I had heard about a photo contest going on in town, so I went into the busy part of the old section of Nagaokakyo in order to try to capture a slice of life photo. Well I didn't actually end up choosing this photo for the competition and I decided to hunt for the perfect sunrise/sunset shot instead. Anyway I still like this shot because I feel it captures the atmosphere of the place quite well. The shop has two openings at right angles to one another and so I stood at one and pointed the lens at the other and waited for some customers to come along. This shop sells "Mochi" which is a sticky rice cake eaten mostly as a dessert, especially around New Years time.
Well, after New Years Day we had two more New Year's parties. One on the 2nd of January at the Sakamotos house in Kobe. Then another one the following day at our friends' house in Nagaokakyo. However after all of the partying it was back to reality as we attended Church on the 4th of January.
If you've been following along this BLOG for a while you may have read that we were prevented from doing some of the English classes and ministries we had hoped. This all had to do with the leader of the church we were attending in Nagaokakyo.
When we visited in September he had told us we could do certain things, when we moved to Japan in November he kept asking us to wait, because he said it he wasn't sure if it was "God's will". The rest of the church clearly saw us as answer to their prayers, because the church attendance had been dropping since the last missionaries left and the English Classes and Bilingual Bible Studies had ceased. However this leader had a very indifferent attitude towards the health of the church and allowing us to serve. In fact their were so many people in Nagaokakyo open to the Gospel, only to be put off because his indifferent attitude when they visited the church. So, in the end us and the other members could not stand it any longer after raising it many times with him over the last two months. The members meeting after church on 4th of January 2009 was the last straw for most of us and a number of us decided to leave and set up a new church. A church were people can truly be free to serve and worship God. A church that does away with tradition and hierarchy, getting back to the real authority, that is God's word (the Bible). We named this church “Shining Lights Church, Nagaokakyo”. We believe that what is happening here is almost like the Protestant Reformation, because the church in Japan (on the most part) is tied down by many traditions and not being effective at reaching people.
Actually I would say that many Japanese are open to the Gospel, it's just that churches here are indifferent to the people. So many Japanese people are burdened with tradition, they are searching for they truth, they are searching for freedom. It saddens me so much that so many churches are just weighing down people with more burdens.
Now about this photo, I was sitting on the platform waiting for a train to Osaka and she was standing on the opposite platform waiting for a train heading towards Kyoto.
New Years Day
Well again we slept before midnight on New Years Eve, so that we could get up early to catch the sunrise. Fortunately in Japan being winter for New Year, the sun doesn't rise so early as in Australia which is in summer at New Years' time. However, in Japan we were invited to watch the sunrise from a mountain and we had to climb it first! Our Neighbour Mr T, arrived at our house very early on New Years morning to pick us up a bring us to the base of the mountain.
Soon after we started climbing the mountain it began to snow, I can still recall the feeling of the cold snow brushing against my face as we ascended. When we got the spot where we could get a view towards the sunrise we found that the sky was too overcast. So we decided to climb to the summit instead. At the summit we drank warm Sake which had dried fugu (blowfish) soaked in it, so it tasted like dried fish and alcohol. We ate lots of other types of dried seafood, and the drink didn't help wash away the fishy taste! Anyway after we were up there for about an hour the sun came out between some clouds, so the shot is of the first sun I saw on New Years Day, about an hour or so after sunrise.
After returning home from the mountain we caught a train to Shimamoto (about 6kms to the Southwest of Nagaokakyo). We attended the New Year service at Shimamoto Church and caught up with our friends the Sakamotos and other members of Shimamoto Church. We stayed there for lunch.
After we got home from Shimamoto our landlady brought over this “Osechi” (a special New Years Meal) for Ritsuko and I, which we ate for dinner.
Wow! We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary in Japan. Less than 2 months after we moved here, our 10th anniversary came around. Our friends Shinya and Chiyo had us over for dinner and we had Pizza Hut, which for some reason is very expensive in Japan comparatively with other fast foods. After dinner we had this lovely cake. Thank you so much for making our evening so special.
As I reflect upon the many things God has brought us through over the first 10 years, it just blows me away! The places we've been, the things we've achieved, the trials we've faced. Through it all our love and God's love has held us together.
Note: for example McDonald's value meals in Australia are about $5.95 and in Japan cost 640yen (mind you that's more than $10 at todays exchange rates), Pizza Hut pizzas in Australia cost about $8.95 (sometimes cheaper with Vouchers or on special days), but for some reason cost 2000yen+ in Japan ($35!).