This transfer went by so fast! That's a good thing, it means I'm having fun. Transfer results: I'll be in Matsudo for another six weeks with Sister Mano. I'm not really surprised because she's a great missionary, but she wears me out! When I actually do transfer they may need to roll me out of Matsudo on a wheelchair. Although, the hard work is paying off---I can now bike all the way up the hill to the Kita-Matsudo hospital, and getting up the hill to the Ishijima's house is a breeze.
Thank you to all my siblings who wrote me the last few weeks! I LOVE hearing from you. Know that even if I don't have time to reply personally that I really appreciate the emails from my favourite people. And I apologize for not sending many pictures lately. I'll try to do better!
Trina sent me some questions about Japan that I thought everyone might find interesting. I'll answer them all now and maybe draw comics about them soon:
1. What's the most disgusting thing you've eaten so far?
I went to a fancy sushi restaurant that served a full fancy meal, and there was some vinegary pumpkin pudding that was made with wasabi, raddish, and something seaweedy. Grooooooss.
2. Do Japanese people basically sleep on mattresses on the floor...without bedframes?
Nihonjin sleep on futons which, yes, are basically thin mattresses. Sometimes they stack them several high (I've got two) but most only use one. It's not the most comfortable thing ever but missionaries are so dead tired at the end of the day that I don't complain. Also, in every Japanese home they have bedrooms with tatami mat floors---woven mats that are a little soft and bouncy. So sleeping on the floor isn't really all that bad. Plus since homes are so tiny it's really convenient to roll up your bed and use the space for something else. In Matsudo we're fortunate enough to have a pretty spacious apartment but it's not unheard of for missionaries---and even normal people---to unroll their futons in the kitchen and sleep there.
3. Do Japanese people have American-sized refrigerators or little cold boxes that sit on the floor? There was a picture you sent of your apartment with a white box - small ice box looking thing on the floor....was that the refrigerator?
That white box in the photo was actually our dryer! Not many homes have one, but we get to use it for garments so we don't have to hang them up outside. As for refrigerators, the sizes vary a lot. Ours is a bit smaller than your average American fridge, but I've seen plenty that are bigger and smaller.
4. Describe/draw a typical breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Japan.
"Typical" food in Japan is hard to describe because it varies based on how traditional the person is. A very traditional Nihonjin (my trainer was one) will have rice, soup, and soybeans at every meal, but most Japanese people have a variety of western foods every day too. As for me, I eat pretty much the same as I did before my mission---cinnamon toast and yogurt in the morning, rice and vegetables for lunch, and maybe pasta and salad for dinner. I eat more traditional foods when members feed us, of course, and those usually consist of a ton of rice plus salad and several different kinds of meat. Despite this being JAPAN I've been served very little fish so far.
5. Do all school children wear uniforms?
Yes, they do, and they are SO cute. Every school has a slightly different uniform so it's really fun to see the kids getting on the train or riding to school. Sometimes kindergarten kids wear normal clothes, but that's rare.
6. How do Japanese feel about President Obama?
I have no idea. As missionaries we're discouraged from talking about politics, but I haven't even heard a Japanese person bring it up. The Japanese probably don't care much about American politics. For the most part they don't seem very interested in world news, but then my view is biased because my conversations with people are rarely normal since I spend all day talking about church!
7. How do Japanese feel about America?
It depends on whom you ask. Most older Japanese people either don't care or would rather avoid foreigners (Americans included) but younger generations think American stuff is really cool. They love movie stars, tv shows (Kiko-chan's favourite movie is High School Musical), and products with English printed on them. Most Japanese I've talked to either have traveled to America (like Hawaii or the grand canyon) or want to go there at some point.
8. Ignorant question here.....are Japanese people limited on how many children they can have like in China?
The government doesn't impose a limit, but the Japanese do end up having fewer children. It's partly because of tradition and partly because of living expenses. LDS families have more children than the average Nihonjin just like in America.
9. Do all Japanese children learn English in school?
Yes, they do! Probably every single Japanese person knows some English, which is way more than you can say for Americans. From the Nihonjin I've talked to, English is pretty much a staple in school because it's the most convenient to learn for international relations. I love meeting people on the train who want to try to speak English with me.
10. Do the Japanese people hate the Chinese as much as they hate the Japanese?
I've never heard of the Japanese hating the Chinese or even vice versa. We actually meet a lot of Chinese people here. I don't think the Japanese hate anyone, they're just wary of any foreigners. It's an inherent part of their culture. When I first got here I was a little shocked and even offended at how foreigners get constantly reminded how foreign they are, but it's just a part of life here. The Korean immigrants used to be persecuted a lot but I think that's died down in everyday life (although I'm not sure what restrictions the government still has on them). Being a foreigner in Japan is such a unique experience; I'm not sure there's anything like it in the world.
11. Draw samples of Japanese fashion. Do they pretty much look American or are they like that crazy book Calvin got that shows them dressed in crazy costumes?
Picture a sharp-looking, well-dressed person and then imagine that all Japanese people look like that. Seriously, the Nihonjin are so stylish. Hardly anyone here looks sloppy and I love it. There are some people who wear crazy costumes but it's mostly in the big cities so I don't see it much.
12. When is their school year?
About the same as America but summer vacation is considerably shorter.
13. Wait.....what season are you in right now? So far it sounds like it's been nothing but hot and rainy since you've arrived!
I got here at the end of spring, June was rainy, and the hottest part of summer is July-August. So yes, the weather has been fun pretty much the whole time!
14. What religion are most Japanese? Is faith a very strong component of their lives?
Most Japanese people claim to be Buddhist but hardly any actively study or practice. It's just a part of their culture, and it's mixed with Shinto ancestor worship. Most people have family shrines where they leave little gifts, even if they practice no other religious act. This is actually a really interesting question that we face all day long in Japan. When we contact people on the street, we like to ask people if they've been to a Christian church before (usually no) or if they've ever thought about God before (usually no). It's crazy to think that Nihonjin honestly have never thought about the Big Questions, but that's just the way the culture is here! Granted we also meet plenty of people who are devout Buddhist or Shinto but the average person makes a living and doesn't think a lot about deity. That's what makes missionary work here so challenging but rewarding when we meet people who really do want answers.
15. Do they all have little Bonsai trees in their home that they work on or is that just for old Mr. Miagi-type Karate Kid teachers?
Most people don't have many plants in their homes but they have a TON in front of their house all in pots of different sizes and colours. It's awesome. There are some beautiful gardens and well-kept trees in Japan. Gardening is important to most Japanese people and there are many people in Matsudo area who grow their own flowers and vegetables.
Well I hope everyone has a great time returning to school/work/life after the summer vacation! We're definitely looking forward to all our investigators coming back from the holiday. We're going to work hard this transfer. Thank you for all your support! I love you!