Sister Parker & Sister Riggs in front of a Shinto gate (the red structure) ("torii" in Japanese)
So I am here in my new area, Okegawa, Japan, with my new companion, Sister Riggs!!! Sister Riggs is from Idaho, She's so humble and has that mission fire. As you see, I also got a new name tag which is the same as before, except it is 100% in Japanese now.
Okegawa is about 27 miles northwest of Tokyo. There are about 75,000 inhabitants occupying about 10 square miles. It is in the Saitama Prefecture. A prefecture is a local governmental area and roughly corresponds to what we think of as, a county. Each one of those prefectures is then in a bigger region. In the map below, there are 9 regions. Think of a region as a little bit like a state, but the region is just a geographical area, not a political area. The prefecture I am in, is in the light green region of the map just below:
A torii (the Shinto gate behind me in the picture at the top) is considered a passage from the profane, to the sacred. On a map, it marks the places where there is a Shinto shrine, or sometimes a Buddhist temple, or even a marker for a dedicatory spot of gratitude and offerings for good fortune received (such as a business man saying "thank you" to diety, "Inari Okami").
There is a meaning though to these gates to those who possess a Christian - Hebrew understanding of very ancient Japanese cultural things: "All Shinto shrines have a red gate before you enter. This is the symbol of the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. When the Angel of Destruction came in the night in Egypt to take the life of the firstborn son of each family, it did not enter the homes that had lamb's blood on the door frames. This is the same symbol. There are many symbols in temples and traditions that Japanese people follow that resemble Jesus Christ's teachings!" (Exodus 11 and 12)
For those who are interested, you can read up more on the Japanese - Israelite ancient connection:
http://www2.biglobe.ne.jp/~remnant/isracame.htm There are probably other articles too. This is just one.
As for my trip, it was really long, going on very little sleep the night before at the MTC (I went to bed at midnight and got up just before 3am). Gratefully, they fed me good airplane food! There were snacks, dinner and breakfast, I liked it. Complimentary pillows and blanket, earphones, and a sleeping mask. I couldn't see the ocean though, I was in a middle row far away from the windows. It was a nice flight, I talked to some people about the church. However, the last part of the plane ride (the landing) made me feel kind of sick. For the next few days I felt a little bit nauseous, but I slept really well at night and still do. I go out like a light. The futon beds are really comfortable and everyone is so nice! As we were driving from the airport, everything was like a dream, there's nature everywhere and it's beauuuuuutifuuuuuullllll. So beautiful! And the buildings are like from a cartoon. Since I was sleepy and a little nauseous, it felt like a dream kind of, haha. It didn't feel like I left Utah yet though. I slept at the Nagano's house with Sister Burke. The Naganos fed us really yummy food and the next day we got our iPads and our new companion. We took the train, got off a few trains and walked to Okegawa, I think this place has the biggest ward in Tokyo mission (over 200 members). I haven't been on a bus yet.
My companion, Sister Riggs, is so caring and considerate. She's been slowly introducing Japanese food to me and so far I love it all! She cooks simply, but it's really tasty. We ate at a members house for the first time yesterday and it was delicious! We sit on the floor in people's homes. Some people have said that my Japanese is good. I don't know... maybe they are just being nice.
Here's a funny video about my trying Natto for the first time.
"Nattō (なっとう or 納豆 ?) is a traditional Japanese food made from soybeans, fermented with Bacillus subtilis var. natto. Some eat it as a breakfast food. It is served with soy sauce, karashi mustard and welsh onion. Nattō may be an acquired taste because of its powerful smell, strong flavor, and slimy texture." (from Wikipedia)