Kenneth Marion Mansell:
Birthdate: 01/19/1953. Lived most of his life in Idaho. Graduated from Weiser High School in Weiser, Idaho. College: part time at University of Idaho in Boise, ID. Completed full 3 yr certificate from Multnomah School of the Bible, Portland, OR. Completed Bachelor’s Degree at Pillsbury Baptist Bible School, Owatonna, MN. Served as youth pastor for almost 3 years in Prior Lake, Minnesota before moving to Japan.
Vicki Irene (Coats) Mansell:
Birthdate: 12/12/1953. Lived 14 years in Montana in 3 towns. Graduated from Nyssa High School, Nyssa, OR. Had 1 year of Bible school at Western Baptist Bible College, Salem, OR.
Below, you will find a work in progress that relates the Mansell’s history in a very personal way.
By Vicki Irene Mansell
As I begin this book we have begun the 20th year of our work in Hokkaido northern Japan. October 7th, 2003 will be our 20th year anniversary of our arrival in the foreign land that God had called us to. With this anniversary come many thoughts of what has taken place in our lives in the 29 years we have been married and especially the course it took to bring us to this point and what God has allowed to take place during that time period. I have often thought, ‘if I would ever write a book…’ and would quickly go into thought about some event or memory of that time period. I do not claim to be proficient or to have much spiritual knowledge as a result. I just want to share some of the joys as well as the struggles of this time; especially for my family and for anyone else who wonders what it is like to be a missionary on the foreign field.
Some of you may be wondering why the title ‘Missionary Nails’. As we began the process of rebuilding our missions’ building in 1990 we kept every nail that came out of the old building as we tore it down from the inside out. Then as we rebuilt, it was our daughter Alicia’s job (who was 9 yrs. Old at the time) to sort those nails into three groups: throw away, unbend and reuse, or just reuse. As missionaries we had learned in so many ways to not just throw away if something didn’t seem quite right but to find ways to reuse it. I said then, if I ever wrote a book about our life on the mission field, it would be titled ‘Missionary Nails’, so here it is. I am so thankful to God that He doesn’t throw us aside when we seem to not be doing the work He intended us to do. He patiently waits while we get ‘straightened out’ and then he uses us again. Our work here in Japan is a long-term commitment that also takes some straightening out of people’s lives and beliefs into an understanding of the one true living God who loves them. May we always be found faithful.
Chapter One- Preparation
We were on the plane and on our way to Japan. If you would have asked me on my marriage day where we would be almost ten years down the road, I would never have dreamt of saying “living in Japan”—and not only living, but being church planting missionaries there. What fears, what joys, what struggles lay ahead. We had been in the planning and preparing stage for 2 years. Actually we didn’t know it but the Lord had been preparing us for this ministry for many years to come, let alone since we got married.
My husband, Ken and I are very thankful to have a Christian heritage. Grandparents and parents who love the Lord and followed His will. That was the first step in our preparation. They lead us by teaching us about God through His Word, faithfully attending services, and being godly examples in our lives as we grew up. We both accepted Christ as our Saviour at an early age. Even though we might not remember names there are also godly spiritual leaders that have been an influence in our lives. Ken remembers specifically his youth pastor during his high school years who kept telling Ken to give the Lord at least one year of his life at Bible College and then see where the Lord would lead. Ken wanted to be an engineer but he did decide that his youth leader was right. Off to Bible College he went. He attended for two years and then decided to take a break and earn some more money before going back.
While working full time and attending a liberal arts college part time, we were married. We were content being involved in our local Baptist church and enjoying our new life together. Then again the Lord moved in our hearts and Ken went back to the same Bible College to finish his 3-year certificate. Our first son, Richard, was born that year and at the end of the school term, we were again wondering what God would want us to do. We had for some time been touched by the need to get involved in a missions work of some kind. We looked into two possibilities and the Lord closed them both. At the same time, Vicki’s father’s church needed a youth pastor and wrote us about candidating for that. When the Lord closed the other two doors we knew we needed to see whether the Lord would close this one or open another. So Ken went to Minnesota from Portland, Oregon where we were at the time.
Prior Lake Baptist Church of Prior Lake, Minnesota voted to call my husband as their youth pastor—working full time, being paid part time—and even moving clear to Minnesota seemed like moving to a foreign place but we knew that we were where God wanted us. Vicki’s father, Pastor Art Coats, had been involved in pastoring in small communities for many years. We know now, that in retrospect, again the Lord was using this time to prepare us for working in a small community in northern Japan. The beginning step of learning how to have patience in working with people and to be able to also learn how to be involved in the community so that we weren’t just a name on a building, began here in this ministry.
Chapter Two-Our Call
This was also where God wanted us to be so that He could lead us in the next step—committing ourselves, during a Faith Promise Mission’s conference, to church planting on a foreign mission field.
With this decision made, Ken decided he wanted some more training so enrolled at Pillsbury Baptist Bible College in southern Minnesota as a mission’s major. After a busy two years of working full time, attending school full time, being involved with the youth group and the Jr. Church programs at our local church as well as playing football for Pillsbury, he graduated with his degree. But that wasn’t all.
During his senior year a senior missionary from northern Japan, specifically the island of Hokkaido, came to visit on campus and tell the student body of his desire of reaching the northern rural area of Hokkaido, Japan with new missionaries where he had been ministering for quite a few years. So many missionaries called to Japan stay in the southern larger populated areas. His desire was to see more come north. And not only north to Japan but by a special program of new missionaries working with a veteran missionary for two years to lead them patiently through the ropes of living, learning the language, and dealing with people in the difficult country of Japan.
We had been praying for some time about what God would have us do and where we would go to fulfill our calling. Ken was on campus that day hearing the missionary speaker in chapel. The campus chapel time was always broadcast on the local Christian radio station so Vicki listened while at home. When Ken walked through the door of our home that afternoon Vicki doesn’t remember which of us started talking first, but it was both of the same thing—what do you think about northern Japan?
We prayed, discussed the program, met with the missionary several times as well as several pastors that were working with him, got the counsel of our pastor and Vicki’s. What a blessing it was to meet and pray with him and when we asked him what he thought, this was his reply, “Your mother and I have been praying for several years now that God would send someone to help in this needy area. Never did we dream our own daughter and son-in-law would answer that prayer.”
After Ken graduated in 1981 we began our year and half of full time deputation with much fear and trembling but also joy that God had shown us his will. Our theme verse quickly became Isaiah 43:10 and 11, “Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.” We were going to go to northern Hokkaido, Japan to take the Risen Saviour to the Land of the Rising Sun.
Chapter 3- On the Deputation Trail
We were fortunate in several ways during our deputation time. We had been involved in churches through youth work and through the college in the Minnesota and Wisconsin areas so had many contacts we could make immediately from these experiences. Also because Vicki’s father had been a Baptist pastor for almost 30 years we had contacts from his ministries as well. These gave us a good start in setting up meetings and we quickly worked up an itinerary that began by going out on weekends until Ken graduated and then full time traveling as soon as we could take care of all of our financial responsibilities and give notice to the jobs Ken was carrying on. We quickly dubbed ourselves the M & M missionaries—we were concentrating in Minnesota (and Wisconsin) and Montana with a couple churches in northern Wyoming added.
By this time we had three children: Richard, the eldest was 5; Michael was 4 and Alicia was one when we began full time deputation. Alicia slept a lot in the car from that day on and on any of our furloughs this quickly became one of her favorite pastimes. We worked on songs that the whole family could do for special music and they quickly adapted not only to traveling but also to being in front of and with people. As I look back, I know that no matter what the Lord called our children to do, they had gained confidence and growth as a result of the many times we were in churches presenting our work. They were a part of our decision and a part of our work from that day on until the day they left home to head to college in the United States. Although they were not ‘called’ to Japan individually, they were a great part of our ministry at every age level.
Beings they were young, their usual daily question as we traveled was, ‘how long today?’ If it was 8 or 10 hours or so, they figured it was pretty good. But if it got too high in the double digits they would sigh and know it would take some enduring that day. “Triptiks” provided through AAA were such a help to be able to look up the areas we were going through, discuss what the area was like and whenever possible include a sightseeing time along the way. Children do get fidgety though, and Vicki will never forget one pastor’s home that we arrived at on a Friday night about suppertime. As we went through the door the wife kindly said, “I am sure your kids are wound up from riding all day long. Let them join our kids down stairs and they can play and don’t worry about the noise they make. Just let them relax!” What an understanding lady!! And she didn’t have to offer twice. I suppose because of that I can also remember what we ate there—home made pizza—because they had that every Friday night on family night. What a blessing to have them just include us in their usual activities instead of doing something out of the ordinary. We were just ordinary people like them and to feel quickly at home and enjoy a normal setting was just what we needed. I am sure many people along our deputation path made us feel just like family and didn’t worry about the title that came with the people. That influence has also helped us over the years to just make everyone try to ‘feel at home’ and invite them to be one of the family whether they are in our home for a few hours, a few days, or several weeks.
Much against some pastors’ advice we included a full five weeks of summer Bible camp in our deputation schedule. The camp that I had grown up attending in Montana and that my father had a part in helping get started had one week of training camp, 3 weeks of youth camps, and one week of family camp. Coordinating that schedule with meetings in Montana churches on weekends worked out great but it meant we were going around the clock the whole five weeks. Ken was the missionary speaker every week plus helped be a cabin counselor for the 3 youth weeks. I got to be an assistant in the kitchen for 3 weeks and counseled for one week as well. It was a great opportunity to get to know young people and pastors alike as well as other folks from the churches we would be in who were volunteering their work for a week. We still keep in touch with some of those we made friends with during that time and are blessed with financial and prayer support as a result of those weeks of camps even though some pastors thought it would be a waste of time.
I never realized how busy we were and how tired I was becoming until after the 4th week. We arrived at one of the assistant pastor’s home where we would be staying for the weekend after driving up from camp on Saturday morning. He and his wife had also been part of the camp staff the week before. As he greeted me at the door, he said, “I am so glad you are here! Just wait until you hear what all we have planned for you this weekend.” He then began to list several activities. I must have been hearing all this with a very tired weird look on my face. And all of a sudden I quietly began to have tears stream down my face. He quickly said, “Oh, I am sorry, Vicki. I am just kidding! I know how busy we have been this past week and it was just a joke.” He quickly called his wife with instructions to see that I found the room we were to be in and I got a nap before anything else went on. Believe me, I didn’t argue that idea and I am sure I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
Ken had a good repertoire with the young people. During that first week of training camp he wanted to be a good example and tried his best to not be too funny and be the ‘serious missionary’ he felt he should be. But my dear husband is such a fun loving person and can be quite the tease as well. He had gone through two weeks of camp without carrying on too much. In the middle of junior high week he must have broke because he surprised us all with an event no one has ever let him forget. Breakfast that morning was French toast. The long tables allowed about 10 young people to sit at each side and one counselor sat at each end. Ken was at one end with a young lady at the other end. The platter of French toast was down by Ken and she asked him to pass her the French toast. Without a thought or a blinking of the eye, he picked up one of those pieces of toast and ‘passed’ it down the length of the table, flying like a neatly tossed football that landed square in the middle of her plate, slid through her leftover syrup, off the plate again and into her lap! She never said a word but looked up with the most surprised look of wonderment on her face as all the kids yelled out, “Mr. Mansell!” Ken quickly realized just what he had done and with much apology and help in getting things cleaned up knew that his cover was blown and the real Mansell had come out in the open. His preaching was powerful but he allowed his humor to come through as well and just be the fun loving missionary-minded man that he truly was. I am glad that it seems as though God must love laughter (“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine…” Proverbs 17:22) and doesn’t ask any Christian to become stern and have a sober spirit all the time in our daily walk with Him.
As the time drew nearer for our departure we were busy with our commissioning service plans, packing, storing, time with family and friends, and often thoughts of what might be ahead. Two things I remember most: one was when the veteran missionary’s wife asked me if there was anything I might want to ask her about living in Japan. I answered with a question: was there anything that might take some real getting used to. She answered that maybe she shouldn’t tell me because I might change my mind about going! Of course I replied it wouldn’t change a thing. She preceded to tell me about toilets in most homes in rural Japan which were basically a porcelain covered hole in the ground for a toilet—in other words—an indoor outhouse that you ‘squatted’ over. So was our introduction to just one of many new things that would face us in Japan during our first couple years.
The other thing was spending some precious time with a dear lady friend talking and singing together at the piano in our home. As we sat on the piano bench together, we were singing, “Lord Send Me Anywhere” by Ron Hamilton. When we got to the chorus where it says ‘sever any tie save the tie that binds me to thy heart’, I broke down and cried. I was human. I was excited about what lay ahead but I also knew I was leaving friends and family behind and it wouldn’t be easy. Aunt Betty (as we lovingly called her) put her arm around me and said, don’t sever the ties—just stretch them. Oh, how those words brought comfort over many a rough spot in the days and months ahead when we missed what was known and understood and dear to us. And over the years God has graciously given us friends and loved ones who have done their best to stay ‘close’ even though thousands of miles of land and water stand between us and their presence.
Chapter 4—Arrival in Japan
On October 6th, 1983 we left the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport in the evening for Japan. Earlier that day my only brother, his wife and one daughter at that time had flown from the same airport for the country of Haiti. He was also called to be a church planting missionary and our commissioning services were only one week apart. As my family and friends gathered at the same airport twice in one day, a well meaning adult asked my mother “Isn’t it terrible to be losing your only son and daughter and their families all in one day?” My parents replied, ” Christian parents whose children are involved in drugs, rock music and other worldly practices of the day are the parents that might have lost their children. Our children are serving the Lord and we couldn’t ask for anything better.” What a blessing to have parents who were behind us all the way. Ken’s mother and father as well had been very supportive of our decision and would themselves within 4 years time give themselves to support missionary work at New Tribes Mission headquarters in Florida.
As I look back on that first long flight to Japan I only vaguely remember parts of it. It seemed all too amazing that we were actually on our way to a foreign country—a country on the other side of the world. With no experience in ever being out of our own country, this meant it was both exciting and scary all at the same time. Would I be able to do what was required? Would I continue to be the help-meet I desired to be in order for my husband to fulfill his part of our calling? Could I even learn to eat raw fish? Lots of questions, but again and again the saying on the plaque that we were taking with us came to memory. This plaque still hangs on the wall in our home: The Will of God will never take you where the Grace of God cannot keep you. This and the many promises in His Word such as “I will never leave you nor forsake you” and “with God all things are possible…” would be comforting and strength providing Words in the days and months to come.
We left the United States on the 6th and arrived in Japan on the 7th losing almost a day with the 12 hour trip because of the International Date Line. That wouldn’t be the only thing that we felt like we had ‘lost’ in the days ahead. How can one begin to describe the feelings that would surface in those first few days after arriving in Wakkanai, the northern most city of Japan? First it was exciting—like the flying—a new experience—at least for such a long period in the air. This first flight was in a couple sections and my dear husband has never let me forget that he did take me to Hawaii. Not that we touched the mainland of Hawaii but just sat in the airplane for a couple hour layover. We were traveling in the middle of the night and the Lord was gracious to us that part of the flight because our three children, who were 6, 5 and 2 were sound asleep. Everyone was supposed to get off the plane once because the crew needed to completely clean and get it ready for the next section on to Tokyo. We hated to wake our tired children and knew with what was ahead they needed that sleep. So we kindly asked the stewardess if we couldn’t just let them sleep and we would stay out of the way. They were gracious in allowing just that and I was so thankful that some rules can be broken when kindness is involved.
Our first glimpse of what it was like to be foreigners in a strange land took place at the Narita airport in Tokyo! Black haired, brown eyed people all around us speaking sounds that had no meaning! Would these people who looked all alike and sounded alike ever take on individual personalities? The funny part was that within a few months people we came to know did do just that and not only that, but eventually we would see Japanese that looked almost exactly like someone we knew back in America!
We were so glad that the veteran missionary had come clear south (a long train ride for him of a couple days) to meet us and help us get through the change over in flights in Tokyo, then in Sapporo on the northernmost island and on to our last stop of Wakkanai, the northernmost city. On those local flights we felt even more inadequate and insignificant. Was I up to this task? Could I pass the test? I knew our call was true. We were there committed to at least two years to prove that call. “Lord, please guide me and show me the way” was all I could pray. There were so many firsts that were going to pile one upon another. Our first sip of green tea on the plane made me understand that there was so much to learn to ‘like’ in the days and months ahead. The tea tasted bitter and I am thankful that we were constantly praying that we would fulfill our desire to never say no to anything that we should learn to like; that our taste buds would eventually get use to these new foods and drinks and that the training we had given our children would show forth in even this area for they had learned to eat whatever was put on their plate without murmuring. Now we would be put to the same test!
Chapter 5 – First Impressions
At first glance much of the area that we saw as we arrived in Wakkanai, the northernmost city of Japan, looks like an older area of a large city might look in America—buildings built similar, but different; roads like ours, but different; signs on the stores like ours, but different; people dressed like Westerners, but different; are you getting the picture—everything was similar but at the same time different. It was that difference that would take some getting used to. Buildings were somewhat the same but usually had a tin roof that slanted to the side or back to allow snow to fall off without endangering someone. Roads were paved in the city but much narrower and many had no sidewalks along side, so people walked on the side of the road instead. People dressed like Westerners but not so much variety: i.e. elderly women wore browns and grays; business men all wore blue or black suits with white shirts and dark ties; students, junior high and up, wore school uniforms; and the signs—well there was English on some of them but most were in wiggly lines that eventually we would come to recognize as one to three of the three forms of written Japanese. And I won’t even begin to mention food right now but we were so thankful to live with the missionary family at first so could learn how to work with the ingredients available in this country as well as be able to eat American type of food sometimes while we were learning.
We arrived in the fall and within one month the first snowfall had taken place. One of the things I remember is how cold everything felt especially in the mornings. Even 20 years ago very few homes had what we would call central heating. Even now many might not, but heat rooms within their homes with kerosene portable heaters or ones attached to pipe chimneys. These are only turned on if you are in the rooms and always turned off at night because of fire danger. Also depending on your situation you might have to drain all the water pipes at night and leave the water turned off so the water won’t freeze. Then you close them down and turn the water back on the next morning. We would sleep with lots of blankets, socks on our feet and for Ken because he had less hair, a stocking cap was just the thing to keep his head warm. Now I understand why people wore ‘caps and kerchiefs’ on their heads in the pioneer days. While that nightly routine of shutting off all our water became routine, it still was so strange.
Those first few days were exciting and everything was new. But there was one thing, after a couple weeks, that became frustrating. We were now ‘babies’ who didn’t understand all the customs, the way of life, what was going on around us; but most of all we couldn’t get past the ‘hellos’ of the particular time of day when you were greeting someone. We could greet and that was the end of our conversation without an interpreter. Ken had told the Lord early on in his search for the Lord’s will for his life, that he was willing to go anywhere in the world as long as he could speak English! After allowing the Holy Spirit to work and take that stipulation out of his desires, the Lord lead us to a country with one of the most difficult languages in the world for a westerner to learn. That learning process required three different ‘alphabets’; two of which had 48 different sounds written two different ways and the third (Kanji adapted from Chinese characters) has more than 5000 with anywhere from one to three readings to each one depending on their combinations. Oh, my, would we ever become fluent? In a mixed group of people talking, women are still supposed to be the quieter one so for me those beginning days and months of not being able to communicate were frustrating but not to the point of anxiety. For my husband, on the other hand, it was restricting and humbling. He had been a youth pastor; worked in several different ministries in our local church while still in Bible school, and also had taught and preached from week to week as we traveled on deputation. Now he not only couldn’t participate in active service yet, but couldn’t even carry on a normal conversation with anyone outside our own family and the missionary family. He had run into a brick wall that almost seemed too tall to climb. Yet in moments of despair and frustration we could only always come back to this one thought: the Lord had called and He would do His work through us if we could only be patient and learn. That learning process is still taking process. People sometimes ask me when we are back in the States, “are you proficient in the language now?” My reply is always, “I will be learning the Japanese language until the day I die, but by God’s grace and the teaching and help of the missionaries that trained us as well as many a patient Japanese willing to slow down in their conversation and take time to teach us new words, I can carry on an every day conversation.” Isaiah 50, verse 4 says, “The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary…” We praise God that Ken is able to teach and preach in Japanese although the struggles with any particular unused word at any certain time still takes time to learn and use. But I still struggle with the deeper spiritual language necessary at many times to really get into deeper witnessing opportunities. I want to be able to ‘speak a word in season to him that is weary” so am glad that the Word of God can be shared with anyone even when I can’t say the right words.
Chapter 6 –Daddy’s Peanut Butter and Mommy’s Chocolate
From that title I am sure you get the idea—yes, food in Japan—the same or different I wonder! Browns that remind you of peanut butter; dark creams that remind you of chocolate; ‘wine’ bottles that aren’t wine but filled with oil; vegetables that we have never seen the like…and then the fish. But let’s take one story at a time.
Daddy’s peanut butter came about because Mommy decided to take an overnight trip. That’s OK. Dad can cook and there is always peanut butter and jelly as well as his wonderful omelets for breakfast. Now Dad is a wonderful chef for BBQ’s, for our yearly camping trips, and for the occasional omelet, but he enjoys eating Mommy’s food so lets that be the extent of his exploration into cuisine styles. He figured peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were a safe choice. He searched in the refrigerator for the jam and also found a Tupperware container of ‘peanut butter’. He cheerfully called the kids and presented his meal with style. After the first bite, the kids all called out, “Dad what is this?” To the answer of peanut butter and jelly, they all said, “well then something must be wrong with the jelly because it just doesn’t taste right.” So he tasted the jelly in the jar…no nothing was wrong there. He tasted some of the sandwich and sure enough it just wasn’t good at all! Even Shiba the dog didn’t like them. No one remembers what he ended up giving everyone to eat as a substitute but they will never forget what Mom told them when the ‘peanut butter’ was pointed out in the refrigerator—”that isn’t peanut butter—that is “miso”! Miso is a fermented salty bean paste (yes, a light brownish creamy color) that is used a little at a time in a hot soup eaten daily by the Japanese people. Dad learned that miso was kept in the refrigerator and peanut butter was kept on the shelf!
I have to be fair though, I also have a ‘food story’ that must be told. We had only been in Japan for a few weeks when we were given permission to foray out on our own for an afternoon. We headed downtown to walk around and take in the sights. As we went into one department store there was a vendor out in the entryway. She was selling a Japanese ‘sweet’ that was a fish shaped pancake type pastry with two kinds of filling. One was creamy colored and the other a deep brown. All five of us were together so Dad held up four fingers and pointed to the creamy ones and one finger to point to the ‘chocolate’ ones. Mom had to be different and something chocolate would be just the thing. We received our just-off-the-grill warm filled ‘pancakes’ and the family quickly said “mmm good” as they bit into the custard filled pancake. Then I took a bite of mine and remember, I was dreaming creamy chocolate….but quickly almost spit the bite right back out! To my chagrin we found out afterwards, I had picked a pancake filled with a well loved Japanese sweet of creamed and sweetened ‘adzuki’ beans. In time, I learned to like almost any Japanese style sweet, bean paste included! Meanwhile, we will never forget the time that I thought it was chocolate. Now Japanese, chocolate….that’s a whole other subject for another time but suffice it to say–it’s the best!!
Chapter 7– Japanese Food
I still thank the Lord for the gracious people who helped me learn how to shop and cook with Japanese ingredients. When we first moved to Teshio that was one of the main ways I could get to know ladies around me. I offered to teach them how to cook or bake something American and they would offer to help me learn a Japanese food. I love to cook and experiment so it was very interesting for me to learn these new foods—but oh the time consuming preparation and all those dishes!
Japanese eat with hashi (chopsticks) so anything that is eaten has to be prepared in such a way that there is no cutting involved. That includes the main course items even when it is meat. They always have a soup with their meal and for many that is their liquid until they drink many cups of hot tea after they get done eating. Many elderly Japanese eat fish, rice, and miso soup three times a day with variations through the vegetables and fruit that is also served. We had made a promise to each other that we would do our best to always at least eat a new food once politely in a home where we might be visiting or if it was given to us. This way we would learn to enjoy the continual new tastes that were introduced along the way. Then over a period of time we also did repeats of the ones we learned to really like. The only thing we never really had a desire to do, although we did it at times if with the Japanese, was to have the rice type meal for breakfast. After thirty years of a bread type breakfast our stomachs just didn’t think they wanted to cooperate with an Asian style breakfast. So beings we were in our own home, we could make that choice. Now we eat many kinds of Japanese foods and much more rice than we do potatoes. We are also blessed by living in northern Hokkaido so the potatoes we eat are very delicious although we do miss those BIG Idaho baking potatoes every once in awhile. Eventually, I even started choosing all Japanese foods for breakfast buffets when we stay at a hotel!
There are also some foods that once tried never again will probably pass our lips if we do have a choice. Things like raw fish eggs (of All Sizes!); fresh or canned raw sea urchin; natto which is a fermented soy bean dish of quite slimy characteristics and a strong smell; and fish head soup! Now don’t get me wrong—the soup was great! It was just that spoon filled with an eye ball that just about did me in. Did I manage to finish the soup? Yes, but I have to admit I did lay the eyeball aside. Japanese are very frugal in how they eat. There are many things they eat from fresh fish that westerners wouldn’t dream of eating. On the opposite of the picture, Japanese have watched Americans cut up a fresh salmon or halibut and said, “Oh, don’t let them throw that part away—that’s the best part!”. In time we came to understand the different foods and I can clean and filet a 6 or 7 pound salmon with the best of them. OK, I’ll tell my secret—I use rubber gloves and I find that I don’t breathe quite as deep when I am cleaning them either! We have also over time enjoyed introducing Japanese friends to American home made foods and every one admits that nothing beats my pizza compared to what they are able to get in the store which is usually a thick bread type crust or toast crusts with pizza toppings on it.
This next section is being written after over 30 years in Japan! Many things have continued, changed, grown, and we have been blessed in more ways than we can relay. So will try and little by little continue this dialogue with recollections and continued experiences over the years. Beings the first section was written back when we first started having a computer and the ‘life’ happened, it won’t be written in quite the same style.
Chapter 8 – Daily life
Chapter 9 – Japanese Kindness