Tokens from Tokyo

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It’s been a month now since I was in Tokyo for work. I’m behind on writing about it, but I still want to share some of the highlights from that incredible trip. Here they are, in no particular order.

  • Everyone there dresses nicely. Everyone. Like every single one. Most of the men wear black suits to work, and the working women almost always wear hose, even when they’re wearing pants.
  • It was common to see stores with English names. We also passed several American shops and restaurants, like Kinko’s and Denny’s.One guy was walking down the street in an Iowa State sweatshirt.
  • A lot of Tokyo reminded me of my trip to Sapporo a year and a half ago. Sapporo was big enough, but as the largest city in the world, Tokyo was even more mind-boggling. People were everywhere, day and night. One area we walked around was like the Times Square of Japan, with busy sidewalks and crosswalks going every which way.
  • Both times I’ve been to Japan, I was struck by how focused and hard-working the people are there. Many of them work long hours, and some students go to school half a day on Saturday. (Ick.) Yet, with so much emphasis on self-reliance and so much pressure from society to be successful, the country also has a high suicide rate. People don’t want to show their weaknesses.
  • With more career-minded women in Japan, many of them are putting off marriage and having fewer kids. During our stay, we had an interpreter named Lui who was born in Japan but actually lives in North Carolina now. Of all of Lui’s friends in Japan (in their early 30s), none of them are married. The day we visited a big national park, we saw several kids running around and Lui said that was a big deal. It’s not something you see that often in everyday life. And of course with fewer and fewer kids, it’ll be hard to continue supporting the economy.
  • Only about 1% of Japan is Christian, but everywhere we went, we saw Christmas trees and heard Christmas songs. Not “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” kind of songs, either. Songs like “Away in a Manger” and “O Holy Night.”
  • People are still allowed to smoke in restaurants there. And many do. That was one of my least favorite things.
  • Just like last time, I noticed that there was hardly a speck of trash anywhere. And yet, a trash can could not be found. I finally spotted 5 in a row at the national park, so I guess that’s where they all went.
  • The weirdest food I ate was a fried baby octopus. I will not be eating that again.
  • Even though different religions are accepted there, some see Christianity as a crutch, as something people need because they can’t get through daily obstacles on their own. That, as well as the small number of Christians, can make it hard for new Christians to get established and grow in their faith.
  • … Yet, there was also an openness to the Gospel there. Hundreds of churches came together to organize the 3-day event we had in Tokyo. More than 38,000 people came and about 1,500 of them decided to commit their lives to Christ, including lots of kids and teens. That, of course, was the best part of the trip.
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