April 24th was Easter, and what an Easter! My friend Gale from Tokyo really wanted to come too, so she stayed with me Saturday. We went to akame taki 48 waterfalls (about my 5th time to go), but this time, we hiked all the way to the end! It was pretty rainy, so there weren't many people, but the mist coming off the mountains, falls, and river was just gorgeous. Here are some pictures:
We began at 11:00 and didn't finish until 4:00. We went at a fairly leisurely pace, but we only actually stopped once. They tell you at the front that you can hike to the end and back in three hours. Yeah, right. Maybe one way is three hours, if you really book it. To the end and back is definitely over six hours. Maybe they're not counting the trek through the forest. Here's me in the primeval forest; it's gorgeous scenery:
Even when it started to get dark and rain heavily, we decided to press on. We had no idea what we would do when we got to the end, since there's no bus back to the station from that side. Miraculously, we ran into a group of three (husband, wife, wife's mother) hiking to the end. I heard them say the word "kuruma" and immediately jumped in and asked them if they had a car. Somewhat surprised at finding a foreigner in the literal "backwoods" of Japan, they said yes, they did. I asked if Gale and I could go with them. They seemed a bit suspicious, after all they didn't know us. They asked who we were from and what we were doing here. But as soon as I told them I was a teacher at Kikyogaoka High School, they brightened considerably.
"Our granddaughter goes there!" they told me in Japanese. "She's a first year student."
"I teach first year!" I exclaimed. "I start teaching the new students on Monday. I'll probably meet her."
As soon as they realized I was their granddaughter's teacher, they were more than happy to give Gale and me a ride back to my apartment. What nice people! They had several stores along the waterfall trail and had decided to close up shop early because of the rain. They had just been going to their shop at the end when we ran into them! Sugoi tiamingu desu ne? (Good timing, huh?)
The next morning Gale and I awoke bright and early for the Easter service/Tohoku Earthquake charity concert. About one hundred people came to see it, including my host mom from Komono, and my preschool teacher friend Shino. First 29 of my students played three songs: "Thine is the Glory," "Joyful, Joyful," and "Amazing Grace." Oh, how I wish I could put a video up, but I'm not allowed to because it would show their faces! That's illegal because they're minors and my students. Drat! After they played, I gave my testimony. I was surprised when many people started crying. After that, Pastor Toshi shared some facts and hope about the earthquake relief, took up the donation, and passed out Easter eggs to everyone. (We ended up raising about 100,000 yen, or 1,200 dollars.) Then two professional flute players performed for about 50 minutes. Unfortunately, I didn't get to hear them or record them, because two newspapers came and a TV station interviewer and they interviewed Pastor Toshi. He wanted me there, but I wasn't supposed to say anything. It was a telephone interview, and I listened as he told them how much work we put into the concert and how the money would go to Tohoku and all that. Then, suddenly they shoved the microphone in my face!
"Laura san, kono concerto wa do tomoimasu ka?" (Miss Laura, what do you think of the concert?"
Fortunately, I'd been intelligent enough to realize they might do that, and had prepared the patent Japanese answer.
"Sugoi desu! Ongaku wa subarashi kire desu! Mina san, honto ni arigatogozaimashita!" (It's amazing, the music is wonderfully beautiful. Everyone, thank you very, very much!) It sounds dumb and exaggerated in English, but that's just what you say in Japanese when someone shoves a microphone in your face and asks what you think of something. So that was my 15 seconds of Japanese fame. I'll post the news clip when it becomes available.
Honestly, next time I think we should have more than just the two flute players for the second portion. It's kind of boring listening to just flute for 50 minutes, unless you're a flautist. (You knew I just had to show off by throwing that word in there, didn't you? And yes, it's spelled right.)
After they played, everyone sang "Amazing Grace" together (or rather, the church members sang and everyone else stood there looking embarrassed), we presented the band director and flautists with bouquets, and then the main audience left.
We had a lunch of curry rice for the band and flautists to thank them, talked a little bit about our programs at the church, and then everyone left. Here's a picture of everyone. I can put it up because I asked permission. The guy flautist left early; the girl one is in the fancy purple dress. I'm at the end between the two band directors.
It was a success in some ways, in that it got many people into the church for the first time and they learned about the church's work in Tohoku. The newspaper and TV station provided good, positive publicity for our church. But no one has come back or even called since. It could be that we planted seeds. It is a big leap for many Japanese to even accept that the church is a good institution and step foot there. But it's another huge step for them to take what we believe seriously. Thanks for your prayers!
Prayer Requests: Please pray that those people were touched somehow, and that those seeds may grow.