Friday, December 31, 2010


In Japan, there is a custom of sending out Nengajo, which are a sort of New Year's card to tell people you know that you are still in existence, and to let them know how you are doing. I won't be following this custom, since it costs too much money (and I'm too lazy), but still, the idea of having an update on what's been up is a good idea, so here are 10 things in 2010 that are 'new' or which I find either important or interesting.
  1. I decided to do a 2nd term with OMF in Japan. I was pretty much contemplating this before the end of last year, but it was only truly finalized when I got back into Japan on the 14th of July (or was it 15th?)
  2. I started taking up two martial arts classes while here in Japan. I started learning how to use a naginata in February and I started Kyudo classes in September. I am still not good at either one.
  3. I have started to teach English classes to two 5-year-old kids. Chisaki and Yuichiro are nice kids whom I rather like, but that doesn't mean I find it easy to teach English to them, with the emphasis on this phrase being on the 'teach' rather than the 'them'.
  4. I went to seminary! For two weeks, for a short course on missions work, and I made quite a few new friends. This makes me legit here in Japan (nah just kidding).
  5. My long unused and dormant Chinese speaking ability has been recalled to service while here in Japan. While it's not surprising to have to use it in the Shinjuku HC (where 2/4 core members speak Chinese with regularity), I have also used it while at Shinagawa Kai and when with several new friends I met at my Japanese language class.
  6. I started playing basketball at CAJ. Obviously, I'm not very good at basketball in general, but at least I have a better idea of how to play within a 5-man team on a full court. And the one thing I *have* become good at is setting screens.
  7. I am now allowed to go to the izakaya and drink a bit under OMF rules. And I have gone there with Shinagawa Kai, whenever they have their Shinagawa Nomikai. As long as you don't get drunk...
  8. I set up a Christmas tree in my house! It's only a foot high, but whatever. Thanks Vernon, for bringing it up haha.
  9. I made chicken rice for the first time in my life. I had a Prima Taste mix to help me, and it was fun making it and seeing people enjoy it. The cleaning up after that... not so fun.
  10. I guess one of the most important things I've started to learn (and am still in the process of learning) is about God's grace. Before this, it's always been a lot of head knowledge, and I've always lived under a sort of shadow of guilt and apprehension about sin (or about God's anger because of my sin), but I think now, I'm starting to understand the basics about God's grace, and how much love He has for us. It's no longer about trying to keep myself pure (an exercise in futility if there ever was one), but in just looking at God, no matter what happens in life.
So that's about it for me this year. Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Prayer Stuff #13

So Christmas is already past.
And year end's coming really fast.
So while hoping you pray,
I think I can say,
"This prayer stuff will be this year's last!"

Yeah ok, no guarantees though. I need to keep my options open.
  1. Coco's will start again on the 4th of Jan. I'm inviting a friend from my Japanese language class, who isn't interested in religion, but is interested in English. Pray that this will work out.
  2. Chinese Alpha started off seemingly well last week, and will continue into Feb-March of 2011. Pray for continued wisdom for the leaders in the Shinjuku HC (and language ability for me hurhur) in this.
  3. So New Year's is around the corner, let's take some time to reflect on the past year, and thank God for all He's done!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


With the number of posts I'm churning out, it's almost like I'm trying to meet a monthly quota or something (just kidding, I don't have a monthly quota, just a weekly one).

#5: Archery.

So I finally found enough free time to go down to the archery range to try to practice my archery again. The last time I had picked up a bow was almost 2 months ago, so I thought I had better start up again before I really forget everything.

So I went down, and my instructor from the beginners' course was there as well. And he asked me what bow I wanted to use.

Now see, at the beginners' course, I was using a bow with a pull of 12 kilos. And after the first couple of times, I was able to pull it with relative ease. So I thought I would go for something heavier instead, and asked for one that was 14 kilos.

At the end of the session, I learnt one very important lesson: Generally, it isn't a good idea to ask for a bow with a pull of 14 kilos, when you've only practiced with one that was 12 kilos, and the last time you practiced was a couple months ago.

In the process, I also learnt that while there is relatively little sporting action in archery, it would still be advisable to do some form of warm-ups before shooting.

And when it is winter, it is also advisable to wear long-sleeved shirts.

My arrows.

Prayer stuff #12

So over the last couple of weeks, I've been a bit busy, and quite a lot lazy, hence the lack of updates. But I've finally been guilt-tripped by myself into writing these again.

Prayer stuff:
  1. Thanksgiving for a good Alpha Retreat over the previous weekend
  2. Kid's club on Friday. We won't be doing much, just watching a video, but pray that it will speak to the kids (and the moms that are there).
  3. I'll be teaching the Christmas story to the two kids I teach English to, this coming Tuesday. Not too sure how much impact it would have on them, but please pray that there will be some fruit eventually.
  4. KHCN Celebration at Mitaka on the 23rd.
  5. Chinese Alpha starts at Shinjuku HC on the 25th. With a Christmas party. Japanese Alpha will also have Christmas party that day.
Yup, think that's about it now.

The Commercialization of Christmas

With Halloween over and Christmas just 'round the corner in Tokyo, shops have already put up their Christmas decorations. Trees, lights, stockings, the whole works are all over the place, not just in the major department stores, but even in tiny cafes and family-run shops. And the music they pipe through the shops remind you of chestnuts roasting on open fires, going home for Christmas, and winter wonderlands.

And of course there are the sales. Oh, the Christmas sales. Wonderful Christmas sales, that would make even Singaporeans happy (Of course, the word sale in itself makes Singaporeans happy). I bought a pair of jeans for just ¥3,500 the other day, that would ordinarily have cost close to ¥5,000 (it's a valid buy too; my only other pair of jeans has a hole, in a less than flattering spot).

And dear old Mr. Claus is everywhere. His presence can be found on the ubiquitous Coca-cola ads (which I heard is where he gets his red clothing from), to Santa uniforms at the 100yen markets, to even calling for you to join the end-of-year lotto.

And if you're anything like I was in the past, you would be decrying this commercialization of Christmas.

You would be upset that Christmas has lost all its meaning. That what should be a time of remembrance for our Lord coming in human form has lost its significance to a rather overweight old man who has somewhat of an odd fondness for climbing down peoples' chimneys. That as much as we like the idea of Christmas being a season of giving, it still pales in comparison to the real meaning of Christmas, the Christ-Mass.

And so invariably, every year, I would go into a silent rant about how humanity has managed to push the greatest gift of all out, in favor of 50% sales and lots of good food.

But this year, in Japan, I was suddenly struck with a bit of insight. Not through my own personal brilliance, as smart as I may be, but through what Steve said, and most likely, through the way the Holy Spirit has been opening my eyes.

See, Japan, as you might know, is not a Christian country. In fact, unlike some other non-Christian countries I can think of, Christmas isn't even a holiday in Japan. The 23rd is, because that is the birthday of the Heisei emperor, but the 25th this year would be a normal working day, if it wasn't for the fact that it falls on a Saturday (making it a normal working weekend).

And I can't help but feel that if Christmas was like any of the other 'Christian' holidays (Good Friday, Easter, Thanksgiving), it would remain a special occasion celebrated only by the foreign community living here.

However, as noted earlier, Christmas is a time of sales. Lots of sales. Big sales. And the big winners in all these sales are the department stores. And children of course, but that's a different matter. So, in order to capitalize on this unexpected source of holiday income, the stores have Christmas sales. And they amp it up, making it a happy time of giving (like in the West), and a happy time of romance (somewhat like the West).

So the final result is that Christmas is a fairly big event here in Japan.

And that gives us Christians a chance to tell people the original Christmas story. And you'll be surprised at some the reactions people give. One lady at E-moms was pretty astonished at the story, and this was what she said about it (or something along those lines):
"How come they don't teach this in school? How are our children going to know about this if no one talks about it? They should teach this in school!"
It should be noted that the lady is not a Christian.

And even the idea of Santa. I grew up thinking that Santa was a character who drew peoples' attention away from God. After all, as everyone knows, Santa is an anagram for the evil one, right? So Santa should be banned in church!

And yet, the original Santa was a bishop named Nicholas, who in trying to help a man whose three daughters needed financial aid, also gave birth to the idea of hanging stockings, and also reinforced the whole idea of gift-giving.

So the next time you think, 'oh how terrible it is that people are forgetting all about God, and only focusing on buying stuff', instead of just moaning the commercialization of Christmas, think of how you can Christianize the commercialization!