Wednesday, February 12, 2014


     New Year's Eve or oshogatsu is one of Japan's most important and longest holiday.  Although oshogatsu originally referred to the whole month of January, most people associate it with the first three days (sanganichi) of the month.
     On these days, people go to shrines and temples, spend time with friends and family, and eat special New Year's Eve dishes. 
     Throughout these days, the bustling Japanese economy practically comes to a standstill.  Schools, companies, and shops close down, and trains, planes and highways are packed as millions make their way to their hometowns or other travel destinations.
     You can see "kadomatsu" (gate pines made from bamboo stalks and pine boughs) standing besides the shuttered entrances of skyscrapers and other businesses. Straw ropes strung with little strips of white paper "shimekazari" hang across the front of parking lots, supermarkets and shopping malls.
     Both kadomatsu and shimekazari are believed to purify the entrance and invite new and fresh life into the home and workplace.  On New Year's Day it is believed that Toshigami, the god of time and fertility, will enter homes and bring good luck for the coming year.
    Traditional New Year's foods are prepared to minimize cooking and household chores during the holiday.  Osechi-ryori, a special selection of food, is prominently featured at most New Year's settings.  This includes seaweed, fishcakes, mashed sweet potatoes with chestnut, simmered burdock root, sweetened black soybeans, and shrimp.  Many of these dishes are sweet, sour, or dried so they can be kept without refrigeration.
     Mochi, a thick, gooey rice cake, is prepared so that it can be served as ozoni (soup with mochi and vegetables) for breakfast, lunch or any other time during the holidays.
     Wishing you and your family, good health, happiness and peace this coming New Year!

Love, Elder and Sister Addington
Delicious Ozoni and Mochi prepared by the Sisters in the Kamiooka Ward
Elder Addington taking his turn at  the traditional New Year's (Motchitsuki) rice pounding ceremony.
The wooden hammers used to 
pound the mochi are quite heavy!

Sisters in the Kamiooka Ward preparing differet sauces and 
toppings to roll the mochi in. We were excited to be 
invited to their ward luncheon and to participate 
in the traditional rice pounding.
Japanese hang rice straw wreaths called 
"Shinekkazari" on their front doors, wishing 
for  peace, prosperity and happiness.  
We followed the example of all our 
neighbors and did the same.

MISAWA TRIP (post by Elder Addington)

     I received my High Council assignment from Pres. John Madsen to speak in the Misawa Ward, and to do some training, where I had served 46 years ago as a recent convert.  Misawa is 10 hours north on the main island of Honshu.  We travelled by the Bullet Train (Shinkansen), which took us 3 ½ hours from Tokyo.  When we arrived it was extremely cold and snowing.
     So many good memories: our Misawa Branch met in the old elementary school on the Air Force base with about 50 members, but today there are 150 members who meet in a large and beautiful LDS Chapel off base. Sister Addington and I spent 4 days there. It was fun and very meaningful to walk around Misawa and take a trip down memory lane.  So very much has changed.
     Elder and Sister Harmon, who are the new Senior Military Relations Couple in Misawa (Sendai Mission), had us for dinner, then Elder Harmon drove us around the base and up to Security Hill for a tour, where I worked as a Russian Linguist for two years in Air Force Security Service. 
     My testimony and foundation was laid in Misawa and I shall be forever grateful to my Father in Heaven for that experience and the members who touched my life.  

Ready to board the Shinkansen
Elder Addington was so excited  for this trip
         This is where Elder Addington used to work as a young serviceman in the Air Force.
Elder and Sister Harmon are the new Military Relations Couple at Misawa AFB.  They are in the Sendai Mission but in our Tokyo South Stake.  They were most hospitable and had us for dinner along with the young Elders who are assigned to that area.  
I loved the view we had of the Japanese and American flags  blowing in the wind.
These young elders are serving in the Sendai Mission.  We took this photo  at the beautiful LDS church building in Misawa.


We love our tiny, 700 square foot Japanese apartment.  Compared with American style houses, Japanese houses are a lot different.  Japanese houses are built for the climate.  It gets very humid in Japan, and mold and mildew grow quickly.  To solve it, Japanese houses have:

Bigger windows
Smaller rooms
Lots of windows
Tatami mats

One of the first things you notice upon entering a Japanese home is the 'genkan.'  The Genkan is the place you take off your shoes when you enter a house.  It is a Japanese custom and when entering any home taking off your shoes is a MUST here in Japan.

Tatami mats are easily the most distinctive feature of Japanese houses.  Tatami has been used in Japan since the 8th century.  Tatami is woven from IGUSA, a tall grass that is an inexpensive and abundant by-product of Japan's annual rice harvest.  Farmers alternate igusa with their rice crops.

Unlike westerners who measure the size of a room in square feet, the Japanese measure the room by a number of tatami.  For example, a 9x12 room is 6 tatami and a 12x12 room is 8 tatami.

The Japanese tradition of removing one's shoes when entering the house stems from the use of tatami mats.  Japanese have  worn  wooden clogs, called GETA, since the 6th century, when the arrival of Buddhism put an end to the killing of animals for shoe leather.  Because of their design, mud, dirt and straw would frequently build up under the clogs and would be tracked into homes and on the tatami. To protect the tatami, only stockings or bare feet are now permitted to touch the tatami, and no house shoes or slippers are to be worn on the tatami.

In our tatami room we have "shoji" windows which are designed to subdue and diffuse the light that enters the room (similar to sheer curtains).  Shoji is made with a wooden frame covered with thin Japanese paper.  The shoji windows are one of the most favorite things I like about our apartment.

At the end of each day, almost too tired to take another step, we open the door to our cozy,cute,little apartment, and say, "There is no place like home."  
This is our home for now, this is all we need, and we love it!


Please come in and kindly remove your shoes.  Notice our umbrella hanger outside our door.  You never bring a wet umbrella inside your home or a store.  
It is very common to have name plates here in Japan
Shoe Closet
Tatami Room
Shoji windows-my favorite


"Our opportunities to give of ourselves are indeed limitless, but they are also perishable.  There are hearts to gladden.  There are kind words to say.  There are gifts to be given.  There are deeds to be done.  There are souls to be saved."  
President Thomas S. Monson

I have been blessed to have such great friends.  So many individuals have touched my life. Their examples of service, kindness and love towards me and others have inspired me to be a better person.
Our bishop's wife,  in theYokosuka Military Ward is that kind of person.  She unselfishly gives of her time and talents.  We have been most grateful to her and the bishop for their kindness and service they have rendered to us as a senior missionary couple. 
There are no words to express how much we have come to love the Japanese people. Their quiet dignity, respect, honesty, dedication, generosity,  kindness and hospitality is overwhelming.  The Japanese women that have become my friends have touched my life immensely.   Although there is often a language barrier, we speak the same language of love and friendship and I have learned that is enough!

Wakako 'Wakka' is a member of the Japanese branch here in Yokosuka.  She has become a dear friend.  She is teaching me  Japanese and I am teaching her English.  Wakka also taught me to make onigiri and other Japanese dishes.

Mae, a member of our military ward, introduced me to grocery shopping in Japan.  She also taught me how to make delicious miso soup.


Taking the world by storm...Millions of people have seen Shen Yun.  Standing ovations at the world's top venues, royalty attending in Europe, sold-out shows throughout North America, and packed houses in Asia have made Shen Yun an international phenomenon.
Shen Yun, is the world's premier classical Chinese dance company based in New York.  Their show features 5,000 years of divine culture and moves quickly through dynasties and regions.  Legends, myths and heroes of literary classics spring to life.  Ethnic and folk dances fill the stage with color and energy.  The leaps and flips of Shen Yuns' aerial masters, thunderous battle drums and singer's soaring voices are all set to animated backdrops that transport you to another world.
Shen Yun cannot be seen in today's China, where traditional Chinese culture has been mostly destroyed under Communist rule.

Elder Addington and I met O Kon a couple weeks ago at the Daie Mall.  She was selling tickets to Shen Yun and convincingly invited us to attend  She is a beautiful, young woman from China who came to Japan 8 years ago.  She noticed our missionary name tags and asked us if we were Christians. We told her we were and shared a little about our mission. We gave her our missionary business card and she gave us hers.  We are hoping to stay in contact with her as she does not live in our area.

During the intermission of Shen Yun at the New National Theater, in Tokyo, we were asked if we would be willing to be interviewed by New Tang Dynasty Televsion.  We accepted the invitation and were asked many questions.  Most had to do with what we thought about the show...except there was one question which caught us completely by surprise.  My mouth fell wide open when they asked, "What do you think of Communism?"  I looked at Elder Addington, who calmly replied, "We love our freedom!"

We hope to stay in contact with O Kan


Oh the weather outside is frightful,
but our furnace is so delightful
and since we've no place to go...
Let it snow.  Let it snow!  Let it snow!

Wow...were we surprised, as was the rest of Japan.  The heaviest snow in decades in Tokyo and other areas of Japan left at least 11 dead and 1,200 injured across the country.  At least 27 centimeters (10.6 inches) of snow was recorded in Tokyo by late Saturday (February 8th), the heaviest fall in the capital for 45 years.
Twenty-thousand households were without electricity and 5,000 people were stranded at Narita Airport with 740 flights cancelled.
Yokosuka Navy Base closed its gates for 24 hours.  We stayed comfy in our cozy, apartment and ate delicious, homemade ramen noodles. 
Update: Less than a week later we received even more snow than last.  This is highly unusual weather.  I have found that wearing three pairs of wool-heat-tech tights do not keep my legs warm!  
Facebook friends from CA, PLEASE stop posting your sunny beach photos.  Just kidding!

A pot of homemade ramen noodles on a cold winter's day keeps us warm.
Our back patio
In Japan, people use their umbrellas all the time-rain, sun, clouds and even  snow!


There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus Christ."  "Because He came to earth, we have a perfect example to follow.  As we strive to become like Him, we will have joy, and happiness in our lives and peace each day of the year.  It is His example, which if followed, stirs within us more kindness and love, more respect and concern for others."  

President Thomas S. Monson

Decorative lights called 'Illuminations' are found everywhere in Japan during Christmas.  They are breathtaking!

Outside the building where we attend church.  It was so fun to have Beth here.
Elder Addington and I in the mission home kitchen on Christmas Eve Day.
We helped prepare and serve lunch which included some delicious Cafe Rio Tacos.  It was so nice to have our returned missionary daughter,Beth, help too!  I think Elder Addington looks quite at home in the kitchen.
Merry Christmas from the Tokyo South Mission