Well I've been in Japan a whole week now and I'm sure you've all been waiting to hear how I like it so far. So the following is a recounting of my initial feelings and a top 10 of things I like about Japan after 1 week. I hope you are all doing well in the US and have registered to vote. Please email me some time I'd love to hear from you. Also I hope to start a picture blog soon, unfortunately I can't do one here on this site, but I can add a link. In the mean time I hope you'll enjoy the pictures on this page.
Having made my final call from inside the US I boarded the air bus headed for Tokyo's Narita airport. The ride was 10 hours from San Francisco. I sat next to a woman headed fro Taiwan, she seemed to speak limited English and slept the majority of the time. I on the other hand having stayed up late the night before so that I too would sleep the majority of the flight slept only in two hour increments. The lights remained low throughout the flight, probably because our ride across the Pacific would not bring anything but sunshine; we were following the sun rather than flying away from it.
We landed at Narita around 4:30pm Tokyo time. I could feel the humid Tokyo air as I walked from the plane into the terminal. I followed the signs for international passengers staying in Japan. When I arrived at Customs I saw a sign with the word "immigration" on it and it hit me: for the first time in my life I am an immigrant, a foreigner. I would later learn the word for foreigner, gaikoku--I am gaikoku. From that point on I became speechless. All of the words and phrases I'd learned over the summer left me. More than that my brain had locked my tongue to the roof of my mouth and I simply could not speak. I could literally feel a knot in my throat.
Thankfully my supervisor, Pastor Naoki Asano was there with his assistant Cindy and my colleagues Carolyn and Matt. I scrambled through my bags for clothes to wear over the weekend until we moved into our temporary apartments. That night while the majority of our bags were moved to a storage facility to be held until our apartments were ready, Pastor Asano and Cindy took us to the JELC (Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church) offices in Ichigaya where we would stay in the church's inn located in the same building. After dropping off our things we had dinner at Denny's (yes Denny's) and went back to our rooms to sleep. I tried to stay up until 10pm so that I wouldn't wake up in the middle of the night. While I waited for 10 to approach I sat in my room thinking, "What am I doing here? What am I doing?"
As exciting as it is, being in another country is also difficult. I have, since that first day, gone in and out of speechlessness. Some days I practice all the Japanese I know and other days, like when someone else is around to translate, I hardly speak. On those speechless days I find myself closing inward unwilling to interact with others. Please pray that I open up and engage with people more.
The Japanese people are great. The day before we moved into our apartments (they are called mansions--without regard to the size) we wandered around Ryogoku (the name of our neighborhood) trying to catch a glimpse of the place we'd be living, but could not find it. We stopped a gentleman, "Sumi masen...23...doko desu ku?" (excuse me, where is 23). This was as much Japanese as we could manage between the three of us. Addresses are broken up into blocks. We live in Midori Chome 1, block 23, building 3. We were standing at the 13th block between Midori 1 and Midori 2. The man did not speak ego (English), but he was trying to understand us when a woman rode up on her bike asking "Can I help you?" Yes, she spoke English. She went inside her house, grabbed a map of the neighborhood and pointed us in the right direction. The gentleman we'd first asked for directions stood there the whole time waiting to see that we got the information we needed.
I don't think I can imagine a better place to live. So here are 10 things I'm grateful for after my first week in Japan. Thank you so much for your prayers. Please continue to pray for my transition, I've been having nightmares that I now realize are a result of my anxiety over the move. Also pray for a loosening of my tongue to speak Japanese. Many Blessings.
1. Carolyn, Matt, and Cindy
2. The Ichigaya Church and choir for welcoming me
3. The Japanese Evangelical Lutheran Church
4. The kindness and hospitality of the Japanese people
5. Maho a seminary student and new friend
6. J-3's already here and the welcome of other missionaries
7. Sliced bread, pasta sauce and other familiar items in the grocery store
8. Brand new mansions
9. Japanese lessons
10. Living in the Sumo Wrestling Capitol of the WORLD!!!!!