April 2014

Again, as mentioned in the last post, so sorry for the delay.  I moved with my family across the country and aside from phone data, I didn’t have a lot of internet access.  Plus between packing, moving, and the driving time-plus the settling in time, I have been soo busy.  But, never fear, I am going to get us all caught up by the end of the day….so here’s to April!

April 5th

“So this transfer has been great so far.  I have learned so much as a senior companion and I feel like I am becoming a better missionary everyday.  I got over my cold, thank goodness!  We finally got the new member confirmed and it went beautifully.  We ended up doing it after church because his school needed him again for something and he was way late to sacrament meeting.  But Mission President gave the go ahead and we got it taken care of.  A new goal for the mission is 100 baptism by June and so companion and I have been making some personal companionship goals in order to better reach this.  Don’t worry about my birthday coming up- a member says they are going to bake me a cheesecake!” 

April 12th

“So this week marks my first bday in Japan.  Its hard to believe I’m 20!  Its pretty interesting being senior companion, but I keep being told that if I keep heading in the direction I’m going, I could make District Leader next transfer.  The Japanese summer is going to be crazy hot.  It’s like Florida or worse in the way of humidity.  General Conference was AWESOME!  Loved it!  Got to watch here in Izumo in English which was really nice.  My bday will be like any other mission day, talking to people about the Gospel.  To make the week even better, I found out that Elder Christofferson is coming next month and we are all so excited here.”

April 19th

“Ok so quick lol.  I didn’t realize it was Easter until the talks were given in sacrament.  Anyways, my bday was good,  The cheesecake was absolutely delicious.  Besides Dad’s, it was one of the best cheesecakes I have ever had in my life.  Izumo has been really rainy and cool, but it has been warming up some here though  We have been working a lot on finding new investigators here and have been really working on understanding people more and talk a whole lot better in Japanese.  We played soccer on Saturday with some branch members and a person we are helping to progress.  It was really fun, but I am really sore right now.  This week went by really quickly, but then again so has this transfer. “

100_4725 (1)

Yummy Cheesecake

  April 26th

“So this is the last prep day of the transfer.  Last week went by so quickly, sometimes it feel like a week is one day or that you have been out longer than you really have been.  This week has been filled with contacts.  We found some potentials, they are from Brazil.  So, we now have a second language barriers.  My companion speaks Spanish so hopefully we can teach them.  In other news, Japanese summers will be HOT.  Tomorrow we have a dinner appointment with our ward mission leader, so that will be fun.  Next week,, Ill find out if stay or leave Izumo.  In May, I am going to Osaka to listen to a mission conference featuring Elder Christopherson.  It will be a great experience having 250 missionaries all listening to a general authority of the Lord.    I’m looking forward to it very much.”

Let The Good Times Roll!

Let The Good Times Roll!

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March 2014

Ok, again, crazy failure on being caught up.  I actually haven’t even written to Elder G in quite awhile, I am ashamed to say.  But, I am currently going through a period of re-dedication to things that are important in my life such as temple worship and more quality time with my kid.  So I think I will add writing mission brother to the list and hopefully will have better things to report in coming months.  But a lot has taken place in the last few months including a job switch and a move cross country.  SO now this blog will come from the mountains of Utah and so bear with me as I intend to catch up what I missed when I didn’t have access to the internet.  And, for those that were wondering, my in-laws are doing much much better.  And my sister just had a baby!    So into March we go…

March 1st

“Our investigator is still sick, so I would ask if you would add her name to the temple prayer role and keep her in your constant prayers so that her spiritual progression can continue.  Second, we another person committed to baptism.  We haven’t set a date yet, but he’s been really busy and hasn’t had the time.  We played soccer on Saturday with him in the morning.  We were supposed to go out to lunch with him, but he had to reschedule.  He is wanting to put his schooling and even though he says he still has an interest, he is putting it on the back burner for things that he finds more imperative and/or more important.  My companion encouraged him to put his baptism and church first, telling him that nothing is more important than the Gospel of Christ.  He thought on this for a minute, and then agreed to meet with us another time to set something up.  He is awesome and the desire is there; I guess it is our job to refocus him and continue preparing him to take that next step.

March 8th

“So one of our investigators is still sick; its been three or four weeks now since she got sick.  One thing that is a little discouraging to watch as a missionary is when your investigators are progressing so well and then opposition steps in to try and halt their progression.  Keep praying for her that she will get better and that she will commit to a baptismal date.  Our other yakushosha is progressing wonderfully.  We met with him a few day ago and he is well on the way to a baptism date!  All of this work is so exciting!  I have to give a talk in church on charity and its been difficult because I have to write everything out; can’t just speak from the Spirit like I did in America.  SOOOOOO excited to hear that I am an Uncle again.   Omedeto Gozaimasu my dear sister!  I have 2 weeks til the end of transfer which puts me only two transfers til my halfway mark.

Through preparing my talk on charity, I guess I am getting a glimpse into how the Savior sees other people.  I guess I am starting to love people who I don’t even know and especially learning to love those I teach.  It is a difficult road to develop charity, which is why we can only develop it through Jesus Christ.  My testimony continues to grow and develop and I can feel my heart opening more and more to the truths that this Gospel provides.”

I don't know where this was taken but it is sure beautiful!

I don’t know where this was taken but it is sure beautiful!

March 15th

“Yannosan is still sick so we can’t meet with her, but our other investigator is having his baptism on Sunday!  So excited!  My talk on charity went well, it was over ten minutes which is a practical miracle.  It helped that I read two scriptures in Hiragana which ate up the time a little bit.  Its finally starting to warm up here and the Sakura tress are getting ready to bloom.  The most exciting thing that happened this week was when we were out on splits.  I was was the district leader and we stayed the night outside our area.  We all were awaken in the night however by an EARTHQUAKE!!  It wasn’t that bad, about 4 tremors in a row, but it was close enough to feel it.  It was kinda cool cause now I can say I’ve experienced an earthquake which is something I haven’t been able to claim.  One of the elders who is from California said it felt like a 5.0, something that I guess is pretty normal in CA.”

This is suppose to be a picture of those trees that are blooming.

These are those trees that he said are blooming. Spring is on the way!

March 22nd

“This is transfer week and my companion left for the mission home so he can go back to Brazil.  Izumo will continue to be my home through a fourth transfer; if I stay through one more I’ll have been here through a quarter of my mission.  My new companion is from Central America, I believe Guatemala.  I am now senior Companion or Senpai in Japanese.  It’s crazy, but really cool!  We also had our baptism on Sunday the 23rd and it went really well.  This investigator was so excited to be baptized; one of the members of the ward who is his friend performed the baptism.  I will be performing the confirmation next Sunday all in Japanese which will take a lot of faith on my part.  Our sick investigator is now feeling better and she plans to attend church this coming Sunday.  She needs a few more lessons and she can then commit to her baptism.  

It has been to work really hard here in Izumo and see the fruit of those labors.  I have been truly blessed to see such success here.  Until Thursday, I shall be in Yonago with a Zone leader who lost his companion when my previous companion went home; they both went home to Brazil.  There will then be a district meeting on Friday and we will probably play some soccer on Saturday.”

Picture of Elder G and his new companion

March 31st 

“The confirmation didn’t happen this Sunday because the new member couldn’t make it to church and so we are hoping for this next week.  I am excited to have him complete the baptismal covenants through the baptism of the spirit.  In other news, my companion and I have been battling some nasty colds, so that’s been not so fun.  We have found two new investigators, a mom and son, but their situation is not ideal given the son has a mental disorder and the mother is dying.  Its tough to swallow having someone tell you that, but I have to trust that God has lead us into their lives for a reason and hopefully we can bring them so comfort through the teaching of the Plan of Happiness. “

We join our testimonies with yours and pray for all your investigators that they will be inspired and that they will find peace.

February 2014

Hey everyone, here it is April 14, 2014 and I am two months behind in posting.  Granted, not all of my neglectfulness is my fault.  I’ve had to attend to my in-laws who have both been on the mend from surgery.  So between an emergency trip to be with them, a couple of birthdays, and the day to day that is my life-time has gotten away from me.  But, since Elder G’s birthday is fast approaching, I thought I owed him the gift of updating everyone on his progress.  So, lets get started with February’s adventures.

February 1st

“So today is the last p-day of this transfer and it is crazy how time has flown by.  By the end of the month, I’ll have been in Japan a full six months.  Crazy, ne?  The weather is currently in swift mode, not being able to decide whether to be springish or cling to the last of winter.  For example, right now it’s warm, but tomorrow its supposed to be 0 degrees Celsius (around 32 degrees F) and get more snow throughout the week.  I wish it would make up its mind, but I hear its been like that everywhere, so at least I know that I am not alone in this.  

So this week we are pushing for meeting our January goal of 400 investigators at church throughout the mission.  As I am writing this,  I am waiting for the email containing the report to arrive, so I guess we will see what happens.  I’ll have to let you know.  Lately, I have been dealing with extreme fatigue.  At first I thought it was sickness like a cold, but after weeks of the same tired symptoms, I realized it was  something more.  So I am going to be having it checked on more and see if there is anything that I can do about it.  I have seen a doctor in Tokyo and my mission president knows about it.  It’s not like its drastically life threatening-it just interferes with the work and that is what has been the most frustrating.  But don’t worry, I know through it all, the Lord has my back and if it is something that becomes a mission long trial, I am learning to deal.”

February 8th

So this week is the start of a new transfer and I find myself in Izumo still.  First off, doing much better this week.  I have a lot more energy and I am not exhausted like I was before.  Although, now I really am fighting a cold, lol.  We have been getting lots of snow here; its so rural and quiet here all the time that it sort of feels like isolation.  Its been a good area though, just a lot of snow, rain, and quiet.  We have a new investigator and we are working towards a baptismal commitment. We are wanting to have it committed by March 23rd, but we shall see how that goes.  We have also been working on visiting some of the less actives in the ward boundaries.  

At the last zone meeting, I found out that we blew our mission goal of 400 nonmembers at church out of the ball park.  The numbers listed only 396, which made for some disappointment.  But it turns out that 5 had gotten baptized and so they couldn’t be counted towards the statistic-so we really had 4o1 people.  And it is believed that there were more that fell through the cracks; we might be looking at a 450ish number.  With man only, these numbers would be impossible, but with God all things are possible.  I have really had my testimony strengthened of this with all the miracles that have been happening mission wide.  I love that I get to have such a integral part in this great work. Til next week. Ja ne.”

February 15th

So not much going on this week.  My companion, who is on his last transfer, is trying to help me polish up my Japanese so that I can be senior comp if I stay next transfer.  That is an exciting and intimidating thought.  That would mean I teach all the lessons and stuff!  Crazy.  

We have got a new yakushosha this week.  This last week, my companion and I were going through our old area book and found an old list of investigators,  My companion called this woman and asked if she remembered who we were and she said yes.  We got her new address and started teaching her again.  We invited her to be baptized and she responded, “Ukemasu yo!”  She is set to be baptized on the 9th of March and we are in the process of preparing her.  It was divine providence that we found her, but thanks be to God for that.”

February 22nd

Our new investigator is coming along great.  We taught her the first three lessons like all three days in a row.  She is so vibrant and can feel the Spirit so strongly, and she has the desire to live with Heavenly Father again.  This desire fuels her desire to be baptized, because she knows it is the pathway to returning to Him.  Please pray for her; she has taken ill and we have to wait to meet with her again.  My companion is also sick.  This week we are going to Okayama for a mission tour being done by a member from the area presidency.  Also exciting, I am starting to teach full lessons in Japanese, woot woot.    By the way, tell Sarah’s little boy “Happy Birthday” for me!  Love ya all”

Izumo

  • Yakushosha=investigator that has accepted challenge of baptism
  • “Ukemasu yo!” = an enthusiastic YES

January 2014

Happy 2014 everyone.  I hope everyone had a safe and well spent new year.  Elder G has been taking a lot of ‘field trips’ lately and that has made for some fun experiences and pics.

January 4th

“Happy New Year Everyone!  I am so happy that I didn’t get transferred.  I like it here in Izumo and the branch we are in is super fun-it’s great.  In fact, we are currently working on getting the branch involved in the mission efforts.  It’s a lot of work, but it will be so worth it.  Our Branch President has an amazing vision for Izumo and we will need all the man power to make it happen.  We did find a new investigator.  He is super busy, so pray that he finds the time to meet with us.  But he did seem interested when we approached him, so we shall see.  New Years Day, we made pizza at a member’s house -I was told mine was the best-leave it to an American to ace pizza ;0)   We also played a game similar to Phase 10.  We had a lunch appointment the next day and had pizza chili concarne.  It was soo good to eat anything close to Mexican because there are no Mexican anything restaurants here.  Talked about family history on Sunday.  Lots of teaching and still immense amounts of Japanese practice.  I might be senior companion next transfer.  Crazy!”

January 11th

“I have had a really exciting week.  Started it off by going to the new year’s/Christmas Okayama conference.  I was told we might get mission DVD’s?  Ya know, like pics from what happened over the last year?  Anyways, we got to watch it and it was really cool.  Then we talked numbers and mission stats.  We covered the baptisms for the year.  Then we broke for lunch and had cheesy ham rice or potatoes along with some amazing cake for dessert.  We then went back and discussed the new mission training plan in accordance with fulfilling our goals.  We have two new mission goals.  One is to have 400 investigators come to church by the Feb 2nd fast meeting.  Second is to have a baptism per companionship by March 27th.  The next day after the conference, I got a new companion!  He is from Brazil and he is teaching me some Portuguese words.  It was odd because transfers had already passed, but I guess what President Zinke says goes.    Today, for p-day, we are going to the sand museum?  Sounds interesting and a little odd but should be fun.  And I did here about the new mission president coming in the summer.  I will be sad and will really miss President Zinke, but God calls who he wants to serve and I know this new president will be a good fit for the mission.”

The new companion

The new companion

January 18th

“P-day again.  There should be another transfer coming soon, so I just might be leaving Izumo.  I don’t know, and I know I don’t really want to, but it might happen.  In 5 months, I will be at my year mark which is just insane to think about.  I hear we might start media proselyting here this year sometime although we haven’t heard definite yet.  I know that they are heavily doing that out in the states, and it sounds like a lot of fun.  We might even start using iPads here!  But, for now, its all normal housing and streeting.  We sometimes teach the gospel in a very interesting way; teaching the person English for free.  We actually hand out free English class fliers.  It gets the people to class, it opens them to trusting us, and then we have a better chance at making them investigators.  We have a committed baptism for February 9th, so keep him in your prayers that he will stick with it.  The sand museum kinda sucked, but it was funny.  I told my companion it would probably suck, but at least we would get a good laugh out of it which we did.  We also stopped by the sea of Japan recently.  My new companion and I have been having a lot of fun.  We are actually participating in a ramen challenge!

Relic at the sand museum, I'm guessing

Relic at the sand museum, I’m guessing

Sand? Solidified?

Sand? Solidified?

Gorgeous Sea of Japan.  Reminds me of Siesta Key here in Florida

Gorgeous Sea of Japan. Reminds me of Siesta Key here in Florida

Another view of a breathtaking ocean.

Another view of a breathtaking ocean.

January 25th

“Konnichiwa Minasan!  Spring starts in February here, so things are starting to warm up a lot.  Though there is one thing that does not change in the Kobe mission, and that is the rain!  It rains all the time, whether it is cold or hot! Again, don’t know when we will get technology here to help with the work, but it is rumored I might be getting an iPod with a Japanese to English dictionary on it since my hard copy is a little lingually outdated.  And there is some words and dialects that are not accounted for in the textbook Japanese.  Not much else going on.  Oh, and we didn’t get to do the ramen challenge :0( ” 

  • dendo = went
  • dendoed =went and did work (in this case, the missionary variety)

December 2013

The rest of December for Elder G was pretty fun.  He got to serve the branch and be Santa, see an old castle filled with Samurai stuff, and hear from the mission president who explained some amazing growths for the Kobe mission.  He also got to talk to my mom on Christmas and she tells me he is doing great!

December 14th

“Hey everyone.  Got my Christmas package, so thanks for that.  Got snow in Izumo.  It didn’t snow for that long and it wasn’t cold enough to stick, but the wind here has been super strong which has made it cold.  And so riding on my bike has become more difficult.  Yesterday, our baptism was confirmed a member.  It was my first time getting to participate in conferring the Holy Ghost onto someone and it was awesome.  The Spirit was so strong and peaceful.  I have been playing lots of basketball and pingpong on prep days and that has been sooo fun.  I read out of the Japanese Book of Mormon in class at church for the first time outloud and it was soo awesome being able to read the Hiragana without a problem!  The branch Christmas party is next week.  We’ve found two potential investigators that we are hoping to start teaching soon.” 

December 21st

“We have been working super hard to find potential investigators this week.  It has still been snowing and the snow has finally stuck.  Today we went to Matsue Castle which was so much fun-I’ve attached photos below.  The castle was filled with a  bunch of various examples of traditional Samurai armor on display.  It also showed the kinda lifestyle the samurai would’ve had including examples of cooking supplies and traditional methods and ways of life.  They even had people dressed up in full Samurai garb.  It was so amazing!  I’m so excited to talk to you on Christmas; attached is the phone coordination information.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Another pic of him with the branch members

Another pic of him with the branch members

Having Christmas dinner.  He said that they did have fried chicken at the party!

Having Christmas dinner. He said that they did have fried chicken at the party!

Chillin with the companion.

Chillin with the companion.

Bite to eat after the castle.

Bite to eat after the castle.

Samurai Armor, muh ah ah...

Samurai Armor, muh ah ah…

Pretty Castle!

Pretty Castle!

December 25th

*From an email sent by the mission president*

“These last six months has seen the mission go from less than 140 missionaries to about 250.  We’ve had groups of missionaries coming from the MTC as large as 34.  Previously we thought a large group was about 14 missionaries!  Everything changed when President Monson made his historic announcement.  No longer could we take a couple of vans to the airport and pick up our new missionaries.  We needed to rent the largest Airport Limosine Bus we could find.  Even with that we couldn’t get all the missionaries and their luggage on.  So the two mission vans made the trip, too.  Finally, it seems we are up to about what they said our cap would be (250).  We’ve opened about 45 new apartments, purchased 45 new refrigerators and all the stuff that goes in a new missionary apartment.  That’s a lot of chopsticks!!”

img_2763

December 28th

“No one in Izumo is transferring on this transfer week so I didn’t have to travel to Okayama which was really nice.  It’s a three hour trip at most there and the day is usually exhausting.  Nope, instead we had a normal day of housing and such.  I had district meetings where I got to practice teaching the Atonement lessons and that was so powerful.  It helped me to actually learn how to teach things more simply to my investigators and to help them understand.  Everything here is done by the Spirit-LOVE IT.  I had an exchange at Matsue which was super fun.  I like exchanges and working with different Elders in the district.  Our mission has had 29 baptisms for December, and 204 baptisms for the year.  Amazing stats!  Truly God does provide miracles.”

What a way to end the year.  Keep up the good work Elders and Sisters of the Kobe Mission and to all the missionaries over the world.  Merry Christmas and a Happiest of New Years to you and your families!

A New Way of Doing Things

Hey y’all.  So, I am guilty of being the busiest worstest blogger in the web.  Plus, I’ve only written to Elder G once since he left, which officially makes me the worstest sister in the world.  So, on that note, I have developed a new way of documenting his progress on the mission.  Lately, the further his mission progresses, Elder G’s emails have begun getting repetitious.  I’ve heard this happens to all missionaries the longer that they are out, but I am having a harder time being motivated to type the same things over and over.  So, instead, I am going to blog on a month by month basis.  I will update the  entries once a month (still quoting excerpts from emails).  But, instead of quoting the entire email, I will only include the most relevant info that most accurately describes whats taking place.  That way we all catch a break, since apparently I get too busy living my own life to make time to blog.  lol anyways, I feel that this is the best fit for everyone…

no worries though, I will be sure to include every picture!  Pics are my favorites!  So on to finishing the month of December…

December 7, 2013

Not much in the way of email.  Like he mentioned, his companion and he have to trade off, so they don’t get that much time.  But, there is some exciting news to share in this one, and I want him to get right to that, so here we go…

“No snow here yet, Mom.  It hasn’t reached 0 Celsius, so it hasn’t been cold enough.  Second, about the Christmas phone call, our mission is not a Skype mission, so it will definately be over the phone.  I don’t know anything more than that though.  I’ll find out much closer to.  Lots and lots of rain plaugue us here in Izumo.

Things are going great here.  Fabulous actually.  My companion and I were blessed with the baptism of a 77 year old lady.  It was amazing!  Such faith she showed.  She was afraid of being immersed in the water, but she showed so much faith by going forward and recieving the blessing of baptism.  It was definitley one of the happiest days of my life. My joy and happiness for her was just overflowing.  I know that if I have this feeling for just one soul coming unto Christ, I definately want this feeling everyday for the rest of my mission.  It definately is an inspiration to me to try even harder.  

My mission is truly defining who I am and it feels like a time of proving my faithfulness to the Lord.  I feel so much like the apostle Peter sometimes. I thought that after I finished reading Jesus the Christ.  I asked myself how I am somewhat sitting at where he was before becoming the True Disciple that the Lord wanted him to be. I have a lot of work left to go, but I know somehow the Lord will teach me despite my thick human nature.

The Lord has been really working on building my faith, hope, and patientence lately too. I was reading in the book of Ether while my companion was writing his email and a question came to me.  How do we reach that point of having the faith like the brother of Jared? Faith, patientence, hope, and charity- all these have been on my mind, especially of the need of developing more it. Its hard having that faith and hope and being patient, which is why I think I have been having so much trouble with grasping the language.  It is because the Lord has been using it to teach me these principles.  This mission is truly a refiner’s fire.  I bear testimony that all these questions and struggles will be for my good.  Ja ne.”

First Baptism.  How exciting!

First Baptism. How exciting!

Looks like lunch to me!

Looks like lunch to me!

Probably at zone conference.

Probably at zone conference.

Picture of Izumo.  He's definately in the country.

Picture of Izumo. He’s definately in the country.

And we know that as well, Elder G.  May the Spirit testify the answers you are searching for.  And may we all have help from the Savior through our refiners fire.

  • sugoi = amazing, wonderful

November 30, 2013

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving and that you ate lots of turkey and pie for Elder G.  I know I definitely ate my fill.  My family and I had two dinners; we fed the missionaries from our ward in Orlando, and then we celebrated with friends from our ward.  It was really fun and pretty great.  Here is his email from the end of November.  He attached some photos to, so look forward to that.

“Konnichiwa Minason from the lovely city of Izumo.  Things here are great, although the weather has been fluctuating between warm and cold.  Can’t make up its mind, I guess.  Last week was zone conference which was on Thanksgiving, so while everyone was stuffing their faces with turkey, I was being taught by the mission president and his assistants.  He applied Moses 1 to the mission, and wow, that has some pretty powerful messages if you take the time to read the section slowly and prayerfully.  

I did see my first snow in Japan this week.  It was through the mountain passes on the way back from zone conference, and it was awesome.  We played basketball with a branch member today which was fun and we went shopping.  Last night, we visisted some less active members and dropped off some stuff for the holiday season.  Our branch president is Amercian and there are some Americans in the ward, so its been nice to speak English once in a while.  

Mom, sushi is not bad.  I think its pretty tasty.  Its mostly rice wrapped in nori or seaweed.  Its better when we’ve eaten it at members houses; they really know how to make it!  Um, to answer other questions…we can’t see the sea of Japan, we are too far inland.  Other then that, not much going on.  Here are some pics of me and my native companion.  I should go though, have to study for FHE that we are attending tonight.” 

Eating ice cream on the way back from Okayama.

Eating ice cream on the way back from Okayama.

Dinner appointment the four of us had with the Branch President.

Dinner appointment the four of us had with the Branch President.

His companion and he had the same scarf.  His companion thought it was cool.

His companion and he had the same scarf. His companion thought it was cool.

  • Ja ne aishite imasu=Bye, love ya

November 23, 2013

All right.  Here is Elder G’s first email from his new area of Izumo…

“First preparation day in Izumo has arrived, and yes, I was worried I wouldn’t have access to a computer.  But as you can see, we are utilizing the computers at the church building.  We take turns doing emails, so I may not have as much time to write which might make my emails a little less lengthy.  Anyways, Izumo is sooooo far from Katsura.  I was pretty much traveling all transfer day to get here.  

First, I went to the train (sanomiya) station in Kobe which was an hour from Katsura.  We met there with the other transfers and then traveling two or more hours to get to Okayama station.  It was a pretty expensive trip-thank goodness we get reembersed.  From Okayama, we took a three hour bus ride to Izumo.  We got in at like 5-6 pm.  Izumo finally became a Elder/Sister area this transfer for the first time, so there was a set of sisters traveling too.  So my companion and the companionship of sisters all traveled together and when we got off the bus, a family from the ward and the Branch president was there to meet us.  The family took us all out to a sushi bar.  It was tasty!  

Izumo city is much smaller than Katsura; it is the only city in the area.  The rest of the area is inaka or countryside and mountains.  My new companion is awesome!  I’m having a harder time understanding him because he is native, but if the first few days are any idea about the rest of the transfer, I should have a lot of improvement coming my way in the language department.  I should definately be speaking Japanese pretty good.  

There hasn’t been any snow yet, but I am in an area that gets snow.  There is some snow on the mountains,  but that is way up high on the mountain passes.  It rains alot though so hopefully snow will arrive soon.  I am in one of the coldest areas of the mission; its probably colder here than in Utah because my area borders the sea of Japan. 

They don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here, so Christmas has already started showing up around the city.  Wohoo!  Not much else going on except zone conference this week.  We will have to take the bus back to Okayama and stay overnight after the conference is over.  We will then travel back the next day.  And then we will turn around and do it all over again for the Christmas devotional, etc.  Lots of traveling and being busy busy.  

Oh ya sorry as for your questions yes rice is actually expensive and you have to wash before you cook it.  Setting the table is a special lesson for our mission that our mission president made up.  It is a very basic breakdown; like your a child of God or like have you ever thought you were a child of God and stuff like that. Pretty much a basic outline of God and being children of God and like a over view of what we will be teaching them.  Its a way we prep the information in Preach My Gospel and its usually the first lesson that we teach when we track.  Well that`s about all till next week Ja ne Aishite Imasu.”

Holiday Traditions in Japan

Hey all.  So I know I am way behind in posting due to the madness of the holidays and seeing family and all, but I’m going to pretend its still before Christmas because I thought it would be interesting to find out how the Japanese celebrate the holidays that are so enjoyed here in America.  So wait, I know what you’re thinking. There were no colonists coming to the “new world” and mixing with indigenous peoples in Japan?  And aside from the 1-2% of the population that are Christian, most of the people don’t religiously believe in Christ either.  So it got me to wondering how that effects the holiday celebrations of Thanksgiving and Christmas?  Well, I researched and was pretty excited by what I found.

“Thanksgiving” in Japan

The Japanese send out lanterns in rememberance of past ancestors.

The Japanese send out lanterns in rememberance of past ancestors.

Although there is no direct holiday that mirrors Thanksgiving in Japan, except for a holiday called “Labor Day” that comes around the same time, there is a holiday that’s very similar in terms of how it’s celebrated.  It’s called “Obon” or the ghost festival, a week in the summer (usually mid-August) where all Japanese go back to their hometowns, be with their families, and visit graves of loved ones past.  In Japan during this period, they visit graves to clean them up and pray. Also, they think their ancestors will come back to their houses. This might sound a little scary to people who are not familiar with this belief, but this way of thinking is just conventional in Japan.  All companies religiously give their workers obon holidays.

Obviously Americans don’t always celebrate Thanksgiving in their hometowns, it’s more about wherever their family is. Most Americans also don’t visit graves on Thanksgiving, at least none that I know.  But the way that Obon is perceived in Japan is quite similar. The Japanese look forward to this holiday all year, and religiously take it off from work. (Doesn’t this sound like your co-workers?) Even if Japanese have to work during Obon, they’re allowed to take a few days off in late August to make up for it. If they don’t return home for Obon, they might get shunned by their families. Just imagine if American families shunned their relatives for not joining the Thanksgiving feast!

Christmas in Japan

Being that most Japanese are Buddhist and Shinto, Christmas takes on a very different meaning in Japan. The streets are still decorated with Christmas lights and images of Santa Claus. Christmas music still plays incessantly everywhere you go. And, the shops and department stores still have great sales. But unlike in America and other Western countries, Christmas has little of the religious meaning we associate with the holiday and doesn’t center around the family. Instead, it’s just (a highly commercialized) cool thing to do.  It’s also seen as the night to party with friends in comparison to New Year’s which is seen as a night for family; quite the opposite of America.

Couples take the time for each other.  Proposals are popular and romance abounds.
Couples take the time for each other. Proposals are popular and romance abounds.
City Lights in Tokyo

City Lights in Tokyo

Most Japanese will tell you that Christmas in Japan is for couples. This is the one time of year that couples will exchange gifts, enjoy a meal together and stroll through the brilliant Christmas displays. Not even on Valentine’s day does this happen in Japan (more on that at another time). But thanks to some suave marketing, families and friends now participate in the holiday in some way, and there are now a few truly Japanese traditions that have sprung up around Christmas Japan.

Lines of people waiting to pick up KFC orders.

Lines of people waiting to pick up KFC orders.

Most Christmas Cakes are vanilla and strawberry (kinda like strawberry shortcake).  They are most often decorated and festive.

Most Christmas Cakes are vanilla and strawberry (kinda like strawberry shortcake). They are most often decorated and festive.

As for Christmas dinner, somewhere along the way it became a popular notion that Westerners had a Christmas ‘chicken’ feast, instead of turkey or ham. Capitalizing on this idea, KFC advertises a special holiday dinner with a bucket of fried chicken and all the trimmings. Families can pre-order their meals, and on Christmas Eve, you can see lines of people of at the KFC waiting to pick up their buckets.   Another ‘only in Japan’ experience is Christmas Cake. Found in department stores and bakeries right up until Dec 25th, this simple cake vanilla or chocolate cake is heavily covered in cream frosting and decorated with Santas, holly and other miniatures. It’s considered essential for celebrating Christmas. Again, families will pre-order and/or wait in long lines to bring one home.

New Years in Japan

new-year-in-japan_1388113603

New Year (shogatsu or oshogatsu) is the most important holiday in Japan. Most businesses shut down from January 1 to January 3, and families typically gather to spend the days together.  Years are traditionally viewed as completely separate, with each new year providing a fresh start. Consequently, all duties are supposed to be completed by the end of the year, while bonenkai parties (“year forgetting parties”) are held with the purpose of leaving the old year’s worries and troubles behind.  Homes and entrance gates are decorated with ornaments made of pine, bamboo and plum trees, and clothes and houses are cleaned.

Traditional assortment platters served for New Years

Traditional assortment platters served for New Years

Many people love going to shrines on New Years Eve and aiding the ringing of the temple bells at midnight.

Many people love going to shrines on New Years Eve and aiding the ringing of the temple bells at midnight.

On New Year’s eve, toshikoshi soba (buckwheat noodles), symbolizing longevity, are served. A more recent custom is watching the music show “kohaku uta gassen”, a highly popular television program featuring many of Japan’s most famous J-pop and enka singers in spectacular performances.  January 1 is a very auspicious day, best started by viewing the new year’s first sunrise (hatsu-hinode), and traditionally believed to be representative for the whole year that has just commenced. Therefore, the day is supposed be full of joy and free of stress and anger, while everything should be clean and no work should be done.

It is a tradition to visit a shrine during New Years. The most popular temples and shrines, such as Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine, attracts several million people during the three days. The most impressive are such visits at the actual turn of the year, when large temple bells are rung at midnight.

If you want a more detailed description of New Years festivities go to

http://japancultures.blogspot.com/2010/11/festive-new-year-in-japan.html

Hope you enjoyed the brief look into holidays in Nihon, and I can’t wait to see what Elder G did over his holidays there.