* Disclaimer: This post is long. Sorry not sorry. *
Here in Japan-land (I assume the locals just call it Japan, but I’m not there yet), we’ve entered the season of Thanksgiving & Christmas—holidays that have been adopted by the Japanese post-WWII. So we’ve been exploring the surrounding area in search for the perfect Japanese gifties (is that a word? sure it is.) for our family. This quest has taken us to nooks and crannies of our local community, Sagamihara, as well as the bustling metropolis of Tokyo proper. Therefore, this post will reflect the adventures we encountered along with way with a brief detour into the Gospel Chapel service we attended on Sunday and the lack of Wi-Fi availability in our hotel.
Apparently, the library agrees with me, as I found this in the children’s section of books.
We had the pleasure of being invited to our future neighbors’ for a thanksgiving dinner this week and it was wonderful. I had a more Northern version of this holiday than I’m used to (there was stuffing instead of dressing and they stirred the cranberry sauce so it lost the shape of the can it came out of…or I just realized…MAYBE THEY MADE IT FROM SCRATCH…witchcraft…) and every bite was delicious. Thank you, Renz family for your hospitality and for taking a chance on the random people the Army put next to you in the duplex. We promise we’ll return the favor soon, but no promises on the cranberry sauce…
If you’re thinking this is a clever title for a segment on something deep, you couldn’t be more wrong. This is literally about the various toilets I’ve encountered in Japan; so, if that’s a little bit TMI for you, feel free to skip to the next section.
The toilets here are mini-masterpieces of bathroom finery. Here are a few pictures of what I’ve seen while visiting different restrooms:
That’s right, there was a CONTROL PANEL with an instruction manual in one and a small child’s seat in one and almost all of them WARMLY WELCOME YOU WITH HEATED SEATS. I even saw one that made a urinating sound FOR you if you wanted so you wouldn’t have to be embarrassed. (What? I TOLD you to keep moving if this was too much!)
THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
I’m never leaving this magical place.
OR I can only be enticed to visit if you plan to have these installed in your home because, come on, heated seats.
The One About the WiFi
There is only wifi in the lobby of our hotel so we were given an Ethernet cord so we could access the hardwire internet on our computer, but this limits us to about 18 inches from the desk when using it.
TRANSLATION: We can’t watch Netflix in our bed.
Now before you go all #firstworldproblems on me, IT GETS WORSE. We were using our new phones and we saw an open wifi connection labeled JED that we were able to connect to no problem. BONUS. We used it on the computer and enjoyed bedtime Netflix-ing for all of 3 days before the owner of JED’s network got wise and PASSWORD PROTECTED IT. See? I told you it got worse…so…yeah. Now we don’t have JED anymore and we miss him and the phrase “Thanks a lot, JED!” is now common in our hotel room since the not-so-convenient pop-up wifi window always reminds us of his complete and total disconnect from us. I think I understand how the Breaking Amish people feel…
The One About IKEA
So we found an IKEA (praise!) and we’ve been readying ourselves for the new place, which we move into in T-Minus 3 days (confession time: I’ve never understood what “T-minus” means though I assume it’s about spacecraft so if anyone wants to enlighten me to its origins please see the comment section). We will have a Christmas tree for the first time EVER in our marriage and I couldn’t be more excited. Like I’m at the top level of excitement accessible to humans. So I turned to IKEA for all of my tree decorating needs and it was AWESOME. Hello white and gold themed tree! We also found killer deals on a new couch-turned-double-bed so BRING ON THE VISTORS!!!! We are ready for YOU! I mean, not yet…we still have the t-minusing action and then the moving action and then the clearing the boxes action, but then we are ready for YOU!
The One About the Church Service
We recently visited the SHA Chapel on our housing area and enjoyed a very friendly/energetic/three-songs-for-forty-minutes worship service about Thanksgiving. (praise!) And just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, there was a SURPRISE WEDDING. You read that right…there was a SURPRISE WEDDING at the end of the service. And since we were visitors, we obviously sat in the second row…and now we’re in the background of their wedding pictures for all of eternity. (praise!)
We headed to Tokyo via train bright & early Saturday morning (which in Caroline language means we left after breakfast at 10am). It was slated to take about an hour one-way so I came prepared with a backpack containing A Book Written In The Year I Was Born (Number The Stars by Lois Lowry) and an Easy Monday Crossword Puzzles book that I’ve been steadily cheating my way through since we left America. I’m happy to say that out of the 45 completed puzzles I’ve solved 10 without looking in the back…* self five. * It’s the little things…
P.S. For those aware of mine & Oakie’s & Katie’s & Ben’s 2015 Book Challenge (53 books in a year in categories like A Book Over 100 yrs. old and A Book Your Mom Loves), I’ve completed 40 and have COMPLETE CONFIDENCE that I will finish by the end of the year.
Once in Tokyo we were ready for some food and wandered around following Google Earth’s directions to a noodle shop for about an hour ending up in a ghost town of a train stop where all the businesses were closed including—you guessed it—the noodle shop. So then we winged it and ended up in an alley of restaurants (which looked exactly how you imagine that) and chose one at random. It was small (seating about 25) and the pictures on the menu outside looked good + they had noodles. Oakie is really into noodles right now; I, however, went for the item on the menu that most closely resembled my beloved Mongolian Beef from Chef Lee’s (the best Chinese food in Columbus, GA). When we ordered in confident English, the server responded to my pointing by saying, “Riba! Riba!” very urgently while pointing to his torso. He looked concerned for me. I smiled and said, “Oh yes! Ribs. I love ribs!” Don’t all Americans? He repeated the number, but I just smiled and nodded and he shrugged his shoulders and walked away. When he came back with our dishes, mine looked very much like the picture at which I pointed and I took that first bite with Mongolian expectations that were dashed on the rocks of the chalky aftertaste we’ve all come to know as LIVER.
RIBA = LIVER.
But don’t worry, my husband is a saint who will trade you noodles for liver any day and eat every bite and then trade your dish back so it looks like you really did likethe RIBA that came out and then your “arigato gozaimasu” is sincere and smiley as you leave.
Moments like that always make me rethink the magnitude of the event that happened at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9 if you’d like a refresher). The confusion of the languages must’ve caused more of a blow than that short text can really tell us. Mine is a small, comical example, but acute nonetheless. The fear and frustration that must’ve been instantly instilled when they first realized they couldn’t understand each other any more had to have been earth-shattering. And don’t we feel the ripples of that all these centuries later? The tightness in my chest when I ask, “Do you speak English?” and they answer with a bewildered smile is deep-seated and REAL. They are human and are flesh and blood like me, but when we look into each other’s eyes, we know there is an invisible barrier we cannot knock down. So we smile and are kind in the other ways we know and we challenge each other to learn. And these people, y’all, these people are chart-toppers in kindness.
Times Square Time
There is a place in Tokyo that comes up any time you Google image “downtown Tokyo” that is sometimes called the Times Square Equivalent and after we wandered around the Emperor’s Palace and an 8 floor shopping mall for a few hours we walked outside to the realization that we had just stumbled onto one of the most iconic places in Tokyo: The diagonal crosswalk in the middle of town aka the Times Square Equivalent.
I have no shame in being a tourist sometimes, especially when I have NO HOPE of blending in with the natives, ammiright?
#taylorswift (seriously, T-Swift, this is getting out of hand…)
So as I rode home on the sardine-packed train with my nose crushed against Oakie’s arm and another 7 humans within 6 inches of my face, I smiled. Because isn’t it all just grace that we get to see the things we do? Visit the places we do? Eat the livers we do? No journey is without its respective livers and I hope I never forget how sweet they make the noodles. And that I’m never too proud to wave that camera around in genuine awe of the diversity of His creation. Thank you, Tokyo, for the reminder of how small I am and thank you, Lord, for Your bigness that makes my smallness a delight.
Oakie drinking tea while gazing pensively out the window (his words).
Our new car!
The island of Enoshima
And the obligatory Hello Kitty store there…
…on my mind.
The largest hawk I’ve ever seen…
OH, now I get it.
Strolling in the gardens of the shrines…
Replica of the Liberty Bell in Tokyo
Tokyo when you give Oakie the camera…
And my first Starbucks of the move.
Thank you, Lord, for Starbucks being an international company that understands “caramel macchiato” everywhere you go…
Until, next time…