A Hopeful Sign of Spring
My second winter in Japan was colder than the first, but we did have more heating equipment and better clothing for the second time around. Even then as Dave, Jonathan and Jayden remember well it could get very cold, even inside the house! Japanese houses are not made for the winter, especially approximately 50 years old houses like the one we are staying in.
So it always lifts the spirit when the Ume (plum) blossoms appear which are the first of the flowering stone fruit trees to bloom for the year. Now somehow in the past for me the Ume blossoming was not such a big thing compared to Sakura, but I'm growing to like the Ume blossoming more and more. They are a more modest blooming than the Sakura, which seems to fit well with traditional Japanese values. I also think they photograph a lot better for close ups than the Sakura because the image is not overloaded with flowers. The only thing is, I don't get out and photo the Ume enough because the weather is still so cold and the second half of February often sees the end of winter rains.
However I am planning something big for the Ume blossoming of 2011, because I've found out about a great place to view them. So stay tuned and hopefully it's not 2012 by the time I PBLOG about it!
Valentines Day in Japan
The concept of Valentines Day in Japan is totally different from the west. It's not considered a romantic day for couples, rather is it is a day where guys receive chocolates from every girl they know including sisters, friends, co-workers, students, etc. Then the guys are supposed to give something (usually white chocolates, although it can be other things) in return on “White Day” on the 14th of March.
So while Valentines Day in the west is a boom day for florists, in Japan it's a boom day for the chocolate makers. I guess because Easter is not really celebrated in Japan, the chocolate makers caught hold of Valentines Day.
Now, I can handle receiving lots of chocolates, cause I'm a chocoholic (especially during the cold winter here in Japan), but the old romantic in me wants to give Ritsuko something for Valentines Day. So I bought her some fancy chocolates (pictured). I'm just wondering what the sales people at the shop thought of a guy buying Valentines Chocolates...
The life of continual farewells
In the book “Mi Ni Amaru Megumi – Undeserved Grace” the memoirs of the Australia/Canadian missionary couple David and Dorothy Brook, they mention that the life of a missionary is a life of continual farewells. The reason for this they said was they were always welcoming people and sending them off, visiting home on furlough then returning, moving from town to town as they helped train Japanese pastors and plant new churches. Around the time that we had Dave, Jonathan and Jayden staying with us, I was reading the this inspirational book by a couple who had served as missionaries in Japan for 25 years.
It seemed that while they were with us we gained extra members of our family. It was especially hard to say goodbye to Dave who stayed with us for three weeks. We just seemed to all work well together. You know even though we went to a lot of cool places with the guys, it was the simple things that are such good memories: One of the really cool things Dave and I did together was to play kick to kick Aussie Rules Football on two occasions; at a local park and also by the river. It's been so long since I've played kick to kick Aussie Rules and it was great to relive those memories in a foreign land. What was even cooler was that Dave goes for the Eagles (we don't hold that against him) which is the arch enemy of my team the Dockers and thus we wore our opposing teams gear for the kick to kick... The Nagaokakyo Western Derby! Sorry no one took any photos of that...
So after seeing Dave off at the airport, I paused a while to watch the planes depart one after another and that phrase “the life of continual farewells” just struck to the heart. This is the life I choose and sometimes it's tough, but I know I'm where God wants me to be.
Snow on the Streets
On the day Dave arrived in Japan, we had our first low altitude snowfall for the 2009-2010 winter. When Dave went to Tokyo, they had the biggest snowfall in three years. When Dave came back to Kyoto, we had the biggest amount of snow since we've been here (we moved here in November 2008). So the snow kind of followed Dave around I guess.
We only got one snow accumulation event at our low altitude in the 2008-2009 winter, and that one didn't show up on the roads, only the roof tops and gardens. This time snow was on roads, some where covered more than in these photos. Since it was Sunday I didn't have much time to take photos in the morning because I had to get ready to preach. After church it had all melted.
Meeting a living national treasure
Living in Japan, life is always full of surprises. Dave decided to come back and stay with us for a few more days after his week in Tokyo and Mr Sakamoto said he wanted to introduce us to his old university buddy who is now a Master Samurai Swordsmith. BTW Mr Sakamoto is an architect by profession, but his friend decided to give up a career in architecture to inherit the family business of Samurai Sword making.
Mr Sakamoto's friend lives quite far from us, right out the other side of Nara city actually. Since we had an afternoon appointment with the Master Samurai Swordsmith, we decided to take Dave out to see Nara in the morning.
So after seeing the Dai-Butsu (the giant Buddha) in Todai-ji (Todai temple), having lunch at our favourite Israeli Restaurant (serves Kosher & Vegan dishes) and stopping in to look at the historical Episcopal (Anglican) Church with architecture inspired by the Buddhist Temples in Nara, we finally caught a ride with the Sakamotos out to Sakurai.
When we arrived in Sakurai we had to trek on foot following some step pathways through some hills until we finally got to Gassan Sadatoshi's house. Gassan Sadatoshi is a Living National Treasure of Japan and is the current Master of the Gassan School of Sword Making. We spent a couple of hours there looking at the swords and talking about the artistic and technical aspects of sword making. It was such an honour to meet Gassan Sadatoshi and he challenged and inspired us in our own artistic pursuits (photography for me, filmmaking for Dave).