Sunday, May 31, 2009

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Park and Go.

Saturday in the park…
I think it was the 30th of May…

Free day today. Wow. So much to write about! I have pics, vids, and a really amazing story to tell…Better get down to business. Here are some photos and vids from Ueno Zoo:

vlog+seals and sea lions

Seal is a singer too. Kiss from a rose.

Amazing Story:

Okay, you might want to make yourself comfortable. Perhaps dim you screens to prevent eye damage…this could be many words. I really think it will be worth it for you.

Every Saturday, we get a day off from the kindergarten. We are able to choose whatever activity we want to do. Obviously, in and around Tokyo, there are many different choices. On Thursday evening, I was looking through a travel book of Tokyo and found a page about Ueno Zoo. I mentioned my random idea to the girls and they were up for it.

This morning, we got on our bikes, headed to Inzai Makinohara train station, and hopped on the train bound for Tokyo. We made it to the zoo. As you saw from the videos, I really enjoyed the seals…We spent about 3 hours at the zoo and then decided to explore the park and area that surrounded the zoo. I had a map of the Ueno area and so we started off with no destination. We saw people everywhere and a pretty nice park/fountain area. I suggested that we sit by the fountain and rest for a bit (my dogs were barkin.) We sat for a while and discussed what we should do in the area with the rest of our day.

I heard music from across the pond. A bit A.D.D. perhaps, I just started walking towards the sound. The music became louder as I was walking and I thought that it really sounded like a Christian hymn (in Japanese of course.) As I neared the massive group of seated people, 2 senses were triggered: First, I saw a box with a cross. Simultaneously, I smelled a truly putrid scent in the air. I realized that it was a Christian outreach/ministry to the homeless. We observed from the back of the seated “congregation.” I thought that it was so amazing how we seemingly stumbled upon a Christian outreach, in the heart of a park, literally surrounded with Buddhist shrines, in a city with 30 million people, in a country with 1% of its people proclaiming Christianity as their religion.


His hat says "keep spirit." I don't know if I could.

It’s getting good…
I took a few pictures and just witnessed the poor, downtrodden, hopeless people on the pavement and the wealthy, successful, and busy pass by them on the sidewalks. Then, I looked to my right saw a familiar face 20 feet away from me! I realized instantly that it was the Japanese Pastor Ryosaku Inoue that preached to and prayed over our group in Ann Arbor, Mi back in March. (Because this is part of my college undergrad, we had to take an orientation class that included a trip to a Japanese church and other cultural experiences to “get out feet wet.”) We locked eyes and he immediately recognized us. We walked towards him with shared looks of unbelief. How could we run into someone we know in this place??? We talked to him and exchanged email information. (He wants to take us to a baseball game.) He introduced us to his friend Andy, who is a Japanese language professor at Hope College. I asked them if they were helping out with the ministry and he said that they had 5 students who were serving with a food giveaway across the park. We chatted for a bit and then went over to talk to some of the Hope students. It is absolutely incredible that we would run into someone who knows us and prayed for us before our departure.

Sarah, me, Pastor Inoue, Krista

Latest realization…
I knew that my friend, Rachel Hashimoto, whom I met @ Bay Shore camp years ago, was going to be in Japan this summer as well. I Facebooked her a week ago and touched base to see how long she was going to be here. Then, tonight I went to write on her wall and it clicked that she is here with the professors and students from Hope! (Incredible x10.) We will hopefully meet up with these people sometime in the not too distant future. What a day!?

I know that coincidences happen.-->you know, like 2 girls buy the same prom dress or something. Today was beyond coincidence. I literally can’t put it into words. Big God? Yeah, you could say that.

Once again, thanks for reading.→Especially this lengthy chronicle.


Friday, May 29, 2009

Raccoon Dog

Hey all,

The first week of work at the kindergarten is done. The first two days were a bit overwhelming. We were shown so many different things:
storage places, how to run the copier, English teaching schedule, cleaning schedule, after school program rotations, etc…the list literally goes on. As if that’s not enough in itself, all of these directions are either written or spoken in broken English. Top that with the cherry of 350 kindergartners screaming Japanese, grabbing any of my extremities, probing crevices, and dangling from my mandatory “teaching apron.” I guess I was pretty tired the first few days, but Fridaaaaaaay was a comin.

Everyday I find something that really makes me laugh. I guess it doesn’t really matter if things are funny to anyone else, so long as I get amusement/joy from them. Here are a few of the funnier moments:

1. Finding Daisuke. This little guy will repeat pretty much anything I say, in English obviously. How about some dialogue?

Mike- “Good morning”
Daisuke- “Good morning”
M- “How are you?”
D- “How are you?”
M- “I’m fine, thanks.”
D- “I’m fine, thanks.”
M- “Mike’s really cool.”
D- “Mike’s really cool.”
M- “Mike’s pretty funny.”
D- “Mike’s pretty funny.”
M- “Haha.”
D- “hahahaha.”
You get the drift… That’s really good and cheap entertainment here.

Daisuke playing in Dino.

2. While studying my Japanese lessons today, I learned how to write and say many different animal names. Like, snake = he bi; dog = i nu; horse = u ma; and…………………………………......drum roll……………………………………….
ta nu ki= raccoon dog. I laughed for a long while at that. Maybe my laughter came from my intense studying or from the thought of an actual raccoon dog. Funny for you too? In any case, please re-read the aforementioned, bold sentence.

3. Reading t-shirts here. Absolutely priceless. My top 2 so far:

“Don’t swallow around the chaos.”
“North Dakota Justifies”
“Their are so much bring.”

After a very experiential, yet not too delectable dinner prepared by the girls, we all grabbed our one speeds and biked through the misty rain to the Big Hop mall in Inzai Shi.
Big Hop----------------------------------------------me @ Big Hop.

I brought my laptop so I could chill and catch up on some blogging while the girls shopped. I was hoping to snag some f. fries from one of the restaurants in the food court but they apparently closed sometime before 8:40. Bummer! I guess we will just have to hit up the Mini-Mart on the way home to settle this hunger battle once-and-for-all.

Tomorrow, we are going to the Ueno Zoo. Apparently it’s supposed to be rad. Peace be upon you.

Bye everybody, bye.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Short Update.

Hey everybody,
Short update here. Kindergarten is good. I had to run to the convenience store for some pick-me-ups. Not that I'm down, I just really need some chocolate or something after meals or during the day... Here are a few pics from the last two days:

I rode my bike a mile in the rain for this stuff...Well worth it!

Good morning!

Playing with the young ones.

Ready to attack me...


Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Hey Everybody,

We began working at the Inzai Shion Kindergarten on Monday morning. I am living on the second floor of the kindergarten, right above the main staff offices. So far, it has been so much fun. We work pretty long days. Our schedule varies but has been something like:

8:30-10:30 play/teach English to students.
10:30-12:00 Japanese Lesson/Class.
12:00-1:30 Lunch/Class visits
1:30-2:15 Bus preparation/boarding
3:00-6:00 After school program or daycare.

The kids are super cute and fun. They jump off the bus in their uniforms with huge smiles on their faces. They say, "Good morning, Mike sensei." It is pretty sweet. I will post some pics of the kids and campus in my next blog. They have made it really fun. One bummer is the language barrier. I speak so little Japanese. We are working on it! I have had minor headaches the last two days and have been completely tired out at night. I don't think it's the busyness of the day but rather hearing Japanese all day. It is so foreign to me and wears me out after a solid 8 hours...haha, part of the job I guess...

Last night, I went on a nice tour of the area. I took my rockin bike and went south from the school. I basically wanted to explore and take some pictures along the way. I saw some cemeteries, miles of rice paddies, and a baseball diamond. I found an awesome river with anglers doing their thing along its banks. I'd heard that bass fishing was pretty big over here...Anyways, I snapped a few pics of my men who were bringing in some big ones. (I actually saw a couple guys catch some.) Chad, they were using rubber worms and hot n' tots. The bike ride turned out to be quite a bit longer than expected, if you know what I mean. Here are a few pics from my ride:

This evening, the teachers from the school showed us how to make miso soup. Miso soup is really popular here. Mom and Dad both know the taste :) Anyways, it was a really cool time to hang out with them and get to know them a little better. Most of them are actually between 22-25. They work really hard and seem to really enjoy their jobs.

I think I missed home for the first time last night. I woke up in the middle of the night and really wished that I could hear kindergartners that were speaking my language...I guess I'll just have to learn more Japanese for the now :)

Well, it's 9:30 here and time for me to read a bit and then hit it. Goodnight, thanks for reading.


Friday, May 22, 2009

So So So So So!

First update!

Hey everybody!
We made it to Japan just fine and have had quite an amazing time so far. I would have updated sooner but we did not have Internet access until Friday night. Here is a quick update:
Because of Swine Flu, we are not going to be allowed to enter the kindergarten until next Monday. The people here are much more worried and cautious about the flu than Americans. In fact, the picture shows some of the Japanese health workers who came onboard the plane before we were allowed to leave the plane! It was a very serious operation and took almost an hour! After we were finally cleared and deemed “clean” by the officials, we grabbed our luggage and got through customs with little problem. We were met by Mr. Kei Nishimura at the airport. He informed us that we were going to stay at a hotel for 5 nights because of the Swine Flu. The parents at the kindergarten are understandably nervous that we might infect their children. So, they came up with new plan for us for the week. It sounds like so much fun!

Ohio Gozaimas.
I am writing this on a bus headed to Tokyo Train Station.
Okay so the first few days in Japan have been…wow. We have been absolutely taken care of. Mr. Kei Nishimura, uncle to Keiko and Minako (the sisters who run the kindergarten) has been our liaison thus far. He is a retired music executive of EMI. He has seen and met almost any famous musician. We stayed four nights in the beautiful Fountain Terrace Hotel. There are many hotels in this area that get 95% of their business from people who travel to Tokyo Disney Land and Disney Sea. We were part of that 95%...
The first day in Japan, we woke up @ about 5 because of jet lag. I took a shower and took a walk outside of our hotel. It is only about 200 meters from Tokyo Bay. It was awesome. The Bay is used for so much industry and is full of barges, ships, and fishing boats.
We grabbed some breakfast in the hotel and then got on the shuttle for Tokyo Disney Land. I have never been to Disney, even in the states. You can imagine how PUMPED I was to go! The four of us got our 2-day passes and were with the first (10,000) in line. Tokyo Disney Land was fantastic. There were so many people there and we were apart of the vast minority. We visited so many attractions during our first day at Disney. Here are some of the pictures!

Disney Sea was our Tuesday. Mr. Kei decided to stay back at his condo to get some work done. He helped the three of us get onto the shuttle and then we were off! We all felt fairly comfortable maneuvering around the park. Although most of the staff doesn’t speak English, they are amazing at directing people. They use so many hand gestures and communicate in so many alternate ways. We spent the entire day at Disney Sea (9-9). We started with a Dream Cruise Show, then hit various attractions like Indiana Jones, Ariel’s Underwater Castle, Aladdin’s Theatre, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, etc…I really can’t even explain how amazing that place was. They really know how to take care of the guest. Everyone is smiling there. Literally. It was really interesting. At night we caught an amazing fire/water display that blew my mind.

On Thursday, we grabbed some doughnuts, yogurt, and orange juice from the convenience store in our hotel and ate it in the park on Tokyo Bay. Then, we boarded the subway for Midtown Tokyo. Kei wanted to show us around the “biggest city in the world.” With over 30,000 million people, this city didn’t really seem to stop. We visited the very famous are of Ginza. It was similar to 5th avenue in New York or the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. However, Ginza is one of 5 “downtown” areas that Tokyo has. We went up the Roppongi Tower and saw an amazing view of the city. After much walking, food, and coffee, we got back on the train. Mr. Kei was getting some work done on his BMW in the garage and it was ready to be picked up. That meant that we all had to cruise in his Beemer, top down, through the streets of Tokyo…I was a bit reluctant but decided to take one for the team…(sarcasm)

Here are some things that I can now check off my list.

1. Picture with the real Jasmine from Aladdin.
2. Japanese woman sleeping on my shoulder on bus. (Currently happening and making it difficult to type with my left hand!)
3. Cruised in BMW convertible, in Tokyo, while listening to Southern Gospel music. (Music wasn’t my choice.)
4. Four espressos from the hotel buffet in one breakfast. (They are tiny and delicious.)
5. Re: #2. She woke up and gave me a glazed over look of confusion.
6. One word: Mask.
7. Feeling not “trendy or hip” enough.
8. Another word: Minority.



Sunday 15:51-In Flight

Hi everybody,

The adventure to Japan began today! I am writing you all from an altitude of 33,000 ft. We are flying over Hudson Bay at the moment… I just woke up from a quick little nap. During the nap, I had an interesting, nonsensical dream about some random Japanese temple. A majority of the people on this 747 plane are sleeping. Apparently the showing of Blue Planet isn’t really that interesting…

Anyways, I can say that I am currently very thankful for a few different things. Here’s a quick list:

Noise canceling headphones
Bon Iver on my iPod
Airplane stewardesses
Canada Dry

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Hi everybody,

Here's an update on my life. I'm graduating this Saturday from Spring Arbor University. Then on Sunday, I will be leaving from Detroit for Tokyo, Japan. I am spending the summer teaching in a kindergarten and also traveling. I want to use this blog to share my stories and pictures with you! Thanks for caring and I'll miss you guys.

Also, to my Spring Arbor boys: I'll miss you guys. I love you all and was absolutely privilege live with you and become your friend.

love, mike

P.S. * If you have Skype: Check me out at michael.dean.yoder I'd love to chat with you...

*If you want Skype so you can talk to me, get it here