Friday, February 11, 2011

Shrines, Snow Temples, and Flowering Cabbage

Oh.. HEY! Sorry compadres.. Didn't see you there. I was understandably distracted, slurping down this delicious, hearty ramen.

It snowed today in Tokyo.. *sigh* and I thought I'd gotten away from it all. Even so, it made everything really gorgeous, and it was a good day for taking pictures, so I put on my mittens and hiked over to the little Buddhist temple nearby my house. No doubt I'll go back over there again once the flowers and trees start budding, but a snow temple sounds equally exciting right now. It's really incredible having this kind of aesthetic beauty right down the street.. I mean, it's no Wyuka or anything, but it'll do. *sarcasm* ... *you got it? ok, well... good.*

*******But first, a budget update.*******

I want to start by saying "domo arigatou, gozaimas" (thank you very much) to all of you who've contributed to the cause thus far. It has been a true blessing to have so many friends rally around me as I trust God on this journey. Through the help of some very generous donors, I have about $4200 toward this trip.

I am still $1800 short of what I need to reasonably live on. This is due to a number of factors. First, the exchange rate is bad right now, so whatever is donated to me in the states is automatically cut by 20% once it gets to Japan. This has hit all missionaries very hard (not just me). I also found out that because of the exchange rate, my apartment is about $1,500(US) just to live there for two and a half months. That is discounted from what would be more than $3000, but it's still very expensive for me.

I know tax season is coming up..  If any of you find it in your heart to make a tax-deductible donation to me as I go on this journey, please do the following:

-Go to <>
-Select "Give online now"
-Select "Give Now"
-Select "Projects by location"-->"Japan -- Christian Arts Network"

I would really appreciate it. Otherwise, I have a 5 kg bag of rice I can be eating. And, I promise that if you give enough to keep me here, I'll keep sending you pictures.

*******Okay... you can look at my pictures now =)*******

The Best Bakery in the Universe
I go in and all the friendly Japanese ladies say "hello, welcome".. then I pick out my delicious, reasonably priced goodies. Today, I got a shrimp, egg salad, pesto, lettuce sandwich on wheat bread. The best part? This was only Y250! Oh, and you get a free cup of coffee every time you buy something. Though, American coffee is considered to be weak in Japan, as demonstrated by the photo to the right (I guess they don't think we're good enough to be listed under "coffee").

You can even sit outside, and there's space heaters and cushions to sit on. Needless to say, they put other coffee shop/bakeries deeply to shame.  

La Policia
While I was walking today I came upon an opportunity to show you all what a Japanese police car looks like. I'm pretty sure they got there design from a mix between "Robocop" and "Back to the Future."

There are actually quite a few police in Tokyo (it's a very safe city). Safety is a deep-seated Japanese value (along with order and organization). As I said before, they even have time to check bicycle ownership.

Keepin' It All in the Family
Another fun thing I found walking today is this fantastic little shrine.. peeking over the fence of somebody's back yard!! Notice the small house within the pagoda, paper lightning bolts(?), candles, and dog-like statues. Apparently this ancestor is going to be living it up for a while.. with some guard dogs and a lightning storm for protection.
Street Decor
The streets are just prettier here. Please note the man-hole to the left.. a flowering tree is imbued on the cast iron. Practical? No. Expensive? Yes. Better looking? Most-definitely.

In general, the citizens of Tokyo do a lot with the little space they're given. And they even find plants that will flower in the middle of winter to keep things looking nice. Behold this delicious basin of KALE.. yes, that's right. Cabbage. You may have accidentally eaten it off of a plate where it was used as a garnish (it's inedible and waxy unless cooked properly). Turns out, it makes for a good decoration on more than just salad buffets.. these beautiful flowers lined the street next to my station.

And, of course, sometimes a tree just decides that now is its time, and its calling is to bloom. When that happens, we all just have to look on at that brave, lonely tree in pity and pride, knowing that it doesn't care whether it's snowing outside or forty degrees. It's GOING to bloom. Nature finds a way.

In general, all the apartments here are fairly ugly and dreary looking. Really, that only adds to the confusing nature of Tokyo, since none of the streets have names and all the apartments look the same no matter how long you stare at them. You have to be really rich here to have a unique-looking house. But the local values seem to be focused more on the use of nature within confined urban space.

Then again, sometimes people have BOTH.. the photo to the right is a house I saw the other day whilst walking through a neighborhood in Mitaka, an important commercial district. My guess is that because of the district, land values, and design, the house in the picture would be worth $2-3 million. You could get quite an estate in Nebraska for that much, but things are different here. Also note the fantastic trees in the front yard.

Ye Local Temple
Last but not least, check out this slide show of the temple I mentioned earlier.. this is just down the street from me! Enjoy!

Paul and I leave for a conference in Shimonoseki tomorrow.. Shimonoseki is a city on the southwestern tip of the main island of Japan. We're going by speed train.. I promise we won't have TOO much fun together. The trip holds the potential to be epic, including I-don't-want-to-spoil-it-but-maybe-a-trip-to-Himeji-Castle (The White Heron).. pictures and videos of this trip available in a couple of days.

Much Love. Michael Out.


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