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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Week 8 - March 25-31, 2013 Japan Fukuoka Mission

This has been a great week Starting with preparation day.  In addition to the normal preparation including clean up of the apartment etc. we went with the missionaries and youth of the Kumamoto wards to see the Cherry Blossoms at Kumamoto Castle.  This was our first visit inside the Castle.  Many people like to come to the Castle during the spring when the Cherry Trees (Sakara, さから) are in full bloom.  They are most beautiful.  Many come and eat a picnic near the river just outside the long Castle wall as shown below.

And some just come to view the beauty.
 
 


Oh the Cherry blossoms are beautiful also. 
 
 
 We started at the Sudoguchi Gate,  As best as I can tell this means bamboo gate which is foolish to enter.  Given the trecherous path and many steep rock lined walls to the main tower, I can understand why it would be a foolish door to enter for an invading force.
 
 


We visited the Main Tower and the Honmaru-goten Palace today as there it is much to large to see in a single P-day.

 

 

 We finally made it to the base of the main castle tower.
 
 
 
 Admission to the main tower, 7 stories tall, was free, but you had to get past the Imperial guard.
 
 Most of the antiquities inside were posted as do not photograph.  Here is an example of typical Japanese roof line decorations.
 
 
We finally made it to the top and were treated to fantastic views of the grounds and surounding areas.

This is the area where the photo above was taken at the base of the main tower, which is itself is on top of a large hill with many very steep, rock lined walls that would prove the undoing of the disenchanted Samurai warriors of the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion.

 
After coming down we encountered this ferocious looking warrier.
 
 
 Here is what I posted on facebook about this facinating castle. 
The Satsuma Rebellion: Its 1877 and we now have Kumamoto castle in the hands of the newly established Meiji Imperial Empire. This was an uprising and revolt against the Government by disenchanted samurai warriors who were upset over changes, and their loss of power because of them. Saigo arrived with his 20,000 samurai and attacked Kumamoto Castle. Saigo’s army was not only well trained samurai warriors with superior sword skills, they are also armed with the latest guns, rifles, and artillery that the imperial army had been using to their advantage. The few thousand defending troops learned very quickly that the 250-year-old wooden structures of the castle were no match for modern artillery. The main tower of the Castle (called the tenshu in Japanese) was blasted by artillery and burned to the ground. To make matters worse, another one of the buildings that caught fire was holding their food supply. Even with all these factors in Saigo’s favor, He could not penetrate the defensive structures of Kumamoto Castle. It is a tribute to it's design and engineering that the samurai army could not get through the maze of gates or over the curved stone walls.
The Castle and defending troops held out for 7 weeks cut off from support and under constant attack. When the main Imperial army of near 100,000 troops arrived by land and sea, the tired and depleted samurai army was chased out of Kumamoto. It is such a dramatic and epic story that they should make a movie about it. Oh wait.. They did make a movie abut it. Its called The Last Samurai.  By the way, this movie was not actually filmed in Kumamoto or in Japan, thats "Hollywood" for you.
 
We next went to the Honmaru-goten Palace.  It is a huge building that takes over 1500 tatami mats to cover the floor.  We had to remove our shoes when entering.  Here are some photos.
 






What a fantastic day and there is much more to see on other P-days.

In the early part of Tuesday Luetta and I had speparate Skype classes from our Language Specialist at the Provo, MTC.  He is working with us on learning our learning styles and developing goals in our language learning.  Here is a screen capture of the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting criterion.

We are selectin goals for our Japanese development.  I have selected words I own (vocabulary), verbs/conjugation that I own, Sentense types I own, Native Japanese Language interations per day, and several other mission related goals.  This is a fun class and I so much appreciate the special post MTC language Skype classes the church allows us to have.  We also have a Language Tutor who specifically helps us with language learning, and another specialist that has not been assigned yet.  Wow!

Tuesday was also District meeting.  The sisters asked for a ride to there which we were happy to help with, but they surprised us with a spiritual thought while we drove about everything getting better and better.  They couldn't have realized that our spirits were at a low point and there message was so much appreciated and we saw it as God's love being sent to us through His missionaries, while we are deaf and dumb in Japan.  We have so much appreciation for those in a foreign country with little language.  We are lucky that so many try to speak and do speak to us in English, and the language of Angels (the Holy Spirit).  While at District meeting we were instructed by the zone leaders on companion relationships.  They used two photos taken at Kumamoto Castle the day before, one that one elder took of the beautify scene of Cherry Blossoms and one that another elder took of the precipice he was leaning out off and being supported by his companion.  One of the Elders that is a good artist then created a drawing using the descriptions of the two groups that described one of the pictures.  It turned out rather well.


Wednesday we spend most of the day picking up Eikwai (English Class) posters and getting ready for the next drawing for three weeks of having our posters up around all of Kumamoto.  As far as we know, no one has come as result of them yet.  It it doesn't prove fruitfull in about 3-4 cycles we will find other methods.  The flyers at the internation center had two people that have come so far and a member that works there has set us up for two more months of posting.  In the second story area where we take Japanese classe from a Native Japanese ex High School teacher we put up 6 larger flyers and three had been taken when we looked last.  We hope to get new students with these.  Learning English is very popular in Japan.

Thursday, we finished picking up posters in the downtown part of town and in areas we had not driven before.  It was a real adventure as none of these community boards were programmed into the Gramin yet, so it was map (in 100% Japanese) and our wits.

We took this photo of our apartment building.  Ours is the top floor, fartherest left.



Friday was a great day, we took the zone leaders to visit a smaller island south of Kumamoto.  Here is a map of the area, in fact we crossed via bridges many islands to get there.


Here is a bit of history of this area.  "Amakusa is a group of islands to the southwest of Kumamoto Prefecture.  Relatively-large three islands and the mainland surround Yatsushiro Sea, and many other small islands are around there.
Also Uto Peninsula in Kumamoto Prefecture and Shimabara Peninsula in Nagasaki Prefecture are close to this islands.  The large three islands are Kamishima, Shimoshima and Nagashima.
Between Kamishima and Shimoshima, there is a narrow channel like a canal.  Christianity was first introduced to Japan in 1549 by Saint Francis Xavier, a Catholic missionary belonging to the Society of Jesus.  Then eager missionary works were done based in Hirado or Nagasaki in Nagasaki Prefecture.  Christianity was also introduced in Shimoshima in 1566, and it got many believers.
In the late 16th century, many churches and a seminary were built in this islands.

But Christianity was banned in 1587, and the lords around this area suppressed the Christians.
In the result, the people in Amakusa and Shimabara revolted against the tyranny of the lords in 1637 in conspiracy.  But many of them were killed out at an old castle in Shimabara where they took refuge.  Since that, remaining Christians had hidden in this islands until the lifting of the ban of Christianity in 1873.  Even now, about 30 percent of Amakusa people are Christians."

 Here are a few photos from the car of our travel there on a cloudy, but not rainey day.  I loved the palm trees, and ocean views, reminded me of California, but more green.


Here is a fameous christian church.  We didn't have time to tour, but took pictures from the car window.

Mormonism is, obviously, a relatively recent addition to the diversity of the area, but it is struggling. There use to be a ward in Amakusa, but it is not anymore. We were determined to visit some of the about 40 less active members on the island. One active member met us at a common resturant in Japan, Joyfull.


We were able to visit three less active families, teach three lessons that included two non-members, give out two Book of Mormons and invite one to to follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptised by restored authority.  We invited them all to attend an upcoming Ward Conference in Kumamoto as well.  We expect to return many times to this fantastic island and hope that with the nearly doubling of the number of missionaries in this mission to have them return to a full time presence in Amakusa.

After a fantastic day, we left as the evening approached.

We tried to visit one last person, and we went up this lovely valley/canyon with water filled rice fields.


But, we coulda not find the family, even though we were told that last name was wide spread in the area.

Saturday we had our second Japense tutor from the MTC.  Did you know that in Japanese you can conjugate adjectives to present + and -, as well as past + or -.  Who would have quessed.  We also had English class at 2 p.m.  We were very surprised when two of our students gave us a wonderful gift of Kumamoto Mandarin Oranges, big ones.


Then in the evening a wonderful Kumamoto Ward activity celelebration the grown of the church since Cumorah and in Japan.  This event is befor Ward Conference on Sunday.  Here are the five stations:
First a 30 minute First Vision movie in Japanese.
 Joseph Smith in Palmyra.
 Early Missionary work.
 Building the Church.
Many look at of photos of missionaries that have served both here and from here,
and here is one more.

 


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Week 7, March 18-24, 2013 Japan Fukuoka Mission

This has been a wonderful week.  It started out with a Mission Conference for the Kumamoto/Kagoshima areas.  Brother Mills, who is in charge of all foreign MTC's was the keynote speaker.  The President's assistants first reported that the mission has 112 missionaries as well as 7 missionary couples.  However over the next year they expect this to rise to 140 full time missionaries.  That is a doubling of the full time missionary effort in this area of the "Lord's vineyard"  President Gustavson spoke about the Standards of excellence in the mission and the top 5 iniative in the Wards, Branches, and Districts of the mission.  Bro. Mills spoke about the importance to tell a principle of truth to every person we interact with so the Spirit has a chance to testify of its truth.  It was a fantastic conference.

Cherry Blossom time has started here in Kumamoto.  We went to our Japanese class at the International Center in downtown Kumamoto and even though it was raining the Cherry Blossom's were fantastic.  Here is a close up that I took.
 Here I am along the long wall of the Kumamoto castle with the Cherry Trees (sakura no ki).
And here is Luetta.
 
 On Thursday we drove across the island of Kuushu to Oita to inspect the apartment there.  It was a fantastic trip.  Here are some photos of the trip.
A beautify pine tree lined road.
Rice terraces ready for the rice to grow.
While in Oita, after inspecting the apartment and hunting up a bunch of things that were needed, we drove down to the waterfront and found this fantastic cruise ship getting ready to go.  We saw four 18 wheeler trucks enter the front of the ship (see the part pulled up on the picture).  Amazing.
 We did a little driving along the water front and got this fantastic shop across the harbor of the ship.
The next morining before driving back to Kumamoto we went back to take pictures during the day of this area.  Before we left our comfy hotel we took a picture of it.
The Elders apartment had a "way cool" Dendo clock that puts their day timetable on the wall.
Here are us with the zone leaders and Oita Elders as we got ready to go back.
Here is a picture of the ship (apparently it is a Ferry Ship).
At the seaside we climbed up on the seal wall.
The water here is amazingly clear.
On our way back to Kumamoto we stoppped on the outskirts to have some of the fameous Ramen at this resturant.
I got the very spicy, which was just about right for me.  I loved it, we programed that place into the Garmin.
 

 Saturday was a wonderful day.  We joined with the Kummoto and Nagamine Wards on temple day.  We got there in time to join in one Japanese session and then the English session just after it.  It was a great day.  This is the first time we have been to the temple since leaving America.  It felt so good.  It was especially great since we were with so many people that we now know and love.  It was really reat since Matsuka Koydai, a new convert of just a few weeks went and did twenty baptisms for the dead.  What a wonderful key to his testimony was added by doing this great service to our loved departed kin.  I can't believe it, we had so much fun that we forgot to take pictures.
 
On the way home we had a great treat and stopped at Costco (thanks Lynn for sending our cards to us)  We had pizza that tasted just like wonderful Combo pizza from home and got lots of great food that has the american taste and type that we really enjoy in addition to all the new taste sensations of Japan.
 
Sunday, we attended both wards.  Here is an example of an announcement flyer for an upcoming activity on the 30th.  As mentioned on facebook, "
Here is an announcement for a Kumamoto Ward Activity that thanks to Japan Googles app I can read well enough to figure out what it is about. Japan Googles, will take a picture of a Konji character and find its many meanings, this along wit...h my MTC trained ability to read Hirogana and Katagana and sometime what the words are is the key. The app is fantastic. Can you figure out what the activity is about, pictures are also a cue to context."
 
 
I really like the cute Kumomon bear.
 
Lastly here is a very interesting painting in the Kumamoto Stake building of the Tree of Life.  I really like the Japanese people under the tree of life.  Not the best picture, maybe I can get a better one later.
 


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I have worked 30 years at Del Monte Foods in Walnut Creek CA, 5 years at Ralston Purina in San Diego CA, 7 years at Carnation in Oconomowoc WI