August 31, 2007

Wedding in the Park

Angela, the beautiful bride in the photo at left, asked me,

“Would you stand in for my father at my wedding?”

I was honored. I knew Bruce Storm as a friend and missionary co-worker until he passed away 12 years ago at only 42 years-old-- when cancer interrupted his preparations for a mission to Vietnam.

The bride and groom, Kebo and Angela, met in Thailand where Kebo had gone from Japan as a volunteer following the December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and Angela was already serving there as a missionary.

During the ceremony, Kebo and Angela exchanged vows of love and commitment to each other-- as well as confirming their desire to continue to dedicate their lives to Jesus in service to Him and others.
The simple outdoor ceremony in a large mountaintop park included our Alps Missionary community, Kebo's Japanese family-- including his missionary parents and friends.


August 21, 2007

Tokyo Trip and Record Heat

Here are some photos with detailed captions from my five-day visit to Tokyo-- just click on the photos.

We spent a lot of the time escaping the heat-- yet I chose the hottest day (40.9C/105.6F-- and humid!) -- a record for that location-- for a afternoon sight-seeing adventure with Andrew.

Naomi is staying on for a couple more weeks to do some shows and adding her vocals to some more recordings. She already recorded for an ad company, but we're most excited by a chance she may have to contribute to a CD being created with original Christian music in Japanese.

An update to the above: I've since learned that 40.9C/105.6F was not a local record , but a new national highest temperature ever-- breaking one set in 1933. Two locations share the new record-- one where we were and the other in Gifu prefecture.

I also learned that on the street-- and my feet confirmed this-- it was 43C/ 109.4F. This isn't that high where it's relatively dry, but with high humidity it was cooking!

Visit Endtime News on the Family International site for more on how current events portend the future.

August 18, 2007

Gondola to an Alpine Meadow and Hike to a Peak

We survived, as you can see, our one day camping trip. Andrew and I along with his friend Lena and her mom, Lelani, drove into the mountains, camped the night and left early (the kids made sure of that) to climb one of the- thankfully not too high-- mountains that form a chain of peaks know as Yatsugatake, with Akadake (2,899 meters above sea level) as the main peak.

Our peak, Kitayokodake, was 2,480 meters (8,136 ft). We had very good weather and the black flies from our campsite had left enough flesh on our legs to make it up and down.

The views, plants, butterflies, and mountain panoramas were beautiful! I'm posting the pictures so that, after everyone forgets how their legs felt at the bottom, we can look at them and plan another trip.

A further note on the black flies mentioned above:

I was used to 'No-see-ums' in North America, but these had a more painful bite and caused swelling and bleeding, even if we didn't scratch.

So I wasn't overly surprised to see this article in the news today:

A plague of black flies has prompted authorities in Spain to issue warnings to cover up and avoid riverside areas in the early morning and dusk. The fly is only two to three millimeters long-- much smaller and harder to spot than most mosquitoes-- but its voracious blood-sucking bite sent more than 2,000 people to hospital last year in just one area of Spain. In Switzerland an attacking swarm reportedly killed a calf.

(taken from a report by Dale Fuchs, The Guardian)

August 10, 2007

Obon? I wondered too.

Obon-- August 13th to 16th-- is when, along with New Year's Day, the extended family gathers. Obon is a kind of spiritual family reunion or memorial day in Japan.

Although not a national holiday, most employees have it off, and some people manage a week or ten days. This is also school summer holidays, so everything-- from transportation to holiday areas-- is packed.

Obon is observed somewhat differently from family to family and area to area-- fireworks, boat parades, lantern floats-- but some things are consistent. You can count on seeing at least some men and women out in yukatas (colorful cotton summer version of the kimono) who are themselves out to view fireworks, a parade or traditional drumming, to participate in traditional dancing or to visit a festivals, temple or family gravesite.

In 2004, my family was invited to a bon odori (bon dance) [photos]

It is usually held in a park or schoolyard in the evening, when it is cooler. Neighbors gather and share refreshments before the bon odori.

The neighborhood ladies practiced the dances in the weeks leading up to Obon, but they encouraged everyone to join in and follow the simple steps and motions as they moved in a wide ring to the beat of a drum and recorded odori music. Hand gestures, including a fan, show actions or forms such as harvesting rice, a river, a boat, a butterfly or a flower.

I started taking pictures with my PDA (hence the low quality-- sorry) but I was quickly herded into the circle by a couple of ladies... it was fun!

The main activity of Obon is to pay respect to your ancestors-- usually by visiting the family tomb, or at home altars or temples. The opening observances can include lighting lanterns, firecrackers or fireworks or presenting decorative offerings of food.

In Nagano, birch bark is commonly burnt-- 'Mukaebi' meaning, 'welcoming fire'. Then, at the end of Obon, when the visiting spirits return, birch bark is again burnt -- this is 'Okuribi' meaning, 'send off fire'.

Another well-known end for Obon is the placing of floating lanterns into rivers, lakes or the sea to guide the spirits back into their world.

August 05, 2007

Holiday Hitching Japanese Style

Andrew (10) and I took advantage of our being free from school for about three weeks to visit our friends in Fukuoka (see pics here). We used our (now) tried and proven method of travel- hitchhiking at toll-road service areas with signs.

The 'thumb' method isn't really understood by Japanese motorists, but by positioning ourselves near the restaurants and restrooms with signs explaining what we're doing and where we're going, we get plenty of interest -- especially as 外国人 geijin (outside country people). A few folks picked us up for free English lessons, but most seemed to be motivated by a blend of various degrees of curiosity and kindness.

We had beautiful weather nearly the entire week that we were gone-- though we had to wait out the typhoon that grazed Fukuoka the night before we left to come back. Even a late night wait on the way down meant I could put my feet up and enjoy the full moon while Andrew dozed beside me.

A big THANK YOU to all the folks we met along the way and to the families with whom we stayed and played-- the Fukuoka Firecracker Home and Crystal and family-- also Funatsu-san, Aiko, Pamela, and their families-- Claudia, Megumi, and others . We love and miss you (that's why we visited!) and will look forward to seeing you again.