明けましておめでとうございます!

After Christmas, CricketChild  and I got to have a mini-reunion with some of the awesome people we met three years ago when we were here together as a part of Bob Jones University’s Mission Team. One day we had lunch with pastor I and family. Another day we had a lovely hike around a plum-tree-covered mountainside with the S’s and enjoyed throwing pebbles into the river with their daughter, M. I would say skipping pebbles if we’d been able to find more flat ones. On another day, we had lunch with the I family and then went out with Mrs. S and young M again to shop for some discount warm clothes at Hard Off, my favorite store in all of Japan. Back in Georgia, I didn’t need much different clothing for summer and for winter! Adding a jacket and gloves pretty much covered things. Thanks to my Aunt Merris in Wyoming, I came with a proper winter coat and some boots, and I’ve been slowly acquiring enough long-sleeved things and leggings to layer up for the cold parts of winter. IMG_20151228_12051912440528_10153779262492618_5522762590166163297_o

Whenever I shiver here in Japan, my Japanese friends assure me cheerfully that it’s been a warm winter so far, but it will get much colder by February. Great. :-/ Oh well, at least I’ll probably get to enjoy some snow in exchange for the cold. Actually, it seems like most of the time there’s beautiful scenery around, being cold is involved.

CricketChild and I traveled up to her place on Sado island for New Year’s. After all of the activity around Christmas down in Moroyama, I was looking forward to a vacation from vacation! We took the JR train from Moro up to Takasaki, then the Shinkansen to Nigata and the ferry from there to Sado. The ferry ride is 2.5 hours long and the ferry itself is a little like a miniature cruise ship! Each stretch of the trip was long enough to settle in a relax a bit on the way. 🙂 12440385_10153779262217618_180875173044614533_o

The island seemed deserted for the first two days we were there! Most of the businesses had closed for New Years, which is a much bigger holiday than Christmas is even in the States.  Friends have informed me that the Japanese spend their New Year’s deep cleaning their houses — but the quietness of the neighborhoods around CricketChild’s apartment had us wondering what else the Japanese do to celebrate New Years. Surely the biggest holiday in Japan doesn’t only involve cleaning house and sitting quietly indoors! Turns out a big part of the Japanese New Year is traveling to see family and going to pray at the local shrines. The shrines set up quite a festive atmosphere with food stalls and merchants on the shrine’s grounds. Maybe that’s where they all were.
ToriGate
On the 5th of January, I reversed the travel process and went home. The ferry ride, apart from yielding some excellent photos of seagulls, also provided an excellent opportunity to gather thoughts about all the experiences of my first Japanese winter so far and catch up a bit on writing to you all. I’m sure many of you have some sort of resolution for the new year — mine are to rest and to pray more. It’s too easy to become too busy all the time.MistyGull.jpg

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