Saturday, May 26, 2012

Trying New Things.

Branch Conference

Every Friday night we set time aside to have date night (and we do pretty well at keeping it). We switch off every week planning some kind of activity for the evening. In the past they have been usual things like watching a movie or going out to eat, and other times it has been pretty unusual (at least for us) like having a candle-lit dinner or going out for a walk and eating yummy Japanese treats. Well, this week it was Emily's turn to plan. She found this place where we could paint some candles that are famous here in the town we live in. However, when I went Friday right after work, I found out that we needed to have reservations and that we needed to make them a week or so in advance. Bummer! I thought to myself, "here is Emily trying to get us to try something new, and it didn't work out... I wonder what we'll do instead." I emailed Emily the news about needing reservations for the place. She wasn't worried but instead was excited to try something else, french onion soup. That may not seem that cool, but we love trying to make new foods (mostly Emily does... I just help out by cutting up the vegetables or stirring things so they don't burn). So for date night this week, we went shopping and made steak, some veggies, and french onion soup. Although the soup took some time, it was amazing! Lighting some candles for the table made it a fun and enjoyable dinner.
When toasting the bread and cheese on the top of the soup, we decided to through it in our toaster oven praying that the bowls wouldn't explode. We were lucky and everything turned out great!

Aizu Wakamatsu hosted a Fukushima festival on Saturday. There were tons of people watching making it almost impossible to walk down the main street with the parade.

Although we didn't see all of the groups, there were several traditional Japanese dancing groups and a group from Tokyo Disneyland. We were sad that we missed the Disney group. :(
Earlier today we had branch conference at Church. They asked me a few days ago if I would speak. Luckily it was only a 3-5 minute assignment and they gave me the choice to speak on whatever I wanted to. I ironically talked about the importance of preparation because Emily and I had read some messages earlier in the week about that. It went well and it was nice to see so many people at Church.

We hope that everyone is doing well! お元気で (good health be to you all) and good luck with the upcoming week. Much love!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

King Kong?!

Quick catch-up for this week:

Today, we volunteered in Koriyama teaching English to high school students who were strongly affected by last year's earthquake/tsunami/radiation. These students will be doing a three-week trip to San Francisco in the summer, so we spent a few hours today preparing them with the English they will need for their trip. The students were very energetic and excited to learn, so it made for a really fun day. We didn't get any pictures, which was so silly, but my favorite moment of the day was while my class was playing Pictionary with city vocabulary (post office, hospital, school, etc.). I gave the two "artists" the word "bank." One "artist" didn't know what the word meant, so I translated it for her - "ginkou." Her face lit up like she understood, so I said, "ready - go!" Apparently, my Japanese needs a little bit more help because she started drawing a strange animal on the board. When we asked her what she was doing, she said, "I thought you said King Kong!" Ha!

Ok, a few events where we actually did take pictures:

James had a guys'-night-out with the elders quorum in the branch. They went out for ramen and had a fun time.

On Saturday, we ran to one of James's elementary schools, where they were having a sports event. This event is mandatory for all the students and looked like a fun activity. 

We are training for a half marathon in the fall and have found some really beautiful places to run. One of my favorite places is through the newly-planted rice fields like this one.
Until next week! Love to all of our family and friends!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Happy Mother's Day in Japan

Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there! It was nice this last week to get back into a routine with things. We had missed three Sundays of church here in Aizu Wakamatsu, so today everyone kept saying, "we thought you died..." We did tell them that we were going to be gone. Anyways, Emily and I noticed that people here in Japan seem to celebrate Mother's Day differently. For example, usually the speakers at church are male and they speak on a theme around mothers, but today, most of the speakers were women and they spoke about the blessings of the Priesthood; have to admit it was a little funny. Women get no breaks here in Japan.

Like I mentioned, it is nice to get back into a routine here at our apartment; also our routine of posting every week. Last weekend we went to Yamagata Prefecture and stayed with a missionary couple that I served with, the Niwa's. It was fun to spend the night with them and then go to the branch we served together in the next morning for church services in Tsuruoka (the couple served in the neighboring branch, about two hours from their house at the same time I served there about six years ago). It was a lot of fun to reminisce in the experience and was surprised at both how many people I remembered, and how many people remembered me. The most common thing said to me was in reference to Emily, "bijin da ne. Yokatta desu ne," which interprets, "she's so beautiful, good for you." So much fun! 
I don't remember the sister on the left, but next to her moving left is Sister Niwa, Emily, me, Sister Chiaki, and Brother Niwa,

We have some pictures of some of the other highlights of the week as well.
We got to tour a famous pottery place in Aizu Misato yesterday. We visited a girl's family that Emily had taught at one of her high schools. Consequently, after she graduated, she went to college at the place that I teach. It's pretty funny. This is a room where the do the sculpting of cups and dishes and what not.

This was in a locked room,  a kiln that was made 400 years ago. 

The kiln was amazing to see, but it was locked up because it got pretty messed up in the 3.11 earthquake last year. There are plans to restore it, but nothing has happened yet.

The kiln was pretty impressive. They explained that this place makes really famous pottery. When I asked why the pottery made there was so famous and ridiculously expensive, they told me that the materials were taken from a nearby mountain and when combined with the 8th generation pottery maker family that owns the place and the large kiln, it makes for some rather unique colored pottery. 

After our tour, we went over to our student's house, played card games, relaxed, and had yakiniku for dinner. The easiest way to explain yakiniku is to say Korean bbq. Pretty much it's different kinds of meat and veggies cooked on a hotplate in which you dip in yummy special sauce. It was awesome!

We really had a fun time with the family. From left to right; mom, Wako (front, youngest sister), Yuka (back, currently one of Emily's students), Kana (Emily's previous student and my current student), Emily, and me.
Other than that, Emily has been hard at work on applying for graduate positions at University of Oregon. We hope everyone is doing well! Much love and again, Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cherry Blossoms and Castles: It's Springtime!

The things I (Emily) love the very most about spring:

*Smooth legs! Yes, I shaved my legs during the winter, but let's be honest - they didn't stay smooth past the Arctic blast of air that came in as soon as I opened the shower door. Not anymore! Me and my smooth legs are here to stay!

*Leaving the windows open at night! I wake up to sunshine and birds singing at 5:20 every morning. It makes me actually happy to wake up.

*Going barefoot, at least in my own house. The floor doesn't feel like an ice rink anymore!

*My sun tan line. I have a serious farmer's tan on my neck, and I'm so proud of it.

*Color! The world is alive again. Flowers, flowers, and more flowers. I even planted a few of my own, along with some basil.

Ok, here are some pictures to catch up for the last couple weeks. I was a slacker and didn't post last Sunday (because we were gone), and probably won't post this Sunday (because we will be gone again), so this one will be full of pictures to make up for it.

The castle that is in our city. It is a great spot to see the cherry blossoms and we had tourists packed into the castle grounds for days. James and I went for a walk early in the morning and were able to catch a few pics without too many people in them.

The blossoms blew off the trees and into the moat that surrounds the castle. So pretty!

It looks like snow, but those are cherry blossom petals! I could go for that kind of snow all year round!

The English club at my base school invited James and I to go with them to the castle and have a picnic.

Some of my cute new first year students.

Last weekend, we traveled up to Aomori prefecture at the very northern tip of the main island of Japan. We stayed with some friends James knew from his mission. They spoiled us rotten. One place they took us was a museum filled with nebuta, or float-type structures that are carried in festivals during the summer.

The Kimura family, the ones we stayed with, had a beautiful grand piano. James was in heaven. We definitely need to get this boy a piano soon.

They also took us out for sushi!

Bread salad...interesting.

Aomori prefecture is surrounded mostly by ocean. I was happy to be close to water again, even if it was freezing cold water. This bridge is right next to the ocean and I was fascinated by it.

Yes, I even made James come walk across it with me :) We did the same with the Golden Gate bridge last summer.

We visited Hirosaki Castle in Aomori, one of the top places in Japan for seeing the cherry blossoms. Unfortunately, we were a bit early to see them at their peak, but it was still a fun day. 

We took a tour inside the castle and saw some ancient samurai clothes, swords, etc.

View from the castle grounds. There was still snow in some places, but the sun was shining and we wore short sleeves for part of the day and even ate ice cream!

Aomori is famous for apples, so they served apple ice cream at the castle. How fitting!

We also got a slice of the world's largest apple pie. Yummy!

Apples, apples, and...

more apples.

I caught James flirting with this statue on our way back from the castle.

Yeah, busted mister!

A very large...pig?

The Kimura family also took us out on their boat. It was chilly and very bumpy, but we had a blast.

On the left is Kosuke, the Kimura's son. He was a very crazy driver and made it fun for us. Pretty sure we all had bruised backsides by the time we got back.

View from the boat.

Mom Kimura. She spent most of the time on the floor of the boat while Kosuke was driving. She was hilarious and when we told her that we had a fun time, she yelled, "It was not fun!" referring to Kosuke's driving :)

I have such an odd husband.

And he has a perfectly normal wife.

Yesterday, we took a trip to Tokyo (I swear, I have been living on a bus for weeks now!) to go to the temple and to a BYU-Hawaii alumni event. It was fun to see some people from Hawaii and to catch up with some former students.