Monday, October 16, 2006

A Buddhist Day

Over the weekend we visited Mount Haguro which is part of the Dewa Sanzan, or three sacred mountains, where there were shrines and temples and a 5 story Pagoda. It was so beautiful everywhere we looked. There were trees everywhere, a river, and a waterfall. The steps were stone and covered with moss and it looked like a postcard. We went with our Buddhist neighbors and they were able to tell us some of the significance of things, so it was a really neat experience.

This was looking down onto the little village of shrines.

Our neighbor Akari, who is four, went up the stairs on each shrine, tossed a coin into the box in front of the little door, rang the bell, and then moved on to the next. Apparently, one is supposed to say a prayer after ringing the bell, but I think she was too excited.

This is inside one of the shrines.

This was a little altar right at the base of the waterfall.

Here is the five story Pagoda. It was amazing to see. Apparently it's about 1000 years old and was built without a single nail. No one goes inside it anymore, but it used to be a place of worship for Samurai.

At the top of the mountain (we drove up instead of hiking the stairs) there was more, including this Buddhist monk. Our neighbors saw him and asked if we could take a picture with him. I thought it was just a guy walking around in costume, and when Patrick told our neighbor that he said "This isn't Disneyland". I thought it was pretty funny. The monks live up there and train. He blew the conch shell as he walked away from us. They said we were so lucky to see one of them becuase they don't usually come out when the tourists are there.

The graveyard with the stone statues is for babies who were stillborn or who died in the womb and the one made of wood is names of people who have died. I thought that they were so sad. Our neighbor Sumie said that they put clothes on the statues so that the deceased children don't get cold in the winter.

Overall, it was an amazing cultural experience to witness the traditions that have been in place for so many years. It was such a beautiful place and we hope to take anyone who comes to visit us here. We hope you enjoyed the pictures!!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

14 weeks and counting

We went to the doctor again on Saturday and had another ultrasound so we got to see the baby. They let Patrick in this time too so he was able to watch it. It was pretty short this time, just a quick measurement, so we didn't get to see the little guy squirming around like before. But it's always fun to see him/her. The baby is about 3 inches long now, so he's getting big! He's almost doubling in length every time we go in. I wondered if he thinks his home is just getting smaller all the time though. Patrick said he probably doesn't really 'think' anything yet. I guess we'll never know. The doctor said all the blood work from last time came back normal, so we were happy about that too. And we must be doing well becuase now we are to come in every 3 weeks instead of every 2. So overall it was a good appointment!

Our Car

This is our Subaru Vivio. I am pretty sure they don't have a car this small in America, but it's comparable to the Geo, just a little smaller. When Patrick is driving he can put his arm out and touch the passenger side window without leaning over at all. But it works for us right now at least. We just hope we will be able to fit the baby in it too!


Here it is, the thing we have been anxiously awaiting for weeks. It's not really that comfortable by American standards, but after sitting and sleeping on the floor for two months it feels pretty good to us. It folds down for sleeping, and although patrick is a little to tall for it, we've figured out a way for us to be comfortable (after much trial and error). So we are pretty excited about having at least one of the comforts of home here in Japan.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Candy and toilets

The first picture is one we just took the other day at the construction of a new house. Our next door neighbor is in the realestate line and apparently this is a ceremenony they do when the frame work of a house has been completed. The neighborhood kids (plus any localAmericans in this case) are invited to stand outside of the house. The carpenters and owners do a small prayer and toast and then throw candy, money, radish slices, and mochi (pounded rice) outside for the kids to gather. I dont remember what each symolizes but things like life, wealth, health, etc. It was pretty short but fun overall and the kids loved it. Kind of like Halloween, a parade and a new house all in one.

So this next one is one of the marvels of Japan. We all know of their cell phones, TVs, cars, etc., but who knew they still used a ceramic hole in the ground? This is why Crystal is ready to head home already and she looks for the handicap toilets b/c they are 'western,' in other words, regular. Luckily, this isn't what we have in the house, but its what is in most puplic restrooms especially in more country areas. I consider myself a miracle in that after spending over two years in Japan now I have still never used one of these, and it's a streak I intend on keeping for another 9 months or so.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Roses and Oceans

Last week after shopping for a sofa we stopped at a rose garden in Yamagata City. It was so beautiful and much bigger than we had expected. As you can probably imagine, there were flowers everywhere and so many different types of roses. They told us that there weren't as many as there are earlier in the year, so we hope to go back next spring to see more. Over the weekend we also saw the Japanese ocean finally. It is a short trip from the town where we attend church. Coming from Hawaii, it wasn't the most beautiful beach we had seen, but it was fun to walk on it and collect seashells.

Newest baby picture

We had another doctor appointment last week and got to see the baby again. This time he was kicking and punching and wiggling all over the place. He looked like a boxer. And don't be alarmed, we're definitely not having twins; it's just two different views of the baby. So far everything is still going great and I've been feeling tons better too, so we're happy!