And now it's time to continue the report!
Saturday night I was feeling pretty good about life, especially after I took care of calling Dad's cousin Richard and figuring out how to get to church. He had asked us if we wanted to go to an English-speaking or Japanese-speaking ward, and since I said we kind of preferred Japanese, he suggested we go to his ward, which we thought was an excellent idea, because we don't like going to wards where we don't know a single person. Not that we really knew Richard (we'd met him a couple of times at family reunion type things), but at least we had the whole being relatives thing going. And he was super nice and typed up the exact directions on how to get from our hotel to the train station closest to the church and everything. And so, with all that information, and the being done with the stress of dealing with it for the day, it was nice having "Compass of Your Heart" running through my head while I showered. Since it's one of those songs that encourages you to go out and be awesome, I was like, "Yup, that's what I'm doing!" and it made me happy.
The next morning was another story. Now was the time we had to actually take the train, and worry about transferring and getting on and off at all the right stops and everything, and sure we had specific directions, but what if we got on the wrong train, or got confused by too many details? And "Compass of Your Heart" was still playing in my head and I wanted it to shut up and leave me alone.
But we got up and got ready for church anyway. On the way out of the hotel there was a neat experience where I looked over to my left to see a giant crow sitting in the tree about two feet away from me. It was seriously huge, like at least twice as big as the normal crows here in California. I started to get out the camera to take a picture of it, but it flew to the next tree and, since it wasn't so close anymore, I stopped caring. Oh well.
I think it was when we got on the third train (the last train before our final stop) that "Compass of Your Heart" was helping me to feel hopeful, like everything was going to be okay. It's kind of a cool song like that, because I feel like it tells you to do the right thing, and when you don't want to, it's annoying, but when you do it anyway, it lets you know you're alright.
At the last station, I had my first experience using a Japanese public phone, because we didn't have a cell phone, and we needed to call Richard and let him know we were there so he could pick us up. I don't know how long we waited because my sense of time is terrible, especially in Japan for some reason, but eventually he drove up with his wife, and we set off for the church building. It was a lot like the Institute building we have in Glendale, which I only say for our future reference, because I don't think anyone reading this has been there. It was also built up instead of around, like all the places in Akihabara, but still wasn't as narrow.
Their ward starts with Relief Society/Priesthood meetings, and we got there a little late, but still in time to sing the opening hymn. Richard's wife Yoshi (I think her name is Yoshie, but they kept calling her Yoshi, so I don't know for sure) introduced us, and when she said that we're translators, they all said, "Oh good, then we don't need to worry about speaking Japanese." They passed out copies of the talk that the lesson was on. It was pretty neat, because it had the talk in English, but after each paragraph, there was a Japanese translation. We of course read from the Japanese, and each sister was called on to read a paragraph. The talk was on understanding mental illness, so there was a lot of really hard kanji, and the other women were really impressed that we knew some of them. But I must confess that knowing how to read kanji and knowing what they mean are two different things, and there was still a bunch of kanji we didn't know, so we only understood about half of the talk. There wasn't much time for us to go back and read the English; I keep meaning to do that sometime.
After Relief Society, we tagged along with Yoshi to the English-speaking Sunday School class, where Richard was teaching. The only people there were us, Richard, Yoshi, and two Filipino women. Apparently they usually have more people, but they were gone that week. Before we got into the lesson, we ended up talking about ours and our sisters' names for a while, which was pretty fun, and then we had a lesson on service, which I thought was very appropriately taught by someone who had been so helpful in getting us to church.
At Sacrament Meeting, we sat in the back where Richard had a microphone so he could interpret everything into English. It was crazy, because he'd wait a few seconds after someone started talking, and then launch into the English, which he kept up without pausing. Apparently he was listening and talking at the same time, and I think you'd have to be super used to both languages to not be distracted while trying to switch the language over. It was half testimony meeting, so we got to hear a bunch of people bear their testimonies in Japanese, and I was really impressed at the honorifics. It makes sense that Japanese people can use honorifics, but they're so hard for me. Oh! But before that, there was a boy passing the sacrament wearing a gakuran. It was so cute.
The second half of the meeting was when a member of the stake high council addressed the congregation. He gave a really good talk, but neither of us remembers it very well, for shame.
After the meeting, Richard had some stuff to take care of, like interviews and stuff, so we hung around in the chapel and talked to people. Soooooo many people came up and said hi. It was so weird to us, because when we moved here, only a few people did that. Not that we mind that much. But anyway, since so many people came and talked to us, we learned that we actually can speak Japanese! Yay! It was funny, because after we'd been talking to a few people, the bishop came to say hello, and he spoke to us in English, but we were in Japanese mode, so we answered in Japanese, and then he apologized (in Japanese, of course) for being so rude as to speak to us in English when we clearly know Japanese. There were also a couple of guys there who had come from Canada to see if they could find work, but they were going to leave soon because they had run out of money and not found work. Every time someone found out that we liked anime and manga, they asked if we'd been to Akihabara, so we were glad we had been. And everyone we talked to asked us to come back. We're sure part of it was just being polite, but it made us feel wanted.
Richard finished what he was doing, but then he and Yoshi had an appointment with their home teacher (who was actually teaching them on the first Sunday of the month!), so we joined them. Every time Richard introduced us to someone, he told them we were manga-ka, so we always had to say, "Manga-ka ja arimasen yo! (We're not manga-ka!)" He knew we weren't really, but he said he just liked to say it. His home teacher was a very happy-looking old man, and he talked about how he likes Gordon B. Hinckley, but he trusts President Monson a lot, too. They talked about how there's a gentleness in... something... Dang it. We're terrible at this. It's something you remember the feel of more than the content exactly.
Finally, we were all done at the church, and after offering their home teacher a ride, Richard drove us back to the hotel. We talked about translating, and Japan, and how a lot writers these days end up being very cynical in their attempt to sound super intelligent, and how that makes Japan look bad. He has this goal to make a magazine for people traveling to Japan and Japanese people coming back to Japan after living overseas for a long time, to help them get back into the swing of things and show people how fun Japan can be, but he needs writers who are just going to have fun with it and not try to sound all great-writer-y. He would talk to businessman who would say that of all the foreign countries they had to do business with, Japan was the worst, but he wants everyone to see that the Japanese people are really fun. I think that most anime/manga fans have discovered that already, but there are a lot of people who aren't anime/manga fans. Richard also told us that to him, the whole country of Japan was like Disneyland, so, as someone who loves to share Disneyland with others, I can totally understand why he was so eager to help us see stuff.
He wanted to swing by the Imperial Palace on the way back to the hotel so we could see it, but the streets were blocked off. He explained that on holidays and stuff, sometimes they'll block off the streets for all the people walking around, and it was called "Hokou Tengoku (Pedestrian Paradise)."
We eventually made it back to the hotel, and Richard said he'd call us in the morning, because we were going to see about visiting anime studios. And then we decided to spend the rest of our Sunday appropriately and rest. We didn't make it back in time to catch the broadcast of the Seiyuu Awards (there were posters advertising that it would be broadcast Sunday, May 4th all over the Anime Center in Akihabara), but we did get to see Inu-diana Jones! "Inu" means dog, and the show was a unique kind of pet show. Six dogs and their owners competed in various challenges on their way up to the top of Holy Mountain, where they could win fabulous prizes! And they were accompanied by their host, who was dressed like Indiana Jones. There were a "dog spirits" (guys wearing dog masks) at a bunch of the challenges, but we still don't know what they were there for, probably because we missed the beginning. But it was adorable.
We also watched The Shounen Club, which we imagine some of you may have seen. The main thing I remember is that two boy bands competed in a skit type thing, where they'd each pick a guy from their group and the hosts would give them a prompt to act out. The best was "your reaction when you find out the pudding you've been looking forward to eating is gone." One of the guys opened the imaginary fridge, looked a little confused, and said, "Purin ga nee n dakedo (Hey, my pudding's gone)." He repeated it a few times, getting angrier each time, and when he sat down, the hosts asked him was he was so angry about, and he said, "My pudding's gone."
And then we watched a special they had where they'd gotten a bunch of singers of classic anime songs to perform the anime themes they sang, hosted by Shoko Nakagawa (who's coming to AX!!!) and... another guy... Eheh. I think that was the first time we'd ever heard the Totoro song. What kind of anime fans are we? I was actually a little jealous of Nakagawa-san, because she's an anime fan herself, and she got to be all excited to be around the people who sang the songs she was so familiar with. But it was really neat to watch. It'll be fun to meet Shoko Nakagawa when she comes to AX.
And that about covers our Sunday in Japan. Today I'm thankful for getting done with work a little early today, anime song specials, Inu-diana Jones (when they were walking to one of the challenges, everybody was singing the theme music!), people helping us get to church, and getting to eat leftover cookies at FHE last night.