Saturday, April 2, 2016

We just finished an incredible journey down memory lane.  After leaving Nojiri and visiting with old friends, we took the Shinkansen to Atami and rented a car.  Drove to Ito and found the Ryokan, K's House, that we planned to stay for the night.  It was too early to check in so we drove on 135 down the coast to Shimoda.  It was a beautiful drive through many small coastal towns on Shizuoka. Arriving in Shimoda, the air was a bit brisk so the thought was that we would go down to the beach, take a few pictures and return to Ito.

We parked in a lot just past the beach and trucked down the beach near the rocks and the caves.  Although there were flags and rope cordoning off the section to the caves, we breached the area and went over to view the beauty of the ocean meeting the land.  Chuck convinced me to go to the edge of the rocks to get a picture.  Just after I turned and posed for the picture a wave pummeled me from behind and I got soaking wet.

Instead of returning to the car as planned, we took advantage of the sun which had decided to come out of the clouds about that time and we walked the beach down to the Toga Shrine at the other end of the beach. This allowed me to get dry and enjoy some of the beauty of Shimoda.  Great memories with friends from ASIJ and my missionary family swelled up and overwhelmed me.

I remember a trek down to Shimoda on the train when my boyfriend from 10th grade from North Carolina came to visit.  He and I rode the train to Shimoda one day, spent the day on the beach and returned to Tokyo.  I remember spending part of the day in the small alcove beach away from the crowds enjoying just being together.  Child love.

I remember coming to the beach with a group of SBMK's from Amagi Sanso.  Every year we would take a trip across the mountains to the beach.  One year while swimming I came across a can, someone had left in the surf.  It was buried in the sand and was stuck. Trying to be a conscientious person I attempted to remove the can, only to rip wide open my thumb which started bleeding causing me to have to stop swimming that day.

But probably the most fond memories of Shimoda was when I came down with friends from ASIJ (DA) and spent the day and night exploring the caves and probably smoking cigarettes and drinking beer.  Shimoda has many fond memories for me.

After we spent a bit of time in Shimoda, we returned to Ito and stayed in this quaint Ryokan named K's House.  It was a traditional Ryokan with tatami mat rooms, futons and a view of the river flowing from the mountains into the ocean.  The service was exceptional, the rooms were incredibly clean and the entire stay was so peaceful.  We plan to return again soon.

That night we walked just around the corner and ate at a very small traditional restaurant and tried some of the local vodka called Shochu.  I tried the kind from Kushu that was made from the yam.  It was so strong that I had maybe two sips of it and that was it.  The food at the place wasn't exactly what I had hoped but the adventure was most certainly enjoyable.

The following day we traveled again down the coast but once we arrived in Hama, we began the climb up the mountains to the seven falls or Nanataki.  This was the most beautiful area I have seen in a long time.  The place where these falls all join into one river.  It was quite spectacular.  The road at this point was climbing straight up the mountain, but when it could not longer climb straight up because of the incline we began to ascend on a spiral bridge that had three to four circular areas until we began to ascend in a more direct way.  It was the first time to travel in such a way for me.

While we were at the Nanataki we both enjoyed the wasabi ice cream which was refreshing and very good.  Not too spicy but a kick just enough to let you know it had some spice.  From Nanataki we traveled up the valley through the mountains to Jorentaki, a place we used to frequent when I was a child.

The Japan Baptist Conference, along with the Southern Baptist Japan Mission had a place at Amagi Sanso about 1 Km below the Joren Falls.  We frequented Amagi while growing up and it has very special memories for me.  Once we because teenagers we were allowed to sleep in a huge tatami room with all our closest MK friends, that was until the teenagers from my sisters era messed it up by drinking and smoking in Takamatsu.  One year we had Mission Meeting in Takamatsu because Amagi Sanso wasn't available.  The missionaries made the mistake of putting all the high school teenagers in one inn with a young missionary couple with young children as chaperons.   Seeing that the chaperons were needing to be with their own children, the teenagers took advantage of the situation and went out on the town and proceeded to do what many teenagers do.  They would have gotten away with it but one of the MK's ratted them out and so we all had to suffer the consequences of their behavior.  Of course they disgraced the missionaries and were grounded forever. I think my oldest sister is still grounded.

I remember many nights sneaking up to the Joren Falls and climbing up higher to another fall above the Joren Falls.  We also spent time down river jumping into the freezing cold water in a beautiful pool of flowing melted snow.  Fond memories.

After we left Joren Falls, we drove back up to Atami, turned in the car and took the Shinkansen back to Tokyo.  Our next week is in Tokyo, staying at the Hotel New Otani and visiting more of Tokyo and participating in the school activities.

Today, Chuck and I decided to go to Shinjuku to see where Lost in Translation was primarily filmed in the Park Hyatt Hotel. We went up to the 52 floor to the bar where some of the scenes were filmed and then walked from Shinjuku to the Imperial Palace (4.5 miles away).  We walked around the Imperial Palace and then back to the Hotel New Otani to get some rest.

Tomorrow, we get to enjoy the morning with our new friends we met while up at Nojiri and then off to ASIJ tomorrow afternoon to get a sneak peek before the day on Monday.

Overall, it's been an incredible trip recapturing some of my childhood memories and being able to share them with my closest friend, my husband, Chuck.

Tomorrow will bring many different memories I'm sure. Will see how we hold up in all this.

This morning my devotional was very clear as to who is in charge.  I read Deuteronomy 20: 1- 4.  I'm holding on to the truth as I know it.

If you are following this blog, you can also follow Facebook with all the pictures.  If I were savvy enough I would post them with the blog, but I'm too lazy to figure out how to do that.

Stay tuned for more to come.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

My friend, who is an attorney here in Japan, has corrected the comments I made on the previous post.  According to him, "we do actually have by law paid (14 weeks – 6 before and 8 after giving birth) and after that extended unpaid maternity leave with a guaranteed legal right to return to work (up to one year, during which time the government will pay you 50% of your pay if your employer does not).  In fact in that weird Japanese law way, you are actually required by law to take at least the 8 weeks post-partum paid leave … Most working women who become pregnant do take full advantage of these systems, and it is illegal of course to fire someone for being pregnant, so that really no longer happens for full time employees whether by direct or indirect means as the courts have been pretty harsh on violators.  In our small operation here we have had 3 lawyers and 4 staff members do this in the last 3 years and that’s pretty typical for any business; all returned to work although some of them have opted for a reduced hour schedule. HOWEVER, the real social, legal and practical problem is that it is not easy for them to return to work because the child care/day care system is so highly inadequate; also, and this is probably what Tacey and others are referring to, people who are part time or fixed short term employees, which is an increasing portion of the working population, do not generally have the maternity leave protection.  There are also serious issues surrounding opportunities for promotion and advancement for those who take leave/have children."

It's good to get the facts straight. 

The last several days have been so wonderful.  Having lost my childhood for so long, it's wonderfully emotional to reconnect to my Japanese little girl.  We rode the Shinkansen up to Nagano and rented a car and drove to Nojiri lake.  I grew up coming to Nojiri every summer.  We had a cabin on the mountain overlooking the lake.  The last cabin we owned caught on fire in 1997 and a young girl and her dog died in the fire.  It was very emotional seeing the property without our house on it.  The tragic loss of life and emotions of being here as a child were so overwhelming.  While we were looking for the house, we met a woman and her two daughters who live in Tokyo but were visiting Nojiri during Spring Break.  We found out that the two daughters attend ASIJ and I explained that we would be there on Monday with the 13 sisters.  The mother was overwhelmed and said, "something was just telling me that we should stay today and now I know why."  We shed some tears together and talked some more.  I am hopeful to be able to see them again in Tokyo. 

Yesterday we connected with our childhood friends and went to Togakushi and ate soba.  Then we drove over to Nagano to see the snow monkeys.  All of the mountains tops are covered with snow and the view is breathtaking. 

Today we head over to the Japan Sea and hopefully to some ski slopes close by.  We are bringing the kids back next year and hopefully if the conditions are right they will get to ski. 

Alright,  on our way to the west part of the island. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Day two back in Japan

Our second full day in Japan was Easter Sunday so we visited Grace Harbor Church in Yoyosu, a place I never knew of in my childhood years.  It used to be the factory area and now has turned into a beautiful area on the Tokyo Bay with shopping.  We enjoyed worshiping on Easter and taking communion.

As I watched the young toe heading American children running around in the mixed congregation of American's and Japanese my emotions overwhelmed me as I envisioned myself as a small child doing the same thing.  The people at the church were wonderful and we met one of the missionaries, Sean, who was good friends with one of our church members in Baton Rouge.

 After the Easter service, we headed to Harajuku to see all the crazy people. If you follow my FB page you can see pictures of the masses.  There were so many people there.

We met up with Gaylynn and her crew and Tacey and her adopted Japanese daughter.  Found a restaurant and sat down together.  Gaylynn and Tacey shared their visit to ASIJ previously and we discussed what the visit is going to look like and some concerns we have about how it will all shake out.  I'm not going to go into detail yet about our discussion, but leave it to say, the reason I'm up at 3:00 a.m. is not because I want to but because of anxiety dreams.  I'll share more after our visit to ASIJ next week.

Today we are heading up to Nagano-Ken to lake Nojiri-ko where we spent many summers sailing, swimming and listening to music in the boat house.  We did a lot of other things too but enough said.
I'll post more as it comes.  Have a wonderful Easter week.  He is risen!!
Wow!  It's amazing to be back in Japan after being gone for 38 years. I am finally able to embrace this land I once called home.  The language is quickly coming back even though I only spoke "kodomo no nihongo" then and still the same now.

We arrived at Narita airport at 3:15 ish on Good Friday afternoon.  It was a massive mad house with people everywhere.  Getting through customs was easy but slow.  We went to pick up the wifi and the JR Rail Pass, which took more than an hour waiting in line.  Finally found a small soup place to grab a bowl of soup and headed to the train to take the hour ride into Tokyo.

When we got to the track the word Rapid Line was in bold letters on a sign, so I took that to mean that it was the "Rapid Express".  Come to find out the Narita Express and Rapid Line are two very different beasts. The Narita Express stops only once before getting into Tokyo.  The Rapid Line, however, stops at many stations.  Fortunately, we were able to get seats and spoke to two Japanese men who were from Kawasaki and Yokohama.  They were very nice and it made the trip pass more quickly.  By the time we arrived in Grand Central Station (Tokyo Station) it was roughly 9:00 p.m.  We were more than exhausted.  Neither of us were in a good mood and easily snapped at each other while we were trying to figure out where to go.

While we were on the train speaking with the men, we arrived at the conclusion that we should hail a cab at Tokyo station and have him drive us to the Airbnb in Akihabara rather than ride the connecting train or subway with all the luggage.  Of course, I over packed and we had too many bags and that cause more frustration for both of us.

We finally got up to the street level and hailed a cab and arrived at the apartment in Akihabara.  Once we arrived we easily got into the quaint, small but more than adequate apartment.  Very pleased that we took the chance to stay in this Airbnb it became our landing ground for the next three days.

The next morning we rose early and got out on the streets around 7:00 a.m. hunting for something to eat.  We walked to Akihabara and got the lay of the land and got on the Yamanote-sen and headed to Shibuya, my old stopping grounds.  We weren't able to find the exact land where our house stood but we came close enough.  It was so nostalgic to be in a place I lived for almost five of my high school years.

We then went to the Tokyo Tower and visited the Zojoji Temple where many famous and important people from Japan are buried.  The Tokyo Tower gave us a birds eye view of the city where over 38 million people reside (Tokyo Metro).  It's phenomenal, overwhelming and unbelievably clean.

Of course, along the way we had incredible food including Ramen.  I found myself craving rice, since I haven't eaten it in about a year.  With all the walking and exercising rice has a place in my tummy while we are in Japan.

After Tokyo Tower, we were pretty much exhausted so we returned to the apartment and rested until late afternoon.  That evening, my friend from high school picked us up and we had a wonderful private Japanese meal with him and his family.

This is where some of my anxiety began as we discussed the issues surrounding our visit to Tokyo and ultimately ASIJ where my sexual abuse began.

My friend has three children who attend ASIJ.  We discussed how everything looked from their perspective during the year and a half surrounding the investigation.  What they shared was some things which concerned me.  Some of which is to be expected by people who really didn't know what they were facing.  But, one message that seemed to resonate from the conversation is that there is still a sense of secrecy among the administration.

Middle school students haven't been included in much of the conversation and were not even informed that we were visiting the school.  It wasn't until Friday, the last day of school until Spring Break that the high school students received notification that if they wanted to come and speak with the "sisters" that they would need to reply to this email because space was limited.

We requested to be able to address the student body, but were told that we would meet with the student council and a few students.

But none the less, the new board has been more than accommodating and gracious to us and we are looking for the most productive day to share our stories and hopefully help to make the school a safer place for kids.

One area that concerns me, especially after reading a CNN article on "JK" or Joshi-Kosei (school girl) is that Japan's sexual perversion culture is at an all time high.  Roppongi, which used to be an area where we hung out in high school, has become very shady and rout with this group of exploited young women dressed up in school uniforms inviting men into to their school girl cafe to socialize, have massages and drink. Read the article here:

The Japanese shame culture is still the same so many of these women won't ever be rescued.  My friend and sister Tacey shared that the attitude toward women is still much the same. If a woman becomes pregnant and is working, she is immediately told of her dismissal and there is no maternity leave or compensation. Therefore, being a mother and having a career is relatively unheard of.  Tacey said that many of her friends who have careers are childless.

But one thing that she said also resonated to be true.  Until the Japanese women become vocal and stand up for a change, change isn't coming. They have to want it and embrace it.