Thursday, January 26, 2006


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


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.