My husband wrote exactly one letter home in his last year in Tokyo, the time we were actually there together in the same city at the same time! Here are a few excerpts:
Today is a Japanese national holiday called "Labor Day Thankgiving" or "Labor Thanksgiving Day". Perhaps it is intended to be sort of a conbination of the sentiments of the North American holidays of the same names. I can certainly understand with unemployment problems here **(the year was 2000)** why people would want to say "Thank God I've got a job!"
So, we have been here less than a week and all ready we have been:
-up at 5am nearly every morning to greet the rising sun after being fully awakened by the "heralds of the dawn". In Tokyo these heralds are crows who make up with volume for what they lack in melody.
-unable to determine (apart from opening and tasting) if the bag of white crystals in our kitchen is sugar, salt or some more nefarious substance.
-politely excused by train station personnel after managing to ride the train with tickets that were actually for another train line.
-encouraged by long time church planters that our first church service congregation of 3, including my wife and myself, was a typical missionary experience.
-approached by another customer at the tea shop, a gentleman who probably wanted to practise his English, who recommended his favourite tea from Shizuoka. **(Sue's note: and thus began my husband's 10 year love affair with green teas that has resulted in our purchasing a huge double door'd cupboard with 5 shelves just to house his many varieties of tea!)**
-made aware that many of the North Americans, even those who have been here a long time, do not seem as interested in the local food and drink as we are. Although our apartment kitchen is well equipped with utensils, we needed to add Japanese teacups, pots and hashi (chopsticks)...and for Susan as a woman it is Ohashi, the Honorable Chopsticks! For her many of the nouns begin with the honorific O that men do not need to use. Fortunately I was also able to retrieve the big Chinese style wok that I purchased at a restaurant supply store last time I was here. It is huge by Japanese standards but very good for stir frying the vegetables that are usually so lovely and fresh here.
-buying bento boxes (Japanese lunch box meals) at the Family Mart convenience store nearby. It makes our lunches quick to eat while we are still unpacking and cleaning the apt. (Try to imagine what your own house or apt. would be like if you ran the exhaust of a big diesel bus into it for a few months.)
-to the city hall in Mitaka to apply for "alien registration". This involved getting more photos by using one of the little coin operated photo booths across the street. The sweet little female voice on a recorded message takes you through the steps of pushing buttons to determine the size and number of prints you want. Sweet as she sounds it was all unintelligible to us and fortunately in this booth so near city hall with many Gaijin (impolite word for foreigners), the instructions are available in English.....as well as Korean, Chinese and Urdu. The only Japanese phrase we understood in the recording was the "arigato-gozai-mashita" (thank you) at the end.
-attempting to do the laundry in our apt. machines so thoughtfully supplied, complete with all instructions in Japanese. Washing clothes is made more time consuming by the necessity of using a Japanese dictionary to try to decifer the different control buttons. The machine is new and high tech with many buttons and flashing indicator lights....if we could just figure out what they all mean!!
-encouraged by our second week's church congregation: it increased by 300%! Last week only one parishioner, this week there were three! Forgot to mention the biggest surprise regarding our church in Japan. I was asked before we came here if I would be willing to give an English sermon weekly at the English language service and that is what I agreed to. Then when we arrived I discovered I am actually the pastor and not just the speaker. haha I should have known...the old Japanese piggy back situation: since this, why not that too?? hahaha I think of all my trips to Japan this one will be the most interesting.