Thursday, October 30, 2008

Yamagata Family

This past week we took a short break to visit with Kaori's home church and family. Here's a picture of the whole Fukase (and three Lavermans) family. Can you find the foreigner? Nothing can make you feel like a foreigner more than being amongst family and realizing you are wholly different. Thankfully, as the Apostle Paul wrote, we are one in Christ: "Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all."

Still, I must admit that several days in the "REAL" Japan (Tokyo is not "really" Japan), I discover parts of me that still stick out in this culture. After a few hours of sitting on the floor, my legs, bottom, and back begin to beg for a comfortable chair. And it's still a challenge to muster up the willpower to eat raw fish and salad for breakfast. Lunch or dinner, okay. But breakfast is still a sacred meal that I try to do more Western style when home. And my Yamagata accent listening skills are also in poor shape. It seems I've been spoiled by the "mainstream" Japanese in the Kanto area.

Well, those and many more things are still areas of growth for me in cultural adaptation. Thankfully I've still some years to work on it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How to decide just about anything in Japan

Here is a game we played together at our church picnic last week. Q: What in the world is this group of adults doing? A: Playing the rock, paper, scissors game of course! In Japan any child from 3 years on up knows rock, paper, scissors, called "jan-ken-pon" in Japanese. It is the classic way of deciding just about anything. Observe Japan carefully and you will see kids and adults doing this everywhere.

We might think this game is an American invention, but the story goes that jan-ken-pon is based on an ancient game in Japan involving gestures for a snake, frog, and slug. Don't ask me to tell you how one decides the winner of that kind of battle, but perhaps it was an enjoyable picnic game back then, too.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Putting a dollar to good use?

The dollar has fallen and it can't get up. Such is life of any worldwide missionary these days. What does an deflated dollar mean?

First the technical definition: it means that the purchasing power of a currency is falling so that a given unit will buy less of a product or service in the future than it does today.

Now for the modern definition: it means that artists in Tokyo are feeling much better about using the dollar for origami paper these days!

While out the other day, I was surprised to see a street vendor with his creative collection of origami art out of dollar bills. Perhaps it is a sign of the times. After all, good washi (Japanese decorative paper) can cost quite a bit, but the dollar bill as a artistic medium...well these days the price is pretty good, and getting better. Right now his cost is only 99yen each for each creation, to be exact.

It was humorous to me that many of his creations were winged beasts. It reminded me of Proverbs: "Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky." 23:5

Oh for the good 'ol days when the dollar in Japan could really buy a complete McDonald's hamburger set. These days I'm a yen short of the price of even the hamburger. I suppose, though, my waistline is glad for the change.