It’s a rainy Saturday afternoon here in Nagoya, and I am enjoying doing nothing but reading, e-mailing, and sleeping. My dear friends, John and Christy, left Japan yesterday afternoon after a 12-day whirlwind trip that took us to Osaka, Tokyo, Kyoto, and a small town called Nagahama. We were so thankful for the cool weather during the entire trip – it rained a lot which cooled everything down. This time of year is usually sweltering and humid so we really lucked out! I enjoyed seeing Japan through their eyes and I often remembered the early days when I first arrived to Japan back in 2001 and all the things that initially shocked, baffled, mystified, and delighted me.

I also enjoyed having some good talks with John and Christy about their impressions of Japan, and one way they described Japan is a “well-oiled machine.” Everything here is done decently and in order (“very Presbyterian,” as John said). The trains are 99% on time, the customer service is efficient and thorough, the streets are clean and neat-looking (for the most part), the technology is amazing, and the people seem to know what is expected of them and function well as a group. There were some sad moments, like seeing the high, bright-red doors at a subway station that were built due to the high number of suicide attempts by people jumping on the tracks of an oncoming train. There were some funny moments like John’s joy in BOSS iced coffee that he bought every day at one of many vending machines on the street as well as falling in love with melon buns. We had fun trying out the myriads of massage chairs at stores in Tokyo and oohed and awed at the electronics district of Tokyo called Akihabara (endless stores of computers, cameras, TV’s, toys, etc.). John was amazed as I was at the assortment of endleess pens at the stationary store – Japan has the best stationary stores in the world, truly a letter-writer’s fantasy. John and Christy also were amazed by the number of temples and shrines here and asked a lot of good questions about the religions of Japan, Shintoism and Buddhism. They enjoyed meeting lots of my precious Japanese friends and were astounded at the way Japanese people conform to the expectations of their society whereas Americans would probably rebel against what we Westerners might consider to be very oppressive cultural standards.

I am sad that my friends are gone, but I am gearing up for the fall semester at Christ Bible Seminary. I think I will be teaching several more English classes, plus I will be studying Japanese more intensely, auditing a course in Japanese church history (in Japanese), helping with All Nations Fellowship, and helping out at the Green Chapel.

Well, here are a few photos from my trip. John took over 1300 photos during their trip and  I didn’t feel the need to take pictures because he was always taking photos anyway. So these are just the highlights…

My cooking teacher, Terashima-san, performed a tea ceremony for us and dressed Christy in a kimono. I am used to seeing Terashima-san in only t-shirts and shorts so it was so nice to see her in a real kimono! The position she is sitting in is called SEIZA in Japanese – it is so hard for foreigners to sit like this for an extended period of time. She said she can sit like this for up to six hours!

Sweet shot of her laughing

I had castle envy…Osaka castle is way cooler than Nagoya Castle…oh well.

We rode on the train a lot. I like this train shot a lot because it captures some of the beauty of the Japanese rice fields.

Weird English shirt…

John, Christy, and Ayako in the Dotonbori district of Osaka

The Tokyo transportation system seemed overhwlemingly complex and massive at first, but actually later seemed very well laid out and organized. This is a shot of the Tokyo metro system.

John and his BOSS coffee and melon bun

Christy, Keiko, Toshie, and I at dinner

John, Christy, Keita, and I at a museum near Ueno Park

Funny shot of Christy near Ueno Park

Christy in front of Tokyo Tower

The tower at night

John and Christy in front of “Genghis Khan,” a lamb stew

Group shot at dinner

Another group shot after dinner

Burger King in Tokyo!

All in all, it was a wonderful trip and I was so happy to see lots of old Japanese friends who I hadn’t seen for a while. Most of them lived in Philadelphia, and I was so thankful for the chance to see them again. I look forward to the fall and especially seeing fall in Japan – there is nothing like seeing the leaves change color here. I especially look forward to the coolness of fall and an end to the sweltering heat of Nagoya.