I love Nara :-)

Another day in Nara, another lot of adventures…

To start with, today I experienced what I think of as traditional Japanese breakfast time. In Tokyo my host couple just let me buy my own earl grey and coco pops, in Hamamatsu, I ate a lot of French toast, in Osaka, the family kindly had bread baked for me locally so I could have toast with my green tea… So although I have eaten many weird and wonderful Japanese foods, breakfast has been pretty safe. Until today.

Where I had a 5 dish breakfast of rice, salad, mizo soup, seaweed, and a big fish with the eyes still in. So… When in Japan…
You’d be so proud that I can now eat stuff with eyes in without being grossed out.

And actually, despite me just consuming the amount of food that I normally eat for an evening meal before 9am, it was lovely.

These ladies also showed me their family shrine, which they faithfully light candles in and present food before each day in honour of the father and grandfather of the family. These women are incredibly dedicated to this, more so than the other Japanese families I’ve stayed with to this point. The other two families have had shrines, in the corner of a room, or in a small separate room, but these woman have a large lounge dedicated to this shrine, which they treat with a great deal of reverence. As Hara was presenting the food this morning, she turned to me and said in Japanese, ‘You are not a buddhist, you are a Christian’, and we had the briefest of conversations about me being a Christian and not offering at the shrine but going to church. I wish my language was more fluent!!! I wish I could share the Gospel with real hope!!

This morning I then visited an amazingly inspiring project with Maiko, Hara and another lecturing colleague. This place was brilliant. It is a social enterprise style model that employs 70 staff, 45 with disabilities. And although the participants can be any age from 18 – 65, a large number are young adults. I just loved these guys! This project has four-production-stream, making tofu, cookies, bread and paper that can be sold locally and then provides a fifth activity stream for young people who are too heavily disabled to work. Because the project runs as a social enterprise all the participants can earn some kind of salary. It is brilliant! Quite simply. Check it out:

I also drank my first ever whole cup of coffee here… iced! I couldn’t say ‘no’ to the folk at this project!! After a huge lunch of soba noodles and tempura (these guys are trying to fatten me up big style!!) we then headed to a residential home for young people. This isn’t the big children’s homes I blogged about in Tokyo, it’s a new kind of home for older young people aged 15 – 20 to support transitions and run by non-profit-organisations. There are only 90 or so of these kinds of places in the whole of Japan, and they only house between 6 and 10 young people each. Which is a great start, but funding is difficult to come by and very much depends on the local authority priorities so staffing is small. This home houses 6 young men and has 4 staff. To provide 24 hour care! But the team here were so passionate about their work and spending the afternoon here was a joy! The home manager has decades of experience in social work and he explained how the situation for care leavers is getting worse and more efforts need to be made. Like the UK, they struggle with young people not sustaining employment, but have no funding routes yet for projects like the one I manage in Scotland. Interesting and challenging stuff! Here we are:

Maiko has also been taking me through the Japanese policy document for care leavers so that I can begin to translate key phrases and terms.
My. Brain. Is. Fried. But it’s fascinating!

Tonight continued to be full of new experiences. The wonderful Japanese ladies I’m staying with cooked us a feast of a meal, and then took us for more sightseeing. And more present giving. Tonight I received chopsticks, a handmade bag and antique expensive Japanese presents for my parents! (Look out mum & dad πŸ˜‰ The blog absence will be worth it when you are lavished in gifts from random 95 year old Japanese women!!)

Anyway, here are some highlights. Nara at night is stunning. But seeing people praying at these temples devoid of real hope… That made me weep. Mixed emotions tonight! I am both thankful and burdened for these people! Sitting with Maiko and Hara under the most still, clear and stunning Japanese sky I have seen… I couldn’t help praise God for His Presence in the stillness and exquisite beauty of His creation. And pray that His Truth would be known. In this land. And for these people.

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