


The new ferris wheel at Dotombori, although I suppose it works more like a ferris belt or a ferris chain, but that is beside the point. The man in the middle so to speak is a god of business and business men. He has koban (old Japanese coins that are rectangular in shape) at his back; and a cell phone to make him a little more contemporary I suppose.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Dotombori


Dotombori is one of the most well known places in Osaka and also one of the busiest, especially at night. The bridge in the distance is Dotombori bridge which now has tall glass sides to keep people from jumping off in celebration, especially when the Hanshin Tigers win the J League world series.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Meanwhile...


Back in the park, I'm sure I've accidentally disturbed this snoozing gentleman before, and he obviously needs his afternoon nap from the many who disturb him by charging through his backyard each day. I was as quiet as possible as I cruised through his garden, his menacing watch dog, (luckily for me) looked to have been recently fed and well chained to the nearby tree.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Flow

One fine morning I happened across these barges laden with sugar being unloaded at a processing plant near our place. Many dry bulk goods are moved around the city using the many canals that run through Osaka. Since I used to make my living designing machines to move and process dry bulk goods, this really got my blood flowing.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Toll


My Japanese language study has resumed and the first several days have been akin to withstanding a squall but this variety of storm being Japanese. Everyday I brace myself against the blowing of the wind and make my way through my classes. The wind seems to be abating a little today, and I was at least able to get my feet under me as my reeling mind catches up with reality. I take solace in the fact that others also are finding things difficult.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Hanami


Yesterday we engaged in the popular sport of Hanami. (That would literally translate as flower watching). As the cherry blossoms come out, everyone makes plans to put down a blue tarp on which to sit and enjoy the blossoms. The day cannot be planned too far in advance because one is never exactly sure when the cherry trees are going to blossom. However as the first buds start to appear, plans can be made. One week in advance, the church we attend on Sundays (Miyakojima Kyokai) decided we should have Hanami on Sunday after church. Very early that Sunday morning the Pastor and one of the congregation members went to the park to put down our own blue tarp thus reserving us a spot under a cherry tree for when we came. A spot needs to be reserved because there are a lot of people who do this Hanami thing, it is incredible! A barbecue is a good idea, but it suited us better to bring a bento (a lunch brought from home). We were lucky enough to experience a hanami flurry which is similar to a snow flurry but involves cherry blossoms. Well I think you get the idea.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Service in Japan is wonderful.


We were walking along the street, two workmen standing to the side seemingly doing nothing. Suddenly as we walked by, they sprang into action, lifting their umbrellas to protect us from what we knew not. Afterward turning to assess their strange behavior, I put it together. The highrise was having its windows washed, and these brave souls were the front line of defence against any potential water droplets descending upon the innocent below. They cared not for themselves, concerned only that passersby should not be forced to endure any unexpected drops of soapy water.

Monday, April 03, 2006

In need of some cash.


We were in the bank waiting along with the crowd for the bank of bank machines. It was a bit of a shock the first time I stood in a line like this to use the bank machine. Compared to my sleepy little hometown of Georgetown where I would find something else to do in the meantime if the line was more than two people long, I am getting used to the sheer amount of people and the population density in Osaka. There were about seventy people in this line waiting for one of seven ATM's. These machines will do a lot for you from preparing a brand new pass book for you once your old one is full to doling out cash with a courteous "don't forget your money" in Japanese. It was good listening practice for me, and while my listening is not up to par I am pretty certain the machine was speaking a little Osaka-ben the local dialect. As it was greeting us I think it gave us a cheery "maido", a very mom and pop shop keeper sort of greeting in a traditionally mercantile city.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

In the Daimaru Department Store


The information ladies are at your service but look to be bored to no distraction.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ramblings or Rumblings on Spiritual Warfare

In our latest prayer letter I wrote about warfare. I used the analogy of a physical battle and likened it to the spiritual. It is a fairly common analogy but quite apt, and it describes quite well how I currently feel, how I currently understand a part of my worldview.
The book by CS Lewis titled The Screwtape Letters is an interesting analogy about an apprentice demon, being instructed in the art of temptation and other useful spiritual warfare tools. An excellent book, but written for the Western audience. I would love to read the same thing written for Japan. It would take great understanding of both culture and the bible to write a book like it for Japan.
The art of our enemy's warfare seems to take on two forms, by open and aggressive attack or by sneaky and quiet seduction. The attack in Japan is often mounted on the emotional front. Discouragement, blueness or depression, or other mental maladies. I am still trying to get my head around the spiritual battle plans, the shape of the assault in Japan. I am still trying to get a handle on things, wondering what to expect, how to endure attack, how best to pray, how best to stand firm, and to respond to the workings of Satan.
In our prayer letter from a little over a year ago I wrote about needing the support of many Christians while we are undertaking this assignment here in Japan. I used an analogy of a wedge and how the tip of the wedge is nothing without the support in the bigger part of the wedge. You will know if you have ever tried to drive a wedge into something, that you need the whole of the wedge and not just the tip.
After reading the letter I wrote about discouragement, my sister sent an e-mail to encourage me. She wrote:
Hey, this is interesting. I am in a study group on Sunday mornings and we are studying the book of Acts. We are at chapter 19 at this point and the topic of spiritual warfare is mentioned. A "blurb" from the study guide says this; "What should the Christian's response to spiritual warfare be? For starters, it should include prayer for the Spirit's guidance, wisdom and protection, including direction in avoiding an excessive interest in forces of evil. We should be in prayer not only for ourselves, but also for others who may be caught in the midst of spiritual battles, especially missionaries. It has often been observed that the devil works furiously where the Spirit is breaking new ground, whether at home or in other lands and cultures." This to me was a very, shall we say, uplifting paragraph. In terms of your latest newsletter, it means that Satan is worried if he is flooding you with discouragement. Sock it to 'im.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Memoirs of a short time ago.


Sometime ago;

A friend of ours named Emiko who is originally from Osaka but now lives in Yokohama dropped by to visit us. She had recently been to China (on business) and brought us a little Omiyage (a souvenier). She purchased several copies of Memoirs of a Geisha (in Japan its called Sayuri) on DVD on the streets of Shanghai for about a dollar each, to bring back for friends. I found the jacket of the DVD to be interesting reading. The graphics of the front cover are decent, even after looking closely at the artwork one does not realize that it is a bootleg. The DVD itself too was better quality than I expected it to be, it only crashed in a couple of places during playback. We managed to massage it so that we could watch the entire movie. I realized that the movie was a bootleg when I read the back cover. It made me laugh. While I cannot read the Chinese credits (I think they are correct) it looks like the English credits were scanned and then piped through some character recognition software. These credits are from the movie Fight Club which can almost be classified as an old movie now. I imagine the bootleggers always use the same English credits when the put together their jackets. The real tipoff however was when I read the text which would normally describe the storyline, or pitch the movie for those who enjoy reading the fine print. In the fine print the writer flames what I assume to be a rival bootlegger. It too made interesting reading.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Memoirs of a gakusei.

As an alumni of the Georgetown District Christian School, I regrettably will not be able to attend the 40th Anniversary Celebration which is coming up on Saturday April 29.

In preparation the organizers are looking for memories of those years. For me there are quite a lot of good memories (*) but one in particular relates to Japan as well.

I recently had to write an essay in Japanese about a former teacher, and I wrote about Miss Groat. It is nice to rehash this topic in English, as it is very difficult to write about something with such a limited Japanese vocabulary. Two things readily come to mind about Miss Groat. I remember that occasionally I would play chess against Miss Groat during our lunch time. I always won except for the last time we played, when we drew. The other thing I remember was Miss Groat's tally system in Grade four. If we talked in class or did something that was improper Miss Groat would turn our happy face around to the black side. If something else happened then we got a tally, a little orange strip of paper to go with our turned around happy face. When you built up three tallys (four strikes altogether) you received the big prize, Heat for the Seat. In Japanese there is more than one word for receiving something, depending on the social relationship of the giver and the receiver. Since I was a student receiving Heat for the Seat from my Sensei (teacher), the way I would say it in Japanese roughly translates as "I was honoured and privileged to receive Heat for the Seat from my teacher". I must say the only thing I remember feeling honoured was my behind.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Five Hundred Year Questions

Today, a quick link. I happened upon it via Gideon Strauss' recent post. Makoto Fujimura has posted an interesting blog.

Taking into account the circumstances in which I currently find myself, I see the five hundred year old question in light of an old established culture, Japan. And I see Andy Warhol's fifteen seconds of fame in light of a much newer and less established culture in North America.
I find the juxtaposition intriguing, especially in the light of my current vocation.
As a Canadian and as a Christian immersed in this experienced land, I am staggering about under the weight of trying to grasp, trying to get my mind around many five hundred year old questions.
It can be taxing.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Unravelling the Oki Doki

When I was still in Canada working for the esteemed PROMAT Engineering Sales Inc. My good buddy and former associate, (not to mention president of the company), Dave Lewis (the head honcho, the big cheese, the shachyo as it were) asked me if oki doki was Japanese. I had to confess I didn't know. Since then I have been searching, diligently studying the culture and the language in search of the answer.
Thus far in my quest I have not been able to discover the meaning of oki doki, however, in my studies of the Japanese language this past semester, I have discovered that the words ooki tokei could be construed to mean "large clock". But after further examination I have also concluded that they are not related in any way to oki doki.
Further, one of my classmates this past semester bore the moniker Toki. Toki-san is sixteen, was born in China, went to an English speaking highschool, but his mother is Korean and currently Toki is living in Japan. As a result Toki speaks Madarin and English, can understand a bit of Korean, and now is the most fluent of all the people in our Japanese Class. Toki however bears no resemblance to either a large clock or an oki doki, (although I cannot yet be sure of that last statement). On the other hand, at the commencement of our semester yesterday, the departing students all received a "parting gift" (to quote Bob Barker) and since Toki is off to high school, he too received said parting gift. It turned out to be an ooki tokei which understandably made Toki mad. Of course everyone knows that in Chinese culture, giving a clock as a gift implies that you want to see the person die. I have not yet finished processing the ramifications of these recent developments in my quest but I shall not rest until I can intelligently unravel this particular oriental mystery.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Coincidental Eeyore


A while ago we received in the post, a package from my Uncle Andy. The package contained a little stuffy named Eeyore. Eeyore originally hails from Surrey, British Columbia, where he lives with Caleb, a grade six student at Surrey Christian School. Eeyore wanted to travel the world and so Caleb sent him away with friends. I don't know exactly where he as been so far, but I know he was in the northwest states with someone who happens to be my former grade six teacher when I went to Georgetown District Christian School. (Is it coincidence?) After that Eeyore made his way to my Uncle's place in Georgetown Ontario. From there Eeyore hopped a plane to Osaka Japan. While in Japan, Eeyore accompanied my wife Aukje to English Class where the lesson she was teaching happened to be about a stuffed animal who is supposedly travelling the world on behalf of a Japanese man who died before he could fulfil his dream. The students thought Aukje was making this story about Eeyore up, it was way too much of a coincidence to be true.
When Eeyore first arrived here we found out he really wanted to see China. As it happens a classmate of mine, Furui Kim San (real name: Kim Tae Sun) who is Korean, was returning to his university in China. With the help of another classmate, Sandra, who speaks both English and Korean (and by another odd coincidence grew up in Surrey just a couple of blocks from Surrey Christian School) I relayed that Eeyore wanted to go to Korea and China and asked him if he could help out. He was delighted to help out and by now Eeyore should be touring China. I don't know where else Eeyore will end up on his adventure but I am certain he is having a fun time.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Yet another battering for my ego.

This past Saturday I gave the message for the Saturday evening service at Osaka International Church. The Saturday evening service is small and is normally held in the office around the table. The service consisted of about ten people. After the service I went with a few of the attendees for a quick bite to eat. Besides myself there were two other Canadians, and two Japanese, one who had been my interpreter for the service, and the other who spoke English but with a thick Japanese accent. Needless to say the conversation was primarily in English.
The Canadian couple had spent their honeymoon traveling in Scandinavia and Northern Europe. We heard some interesting things about Russia and the state of the country there. Our Japanese companion asked lots of questions, with many a big word. We had difficulty understanding him for two reasons, one was his accent (probably due to much study but little practice) and the second was his use of words that were very big. He first wondered if they had seen anyone using hypodermic needles. (He works in the medical profession and had heard WHO reports of that kind of thing.) After listening to stories about organized Russia Mafia and the way they currently run the country he also asked how the constabulary affected the situation. The police I queried for clarification?
Later he asked about the schism between the protestant and catholic churches. We were at a loss for an answer on that one. He also asked if I had been to a Japanese service and wondered how I found the rubric to be. Rubric I asked? Yes, rubric! rubric! he repeated back to me in exasperation. I feel like I need to go back and study English instead of Japanese.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Message Notes

Gifts Wrapped in Love.
Exodus 4:10-17; 1 Corinthians 12:12 – 13:3

Tonight I am going to talk a bit about the gifts God has given to us. We will look at how we don’t necessarily have the gifts we need, but need to proceed in faith when God asks us to do something. We see that gifts from God come wrapped in love, and that when we use our gifts we need to wrap them in love.

1
Preface the first Corinthians readings with: We are reading here from Corinthians, a letter Paul wrote to a specific church congregation. Paul, throughout this letter is giving advice to this church, and this advice is relevant to us in our church also.
We will start with reading I Corinthians 12:12-31a.

First of all it is important to understand that God has a sovereign plan. A plan for each one of us here tonight, a plan for each group of believers, a plan for each church and a plan for the entire body of Christian believers that transcends both places and time. God is infinitely loving and infinitely caring and he has an infinitely great plan. As humans we often lose sight of that fact, often, we cannot see a bigger picture. As sinful people we often lack the faith to understand that, God loves us so much.

Secondly, we note that in every body of believers God gives his people gifts. He gives His people a variety of gifts, He does not give some people all gifts, and He gives every one of us at least some gifts.

A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to lead a group of teenagers along with a few adult leaders to help with a service project in Jackson city in the state of Mississippi, about 30 people in all.. Many of us were working on cleaning up an abandoned house that had been torn down. One of the biggest jobs left for us was to clean up the foundation. The foundation was made of bricks and cement. The old bricks that were still in good shape were set aside and the bad ones were thrown into a big dumpster.

Two of the guys with us were named Cody and Brock. They are both excellent athletes, smart and strong. Definite go getters. They really enjoyed working on the foundation. They loved to swing the heavy sledge hammers to wreak havoc on those unsuspecting bricks. At times though, they would be swinging away with out making much progress, sometimes the bricks were very stubborn. From time to time I would come by, eye things up and with a deft little tweak in the right place using a pry bar, bring a small pile of bricks showering down. They would look at me and then go back to swinging the sledge. After two or three times they realized that this was not an accident, but that I did actually do something worth while. They saw that there was another approach to taking apart these bricks.

This provides us with a good illustration of how God uses different talents to work together to accomplish something. When we work together as God intends us to, things work better. When we used our different talents, we accomplished more than we would have if either of us had applied only our one skill to the task.

Let’s reread vs 18,19 and 20.
Paul is emphasizing God’s sovereignty. He has given us many different gifts, but we are one body, one team, and God has one perfect plan.

2
Preface the Exodus reading with: In Exodus 3 Moses meets God in the burning bush, and God is asking Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. In Chapter 4 we read that Moses is nervous about what God is asking him to do. God gives him three powerful signs of proof that it really is Him in the burning bush. Now we start reading at vs 10. (Exodus 4:10-17)

In light of our exploration of gifts so far, when we read about Moses and Aaron here in the bible, we find some interesting things. It seems as if Moses, the great leader of the Israelites, is being very childish before God. He keeps arguing with God, saying things like “Who am I?” (in Chapter 3) and “What if they won’t believe me?” (in the beginning of Chapter 4). These are basic questions that many of us ask of God. We all have the tendency to want to shy away from doing difficult things, and God often asks us to do things that seem too big for us to handle. After God has addressed those things Moses also says that he doesn’t have the gifts to do what God is asking of him. “I am slow of speech and tongue” says Moses.
God is asking Moses to do something that Moses does not think he is capable of, something that is bigger than Moses. But God responds to Moses telling him that He will be faithful to Moses. When God asks us to do something he will provide the gifts (in some way or another) to accomplish his sovereign plan. Let us reread vs 12
I think it is also worth noting that sometimes it pleases God to use some of us and our lack of gifts that his Grace might appear even more glorious.
I remember about ten years ago, I was working at a company. A coworker who knew I was a Christian came to me and asked me, “What is the goal of Christianity?” This was wonderful! I thought, here is someone who wants to know about God, and about Christianity. I could have given her lots of my biblical knowledge and answers to plenty of important questions. I wanted to explain everything to her, but at that moment I had no idea what to say. I had always trusted that God would give me words to say at a time like this. I was completely at a loss for an answer. I finally stammered “To get to heaven” as an answer. Many times after that I worried about that answer, but I came to understand, this was the answer that I had to provide to that person and in a very broken way. I like to think God used my lack of gift in that situation for his greater glory.
Still Moses rebels and asks God if he could send someone else. In the end God brings Aaron into the picture, someone who God had blessed with the ability to speak well. Together they are used as instruments of God to accomplish a part of God’s sovereign plan, to effectively lead the nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and to the land that God promised to them.

3
Read Corinthians 12:31b – 13:13

This reading is the follow-up to the section on gifts that we read earlier. Gifts need to be wrapped in love, in a similar fashion to the way the law is wrapped in love. Galatians 5:14 says “The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbour as yourself”. Love is the fulfilling of the law.
So we see here the necessity for wrapping our gifts in love when we use them in conjunction *with and for* the other people in our community. It is not optional it is necessary. But these gifts are also given to us by God, wrapped in love. He lovingly gives us good gifts, gifts that we can and will enjoy using. And we respond to God with love by glorifying Him when we put our gifts to use. Glorifying God is central to our response to God for his love to us. We also need to wrap our gifts in our love for God.
I recall when I was boy; I used to make cards sometimes for people in my family. Like any kid I was not a master artist. I wasn’t the best in my age group, and I wasn’t even the best in my class. When I coloured in a colouring book I even had a hard time staying in the lines. But when I made a card for my mom, there was a lot of love built into the card. I would work hard on it and proudly present it to my mother for her birthday. And in return she would be very happy with that card. It wasn’t that the card itself was so great as to bring a tear to your eye, but it was that the card was wrapped in love that my mother enjoyed so much. It was my response of love to the love she gave to me.

4
God will call us to something, to use our gifts to do something. We need to be willing; we need to take steps of faith at times. God will not be ignored when he calls us to do something. We see in the story about Moses a great example of that. Often His grace and mercy are enough to cover up our sin and our unwillingness. We are diverse in our gifting, and we need to work together with our various gifts. We glorify God with the use of our gifts. And we especially glorify God when we lovingly use our gifts, when we wrap our gifts in love.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Pumpkin


Yesterday late afternoon as the light was beginning to wane, we dropped by a quaint, a charming little coffee shop called Pumpkin. It is nestled amongst sprawling courthouses and massive city halls. The shop is closed on Saturdays and Sundays because the area becomes a ghost town. We met the owner a few weeks ago, and were invited to come for a visit. We took the opportunity to share a coffee and some conversation.

A while ago when we were in Tokyo visiting with many an old friend (of Aukje's) many were worried about my language study in Osaka. They wanted to be sure that I was learning proper Japanese and not Osaka-ben (the local dialect of Japanese). I assured them that at the YMCA where I am learning Japanese, the lessons are very pure Japanese. I always seemed to be able to sense a sigh of relief when they learned this fact.

Yesterday, Masumi, the owner of Pumpkin gave me a little book, A Guide to the Osaka Dialect. I have already picked up a word or two from the locals, but thus starts my Osaka-ben education for real, now I have something tangible in my hands to taint my pure Japanese language. I better keep this dirty little secret under wraps, at least from our acquaintances in Tokyo.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Black Humour

I was talking with my Korean classmate about batteries. He found it very morbid that we Canadians would talk about batteries having died and being dead. After he got over the shock of it, he thought it funny. After sharing it with our other Korean classmate we all thought it was even more funny.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Haiku

Recently, during our Journey to the current capital city of Japan, formerly known as Edo, we met with a gentleman by the name of Mr. Kono. Kono-san is busily translating a book on Polish history, from English into Japanese. It was a pleasure to meet Kono-san after hearing about him many times from Aukje who taught him about the bible in past years.
Kono-san likes to walk from his house to town, because it takes him 1 1/2 hours. He says this is good because it allows him the opportunity to create a haiku.
I have spent a bit of time trying to understand Japanese art forms and I find with my western worldview that I have difficulty appreciating them.

I read a good description in a novel by James Clavell called Gaijin. In the novel he describes one of his characters in the act of composing a haiku.

His brush dipped into the ink pool. He poised the point over the delicate rice paper then wrote firmly:

Sword of my fathers
When in my hands
Twists uneasily

The writing was in three short, flowing vertical lines of characters, strong where they should be strong and soft where softness would enhance the picture that the characters made; never a second chance to refine or change or correct even the slightest fault, the texture of the rice paper sucking in the ink at once to become indelibly a part of it, varying the black to grey depending how the bruch was used and the amount of water therein.

Coldly he scrutinized what he had done, the placement of the poem and the whole picture that the shades of black calligraphy made within the expanse of white, the shape and the fluid, obscured clearness of his characters


I have found that in spite of the somewhat soap opera like story line, James Clavell's novels provide insight into Asian culture and worldview.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Covert Material

Today in class one of my Chinese classmates confessed. He broke down and gave us one of his countries dirty little clandestine secrets. As it turns out, doctors in China have atrocious handwriting. Once the bomb had been dropped, one of my classmates from Nepal caved and with a furtive sidelong glance also confessed to the same shadowy underground information. It seems that doctors in his country have trouble writing as well. Hmm, I think maybe I see a trend here. Perhaps there is some sort of top-secret medical organization with a surreptitious agenda. I will keep my nose to the ground and see if I can turn up any more possible conspiracies afoot.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

2 Steps Back...

Today in class as I was packing up my things, tossing them into my daypack, I thought to myself "but this and this" I still need. The "but this and this" was a thought in Japanese. Amidst all the frustration and dissatisfaction with my progress I will hold onto that little nugget of progress very tightly. (For today anyway.)

Monday, January 16, 2006

New Stuff

School has started again. Lots of new vocabulary, kanji and grammar to learn. We were welcomed back by having a test that is lasting more than one day. It put a serious dent in my weekend, as I spent most of it studying and trying to remember what I learned before the break. It is almost over and I expected to feel relieved, but I don't.
The term has also seen the arrival of a new classmate from Korea. As with many Koreans he carries the name Kim. This has created a small bit of consternation since we already have a Kim from Korea in our class. With the large Japanese vocabulary we have built thus far, we have been differentiating them by calling the first one Furui Kim (Old Kim) and the second Atarashi Kim (New Kim). I don't know if these monikers will stick but we had a good chuckle.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Shinkansen


Today I rode the Hikari Shinkansen. It is the second fastest of a variety of Japanese bullet trains. As I stood on the platform I felt like a little boy, waiting to ride the train. But truth be told I still very much enjoy machines of all shapes and sizes. My vocation before I got into the missionary racket, was designing machines. The Hikari has a maximum speed of 270 kmph. The future of high-speed trains is currently magnetic levitation. I can't wait!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Years Day

Today we attended church.

Aukje briefed my on the way; akemashite omedetogozaimasu (Happy New Year) and kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaiitashimasu (this year also, please treat me well).

But there was more to it. I found it interesting to observe the locals in action. Those who were most proper, approached the other person, bowed (to the appropriate level as befits their social status with respect to the other person's social status, and of course keeping in mind the personal relationship between the two) and greeted each other with the polite form of Japanese or maybe the less polite form of Japanese (again keeping in mind the various factors. Bows may happen at the beginning, at the end and maybe during the process also. Others who I suppose didn't feel the need to go through this entire process were more casual.
I was my usual casual self more out of necessity rather than by choice.