Japan vs. the U.S. of A: What’s the difference?

15 Differences between Japan and the U.S..

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1.  Food must look pretty in the bowl or on the plate. Multiple bowls or plates are used for one person instead of placing the whole meal on one plate.

2.  Most families have one car, not two or three.

3.  The one car they do have they rarely use by our standards. It sits parked most of the time.

4.  Most people walk, ride their bikes, take the bus or ride the subway to work each morning.

5.  The lights at intersections go left to right not up and down.

6.  When ambulances cross an intersection their loud speaker apologizes for getting in the way!

7.  Bowing is very popular, especially when you meet someone for the first time.

8.  People do not wear shoes inside the home.  You wear house shoes or slippers or socks.

9.  Some hospitals look like 5 star hotels with carpet, wood paneling, chandeliers etc.

10.  Walmart is here (via “Sunny” market) but Trader Joe’s is not :(.

11.  Costco’s hot dogs are pork here not “Hebrew National” ( I miss those hot dogs).

12.  You drive on the left side of the road not the right (unless you are a foreigner and forget).

13.  The steering wheel is on the right side of the car and the passenger seat is on the left.

14.  When Japanese people take classes at the gym they are “all in” with cute, colorful outfits to match the class, hula skirts, brand name tennis shoes etc. (including the older women) 🙂

15.  Most food labels (even on American products) are written in Japanese characters.

There are many more… but that gives you just a taste!

 

 

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Hip Hop Ya Don’t Stop!…Praying Circles around Fukuoka, Japan

When the going gets tough the tough get going!  I recently started reading this book on my Kindle, The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. By the way, I highly recommend it as do several of my facebook friends.  The book encourages us to pray circles around our biggest dreams and greatest fears.  It came for our family at just the right time.Image

Recently, I started having anxiety, not sure if they were official “anxiety attacks” but I know I had to stop and take really deep breaths to get me through feeling like I couldn’t breathe. The feeling of being overwhelmed with life seemed to be sitting in my gut like a big rock that couldn’t be moved.  I’m one of those people who like being in control and there were a bit too many things in my life that I couldn’t control and they were happening all at once.  And that’s when The Circle Maker stepped in AND I joined a local gym.

The first class I took was a Hip Hop class. I’m a dancer but not a Hip Hop dancer so I lacked some bounce and attitude but it was fun. It had been months since I had danced anywhere besides my living room. But best of all, I released some of that stress!  Since then Zumba and Ritmos classes have gotten me sweating and smiling. Gym membership once a month has definitely proved better than medical bills and prescriptions which is where I was headed! 

Yet none of the things that brought on the anxiety had changed….We were still feeling alone on our mission, not sure what we were accomplishing so far, finances were very tight which meant no “fun money”, no car and no new things, our application for Hope’s preschool got rejected, after 6 months I still couldn’t communicate much in Japanese, John still hadn’t found a consistent job,  I was trying to work and still find time to build this e-commerce business with 2 young kids and husband who needed my attention, plus I was thousands of miles away from my oldest and wishing I could just spend time with her in person.  “God Help!!!!” and then Mark Batterson reminded me to pray through and not give up.

So March 3, late afternoon, after my work day, John and the kids met me in front of 7 Eleven and we started our prayer ride around M cubed (Meinohama, Muromi and Momochi areas).  It took about an hour but we biked a circle around these areas and prayed that God would open doors and “give us this area” both inside the circle and 3 miles radiating outside of the circle like the sun.  We prayed for the church, we prayed for a church building, we prayed for family and friends, we prayed for a school for Hope and a job for John, we prayed for people we rode by who we didn’t even know, we prayed for forgiveness, we prayed to speak in tongues (Japanese), and at the end of the circle, I shouted “Jesus Rocks!…God is Awesome!” and I believed God would bless our faith.

The next day John received an email, “I am pleased to offer you the position at Fukuoka International School (this school was inside the circle)”.  That same week I ask a co-worker if there are any preschools close to work because we really needed to find Hope a school by the beginning of April which is when we both would be starting work. A friend helped us apply to the nearest school (come to find out that we were applying the day before the application deadline–which we knew nothing about).  A few days later, I get a call from the school, I ride over and the head of the school tells me to bring Hope to the school “ashita” which means tomorrow.   Come to find out that Hope got into this government run preschool (and they are not easy to get into if you don’t have a regular Japanese 9am to 7pm full-time job.  And there’s even more breakthroughs that have happened since we biked a prayer circle but this post is already too long!

So I don’t know how your life is going, don’t know if  you suffer with anxiety, health problems, financial hardships, or feeling overwhelmed. Maybe everything in your life is going great right now. But if it isn’t, (or even if it is) and you want to see God work in a powerful way, if you want to see doors open that normally wouldn’t be opened, if you want to be encouraged and inspired by our Creator, then start praying circles around those dreams and fears.  God doesn’t stop working…we may not see what’s happening behind the scenes in our lives..but He’s always working…so don’t stop the Rock…keep praying through until you see the dreams realized, the giants killed and God work miracles!

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Bibliophiles, Book Lovers, and Bookworms: All for LOVE!

ImageHappy Valentine’s Day! Nope, I’m not a day early…I live in Japan so we are always ahead…17 hours ahead of our friends and family on the west coast (of the U.S.) and 14 hours for our friends and family on the east coast.  In honor of this holiday, which is mostly celebrated in the states by school children passing out Valentine’s cards and candy to their teacher and classmates (but which is not done here in Japan unless you are enrolled in a very Westernized international school), I am going to share my love of books!  

This love is quite strong (before we moved to Japan I had 5 book shelves full of books in our house not to mention the containers in our garage).  Most of those books were sold or given away (reluctantly and sadly but nonetheless they are gone now).  I did manage to bring a “few” stacks with me though (most of them are shown in this post minus the children’s books and homeschooling workbooks for Drew) as well as I brought my Mother’s Day gift last year (a Kindle).  Of course my love for books doesn’t compare to my love for God or to my husband or my three children.  I was reminded of this last week that we Americans use the word “love” very loosely and for almost everything and anything.  Here in Japan they only use the passionate word “love” in very specific relational instances and have other words that mean “I love hamburgers”, “I love your nail polish!” “I love that T.V. show.”  And if you try to use the Japanese word that means “love” to describe how much you like one of those things vs. a person, it wouldn’t sound right to the Japanese native you were speaking to.  This actually makes more sense to me, but back to the books!

I’ve been a bookworm ever since I can remember.  My favorite childhood authors were Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume.  Surprisingly I can’t remember my favorite authors during my teenage years???? hmmm?? (maybe I was too busy with boyfriend troubles, cheerleading and getting on honor roll?) Anyway, I’m getting off topic…the books that are really getting me excited right now are the ones in my NLT Bible (John, Acts and Romans) and also the ones my facebook friends are posting about as well as one from a sermon I just watched online called “Crash the Chatterbox”.  As I was reading some reviews tonight for these books I found out that some of these publishers give away the books for free to bloggers as long as they write a review and post it to their blog as well as post the review on a retail website, like Amazon I suppose?

  And since I am a book lover, living on a tight budget on a mostly self-supported mission here in Japan…I figure this new information was right on time! 🙂 So if you would, please become a subscriber to my blog (I need 30 subscribers or more to qualify to be in the blogger free book program).  I promise to review some really awesome books (or maybe some not so awesome books and I promise to write an honest review) at least once a month here in The Tatami Times and you will be contributing to a great cause: helping a Bibliophile continue her love of books all the way in Japan and spreading the love along the way!  😉 Thanks ahead of time!

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In Search of Starbucks

ImageWhite chocolate mocha, Caramel Macchiato, Vanilla Latte, Cinnamon Dolce Latte, Caffe Americano, Caffe Mocha, and many others…what is your favorite?    In California, there seemed to be a Starbucks “on every other corner”…. or at least in Burbank, our hometown, there were at least 5 and one new one being built on a street called Olive.  The closest one to our house was 4 blocks away (an easy walk down the hill).  Even though, during my extreme coffee drink days,  I preferred the “Coffee Bean” franchise;  I still had my occasional visits to Starbucks to redeem gift cards and spend “girl time” with friends and family. 

I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that Starbucks is here in Fukuoka, Japan.  Although  for us walking a few blocks to find one is no longer a reality.  Tonight was a case in point. As dark rain clouds hovered overhead and the sun began to set behind them we went on our first date in over 2 months. All bundled up, we hopped on our bikes and went looking for a Starbucks.

You might ask, why Starbucks if we are on a tight budget? Short story….when we visited our Tokyo Church in December we stopped by a Starbucks to pick up a couple of insulated Tokyo themed mugs (one for us and a Christmas present for our oldest who was coming to visit us the week after).  I’m not sure how it works in the states because I never bought one out there? But here in Japan Starbucks gives away a “free drink” coupon every time you buy an insulated mug…the catch is you need to bring the Starbucks mug with you to redeem the coupon.  So we had been holding on to these 2 coupons for awhile now. 

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Tonight we got a sitter (thanks Cynthia) and rode our bikes in search of Starbucks.  Our friend told us, just today, that there was a Starbucks about 15 minutes away from our home.  Unfortunately, the directions were misunderstood (btw this happens often here because of the language barrier)….so we went in the opposite direction and 40 minutes later ended up at “Hoshino Cafe” a black modern looking Japanese coffee shop.   Ironically, because of our tight budget, we didn’t get  their 440 yen coffee. Instead we ate a “light” dinner and drank water—which I am grateful for….Although I definitely do want to go back and try Hoshino’s “hand drip” coffee and popular yummy looking desserts that kept passing us by on trays every few minutes.   So, as it stands, we are still in search of the closest Starbucks…coupons still in wallet….#next date Starbucks…

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TEAM JAPAN! JOIN OUR TEAM TODAY!

ImageWe are here in the “land of the rising sun”! It’s winter but spring is right around the corner and we are getting ready for spring training under the beautiful Cherry Blossom Trees! We are looking for team members with vision, passion and a heart for service, leadership and most of all for God (Kamisama)!.  Our team is based in Fukuoka, Japan, a city of over 1.5 million people! If you are looking for an exciting place to live with great food, people and culture then this is the place to be (a 2 hour flight south of Tokyo)! Our team has several positions available including memberships that don’t require relocating to Fukuoka.  Please take a look down below for our current  2014 opportunities!

About Us:

Our team is currently a team of 5 adults and 4 children. God, our Head Coach, has been working in a powerful way.  Our  daily practices have been challenging but have led to character building and strengthening.  He has been encouraging us to give it our very best, to cut out the things that distract or pull us away from the vision he has for us and to wait patiently for Him.  Joining our team on a monthly basis will give you the opportunity to get in on the ground floor and help lead this team to the championships! Supporting our team from afar on a monthly basis will help build team morale and give our team a support system and a cheering section which will help build confidence, team spirit and allow us to focus in a greater way on our goals !

Our Mission:  To love God with all of our hearts and make God and his son, Jesus known throughout Japan. To help people seek and embrace a growing, personal relationship with God that will last for eternity.   To serve our community and share the good news of forgiveness, strength through weakness, and a life purpose and vision greater than one could ever imagine!  To bring the truth to light and see God someday turn this land into the Land of the Risen Son! 

“that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” –Philippians 2:10

Opportunities:

1..  Long Distance Team Member-–  No relocation necessary! Males or females, single, marrieds or teens…. willing to support our mission here in Fukuoka, Japan.  We are in need of help with various tasks; technical support (computer, internet connect issues), graphic design for t-shirts, flyers, invites etc., website building and design, and we are definitely in need of translators bilingual in English/Japanese with iphones so we can imessage if necessary.  Preferably living in Japan’s timezone.

2..  Long Distance Team Supporter—No relocation necessary! Male, female, single, married or teen! Have the desire to help support our family and help us focus on our mission here with a monthly financial contribution of $10 or more a month.  So far our family has been able to be mostly, self-supported… but at the moment we are in need. So any help will be much appreciated! Your contribution can be made via paypal or international postal money order. Please email us for more specific information if you are able and willing to give.

3.  Assistant Coach:Male, Married, bilingual in English/Japanese, relocation to Fukuoka a must! Loves God. Strong leadership skills, boldness, courage, ask questions, calls people higher, speaks the truth in love, has what it takes to lead a team to the championship! Duties: Prayer, Preparation of sermons, and training lessons twice a week, planning Outreach opportunities, administrative duties, leads bible studies and weekly team huddles.

4. Women’s Ministry Coach: Female, Married, bilingual in English/Japanese, relocation to Fukuoka a must! Loves God.  Strong leadership skills, loving, gentle spirit, speaks the truth in love, uses the bible/scriptures to train, correct and encourage her team on a daily basis.  Good at building family. Duties: Prayer, Preparation of lessons, Planning, Job Delegating, Event planning, leads bible studies and weekly team huddles.

5.  Assistant Coach: Male, Single, bilingual a plus! relocation to Fukuoka a must! Loves God. Likes to have fun! Strong leadership skills, boldness, courage, looking to grow a singles ministry from the ground floor up! Duties: Prayer, Planning Outreach Opportunities, leading bible studies and weekly team huddles.

6.  Team Member: Looking for males and females, single or married, Bilingual a plus but not required.  Relocation to Fukuoka a must! Love God with all of their heart, mind, soul and strength.  Looking for all types of people: those who like to have fun, servants at heart, people good with facts and figures/organization, and people who like to win championships! All must be willing to live by faith and catch God’s vision for Fukuoka.  Courage a must! Duties: Prayer, Planning Outreach Opportunities, Leading bible studies and contributing to weekly team huddles. Good with kids and willing to serve parents and kid’s in and outside the children’s ministry class 1-2 times a month.

   Thank you for your interest! If you want to find fun, new friends and an exciting, vision-filled future in Fukuoka please email or message us! We are scheduling interviews and are providing lodging to those who would like to visit in person as well. 

See below for our most recent pic taken this weekend after our Sunday house church and lunchtime with some of our current team members and visiting friends!

 

 

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Cloudy with a Chance

Have you ever considered the clouds in the sky? 

cloudy with a chance picEver gone riding on your bike and looked up? Or on a plane and looked down?  Ever driven home at sunset and seen the sunlight dance with the pink clouds and you just wanted to keep watching but you had to keep your eyes on the road?

Clouds….bring rain to anxiously waiting seed-filled soil ….

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Clouds …scatter across the sky like cotton balls…

CLOUDS….giant gray Cumulo-nimbus clouds getting ready to deliver thunder and lightning and fear…yet in reality showing God’s power, might and righteous anger.

I love clouds…I love when they come and go and that I know that the gray ones always leave… eventually…blown by the wind…

I love God’s white puffy clouds…changing the painting in the sky…letting blue be king for awhile and then returning, ready to impress and decorate blue’s kingdom.

Tonight, I saw some pretty amazing pictures of the sky…posted by my Facebook friends in the Los Angeles area.  At the top of this post I shared one more from all the way across the other side of that great ocean we call the Pacific.  The picture above is the late afternoon sky in Fukuoka, Japan just a couple of days ago.  Isn’t it beautiful?

God is doing amazing things in this place…sometimes there are clouds and sometimes there aren’t, but I know that they will return…to inspire us, to darken some days and help us appreciate the light, and to water the seeds that have been planted…and help us grow.field growth 2

It’s been cloudy with a chance…in Fukuoka, Japan.  I’m grateful for chances…

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” –Hebrews 10:23

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Persimmons, Origami, and Adventure!

Adventure! I’m thinking we all crave it at some pointImage… but kids, well they seem to crave it on a daily basis.  And what better way to meet those desires than to move to a foreign country! 😉 Drew and Hope are enjoying many adventurous times here in Fukuoka.  Of course they miss their friends and family in California and we’ve had our moments of tears. But they are finding out quickly how to enjoy life as Japanese kids.  The photos down below show a glimpse of their life here so far. Enjoy!

ImageHope exploring the park near our apartment.

ImageDrew’s first day of school (Japanese public school).  My brave boy…he’s the only foreigner at his school…and they only speak Japanese there…full immersion…the best way to learn a language.

ImageHangout time with Mom….riding a “few” miles across town…heading for the local Baskin Robbins up and over the bridge…yep they have them here but you have to earn it when you don’t have a car 🙂

 

ImageJohn’s mom, their “Obachan” lives in the countryside where they grow fruits and vegetables, like these persimmons.  This was the first time Drew and Hope ever tasted them…we were given that bunch to take home…do they look like they are enjoying those?  Persimmons cost about 100 yen ($1.00) each at the local supermarket…we were all grateful for these gifts.

ImageDrew practicing origami with his Obachan.

ImageOur Supergirl on an adventure while Drew plays cars on his bed.  She’s even defying gravity here! LOL

(didn’t know how to fix the pic)

ImageA girl from Drew’s class gave him one of these today, actually 2 (one for Hope too).  He brought them home and asked me if we could look on the internet and learn how to make them.  So when I got home from work that’s what we did.  Later on, he showed John how to make one. Drew was so excited that he had taught his dad how to make a Shuriken (Origami Ninja Star) that during bedtime after I prayed and after John added a p.s…… then Drew added his own p.s. praising God for helping him learn and teach origami and for sending a bunch of angels to help give him a joyful spirit the rest of the night (he did his homework without complaining or whining!).  Boy! That little girl had no idea how powerful her little gifts were (thank you Nonchan). It’s incredible how God can use such a small kindness to set off a chain of events that leads to joy, peace and Drew praising and thanking God out of the overflow of his heart.  Thank you God!

“I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” –Mark 10:15

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