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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Week 38: October 21-27, 2013, Serving in Kumamoto Japan

Monday was another wonderful preparation day.  What do we prepare for, the rest of the week.
This time we enjoyed talking with family members in the morning while missionaries used our two computers and one tablet to email.  This is their only day to communicate with family and friends and we are happy to help them.  With so many missionaries in our area the church computer would never accommodate them in any reasonable time.  Internet cafes our off limits in our mission.  The afternoon was spent in preparation for and having a birthday party for one of our Japanese missionaries.  It was a fun birthday party, and we trust showed our love and support for these hard working missionaries.

We are enjoying the persimmons here in Japan:

Here is the cake Luetta made for the birthday party.  They only have small microwave size ovens in Japan (unless you special order them for the United States) so you can only make small cakes.

The construction outside our balcony continues.  This week they put in the utility piping under the road. 
Our big trip these week was to inspect the apartments in Oita and Beppu.  Beppu is an example of the growth of missionary work her in the Kumamoto Zone.  This area how rents a meeting building and there are now eight missionaries where there we only two in Oita when we came here.
We had to travel during a typhoon, but it was mild in these areas.  We traveled in moderate rain.  Here is a field of another way they use to dry the rice in the field.

We passed a small lumber yard.  You see these small mills spotted throughout the mountainous regions of Japan.

Here is video of our travel.  Notice how narrow this road is and it is two way.
As Typhoon Francisco was leaving us, an opening in the cloud cover to the south of us opened and this fantastic sunset displayed. As we get ready to move to Fukuoka, we know we will miss this.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Week 37: October 14-20, 2013, Serving in Kumamoto Japan

Monday the 14th was preparation day.  On this day we decided to hike to the top of nearby mountain called Kinbo.  This mountain is the highest one that can been seen in any of our sunset photos.  It is covered with lush green trees, including bamboo.  It is a well known place to visit.  We didn't see any but there are wild monkeys on the mountain, these are really wild and we have been told to not approach them or especially try to pet them.

This is the start of the hike, which is relatively steep and very steep in some places.  There is an alternate trail (that I call the Sorvari trail) that goes straight up and doesn't us the switchbacks.

Here are some trail photo's.



I was interested to see ferns on the hill side but they are not tree or sword ferns that I am use to in California.

Here is my favorite spot about half way up, I think.  It is a look out spot and about the only one before the top due to the dense tree stands.  Notice I have my sunglasses on.


This is a nature trail and so many of the typical trees are marked, in the scientific name and Japanese off course.

Here is a sign as we get closer to the top.  Note the evidence of a steep trail both on the sign and otherwise.  The upcoming elevation change is calculated and the final elevation goal.

We found these trees interesting, as they have a type and color of bark similar to redwoods but not as scaly as redwoods.  It is Japanese cypress.

More trail pictures.

This sign shows we are getting closer to the top and more in the open.

The gate at the top of the mountain.

Sign showing the elevations and other statistics.  Notice the interesting carton of a Monkey.  At the time I didn't realize there were really monkeys on the mountain, so thought it was curious to have that symbol on the mountain signs.

One view.

A view of the distant Kumamto Port on the South side.  This is the port where we catch the ferry over to Nagasaki prefecture.

An interesting Buddhist shrine at the top.

Views of downtown Kumamoto from the North side of the top.

On Tuesday we got some interesting sunset shots.  The first has interesting sunbeams going downward.

In the second, the tallest mountain is the one we hiked.

On Wednesday we did our weekly trek to the International Center.  Here is some pictures of us biking.

Notice I am now wearing my suit coat, a requirement of the cooler (not always) season.

Here is a photo and a movie of a large granite ball that is suspended by water flowing us from the bottom and can easily be rotated by hand even though I'm sure it weights a lot.


On Thursday we took the long trip again to try and find the less active America in the Nagamine ward.  We started bikes, but it is starting to get dark early and I calculated we would not make it back before dark and the time to give a ride to Elders at the Bus stop for Zone Meeting tomorrow.  We went back to the apartment and got the car.  We were successful finally but found out he had moved a long time ago.

Since this is way out in the country we came across some interesting things.  First it is rice harvest season and we came across it in progress.  I had always wondered how they harvested in the small plots they use.  Here is a picture of the small harvester used at least here.

It's hard to tell from this picture but the rice is collected in sacks (three on each side).  I assume it is at least thrashed to remove the rice from the stalks.  The stalks are then dropped onto the ground to dry and eventual bailing.

In another location you see the more ancient method of cutting them down by hand and tying them in bundles and standing them up to dry.  These will probably be trashed and winnowed by hand as well.

What a labor intensive process, amazing that it is still used today.

Here are some areas where the rice straw has been bailed.  They use much larger equipment to make these huge rolled bails.

We finally came across some Holstein cows.  They do sell milk in Japan, but a large part of the Asian population are lactose intolerant so it doesn't come in huge sizes.

Next to the Holstein shed was a shed with the bailed rice straw.  I don't know what they use it for, normally straw is used for animal bedding or horse feed.  Luetta said straw is not nutritional enough for milking cows..

Persimmon is a common fruit you find in the stores here.  Here is a persimmon tree.  In Japanese Kaki (かき) is the name for persimmon.

I have found the fruit enjoyable as long as it is not overripe.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Week 36: October 7-13, 2013, Serving in Kumamoto Japan

Our week started out with a fun bike trip to Suizenji Joju-en Garden.

Here is the history of this very ancient garden.

They call the water of the pond, "affluent" but it is better termed artesian since the waters shed off oso volcanic mountains flow in pervious rock and sand and come up from the ground at various places, one of which is this park. The water is very clear and pure, by all we are told.

They have lots of Koi in the pond.

This park has a replica of Mt. Fuji as seen in this picture.

I am always impressed with the large gates they have in Japan.

Here is a fascinating basin of the artesian water with dippers for drawing the water.  I love the bamboo piping and the stone basin.

This is the Kokin-Denju-no-Ma teahouse is apparently under development, there are two figures in the window being set up for a display.  Recently our Japanese teacher at the International Center got two complimentary tickets to a traditional tea ceremony that was going to be held at the International Center.  We would have to insist on drinking Mugicha (barley tea) instead of regular tea.  This, summer cold drink is served at almost all church activities.  Unfortunately it was on Sunday and we had to reluctantly turn it down.

There is the beautiful Izumi Shrine in the park.

Cats are popular in Japanese displays like this one.

Statues of key historical figures associated with this garden.  Hosokawa Tadatoshi on the right

The rest of the week followed our regular schedule.  On Friday we stopped at a retail grocery store to buy tomato's for making BLT sandwiches.  We were amazed at the cost of 380 yen.  The conversion for yen is cost to 1$ so each tomato cost about $1.90.  Fresh fruits and vegetables can be very expensive in Japan.

It is always amazing living in Japan.

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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