Friday, January 30, 2015

Pilgrimage by Shinkansen

Today's coffee: whatever was in our room this morning...

I'm on the Shinkansen. I think I used to call it the bullet train before I came to Japan. One of our colleagues suggests that we invent a new word: "shink." It's a verb which means "to travel by Shinkansen." As in, "today we shinked to Hanamaki." Or is the past tense shank? 

Today we saw Mt. Fuji from the train. Actually, I've only seen Mt. Fuji from a train. Several times, in fact. We tried twice to see Mt. Fuji from a good viewing spot in Hakone, but the weather didn't cooperate. 

Another exciting part of traveling by train in Japan is Ekiben (駅弁), which means a bento bought at a station. 

You'll see that the background is blurry, since we're moving pretty fast. 

We've been heading north on the train for an hour now; we've left behind Tokyo's spring-like weather and there's now a light coating of snow everywhere. I especially like seeing the beautiful red pines that grow in this area coated with snow.

I took this picture in Tokyo last weekend. Very spring-like and green, I think. Unfortunately, all I had with me was my iPod...

We spent the last 2 weeks in the Tokyo area for a conference. It was intense... 8:30-5:00 in meetings, with homework that lasted until midnight some nights. We did get a lot of work done, writing about our experiences the last 3 1/2 years and preparing for our home assignment this summer. (We wrote some good stories, so you can look forward to hearing them in person when we are "home" in the US!) 

At the same time, we are in the middle of figuring out what to do when we come back to Japan. We have a lot to think about... and we're still worn out from Christmas, so it's time to spend some time resting and reflecting while spending time with friends... and doing the best ever wintertime activity: soaking in an onsen! 

Which is why we're on the Shinkansen, rather that flying directly back to Hokkaido. Train trips in Japan always seem to end up being like pilgrimages to me. Our first Shinkansen trip was to Nagasaki, where we saw places related to the early church in Japan and the martyrs from that time period, and also museums and sites related to the Second World War. I remember looking out the train window, pondering the darkness of the human heart that caused those horrible events to take place.

This time I'm thinking about our future work and our future home. It's possible we could pass by it on the train today, or maybe later this week as we continue northward to Hokkaido. I don't know where we will be two years out, but I do know that I'm not going alone. God is already there ahead of me. 

It really does feel like we're on a pilgrimage.

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