Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Jaunt

This past week I had the opportunity to travel to Shirahama for a retreat. We tourists can be attracted by the interesting and beautiful sandstone formations in the area. The crashing ocean waves against the rocks reminded me of summers spent on the Bruce Peninsula in Tobermory Ontario.

三段壁 = Sandanbeki

千畳敷 = Senjyo-jiki

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

No Lid

On my way to an old train line trail, I was changing trains. The people I was going to hike with had a head start. I was in a hurry.
I was still in my good, black, secret agent suit (wearing my new tie, which my wife had so very recently and with great effort picked out for me). I had just a few minutes between disembarking the Kobe Line Limited Express bound for Osaka, and boarding the Takarazuka Line 'normal' Express on my way to the boondocks (where the time between return trains increases from the accustomed couple three minutes to an almost unbearable fifteen twenty minutes). Yes, as you may have surmised, a recipe for trouble, but trouble has a way of sneaking up on you, through the chinks in your armour. A few minutes was not quite enough time to remove my secret agent suit, and don my hiking gear, but it would have to do. I hurried to the WC to find an empty stall. I have found while living in Japan, that I prefer western style toilets over the Asian style variety, but the architects and builders of this particular station were traditionalists. I went with the flow, and secured myself a changing stall. No toilet tank but someone had thoughtfully installed a small metal shelf on which to precariously pile my baggage. I removed my jacket, and with great care managed to get it into my bag without my pile falling over. After undoing and rolling up my tie, (my new tie, which my wife had so very recently and with great effort picked out for me) disaster sneaked through a chink. It was one of those slow-motion things, bullet time as it were, my tie began to unravel, gravity doing its dirty work, my aging reflexes failed miserably and the tie unraveled right into the toilet. I paused in shock. I somehow, magically, pulled a plastic bag out of my teetering pile and with as little contact as possible put my tie into the bag. I subsequently changed the rest of my gear without further mishap and caught my train, but was left with severe emotional scarring. Just how will I explain this to my wife? Or the dry cleaning lady?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Cross Cultural Engagement Skills and Love

Ambiguity tolerance
Sense of humour
Observation and questioning
Willingness to learn
Seeing “different” without judging
Good listening skills
Willingness to risk
Setting aside “self”
Abandon independence
Drop presuppositions
Come as learners, (be teachable)
Willingness to learn like a child
Loss of one’s place and value

A list of skills needed to engage a cross-culture, as made by the attendees (mostly with experience in trying to engage the Japanese culture) at the third part of Josiah Bancroft’s core training seminar entitled Spiritual Formation and Gospel Renewal as given at this year's CPI conference.
It turns out as Josiah showed us, that these skills are transferable. These are things that we need if we want to love someone. I need to be willing to listen to my friend or need to set aside myself to love my child. It helps me step into the foreign territory of another culture or relationship.
I can’t wait to get home and practice on my wife.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Spittin Image

I travelled to Hakone not too far from Tokyo this week for a conference. As we came over the mountain I caught a magnificient view, the view that one always sees in paintings and pictures of the landscape in Japan. Well I was finally able to get a shot myself.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A step back in time.

Kobe. A section of Meriken pier preserved as it was after the devastating earthquake of 1995. It used to sit about a meter and a half out of the water, and believe it or not those lamp posts used to be vertical. Even though more than ten years have passed, people who experienced this earthquake still talk about it with a lot of emotion and difficulty.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


The last word in The Message paraphrase of Luke is Yes!

It comes after reading all of Luke, the birth, the life, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension. The word following all of this is Yes. One word, dripping with meaning.
It is the kind of Yes you feel after scoring a goal, making a great save, or slamming one down the line. It is a fist pumping kind of Yes. It is a point to the sky sort of Yes.
A lot of work goes into making that great play. Years of practicing, hundreds of games under your belt, eating sleeping and drinking your craft, and only a few times in your career can you look back on a particularly well finished play and say Yes!
But this particular Yes is the greatest Yes sitting at the TSN turning point of History.
It is the sort of Yes that can be very loud or barely audible, depending on who you are, but either way it carries the weight of Glory to God.
Soli Deo Gloria.

Friday, October 12, 2007

At'll do er.

With a little technical help from my brother Paul, I managed to get my picture up. It turns out a pushpin does the trick. Smarts, but as they say no pain no gain.

Friday, October 05, 2007

A Tad Frustrated

I will keep you up to date on my trials and errors. As a facespace pioneer it may be useful for others to learn from what I have attempted and either avoid making the same errors or do what I did if a thing works. With respect to the picture problems, tried just thumb-tacking my picture over the question mark. Not working so far and I seem to have liquid crystals leaking out of my LCD. I'll let you know how I make out.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Having finally mastered double clicking icons in windows, formatting my big ol 5 1/4 floppies, and sending and receiving e-mail it is with some consternation that I attempt something new. I heard about this newfangled facespace or mybook or some such thing. Signed up. I am hip. I got friends now. Gnarly. Dude. The strange thing, I have a giant question mark where my face ought to be.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Happenings at our little church

Last Sunday evening at Grapevine Cell Church 「ぶどうの木セルチャーチ」we had one of those great little intimate concerts that are a rare find. Guitaurist Mark Miller came to town. No no no not that one, theothermarkmiller. We slooshied some of his handmade tunes and he also subjected us to the one about the colour coded genies and their bricks. If you have not heard it, you can listen here.

Monday, October 01, 2007


Looking at Shinsaibashi shopping street from Dotombori bridge, on a Monday when it is not so crowded. It is a good thing they don't allow cars during the day thinks I to myself.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


The other day we made our way to Amanohashidate (天橋立). It is reported to be one of the three most beautiful sights in Japan. The peculiarity of it all is that one is supposed to look at it upside down in order to fully and truly appreciate it's beauty. It is a time honoured tradition complete with do-it-yourself handrails, viewing platform and safety screening for those who might topple over backwards. The safety screening looked quiet well used which caused me to wonder how many people rolled down the mountain in days of yore before safety screening was invented.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A potrait of the author.

It has been some time since I started writing this blog and the little old moving picture in the corner no longer does me justice. I feel I am aging gracefully, and thought I could maybe give the general readership out there a taste of my current charming looks. I recently came into some excellent portaits, uncommisioned and yet smacking of Rembrandt quality. I thought I would post these as an upgrade to plain old photos.

By Tomoko

By Wako

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Ninja Shoes

Used for crossing moats and the like, to sneak up on unsuspecting castle guards.
Being a good Canadian they remind me of snow shoes.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Equations du jour.

tokei = 時計 = watch.
kakkouii = かっこういい = pretty cool.
これはかっこいい時計だと思います。(In Japanese but the pictures are good).
Here are some pretty cool watches. (English interview with creator Haruo Suekichi but watch out for the colourful language.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Hisashiburi (久しぶり)

My Japanese English dictionary defines hisashiburi as "after a long time [interval, silence, absence, separation]".
Or in the timelessness of the olde First Nations expression with which I am sure you are familiar, long time no blog.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Fight or flight?

I ran for it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


On my way home. Cherry blossoms are out.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Meeting the good doctor again.

I met up with the good doctor again yesterday at our Alpha course. (Rubric! rubric!) Oddly, he seemed happy to see me. His head is chocked full of knowledge on various topics, especially medicine and religion.
He asks a lot of questions.
I think he was born in Tokyo. Lived there.
He changed jobs and came to work in Osaka. While in Osaka he has learned some of the local dialect, Osaka ben.

After the Alpha, in a Japanese restaurant, during dinner, he was telling us about how when in Tokyo, his Osaka Ben came out, and the Tokyoites were a little disconcerted, thinking he was mafia (so he said). He laughed about this soo hard, I have never seen a Japanese person laugh so hard, it was funny, it was infectious. Yoshihiko, Eiko, Kazuko Hikasa, Koichi and I. We all laughed. It was a hearty laugh. It is overused but I will say it. It is good to laugh.

Monday, March 05, 2007

My Triumphant Return

Almost three years ago I came to Japan on a short term mission trip. When I first got here, my brain could not take in everything, Japanese people's faces all looked the same, places melded into each other, my senses were overstimulated. Against this backdrop of blur, I went to a homeless mission meeting, with Dan the missionary man, and two Korean Pastors from California. They were thinking about bringing a short term team here and were scouting things out. We arrived on the train and then headed to the outside of the loop line (and because of my ineptness here is the picture that goes with it). In Osaka, in spite of what the maps tell you, the inside of the loop is Osaka but the outside of the loop is something else. Amongst the blur, I did happen to notice several things. I vividly recall the long lineup of homeless people waiting at a large building. I also noticed a youngish man in expensive black clothes standing next to his black Mercedes with black tinted windows, waiting for something. I saw him at least once or twice more, though we never went that way again. There was also a very old gentleman dressed in what looked to be towels and rags that in the way they were arranged could have been construed (with the right tweak of your imagination) to look like a dress. He seemed very happy to see me, took hold of me and with a big smile, exuberantly expressed to me in what I assumed to be Japanese, his greetings. After being rescued from his grasp I has informed by the more fluent of our group that he really liked me, and wanted to take me home. Being naive, I still haven't come to grips with the reason, but I'm sure the dress was a clue. So with out much incident we arrived at the place where the meeting was being held. it looked very "inner cityish" to me. The proceedings started with a continuation from the week before of the movie Titanic which was interrupted just as the boat was about to sink, to be continued the week there after. (I recall being amused how the "aww" of disappointed viewers, sounds the same in Japan as it does in Canada). The main part of the meeting consisted of a time of singing, a recital of the apostles creed, a message, prayer and then dinner. The last thing that I remember striking me was how well organized and orderly all these homeless people were, patiently waiting in lines and easily working together to see that everyone got food in an expedient manner.

Fast forwarding through a couple or three years and here I go again, my triumphant return to the scene of the crime. Michael phoned me up and said he wanted to go to the homeless mission and invited me along. We agreed to meet at the closest train station, we were going to walk together to Pastor So's residence to meet with him at about four in the afternoon. The over stimulation blur has gradually become more focused for me and I notice many more and different things nowadays. As I was waiting at the train station, I had a sense that the people seemed different to me, carried themselves differently. I should probably chalk it up to my imagination, as it was on the edges of reality, more of an intangible than noticed facts. After Michael arrived we hustled off toward our destination, neither of us knew where it was but Michael was confident he would recognize how to get there. Although I did not notice any Yakuza or see my old friend, the same long line of homeless people were still there, and looking none-the worse-for-wear (as far as homeless people can look non-the-worse-for-wear) and I hoped that they weren't too tired from standing there for the past few years. We purposely wandered around, conspicuous. The things that stood out for me this time were the perpetual garage sale items displayed all along the streets wherever there was a free spot that didn't involve taking someone else's frontage. The friendly salesman with a big smile who helpfully directed us toward the station (where we had come from) (assuming of course that we were not in the neighbourhood because we wanted to be). We asked him about the meeting in broken Japanese, bending and stressing if not breaking all our Japanese abilities. He helpfully directed us in the right direction. We purposefully wandered some more. We asked more questions. I was struck by the plywood and sawhorse tables, shiny and polished with use, surrounded by serious faced gamblers throwing out thousand yen bills. We were directed to a church building of some kind that many of the neighbourhood folk seemed to agree was where we needed to go, but was not. We continued our purposeful wandering. We came by the friendly salesman yet again. Smiled and nodded. We eventually happened upon Pastor So's house but by this time he had left and there was no one there. I know the area well now, and can take anyone interested on a tour, pointing out the sights and attractions. Eventually we ended up at the building where the meeting was to take place, across the street from the gaming tables. It was ten after six, we were late and Pastor So was waiting for us. The meeting went ahead in a similar fashion as before with the exception of the movie, but then again we were late so it may have finished by the time we got there. Since we were visitors we were expected to say a little something after the message. I had spent time in the morning preparing a little something. I had decided to read Romans 10 vs. 8-13 and I wanted to emphasize the everyone in verse thirteen. When it came to me, I jumped up brimming with confidence. I opened my little Japanese bible and launched into the reading with gusto. Not long into said reading I came to the realization that I had forgotten to pre-read this text. Not a big deal for me in English but another matter entirely in Japanese. I came to this realization as I got bogged down in drifts of Kanji the way my little Volkswagen used to, in drifts of Canadian snow. My knees were quivering, perhaps my vocal chords too. I ploughed through and managed to get to the other side. My confidence battered, bruised and shaken. I hastily made my one little point.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

The frustration at not knowing

The frustration at not being able to express what you want to say when the Sensei asks a question. Having to stick to the structure and the few bits of vocabulary you have learned thus far is really annoying. But it is nothing compared to the frustration of not getting certain parts of the language you are trying to learn. And not being able to ask questions, or to intelligently inquire about what your are learning. As a kid when you are learning a language and processing things, it isall happening at the same speed. Learning a language as an adult, having already developed the ability to think and reason, makes things more frustrating. You have this great desire to pose questions, to confirm unclear things, to iron out this ambiguity or that. And yet it is next to impossible because you don’t share a common language.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

On the corner

This is a blog that has been sitting, brewing, like a larva in a cocoon.
It has just metamorphosed into something, I'm not sure what. It might turn it to a really nice sort of butterfly, the kind you occasionally see fluttering in the cool breeze of a beautiful summer day. On the other hand I just may head toward a bright, stinking-hot light and well you know...
One time, Dan and I handed out some digest bibles.
We put together a little package, Digest bible, book mark from the digest bible people, Budounoki Cell Church bookmark, and a size matching orange Let's Alpha! flyer advertising the upcoming Alpha. It was a bookmark sandwich. Bible on one side orange flyer on the other side, with the bookmarks in the middle somewhere all packed in a just the right size Ziploc baggie.
In Osaka it is common to see people handing out flyers to passersby, often it is a small pack of tissues with advertising on it, sometimes it is a restaurant or a hair salon in the vicinity, sending out the employees to drum up some business.
As I stood on the street corner, in between potential people, I noted;
The orange side seemed attractive to passersby.
It was stressful, my first time to stand on a street corner and hand out.
My hands got cold. But I was well dressed for the weather.
The sun shone at times caressing me.
It drizzled for a short time, but we were not to be daunted by a little rain.
So many different people walk by, all created by God. So many different reactions, you can tell something about a person's personality by how they walk by or how they respond.
Some as far away as possible.
Some avert their eyes head downward.
Some ignore you, don't even acknowledge your existence.
Some are extremely busy, in a huge hurry,
Some smile,
Some are polite,
Some are senile,
Some are friendly,
Some are interested, in the foreigners who do something so Japanese but so "in your face"; handing out flyers on a street corner,
Some are intrigued,
Some accept because it is easier than rejecting,
Some reject out of long habit,
Some reject because it easier than accepting,
Some reject and then change their mind by the time they get a little further around the corner,
Some run as if in a hurry to catch the stale green light, but there is still lots of time left before the light changes,
Some fight over the one copy, Please have more,
Some stop to read instead of crossing the street,
Dan is good at handing out. You can tell he has done it before. I don't like it.
After the fact looking back, I feel I know the street corner. I stood there for several hours. The close corner which I walk by most often, was more comfortable to stand on. The far corner was less comfortable, for two reasons, one I walk there less often, and two it was where we started.
I feel I know my community better. I saw some of the locals, the building security/traffic director who always looks very friendly, who Aukje always chats with on the way to the church.
Eiichi-san the owner of Ottori. The strong silent type, he said hey to me with a smile and I responded with 'afternoon' in Japanese and asked him if he was 'genki'.
Yet while standing there, I felt a basic 'community feeling' that is difficult to find in a such a highly densely populated area.
So many faces, so many people.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Guardians at Shitennoji Temple

It's enough to give me the hibbiejibbies.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!!

Our 2007 Nengajo. I don't think I got started any earlier this year.