Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in Tokyo Doesn't Make Sense/Santa and Sumo Don't Mix...

i was on Grooveshark, looking at Christmas songs to add to my Christmas playlist (the poor man's way to listen to music) and i came across this random song called "Holding on to Christmas." curious, i hit play and the first lyrics were "Christmas in Tokyo doesn't make sense/Santa and Sumo don't mix..." and i was hooked. it's a pretty entertaining song. and has some truth in it too. Christmas in Japan really isn't, well, Christmas. sure there are a ton of Christmas lights everywhere (called "illuminations" in Japan), there's Christmas music blaring from every store, but they have no idea what the lights represent, they have no idea what the lyrics mean in the Christmas Japan, Christmas is simply an opportunity to capitalize on the commercialism of the season. they have no idea what the true meaning of Christmas is. and therefore Christmas in Japan really doesn't feel like Christmas. there's no "Christmas spirit" as it were. most people don't celebrate at all. or if they do, it's just an excuse to go out with your boyfriend or girlfriend, hang pretty lights, and eat KFC and "Christmas cake." seriously. some genius at KFC decided to advertise fried chicken as an "American Christmas tradition" and ever since it's been a staple of Japanese Christmas dinners. in fact, i even ate some last night. along with a Christmas cake from 7/11.

last year i spent Christmas with my STINT team. this year, since i had no STINT team, i went to my church's Christmas concert on Christmas Eve day, spent some time catching up with people, did some last minute Christmas shopping, then ate my very Japanese Christmas dinner and watched Elf with my roommate. this morning i went over to my Tokyo director's house and spent the day with his family. we ate french toast, sang Christmas carols, opened presents, skyped with my family, made fajitas and a gingerbread house, and topped it all off with watching It's a Wonderful Life. while it was definitely different than how i normally spend Christmas, it was fun to hang out with my surrogate Tokyo family. it would have been a pretty lonely Christmas without them.

tomorrow i'm taking a much needed day "off" (i still have plenty to do at home) and skyping with my team and probably my family again. i officially have 3 weeks left in Japan, so even taking a day and not spending all of it meeting students is really hard for me- my brain keeps screaming that i'm running out of time, but God is always telling me to rest and trust Him and i never do, so i'm going to do my best. i know God's going to take care of everything, but it's so hard when all i can think of is the billions of things i have to do and the impossibility of it all. but thankfully, we can do all things through Christ, so praise God for His birth!

here are some pictures to show you a bit of Christmas in Tokyo:
2 students after my church's Christmas concert- the girl in the middle, Natsumi, is not Christian yet but comes to my church every week!
Christmas Day with the Caughlans, my adopted Japan family
Mitaka Wish Tree- people write their wishes for Christmas/the New Year...there are a lot more wishes than last year me and my roommates with our Christmas decorations Christmas presents (we actually didn't open presents until December 29th b/c my roommate Christina was in Tohoku from Dec. 21st-28th

Merry Christmas everyone! God bless you!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Hilo Population- 43,263
Average Temperature- 73°F

- people speak english
- i know what i'm buying at the grocery store
- no trash sorting
- BEACH/mountains/gorgeous scenery
- relaxed culture
- no exchange rate

- new culture
- new lifestyle/ ministry style
- new campuses
- it's not Japan
- needing to start over-- a new campus to learn, new friends to make, a new place to figure out

Tokyo population: 13,000,000
Average Temperature: depending on season, anywhere from 25°F to 85°F

- already established relationships w/ students
- Paddy, Odori Samurai, Diente FC
- amazing food
- amazing people
- amazing culture
- safest place in the world
- people are so helpful and return lost things

- exchange rate
- trash sorting
- language barrier
- culture barrier
- trains
- big city-- crowded --too many people
- no dryers
- pollen season (cherry blossom season)
- people never really say what they mean/it's difficult to have deep conversations

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hawaii に行く。。。(日本語で)

For my Japanese friends...hopefully the kanji is correct...


Heading to Hawaii

last Friday we learned my team's Certificates of Eligibility, required for Japan visas, were denied by the Japanese government. as soon as i heard "denied" on the conference call, tears just came streaming down my face. i really thought they would be accepted. i cried a lot that day. i cried 5 different times. i don't really cry much. ever. when i did gymnastics growing up, if you cried you got kicked out of the gym. i learned not to cry. but these past few months have been pretty trying, to say the least, and my tear ducts have been much more active as of late. but it was good. it was a release of all the tension and anxiety and everything these past 3 months have built up. at least we finally had an answer and could move forward.

but last weekend, i still wasn't sure what the future held for me. my directors both in the states and Japan discussed possibilities of staying in Japan and finishing my STINT year, but in the end they didn't really see a way that it could work. for one thing, i would have no place to live. i would have no team and it would be extremely difficult to do ministry by myself for the next 7 months. STINT is not designed to do alone. it's centered around the team. so to try and STINT without a team would not really be STINT at all. knowing all of that, i still told my leaders that if there was any way i could possibly stay in Japan, i would take it. but last Monday, December 12th, i received a call from one of my directors in the States that they had decided to send me to Hawaii for the rest of my STINT year. i can't say i was shocked, but it was still disappointing. and somewhat frightening, since they told me i had to leave Japan on January 15th. on the 15th i fly to Thailand for our Midyear Conference, where i'll meet my team and spend the week with them, then we fly to Hawaii on January 22nd. This gives me only one more month in Japan. i thought i had seven more months, so trying to cram all that into one month sent my brain into a chaotic frenzy of planning panic. unfortunately i had really no time to process that i was leaving, because as soon as i finished talking with my director i had to go to a goodbye party for one of the JCCC staff, then go to Samurai practice, where i shared with them that i was leaving. i definitely almost starting crying but i think i didn't because i was speaking in Japanese and so i had to concentrate more. the next day i spent all day on campus, and afterward went to Paddy and announced to THEM that i had to leave. once again, almost started crying but didn't. wednesday, thursday and friday my team was in LA briefing for Hawaii, so i had to skype into a lot of team meetings, while planning for our Student Impact Christmas party, going to Samurai practice and hanging out with my friend brandon who had come to visit Tokyo before going to the States for Christmas. because of the time difference, the team meetings were really tough for me- i had to stay up until 5 am for one meeting. the Christmas party ended up going incredibly well (even though i was one of the coordinators i seriously had no idea what was going on, who was doing what, or really anything....proves how insane these past few weeks have been for me- anyone who knows me knows that i always plan way too much- if i'm coordinating something, i have 5 different backup plans for everything...this is the first time i've been so unorganized and yet God still made it work. He's awesome like that). but the party still took all day/night and the next day was my roommate's birthday so we had a big party for her as well. yesterday i thought would be my processing day but that ended up not happening...

so here i am. over a week since i was told i had to leave Japan, and i'm still feeling as overwhelmed as i did last Monday. this time of year would be the busiest anyway because of Christmas, but to add the fact that i only have 4 more weeks in Japan just raises it to chaotic status. my mom reminded me that God wants me to enjoy my last month in Japan, but at the same time i do have to plan very carefully how i'll spend my time. after 14 months in Japan, i know about 500 people in Tokyo now...that's a lot of people to see in 4 weeks. i don't know how to prioritize people. there's also just a lot last things i'd like to do/need to do such as connecting the JCCC staff to all the students from last year, the summer projects and my own ministry this year. i have to sell 2 bicycles. i want to make presents for certain students/people i've met in Tokyo. plus cleaning my apartment and packing- packing things to ship to Texas (won't be needing winter stuff in Hawaii...), packing things to ship to Hawaii (can't take everything to Thailand) and of course packing for Thailand.

.....see? this is what my brain does. i don't know if it's because the emotions of leaving are too difficult so it's just resorting to planning mode or if that's just its way of processing, but all i can think about is the insane amount of things i have to get done.

i said in a previous post that leaving Japan would be the hardest thing i've ever done. i think it still will be, on more than one level. i'm really really sad to leave. i don't want to leave. i've made so many connections and i can see God working in this country. but i must trust God. i must trust that He wants us in Hawaii more than Japan right now. He doesn't need us here. He doesn't need us in Hawaii. but He chooses to use us.

there are things i'm excited about Hawaii. i mean, it IS Hawaii. there are worse places to be sent. but it's not so much as where i'm going, but what i'm leaving that makes it hard.

Jeremiah 29:11

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Campus Crusade for Christ (or Cru, as it is now called) will be sending us a more official explanation of the situation soon, but until we receive that I wanted to make all of you fully aware of everything that has happened. For those who have been following the situation closely, you probably already know most of this, but I wanted to write it all down so you know exactly the timeline of events as they have played out these past few months.

In order to receive any time of work visa in Japan, you must submit a great deal of paperwork to the Japanese government, which they then process (usually within 1-3 months) and send you a Certificate of Eligibility (or CoE), which you then take to your nearest Japanese consulate, along with more paperwork, and then you can apply for your Japan visa. Japan is a country of very strict rules and regulations, and everything must be filled out perfectly. Every year, we have filled out the CoE paperwork the same. And every year, the CoEs arrive within 4-6 weeks. It has never taken more than 7 or 8 weeks. Last year we were able to get our CoEs in 4 weeks. Therefore, all of us (my team, our JCCC staff, our Cru leaders/directors in America) all assumed my team would receive their CoEs no later than the end of September or sometime in October. But they never arrived, and there was nothing else we could do but wait. The JCCC staff in Tokyo tried calling the Japanese Immigration office on almost a daily basis, but they were always put on hold and could not get through. So finally, on December 1st, we received an email from our director in California that if the CoEs had not arrived by December 7th, they would assume the door was closed on Japan for this year and would be sending my team to another location. On December 6th, after a 48-Hour Prayer (thank you so much to all of you who joined with us in prayer, not only then but through this whole process) the JCCC staff were able to contact Immigration and learned they had just made a decision that day and would be sending the decision in the mail that day, but would not disclose the information over the phone. This was such a huge answer to prayer just in itself, as we had not heard anything from Immigration in months. We assumed the decision would arrive Wednesday or Thursday, but it did not. Finally, Friday morning, JCCC received the mail, a single piece of paper saying that Japan had denied our request for Certificates of Eligibility. This has never happened in the history of Cru. Our leaders set up an emergency conference call 30 minutes after they received the news, and told us that my team would be sent to Hilo, Hawaii to finish out the remainder of their STINT year, probably by the end of next week.

SO…what does that mean for me? Honestly, I still do not know. While our directors feel that it would be better for me to be with my team, they are still open to discussing the possibility of me staying in Japan. If I end up joining my team in Hawaii, I will most likely wait until after our Midyear Conference in Thailand in the middle of January. It is possible they will give me a bit more time, it is possible they will let me stay in Japan, but right now nothing is certain. I will go where God calls me, but if I have to leave Japan 7 months early, it will be the most difficult thing I have ever done. My heart and ministry are completely rooted in Japan. But I will let you know what happens- hopefully there will be an official decision in the next few days.

I’m sure you have a few questions- I have done my best to answer ones that I myself had, but if you have any other ones feel free to email or Skype me.

Q: Why did Cru wait so long before making a decision?
A: Honestly, because this situation is so unprecedented, no one quite knew what to do. Everyone (including myself and my team) was holding on to the assumption of “maybe tomorrow the CoEs will come…maybe tomorrow, maybe tomorrow…” and a great deal of time can go by when you think like that. Also, if they had decided much earlier to send my team somewhere else, and then the CoEs had arrived but Cru said “No thanks”, it would cause major problems for any STINTer who wanted to re-STINT in Japan next year.

Q: Why was there not more done to get in touch with Japanese Immigration?
A: In America, our natural response to people ignoring us is to push them and pester them until something gets done. In Japan, the squeaky wheel does NOT get the grease. In fact, it would more likely be simply thrown away. It is a country of extremely strict, unyielding rules and regulations. If you push them, you will more likely get a flat refusal than help. Cru did not want to risk the possibilIty of being denied just because we had inquired about it too often. Also, JCCC wants to maintain as good of a relationship with the government as possible, and did not want Japan to feel pressured by us, because otherwise the Japanese government could decide not to allow Cru to function at all in Japan.

Q: What about a tourist visa?
A: After the Korea CCC STINTers’ CoEs were denied, they did go ahead and come on tourist visas; however, once they arrived in Japan they were interrogated for hours about why they were so desperate to come to Japan even after their CoEs were denied, and were told not to do any evangelism. Cru did not want to put my team in the same situation and risk further suspicion from the Japanese government.

Q: Why Hawaii?
A: Hilo, Hawaii has a huge Japanese population. There are only 2 staff in Hilo, and they greatly need assistance. We cannot go to a closed country due to security reasons, nor can we go to any country that has poor English ability since there is not much time to learn a different language. Also, Cru does not want to waste any more time making my team get new visas for a different country, and while Hawaii is still America, it is still an “overseas STINT experience.” Their ministry focus will be pioneering campuses and launching movements, similar to what we do in Japan.

Q: Would you rather be in Hawaii or Japan?
A: Honestly, if Cru gives me the option of staying in Japan, I would take it in a heartbeat. The idea of leaving breaks my heart. It would be extremely challenging without a team, but I know if God wants me here, He will provide everything I need and He will work through me. Granted, I’ve never been to Hawaii. Hawaii would be cool. I have definitely missed having a team for fellowship, accountability, spiritual growth and of course, ministry assistance. But if it came between choosing to work with a team and work with Japanese students in Japan, I would choose Japan. As I said before though, I will go where God calls me.

If you have any other questions, concerns, anything, please do not hesitate to email me at or we can set up a Skype call (Skype name: kimiyo629) or I can call you if that is easier.

I truly cannot thank you enough for all your love, support and encouragement through all this.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,'" declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and future." ~ Jeremiah 29:11