I’m back, I’m back! Did you miss me? Most of you, except for Krissy, probably didn’t even notice that I skipped a day of blogging. As much as I love communicating with you all everyday, the late nights and early mornings were really started to get to me, and I had to choose a full 7 hours sleep over 5 hours of sleep and a blog post. Yes, you did the math correctly, between recalling what I did that day, typing it out, choosing pictures and video, waiting for them to upload, and organizing the post, it usually takes almost two hours. But it’s so worth it to be able to have the connection with you all, and the permanent “journal” of my experience here.
This blog post I’m going to cover 2 days, so I can catch you up on what you missed. On Monday we had a “day off,” as all of the Mustard Seed staff take Mondays off since Sundays require a lot from them. So we gave them a break from work and from us, and just our Knott Avenue team traveled to the city of Kyoto for the day to do some sightseeing. After taking the subway, the train, the bus, a cab, and walking, we finally arrived at a popular tourist destination called The Golden Pavilion. Why is it called this you ask, because it’s made almost completely of gold! Wasteful? Yes. Awesome? Heck Yes.
This literally glowing villa was built in the 1220s, which blows my mind. It is surrounded by acres of beautiful gardens that are so breathtaking they can even be enjoyed while you’re drowning in your own sweat…which we definitely were.
You are not able to enter the pavilion, one: because it’s surrounded by water on all sides, and two: because I guess when things are that old they are only meant to be admired from afar. So we found our way inside the next best thing on the grounds, which was a small and quaint tea house. The crazy boys ordered hot tea, while I sipped my cold tea, my face following the path of the oscillating fan nearby.
Naturally drinking tea eventually leads to using the restroom. Turns out, I’ve been spoiled on this trip up until now because on this day I found myself at a bathroom with no western toilets, meaning there was just basically a hole in the ground. AND they didn’t provide toilet paper; you had to buy it. I thought free toilet paper was a basic human right like water or the internet.
Anyway, after some choice words aimed at the porcelain hole, we hopped in a cab to take us to…wait for it…wait just a little longer…Ninja Village. You won’t be surprised to hear that this was Matt’s idea, and boy oh boy were all the guys excited to channel their inner ninjas. (Apparently every guy comes with an inner ninja just waiting for the appropriate chance to come to life.)
I won’t go as far as to say I was bored at ninja village, but it has been confirmed that I do not possess an inner ninja of any kind. I will say though that it was pretty neat to be able to walk around the sets where they film countless ninja films. Matt and I were even inspired to create our own ninja film. Don’t think we’ll be winning awards anytime soon…
We waited in line for the Ninja Mystery House, paid our 500 yen (about $6.50) each, and made our way into the house to discover the major mystery. Well, the joke was on us, because the entire presentation was in Japanese, so it turned out the mystery was trying to figure out why we wasted our money on something we couldn’t even understand. But we did figure out that the ninja tours were demonstrating how ninjas get around sneakily using spinning walls, trap doors and hidden holes. As the ninjas demonstrated how stealthy they were, I demonstrated how stealthy I was not. No joke, I hit my head and stepped on my own foot right in front of the ninjas. Who’s ever heard of someone stepping on their own foot? I’m such a pioneer.
On our way back to Osaka, we stopped to eat dinner at a restaurant in the train station. It sounds like a strange place to choose, but their train stations are like small cities – more like a mall with transportation included. After a lot of Japanese food in the past week, we decided to eat at an Italian joint, all ordering some kind of pizza. Of course, since we don’t know Japanese, we were dependent on the menu pictures and plastic food display in the window. Jared, Nagoya’s Worship Pastor, jokes that Japanese people say American’s favorite food is “this,” because we always point and say, “I want this.” And that’s exactly what we did.
Once bellies were full, we hopped on an elevator to head to our evening plans of karaoke. It was hilarious to see the look on Japanese people’s faces when we started making our way into an elevator. Looks of horror, as they were concerned our large American bodies would not fit in their seemingly children’s size elevators. Which was a fair concern, as every time someone needed to exit a floor we had to get off the elevator just to let them through. Oh well, at least I got a laugh watching Mike’s shoulders fill up the entire doorway.
As an amazing cap to our day off, we joined the entire Greer clan for karaoke. Ryan graced us with his presence as well. “All the single ladies! All the single ladies!” (Remember, because Ryan’s single.) Anyway, Japan really knows how to karaoke because they take everything I hate about karaoke away – strangers, strangers singing, strangers talking, strangers watching me sing. They have these rooms of various sizes you can rent by the hour, and only your group gets to be in your room. AND unlimited coffee and soda! It was so fun to let loose and sing a bunch of silly American songs. Even Mark and Jay sang, which they both swore they wouldn’t. I do have to express some legitimate concern for Ryan’s ability to know the words to every pop song originally written for teenage girls to enjoy. It started to get down right scary when he sang boldly along to “Popular” from “Wicked.” Ha ha!
Look how much I’ve blabbed on and we’re not even to Tuesday yet. I’ll be much quicker recapping that day…okay, I’ll try my best at least. Tuesday it was back to mission mode, as we started the day with staff meeting, led by Jay and attended by Seth and Ryan. It was a great time to get a glimpse on how the inner workings of the church operate. My favorite part of the meeting was how Jay led prayer. He allowed anyone to pray as the felt led, but before you prayed you had to read some Scripture to the group. It was beautiful to hear The Word of the Lord right before prayer was lifted up to Him. It is a process I’m going to adopt into my personal prayer life. Thanks Jay!
After prayer we talked some top-secret church strategy followed by lunch at a Japanese curry house. Megan and baby Asher joined us, and Matt and I had another great talk with the Philips family. Prompted by my quite personal questions, Megan shared her experience of being pregnant and giving birth in Japan. Even though her nurses didn’t speak English, Seth taught them the phrase “You can do it!” so they were able to encourage her by repeating that saying over and over until Asher successfully popped out!
In the afternoon we packed up our luggage as Wednesday we are traveling to the city of Nagoya, a two-hour train ride away, for the remainder of our time in Japan. Once the suitcases were in order, we headed to Koshien Stadium, as we had tickets to see the Hanshin Tigers play a professional baseball game.
One of the players, Matt Murton, is an American who is also a Christian. He has worked with Mustard Seed in the past, using his major celebrity status in Japan as a way to witness to the masses. All week we’ve been passing out “baseball cards” that have Matt Murton’s picture on them and his testimony (in Japanese) written on the back.
Kids and adults alike have been grabbing them like crazy because he is an icon here. It was awesome to use his popularity as a way to connect with strangers all week, and now we were watching him play professional baseball in a stadium that seats 80,000 people.
The game was exciting, and full of surprises. And the best part is, the Tigers KILLED it! We won! Check out this video of a very unique and fun tradition that happens every game in the middle of the 7th inning.
Once again, if you made it to the end of this post, you are dedicated, and appreciated! Tomorrow I’ll be blogging about our first day in Nagoya, Japan. This is where the first church was planted by Mustard Seed in Japan, prior to them adding the second church plant in Osaka. Pretty sweet stuff!