Sunrise from our apartment

Friday, October 8, 2010

Missionary Update

I have been posting on the blog quite a few pictures and descriptions of our accomodations and our travels and thought I should take the opportunity to actually tell you what we are doing here as missionaries. We are assigned to serve as Military Relations missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to the military members stationed at the Yokota Air Base, Yokosuka Naval Base and Camp Zamp which is a Army Post with a Navy Air contigent. We are specifically assigned to work with the young single adult military members of the Church and also meet the needs of other military members assigned to these bases.

Our apartment is located in the town of Fussa near one of the main train stations. The tourist books describe Fussa as being "typical small town USA" because of the stores catering to the US Servicemen. Obviously they have not been to many small towns in the USA!! Yokosuka is about 73 km (45 miles) from Fussa but we understand it takes about 3 hours to drive there due to traffic. We went to Zama Branch the first Sunday after we arrived. It took us just over an hour to drive the 25 km. We understand it can take over 2 1/2 hours when the traffic is heavy.

Elder Arnell was called to the Honshu Military District High Council last Sunday. A Military District is like a Stake Unit of the church in its structure. The District serves only American Military Branches within its boundaries. The island of Honshu is the main island of Japan and covers over 1,000 miles. The area of our mission covers just the middle portion of the island but Elder Arnell may be traveling throughout the entire District boundaries. We figure it will take us the rest of 2010 just getting to know where things are and not getting lost along the way. Driving on the left side of the road can be a challenge. Since we lived in England 30 years ago we got used to it and it didn't take Elder Arnell very long to become accustomed to it as well as the winding, narrow roads.

The people in Japan are very courteous, both on and off the road. The road construction flaggers have lightsaber-like wands it indicate slower or stopped traffic. They are very humble and bow as you go by. The streets are amazingly clean and even though there are quite a few people coming and going there is not a lot of noise. As I mentioned, we live right next to a major train station and can barely hear the trains coming and going.

The LDS Church helds it's semi-annual conference in Salt Lake City the 1st weekend in October. Since we are 15 hours ahead in time from the Mountain Standard Time it was already Monday here where it was Sunday there. Therefore, we will be going to the church this Saturday and Sunday to listen to the conference sessions. Of course we know we can get them online anytime and have listened to a few sessions already. It is nice to be able to be with other members of the church though instead of just being in our apartment.

We plan to start an institute class here at Yokota soon as well as at the other two military locations. We just need to figure out the logistics. We will probably travel to the furthest base and stay for a couple of days each week. As I mentioned--it will probably take us the rest of this year just to get things figured out.

I hope you are all enjoying our little adventure in Japan as much as we are.

Our First Visit to a Shinto Shrine-Oct 6, 2010

There are numerous Shinto Shrines and Bhuddist Temples in Fussa as well as throughout Japan. The Fussa missionaries showed us the closest Shinto Shrine and Elder Arnell and I went to check it out. There is a major river just a 15 minute walk west from our apartment. There is a 50 km path (about 30 miles) along that river. Maybe we'll be in good enough shape next spring to walk the whole path--but that would mean that we would also have to walk back as well. We may have to rethink that. The Minami-Inari Jinjya Shrine is located just off the river path by one of the main bridges. We got quite a few pictures--mostly so we could show them to the Japanese members so they could explain some of the things we saw. Like for instance the 4th and 5th pictures show narrow boards of various heights with different Japanese characters printed on them. There is a large basket of them at the entrance to the cemetery part of the shrine and people take one and place it in a container at the top of the headstone. I will let you know when i find out what they mean.
The first picture shows the Shinto Shrine. It was closed but the doors were open about six inches so Woody was able to get a shot of the interior--2nd picture. They had a very large bell with a wooden clapper that was attached to a rope--picture #6. It took a lot of will power not to ring the bell. There was a lot of very pretty vegetation and well groomed trees on the premises as well as numerous stone statues.

Trip into the mountains

On Saturday, October 2nd we took a little drive West of Fussa to an area called Okatuma and Ome. After driving about 20 minutes we were out of the city and in a marvelous wooded and mountainous area. The roads were very winding and narrow with many tunnels through the mountain. We passed numerous Bhuddist shrines and other tourist attractions but didnt' stop at any of them on this trip. We just wanted to see what was up the road and also needed to make sure we could find our way back to Fussa.
When I got out to take the second picture of a fishing bridge that spans the lake I saw a monkey in the bushes next to the road. I didn't know there were monkeys running wild here in Japan. Of course, I didn't know there were jungles just outside of the city limits either.
The picture of the toilet facilities at one of the rest stops along the way tells its own story. In the cities they have Westernized toilets, but this is the typical Japanese accomodation. You bring your own toilet paper and soap along. The last picture is a map of the lake. We drove about 3/4 of a mile on the bottom portion. At the end of the lake and much higer up the mountainside there is a tram that will take you up to the mountain top. We will take that trip at a later date. We understand that in about two weeks the leaves will turn and it will be an even prettier drive. But along with that will be many more cars, bicyclists and hikers on the narrow roads. We won't be taking that trip on a weekend.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Trip to Okutama Lake--about an hour drive west of Fussa

We took drive Saturday west of our town, Fussa, to Okutama Lake. It is about an hour drive up through very winding, narrow roads through tunnels blasted through the mountains and forests filled with very tall trees. When I took the first picture I actually saw a monkey in the bushes next to the road. I couldn't believe that there were actual wild monkeys just roaming around. Since this was our first road trip we just drove up and back and didn't stop at any of the Buddhist shrines or other tourist stops along the way. We will be making this trip many times during the next 17 months and will keep you posted.

Eating Out in Tokyo

Our first meal in Tokyo was in a little restaurant called Kazuki about a block away from the Tokyo Temple. It features Raman bowls. You choose your item from a menu on a vending machine at the entrance and then select the appropriate button on the vending machine and pay. Then you take your seat at the bar and they bring you your food. Instead of water they serve a weak drink called Mugicha. It tastes a bit like Postum or maybe Cheerio tasting water. I did fairly well with the chopsticks. The meat wrapped pot stickers in the 3rd picture are called Gyouzan .

First Trip to Tokyo Temple

On Friday, October 1st we drove into Tokyo with the Honshu Military District President, Thad Chamberlain. Military District Presidents are like Stake Presidents in the church structure. The district has a temple night the first Friday of each month. It took us just over an hour to drive from Yokota Air Base to the temple in downtown Tokyo. I understand it can take up to 2 1/2 hours if the traffic is bad. We also made it home in about the same amount of time. Woody and I will be driving by ourselves next time we go to Tokyo the end of October for a mission meeting. we will probably stay the whole weekend and see more of the city.
I wonder how real photographers photoshop out the electrical wires when they take pictures of the temple from this location. the sign in the fourth picture says "Tokyo Japan Temple - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints"