Tuesday, February 27, 2007

This is why the UK is a Constitutional and not an Absolute Monarchy

Yahoo News: Burger Off! Prince of Wales wants Big Mac ban

I respect and honour our royal family, but sadly His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has some really stupid opinions. May Her Royal Highness, his mother, reign as long as possible.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Last night, I ate raw Whale meat (and Whale bacon)

You may recall that a while ago I posted on Whaling. Well, I finally got to try the forbidden flesh last night.

We went to this Sushi restaurant, the kind where the stuff comes on a conveyor belt and you just take what you want. Well, I saw some raw meat and thought it would be realy cool to eat raw meat. I thought it was probably horse, but the waitress revealed it to be Whale meat. I also ate some strange tasting bacon, which was also whale.

I guess you know that your politics are very Right-wing when you can eat an endangered species without feeling any guilt or shame. Maybe I would get on well with the domesticated fascists in the Japanese Liberal Democratic party government.

Also in the restaurant, I ate some orange squishy things. Nobody in the group knew what the Japanese word for this dish meant in English. It turned out that they were a kind of sea creature called a Sea Squirt.

I ate some less radical things too, though it was not always obvious what kind of fish they were. I found that I can enjoy Crab when it is dipped in Wasabi sauce (Japanese green Horseradish). Normally, I do not like Crab.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Flavours of Japanese Potato Chips

A lot of Americans are amazed at the varieties of potato chips you can buy in the UK (roast beef, smoky bacon, prawn cocktail, etc).

It seems that there is quite a choice here in Japan. Today we ate Seaweed flavour and Butter and Soy sauce flavour. Laurie is of the opinion that those flavours are rather bland, a view that I think I share having tried them. You can also get Wasabi Beef flavour potato chips.

Laurie posted about the picnic in Hirosaki last week

BLUE FOREST SOAPBOX: Picnicking in the Snow

Britain talks to U.S. about missile system role

Britain talks to U.S. about missile system role

This is very encouraging. Our government is in favour of participating in the propoased American missile defence shield. This defence shiled would have major strategic advantages for the USA and the UK.

As might be expected, the pacifist lunatic fringe in CND are against the idea. They would rather be defenceless in the face of future agression by the growing number of nuclear powers in the world.

Nervous

I am really nervous about the journey home. It is not just the long flights across Asia and Europe, the journey across Japan is very long as well.

I get really nervous about travel. It is something that I get fearful about.

Please pray for me that I will travel safely.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Who is Phil Johnson?

Who is Phil Johnson?

A good article from the Miles J Stanford memorial site.

Chased by Dogs

The Japanese have not extensively bred their dogs for domestic use. Hence, they are very wolf-like. People tend to keep them chained up outside their houses in kennels (I suppose the dogs cannot remove their shoes at the genkan).

I meet a lot of dogs when delivering tracts from house to house. They ussually bark at me. Occasionally some person wil have chained their dog too close to the door, so that I cannot put a tract in their letterbox without risking having a chunk taken out of me.

Yesterday, some guy let his two dogs loose while I was around. They chased me a little way down the street. I understand that running away from dogs is not the best idea, but it was a pretty instinctive reaction. They were fierce. I have no idea whether the owner was just being careless or whether he did not like foreigners very much.

I suspect my friends Andrew and Caroline faced many more fierce dogs while serving in Albania.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Another Picnic in Hirosaki Park

Laurie, Mary, Angela the German missionary, Chris the English teacher and I went for another picnic in Horosaki yesterday. It was very cold again and snow was falling.

Later in the day, we visited a 19th century mission house. The lady curator was a friend of Laurie and went into great detail explaining the history of the house (too bad I could not understand Japanese). She gave us green tea after showing us around.

In the evening we attended the English Bible study, followed by a restaurant meal (deep-friend squid again).

A Baptism

We attended a baptism this last Lord's Day. A Japanese man married to an American got baptized. It was good to attend a baptism. I was especially pleased that he did not give his life story when delivering his testimony. People giving their testimony often throw in so many unnecessary details. However, this chap did not give any details at all about his life, he just devlared his faith and his renunication of sin. Arguably it was not really a testimony at all, but I found it refreshing.

BLUE FOREST SOAPBOX: Goodbye, Joy

BLUE FOREST SOAPBOX: Goodbye, Joy

Some photos of Joy's departure and our bidding her farewell.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Alone with the Eliotts

Joy has gone and I am alone with the Eliott family. What will they do to me?

Well, we watched a Russian movie last night. It was entitled 'Prisoners of the Mountain,' and it was about two Russian soldiers taken hostage by Chechen fighters during the war in Chechnya. It was a very interesting film. I am not normally a great fan of movies. I tend to think that if I am watching a movie I am spending less time reading. But I make exceptions sometimes.

Dyspraxia and noticing things

One of the Dyspraxic problems I have is in noticing things. I often fail to notice changes in the world around me.

But even worse, this failure to notice things means that I sometimes fail to make chronological sense of the world around me. This is because I often fail to notice things and I can never be sure when changes to my environment actually took place.

The other day, John had a medical procedure carried out on his face and as a result; had a large plaster on one cheek. I noticed it, but I was not sure how long he had been wearing the plaster. Had he been wearing the plaster all week and I had only just noticed? Or had he been wearing it since I met him?

I live in a confusing world.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

What a Delightful Website!

Monarchy.net: The official website of the Constitutional MonarchyAssociation and the International Monarchist League

God save the kings, queens, emperors, empresses, princes and princesses of the world!

I am glad to be in Japan, a country that has a monarchy. It is rather re-assuring. Republics are weird.

A Journey in Grim Weather

Yesterday, we had snow and storms.

This weather coincided with Joy's departure. Thus, we had to make car journey through the mountains to Hirosaki in a blizzard, which was a new and interesting experience for me.

John seems very amused that my English idea of a blizzard is a snowfall and a bit of wind. This was a real blizzard; with seriously reduced visibility.

It turned out that the high speed roads had all been closed, so unfortunately Joy's coach journey to Tokyo will take almost twice as long. The driver suggested that she might want to take the bullet train instead. Fortunately, she did not; all the trains had been cancelled. This was harsh weather.

On the way back we encountered a young woman whose car was trapped in snow on a lonely road. She had been living in Tokyo and was unused to driving in snow. She was rather distressed. Laurie and Angela, another missionary, stayed with the lady, while John went home to get some shovels and metal ramps. We got the car cleared and John drove it to Ajigasawa (the lady almost got the car stuck a second time after we got it free).

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Does anybody have an opinion on the Vietnam War?

I realise American readers might be sensitive about this subject, but I would quite like to know people's opinions about the Vietnam War.

You do not have to be American to give your opinion about the Vietnam War.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

It is exciting to be in East Asia

My supervisor, John Eliott certainly likes to talk about current affairs, a subject I very much enjoy.

Current affairs are certainly interesting here in East Asia.

We have North Korea, which is determined to be a nuisance to the world, especially to the USA. They have managed to get a good deal of attention with their nuclear bomb, though whether it is a reliable atomic device is an open question. Even if it works, it is not small enough to fit on a missile warhead. This evil regime is likely to cause headaches in the region for years, though we can be certain that one day this last bastion of Stalinism will come crashing down.

North Korea's alter ego, South Korea gets rather less attention. Despite the economic crash of the nineties, their ecomomy is strong and they have reached incredible heights of techological progress. They could easily be a great military power if they set their attention to it. Very fortunately, they are on the side of the West.

North Korea would be easier to deal with if they did not have a degree of support from China. The Chinese have become something of a superpower. Their economy has grown and grown. They also have a very intimidating military strength. John tells me that they are rather limited in strength by their lack of a large and credible navy. The USA has a considerable supeiriority over the Chinese navy (and in other areas of military technology as well). Hence, we must not exagerrate the military threat of China. If China took any military action to recover Taiwan, she would quickly be humiliated by the United States.

China's economic strenght has generated much discussion. Many people are convinced that China will overtake the mighty US economy. This is hardly a certain conclusion. There was a time when the world was convinced that Japan would domminate the world economy. An economic crash and long recession proved those thoughts wrong. I believe that the Chinese economy will also hit breaking point. Sooner or later the Chinese will find that they cannot keep expanding their export market. They will then have to develope their internal market; which means increasing wages (and costs).

There are also questions about whether China can maintain its iron dictatorship in the new conditions of prosperity. The Chinese people are increasingly coming into contact with foreign ideas and foreign people. They are increasingly likely to question the Communist hold on their society, especially with the development of an educated Chinese middle class.

If the Chinese economy falters, the Chinese government is going to have big problems. They seem to have a deal with their people along the line sof "You stop talking about democracy and freedom and you can have lots of lovely western material goods." This strategy is unlikely to work long-term, but it will certainly fail if the material goods stop flowing.

Though it is not always thought of as an Asian country, Russia is just a bit to the west of us here in Japan. Russia seems a bit of a dark horse. Putin has been in power for a good few years, but he seems undecided as to whether he wants Russia to be a friend of the west or a nuisance (Russia can no longer be a rival to the west). Russia has made efforts to be friends with China, but this relationship could deteriorate if the Chinese start asserting their ever-increasing supeirority over Russia.

Finally, there is Japan herself. Once the economic miracle of the world; Japan has suffered badly from recession. She has recovered some her economic strength, but she has lost some of the energy that she once had. She has an increasingly aging population that will need supporting and to make matters worse, she has a generation of young people who lack the work ethic and resourcefulness of the previous generation. Many Japanese young people lack education and training and are unemployed. Japan badly needs to let in immigrants to fill the vacuum in her labour market. But immigration is not popular here in Japan.

There are also interesting questions about the ideological direction of Japan's future. Japan has a constitution tha outlaws any military action and which ought to make its armed forces non-existent. Yet it has one of the most powerful military forces in the world (though it is meant purley for defencive, not offensive action). The right-wing Liberal Democratic party government wants to change the constituition to make Japan a true military power in its own right. There are fears, particularly amongst Christians, that Japan may revert to its authoritarian and nationalistic past. On the other hand, for the sake of a balance of power in East Asia, it would be good to have a more powerful Japan, able to oppose the strength of China.

Does one have to be fascinated by Japan to be a missionary there?

I have met some Christians who are absolutely fascinated by Japan. They have it at the foremost of their interests. They really breathe out their enthusiasm. I find their fascination a little intimidating. I sometimes think 'these are the people that God must have called to go to Japan.'

Am I interested enough in Japan to be a missionary here? I do find Japan interesting. I enjoy Japanese food. I totally favour the custom of always removing shoes in homes. I love the scenery here in the Aomori prefecture. However, I cannot say I am absolutely fascinated by Japan. I have a read a little about Japanese history and I do not find it desperately interesting, as I do the history of Russia or the Byzantine Empire. I am just as interested in many cultures as I am in Japan. And the shoes-off rule that I badger about is certainly not unique to Japan, being the custom in Norway, Thailand, Bulgaria and many other countries I could mention. I have seen two or three Manga films, but I do not feel the urge to educate myself by watching a dozen of such films.

I think this comes down to the issue of how we understand the concept of 'calling' a concept that is not necesarilly helpful. Often Christians think that every believer has a special plan that God has assigned them and somehow they need to find out what it is and do it. This tends to lead to a kind of mysticism. Things like an interest in Japan may be viewed as a sign of some mystical 'calling' to this country. While God may use such an interest to lead a person to recognise the need for the Gospel in Japan, it is not necessarilly a sign that one has some destiny to be a missionary.

A couple of years ago, I became fascinated by Finland. I wanted to find out as much as I could about that country and I was blessed with the opportunity to visit. It was a really great experience for me. I had wondered if my interest was a sign that God wanted me to go to Finland as a missionary. However, the more I found about Finland, the more I realised that such a pursuit was unlikely. While I like the idea of living in Finland, the fact is that Finland does not have a desperate need for missionaries. Finland is a sending country, not a destination country. It has a small population and though it is hardly a godly place and very secularised, it has plenty of Christians to be a witness there. Finland is a reached not an unreached country. So treating my interest as a sign of a 'calling' to go there was a mistake.

I understand 'calling' to be not a mystical summoning, but a burden or a concern that leads to action. A 'calling' is simply seeing a need and recognising that one might play a part in meeting it.

So you are fascinated by Japan. Very good. It is good to be interested in place beyond your home. But that does not necessarilly mean that you are going to be a missionary in Japan, though the possibility is certainly worth considering. The real question is whether one has a desire to see God's church grow in Japan and to see Japanese men and women come to know Christ. If that burden for the lost in Japan is not there, then perhaps one's interest is simply a sign of excessive Manga viewing or a passion for Sushi eating.

If I wanted to go to Japan for the sake of it, I could have come here as an English teacher on the JET programme. Plenty of people get to see Japan that way. The reason I came to Japan was not to immerse myself in Japanese culture (though I am getting some of that) or to find out all about shoguns and samurai, but to find out whether I can play a part in making the Gospel heard in Japan.

A Restaurant Dinner (and a fun evening)

BLUE FOREST SOAPBOX: Rules of Engagement

The Valentine Party (a student outreach event in Hirosaki)

BLUE FOREST SOAPBOX: The Question You Had Better Not Ask!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Rummy Bar

There is a really great chocolate bar here in Japan called a Rummy bar. It contains raisins soaked in alcohol. It has a warning on the wrapper advising against driving after eating it.

I keep getting cravings for Rummy bars. I think I must be missing alcohol (OMF short-term workers are not supposed to drink while in Japan).

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Doctrinal Difficulties

We had a Japanese pastor preaching in church today. Laurie had difficulty translating a lot of what he said (he dealt heavily with grammar apparently).

From what Laurie did write down, it appears that I would have doctrinal difficulties with his message. The title of the sermon gave it away somewhat- "Faith, the gift of grace." He clearly believed that faith was the gift of God in Ephesians 2:8 was faith. I hold to the contrary, that salvation is the gift of God and faith, while not a gift itself, is merely the appropriation of eternal life.

He also took the view that only the last ground in the parable of the sower involved genuine faith. Such an interpretation inserts theological presuppositions into the text (that faith must continue to be genuine) and leads to practical Arminianism ('how can I be sure my faith is real?').

It is hard to escape all that Calvinism sometimes.

On the positive side, he did say that faith is not volitional, a position that Calvinists normally deny. I can agree with that. A person cannot choose to believe. Faith is passive, the result of being persuaded. And he emphasised the importance of the objectivity of the content of faith. It is not the faith itself that saves, but the object of it.

Quoting Joy's Farewell Speech

I have learned many things from being in Japan. I have learned that you can keep your home much cleaner if you always take your shoes off.

Joy


Amen, Joy. She gave her farewell speech to the church today. It really was great. She shared how much she had been inspired by her experiences of being in Japan. She hopes to return as a misionary.

She will be leaving Ajigasawa this week. Please pray that God will extend to her His travelling mercies and guide her future as she seeks to serve her Lord and Saviour.

Liver and Onions

Liver and Onions

I like to eat liver and onions, and I like the theology here.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Pepper

My hosts are amazed at the amount of pepper I put on my food. Of course, the pepper is not really needed, as the food here is great. However, putting pepper on is a habit. It is impossible to eat English food without putting pepper on; so much of it is so bland.

School Ceremony

I mentioned that the other short-termer, Joy, was attending a Japanese high school as an exchange student. As she is leaving shortly, there was a special assembly at the school, in which she had to make a speech.

I was invited to attend. While I was not excited about listening to a ceremony in Japanese, I thought it would be good to attend.

It was interesting. It was a good deal more formal than the average school assembly in the UK. Joy seemed very confident delivering her speech in Japanese.

The principal seemed very pleasent and polite. He spoke good English.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

"I will build my Study Group"

I asked John Laurie, my supervisor what word the Japanese used for church. As the church is part of the subject of my thesis, this was of great importance to me. Apparently the word means study group. While there is an element of truth in this, it does not seem to my mind at all an helpful translation of the concept of church. Though it does fit in very well with Karl Barth's idea of the church being primarily a teaching body (not a view that I take).

BLUE FOREST SOAPBOX: How to Save a Drowning Person

BLUE FOREST SOAPBOX: How to Save a Drowning Person

Some photos of Takayama where I stayed a few days, as mentioned in a previous post.

BLUE FOREST SOAPBOX: A True Gentleman

BLUE FOREST SOAPBOX: A True Gentleman

Laurie said some nice things about me.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Hah-so

The Eliotts had some Japanese guests the other day. All at the table were amused by the common stereotype held by British, Americans, Canadians and Brazilians that Japanese continually communicate with the word or expression Hah-so.

Sashimi

Today we had sashimi (raw fish) for lunch. It was the first time I had eaten sashimi with the Eliotts. Some people have this idea that Japanese people eat raw fish all the time, but actually it is a delicacy.

We had wasabi sauce with it. Wasabi is very much like horseradish, but is even nicer.

Back to Cold Weather

Yesterday the weather was quite warm (northern Honshu is having a crazy warm winter). The snow had thinned to the point where one could recognise the rice fields as being rice fields.

However, today the cold weather was back, with a bitter wind and more snow.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Garbage Song

I mentioned in an earlier post that refuse trucks here in Japan play a cute song. I am told that this is a children's song about a fishmonger and that refuse trucks have been playing it for many years.

I will have to suggest this idea to my sister, who is a waste management officer. It would be fantastic if English refuse lorries played a song. That would of course raise the question of what song they would actually play.

Forced Conversion

Blogger forced me to switch to Beta.

I hereby give warning that if I continue to suffer difficulties with Beta upon my return (it is working fine on the Eliott's computer so far), I will retire from blogging. That would be sad.