Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter in Japan

It had been a while since I had seen the inside of a Church, so I tracked down a local one so I could attend Easter Mass. The one I found in downtown Maebashi holds services in English, and Portuguese and Spanish, but only on certain Sundays. For Easter, things were to be in Japanese.

On this perfect spring morning I met up with a friend who was also interested in seeing how things were celebrated locally, even though she leans more Protestant then my own papist persuasion. I was a bit surprised at how full the Church ended up being. It wasn't a very large building, but for obvious reasons you don't expect to run into many Catholics in Japan.The vast majority of those attending were Japanese, though there were a sprinkling of Europeans and Filipinos there as well. In a pleasant surprise, while most of the service was Japanese, they read each reading twice, once in 日本語, and once in English. A few of the hymns were sung in English as well, by a small guitar accompanied choir. Singing the rest of the songs in Japanese was a fun challenge. It wasn't easy trying to read the music and the language at the same time. My results were rather mixed.

Seated a couple of rows in front of us were a threesome of rather rowdy young Japanese boys. They goofed off, played with a sports drink bottle, and generally paid no attention to the service whatsoever. So pretty much just like American kids. The most interesting departure from what I remember back home was the peace. Rather than a hearty hand shake and a "Peace be With you", everybody just bowed to their neighbors while mumbling something about heiwa.

In a surprise ending, all the newcomers that day were made to stand up and introduce themselves! It was rather shocking, and a tad bit awkward. As a foreigner here, you know you stand out. You try to avoid standing out too much, but you know that you will never, ever blend in. So you tend to do your best to avoid situations that call even more attention to yourself. Say situations like standing up in church on Easter telling everybody your name and where you come from!

That embarrassing aside over, we ducked out to a local family restaurant for brunch. A quesadilla, Salisbury steak and a chicken cesar salad made for an unusual but delicious Easter meal.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


It is hard to take a photo during a blackout at night. Funny thing about blackouts, there just doesn't seem to be as much light as usual. Though things have been good on that front, all the scheduled blackouts for the past several weeks have been canceled for now, as the weather has been fine and power usage has been down. Though people are worried about summer. This past summer was a scorcher, and this year is predicted to be similar. How the damaged power supply grid will respond to everybody running the a/c all night remains to be seen, but the idea has people in high places concerned.

The gasoline lines are gone here too. They only lasted a few weeks, but it was interesting to see the laws of supply and demand at work. Luckily the gas companies engaged in a bit of charitable price fixing. Gas prices did go up, but only moderately. I lucked out both times I had to fill up, sneaking in to the line right as it opened. Looking back on things, it is amazing that it took less than a month to clear up the gasoline issues, especially considering that much of the import and refining machinery in North and Eastern Japan was damaged to outright wrecked by the Earthquake.

Though even so, power problems and gasoline shortages were effects of the earthquake that were felt here in Gunma, but had causes hundreds of miles away. Locally, some of the only actual damage I saw was like this, roof top tiles knocked asunder. While I wouldn't want to have my own roof looking this beat up, especially with spring rains coming, it must be admitted that on a scale of 1 to  "your house got washed away by a wall of water" this rates pretty low.

All this is to say, here in Gunma, we got lucky. Aftershocks continue, though with days between them instead of hours, but all in all, life is back to normal.