First Train Trip

Japan and Hawaii

First Train Trip

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There is a story behind each picture - the train station, sleeping on the floor, the view from Jared's balcony, I will narrate some below and add more later.

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First Train Trip The pictures below are in a sort of chronological order. We took off for Japan on Friday,December 28, 2007 at about 12:30 PM, and arrived at Narita Airport, near Tokyo at about 5:30 PM Saturday, the 29th. The flight was "only" about 12 hours long, but flying across the international date line, we lost most of a day. Narita is quite a way from where Jared lives, so we took a fast train (not a "bullet" train, though) most of the way to his apartment. Here we were transferring trains. One of the other missionaries was picking up her sister at the same time we came in, so she took our picture.

Jerry Sleeping They caught me with my guard down! We slept at Jared's apartment. It was much less expensive, and more importantly, there were no hotels close by. Jared's room is about 10'x8' with a woven grass mat on the floor. The Japanese often sleep on top of 2" cushions on the floor, and fold them up at night, and that is what I did. Jared usually sleeps on the floor where I did. Jared's room is not heated, and it was getting down into the 40's at night (in the room), so I slept with an ear band. I wore the ear band most of the trip. Guess Southern California weather has thinned my blood, and I was cold most of the time. Debbie slept on a real bed close to my mat. Jared had rolled the bed a couple miles on sidewalks to get ready to host us. Debbie would tell you it was not much of a bed - more like a cot - but for that week it was our home, and we were home with Jared.

Jared's balcony view Jared and his roommate, Chris, live in a fourth story apartment in Mitaka. It is hard to call Mitaka a suburb, because there seems to be no end to the city skyline and the city hustle and bustle. This shot from his balcony does not look to glamorous, but I wanted to give you a feel for the "urban-ness" of his home. Really, it is not so dismal as it might first appear, but Japan is definitely crowded with lots of people packed in a small area. We saw almost no single-family dwellings like we are used to here in the USA. The habits and customs are different from ours. As you walk in a Japanese home, there is a step up about three feet into the room. People always remove their shoes and leave them just inside the door, or in the cubby-hole-type shoe rack just inside the entry way.

Festival of Lights The Japanese do not celebrate Christmas as we do, because they have no Christian heritage. But they are aware of the holiday, and do put on a bit of a show. This was part of the "Festival of Lights" display, featured in a several block area of downtown Tokyo not too far from the Imperial Palace. The tree lights appeared to be some type of LED, very lightweight, and energy efficient. The colored "tree" you see here is really just a conical-shaped rack with potted flower in the racks. The lights on the trees/racks make them a very beautiful display.

Family Room When I first stepped in this room I thought, "These poor missionary boys can't afford to get a chair with legs!" Turns out the Japanese usually sit on the floor on pillows or short chairs like these. This one is sagging on one side, but it was comfortable enough, and the price was right (donated). I got real used to this one, because I would sit in it all by myself for a couple hours in the morning as I tinkered with Jared's computer before the others got up. Turns out the Japanese internet provider was blocking the free internet calling services like Skype and Yahoo, and I just could not stand to leave a computer challenge alone. In the end I found a way to get past that, and set up Jared and a couple of the other missionaries so they could call home. That has been nice for us, although I think Jared's girlfriend, Ally, gets more Skype calls than we do ;-)

Light to shrine Washing and drinking ritual
Year of the rat Meiji-jingu Shrine
Year of the rat Meiji-jingu Shrine

In the afternoon of New Year's Eve we went to visit the Meiji-jingu shrine. We were told the crowds would be horrendous, but to our surprise, the crowds would all come late in the evening, to celebrate the new year. So we had a very nice, uncrowded walk through a beautiful wooded area leading up to the shrine. One of the pictures shows an ornate light to the pathway - sort'a looks like pagoda birdhouse. Before we got to the shrine area, we saw the people going through some type of ritual washing that is supposed to bring them good luck. I think some were drinking the water, too. 2008 is the year of the rat, according to the Chinese Zodiac, so there was a plaque commemorating the event as we got closer to the shrine.

The Meiji-jingu shrine is a Shito shrine. From what I have been able to gather, Shintoism is a polytheistic religion involving worship of many kami, or spirits. There is little concept of an afterlife in the Shinto teachings, but rather it is involved in the relation of people with the kami. There are no sacred documents, or holy places. It seems to be a religion handed down through tradition, and can also involve ancestor worship (even though there is little thought of the afterlife?). Worried about relations with the kami and ancestors? Well for 100 yen, about a dollar, you can by a prayer plaque like the ones shown here to bring you good luck in the new year. They will hang with the thousands of others as shown on this rack, and the Shinto priest will pray over them.

I didn't put their pictures up, but we spent New Year's Eve with a group of the missionaries, eating, playing games, and watching Japanese TV. (We were the oldest ones there, by at least a couple of decades. These are college-oriented missionaries.) The TV celebration we watched featured several stylishly dressed singing groups of 7 to 12 young men in each group. Actually, I was impressed by the vocal quality of the groups (though I could not understand them), and the fact that they dressed to the hilt. I was not really used to the Japanese color choices - loud pinks and yellows and maybe greens. That may have just been for the New Year's celebration. I will talk about Japanese fashion later.

On New Year's Day

Ornate bird Traffic congestion?!
Asakusa Kannon Temple Food time
Buddhas outside Asakusa Meiji-jingu Shrine

It took me a while, but I am getting the hang of the language (HTML coding that is, not Japanese) so if you are interested come back later and I will have more written. Looks like Hawaii will be another page, but I will leave the title the same for now. I am going to set up links for the pictures below, and add text later.

Imperial Palace guard house Flowers at Festival of Lights World's busiest intersection World's busiest intersection
Mt. Fuji - Jared's balcony 50 stories up - from Government bldg. 50 stories up - see Tokyo Tower Bicycle congestion
Cute Japanese Boy Debbie and Jared on Hitotsuboshi campus Statue of Liberty knock-off at Tokyo harbor North Mauii