It's Sunday! And that means we finally finally finally have time to write a long post about Japan! In fact, we might have time to write two, because Gaston and Alice are going to Disneyland this evening (at least, that's what we heard during the week), and since they want to sleep here when they're done, we'll probably be up late waiting for them to finish at the park. But we'll just write the one first, and then we'll see. If we write another one, we'll probably save it for posting later, so no one will have to read it all in one sitting anyway.
On Sunday, as usual, the plan was to go to church and spend the rest of the day in our room resting. This time, we were bold enough to stay in a different town than Ikebukuro, so we had to find the ward and building we needed to go to. After our trip to Japan a year ago, I thought I'd had all this finding stuff down, but our experience in Shibuya had proved otherwise. Nevertheless, I thought I just needed to take a few more precautions, write down the names of buildings we would be passing, etc.
Of course, none of this helps when you don't manage to see the sign on the building telling you what its name is. So after we got off the train (that's the easy part), we missed the very first turn and got lost once again. We were wandering around in the rain, and none of the buildings were anything I'd written down, and, as we said, it was raining, so it was starting to resemble our trip to Harajuku back in January 2016. And just as Athena was thinking, "Huh, it's kind of like when we went to Harajuku and had to stop at a koban to ask for directions," she noticed a koban. Huzzah!
So we went to the koban and asked where to find the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and of course none of the police officers had heard of it so they didn't know where it was, but they were determined to help, so one of them got out a map and eventually she found it! Huzzah! And she was really good at giving directions, too. I was like, "Okay, now she found it; how am I going to understand her directions!?" This was not a language thing so much as a "directions are really hard to follow" thing. But she was a pro. She pointed at the street light outside and said, "Okay, that's street light one. You're going to walk along this street until you get to stop light number four. Then turn left and keep going until you get to the big street [big is super relative when it comes to international street sizes], turn right and you'll get to it."
Well, as indicated by my bracketed insertion, I don't think we would have recognized the street once we got to it, but that didn't matter because by the time we were that close, we spotted a car with a family, including young children, all in nice, church-type attire, and we thought, "They look like a family on the way to church..." As we got closer, there were more people in suits and dresses all heading in the same direction, and then! I spotted one of the buildings I'd written on my directions, and then there was the church! We made it! Huzzah! And best of all, we actually made it before the meeting started. This is why we always give ourselves an hour to get to a new church building.
Sacrament meeting was lovely. They had all the youth (and a few other people (including the missionaries, of course), because their youth was fairly small) sing that medley arrangement of "Army of Helaman" and "As Sisters in Zion" that always makes me go, "Why can't they combine Sisters in Zion with Elders of Israel!?" Our theory is the different time signatures. But! it was still lovely, and it was neat to hear it in Japanese. There was also a talk on the importance of visiting teaching, where a sister told a story about how she had just moved in when she got a knock on the door, and she was kind of scared about it because who in the world would know that she just moved? And it was her Relief Society president! And...there was stuff about fellowship...I just remember being amused by the story.
There was another talk where the brother told about how his family is reading the Book of Mormon, one page a day, and he was like, "It's about 700 pages, right?" And that was a little weird to hear, because the English version is 531 pages, so here if anybody knows how long it is, it's 531, but the Japanese version is more than 700, so it was like, "That's wr...exactly right!" (We read the Book of Mormon in Japanese, too.)
After sacrament meeting, we weren't sure what to do, so we stood around looking helpless until someone took pity on us and offered to tell us where to go next. Eventually this happened, and a very friendly woman took us with her to the gospel doctrine class for single adults. While we waited for everyone to assemble and the lesson to start, we ended up talking with another woman, who happened to have a Chip and Dale bag. I had brought the Chip and Dale bag we bought in Shibuya, because it just seemed a little more church-appropriate than the hip pack I usually wear, and I needed to have something to carry the hotel key and my train pass in, so we pointed out that we both had Chip and Dale bags. The woman told us that she's actually not a Disney fan, but she thinks Chip and Dale are really cute. If she thinks of Disney as the movies that have come out in the last few years, I really can't blame her, because I feel the same way.
But the funny(?) part of this story is that, since it was our new bag and we were excited about it, I said, "We bought it in Shibuya two days ago!" And the women, knowing by then that we had come from California, said it was funny that a girl from California would come to Shibuya to buy a Chip and Dale bag. We would have agreed, but, as we told them, they don't really have cute Disney stuff in the States. (It's true; it all has to be either "high fashion" or "edgy" or both. At any rate, the cute stuff they do have is almost exclusively Minnie Mouse. I love Minnie, too, but I love Chip and Dale more at this point in my life.) They were happy about it, though. They were like, "Yes! We win!" And we were like, "Oh my goodness, do you ever."
The lesson was on the pioneers, which was kind of cool, because I had wondered, since in the States a lot of members of the Church have pioneer ancestors, how people in countries like Japan would approach the subject. And actually it was pretty much exactly the same, including the question, "Why should we learn about the pioneers?" (This had an extra amusing element, because as much Japanese as we know, we don't know all the Church terms, so the teacher asked, "Why should we learn about the kaitakusha?" And we looked at each other and were like, "Kaitakusha? What's a kaitakusha?" Eventually we figured it out.) I'd say if anything, the difference was that the attitude was a little bit more like when we learn, for example, about Bible prophets. Like, "Here's what the culture was like for context," whereas in the States, we all act like we already know.
Anyway, I liked the angle that the teacher went with it. First, she pointed out that when the pioneers were on the trail, and sick and dying and having to bury their friends and family, they didn't really have the option of turning back--they had to keep going forward. So this is a lesson for us in our lives, that we need to keep going forward. The other option is to wait for help, because sometimes you really can't go on on your own. So the other part of the lesson came when we got to the part of the story where there were the two handcart companies were in trouble, and the messengers got to Brigham Young in Utah and interrupted a service, and Brigham Young stopped everything and said, "Okay, let's go help." So the question then was how can we have our feelers out so that we're seeing people who need help and are ready to help them. That's something we kind of struggle with, because we never leave our apartment, so it's good to remind ourselves to be alert for opportunities to serve.
The Relief Society lesson was on the law of chastity, and that was kind of an odd experience, because the women were not shy about their comments. Before I go into that, I want to point out that the law of chastity is that sex is only to be had between a man and a woman who are legally married. That's all the Church has to say about that...well, there are some tips for teenagers on how to avoid the temptation to break it, but the point is, the comments made by the women are strictly their own opinions and not a reflection of Church teachings.
The first thing that kind of shocked me was when the teacher told a story about how she and her family were out eating dinner, and it must have been around New Year's, she said, because there were a lot of people in kimonos. And there was this one woman who was wearing her kimono loose around the collar, which is fine and all, but she had the collar around her shoulders. And the teacher said right there in church, "I thought she must be a prostitute." And I know that members of the Church are notorious for their slut-shaming attitudes about modesty, but usually they're not so blunt about it...at least not in meetings. And that wasn't even the most shocking thing that anybody said. Another woman made a comment that she saw on TV or something a study that they did where they discovered that little boys as young as three years old would start to get hard when they saw a naked woman. I'm not sure about the biological possibility of that, actually. Anyway, the discussion did tend to focus on modesty.
After Relief Society, people started gathering for choir practice, and I was jealous because I like being in choirs, but we weren't going to be there for the performance, so we left. We confirmed directions to the train station with one of the sister missionaries first, and we had no trouble getting back to it. And when we got there, I saw that first building on my directions that I missed on the way to
church. And I slapped my forehead, and we went back to our hotel to wait out the typhoon.
Okay, so the typhoon didn't actually come through Tokyo, but we did get a bunch of rain from it. Tokyo Skytree disappeared behind it! It was so crazy. We looked out our window and the city looked pretty much the same, but because of the way the clouds were hanging, just Tokyo Skytree was gone. We took a picture...I think.
We mostly spent the afternoon watching TV. They have some pretty fascinating TV shows in Japan. There was one that was about the Navajo, so it was really interesting watching the Japanese host go around the American Southwest. She even went to Utah! She was hanging out with some people, and we were like, "The look Mormon. They're Mormon, aren't they?" There was one where they would go to the Scramble in Shibuya, find a random cute girl, and ask her if they could meet her mother. Then we'd learn all about the touching stories in their family. I think it was a different show where they did a feature on the mother of an Olympic athlete and how she struggles with having a world-famous son, because she's like, "I know he belongs to the world now, but he's my
son." A lot of perspectives that I never really thought about before.
The next day, we worked. As mentioned previously (about a million years ago when we last posted...or was it the post before that?), we still had to translate the last episode of Princess Principal. Incidentally, sometime while we were working on this series, we were reading a random Facebook discussion that came up because a friend commented or something--it was about members of the Secret Service and what they did or did not say about Hillary Clinton. Someone came on and said that members of the Secret Service are not supposed to talk about their principals to outside people. And we were like, "Ooohhh, so that's
what principal means!" Okay, we're still not entirely sure what it means, but I think it means something along the lines of "the person an agent is assigned to." So that's what Princess Principal means. ...Or at least, we think it does. We tried looking it up later, but online dictionaries did not corroborate.
But we had already started the episode, so we were really hoping that we would finish before too late, because, now that we knew will-call tickets were a thing, we kind of wanted to see if we could catch another performance of the Sailor Moon Musical. We did enough research to know that there would be a show that day, but not enough to know that there would be two (it was a holiday)! As a result, we chose not to go to the theater until about the same time as before, which may or may not be why the tickets were all sold out when we got there. So we checked out the merchandise (now that we had a lot of time to wait in line), decided we didn't really want anything anyway, and headed back toward the station. But I've been telling this story out of order.
Because we were waiting for the theater to open (not knowing it already was), we decided to actually find the Animate that was supposed to be in Shibuya somewhere. And we found it! ...And all we got was a seiyuu magazine, and Welcome to the Ballroom 2 (we ordered most of the series online from Kinokuniya, but we must have been tired, because we somehow missed volume two, which is a very awkward volume to be missing). We were hoping there would be more Sailor Moon merchandise, because we thought, since the musical was our main reason for going, it would be nice to get our Sailor Moon fan friends and family some Sailor Moon souvenirs. No such luck. I wonder if we should have checked, like, makeup shops, because our No Make No Life box seems to send us something of Sailor Moon every other month.
We spotted a Dipper Dans crepe shop in the same place, so we got some crepes, ate them, and headed over to the theater. As previously stated, we were too late. But that was okay, because in our search for Animate, we found something else that was very important: a Shakey's. We saw it, and it even said on the sign, "American pizza," and we were like, "The restaurant I didn't even know I needed!" I felt like it was a good example of how the Lord knows what we need before we pray for it. So now that we weren't going to the Sailor Moon Musical, it was time to eat a lot of pizza. We were planning to do this even before we knew that this Shakey's was a buffet. We found that out and we were like, "Wow, this place really is a miracle."
And! to top it all off! They were doing a collaboration! Seven Deadly Sins! (Hence this entry's icon.) There was a cardboard standup of Meliodas and Gilthunder at the door! All the employees were wearing Seven Deadly Sins t-shirts! There was a life-sized cardboard cutout of Merlin! ...Who got moved soon after we went in (which was right about at opening time; this restaurant is open from 5pm to midnight). And the people there were all very friendly, and the woman serving drinks seemed to like twins. (I don't know if the drinks had free refills. They told us that admission included a drink, and we had to choose before we were seated. They had water, though, and that's what we wanted most. But Athena tells me the grape soda was more like sparkling grape juice, and that sounds pretty good. (I had orange juice.))
And they didn't only have pizza! ...Although, really that's all we wanted, so who cares? But since they did have other food, I will tell you about it. They had fried potatoes...but like, instead of fries or wedges, they were like centimeter-thick slices of potato that were seasoned like curly fries (heavy on the pepper, though), so they were hot both spice-wise and temperature-wise. So they were good but really hard to eat. They also had pasta, including the garlic pasta known as pepperoncino that I'd seen in manga before, so I tried a tiny bit out of curiosity, but oh my goodness, the garlic. It was intense. I was glad I only got a little tiny bit, because they ask you to not leave food on your plate.
And of course, there was pizza! It was a small restaurant, though, so they only had about three or four pizzas out at a time, and of course in Japan people love ingredients, so it was a timing game for us, the people who do not like ingredients. Most of the time, almost, if not all, of the pizzas had a bunch of toppings. But there would usually be either a cheese, a double cheese (using cheese sauce instead of tomato), or a pepperoni pizza, so we managed to get a few slices of each. The slices were pretty small, so visually I felt like we didn't really get that
much to eat, but we both felt pretty full. I should also point out that the little cards they put up next to each pizza to let us know what kind it was all had pictures of Seven Deadly Sins characters on them. There was a Ban specialty pizza, which Athena thinks was meat lovers, and a Meliodas one that she thinks was pepperoni and peppers. There was also a Diane dessert pizza with oranges on it.
Eventually we decided we'd had enough to eat that we didn't want to sit around awkwardly waiting for an ingredient-free pizza to come along anymore, so we left, but not! before asking what the deal was with the clear file / can badge set that was being advertised on posters throughout the restaurant. It was only six hundred yen! So we bought one, and the clear file has a picture of the whole cast, all holding pizza in some capacity. The can badge was a mystery, which is why, in retrospect, maybe we wanted to buy two after all, but that's okay, because we got Elizabeth and Hawk, and that seems like a pretty good picture to represent the whole experience, since they're the poster girl and pig of the Boar's Hat.
We went back to our hotel and watched more TV. The next day had us a little nervous. After we decided to go to Japan, we emailed our editor friend at Kodansha to let him know and see if we could meet up. He emailed back and said, "Sure! What do you want to do in Japan?" and we emailed back and said a few things and never heard from him again. This was weeks before we left, too, so when we were in the airport talking to our little sister for her birthday, we mentioned how our one friend in Japan would be out of Japan, and our other friend hasn't responded to our email, and she was like, "Yeah, I don't think you're going to be seeing him," and I was like, "Yeeeah."
Then we got to Japan, and found our hotel, and settled in and checked our email, and there was an email from him saying, "Welcome to Japan!" Incidentally, we had told him, since he asked, that we were basically interested in anything as long as it didn't involve food, adding that we're just not adventurous when it comes to any food but sweets and we were sorry. So his plan was to get some Japanese sweets (he pays attention) and go hang out at the Buddhist temple by the Kodansha office building. And that is what our plans were for that Tuesday. (The nervousness is because our editor friend is a relatively new friend, and new people always make us nervous, especially when they're people we really want to stay
But I don't even know how long I've been typing, so I think it's time to take a break. More on those adventures tomorrow!
Today I'm thankful for the miracle of Shakey's, the police officer who helped us find our way to church, the nice people at church, knowing that there's somewhere in the world that really understands cute, and our first meeting at our newly organized ward going relatively well.