Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Tokyo Day 1

We woke early to a VERY heavy rainstorm -- the typhoon hit Tokyo with force! All the schools and many of the businesses were closed down. We could barely see out our window. When the wind changed it hit our windows hard!

We had to stay in until at least noon. Steve spent his time watching the Angels game with Japanese dubbing of the American commentators. Very cool!

Chikako picked us up at about 12:30 and took us over to the Diocesan Compound. We met Anna Olson, Ada Wong Nagata and Ronnie Nagata there and heading to the train. We took the train and subway system EVERYWHERE throughout Tokyo.

We took the train to an area with a great deal of homeless people. In years past this was also the area in which prostitutes lived and worked. We walked, looking for a quick lunch before heading to Hope House, our destination.

We finally asked at the police station and they sent us to the Tokyo version of Denny's. For less than $5.00 US per person, we ate our lunch (I had a personal pizza -- yes, really).

We headed over to Hope House -- late due to the very slow service at the restaurant. What's struck me as we walked was that none of the bicycles we saw on the street (and there were lots of them) were locked! Anna noted they wouldn't last 10 seconds in Koreatown where she lives and works!

We were greeted by Mr. Yamamoto who runs Hope House. He started out feeding the homeless and realized that there was much more work to do. Feeding them didn't give him time to listen to their stories. He also realized that their needs, especially at the end of their lives, were great.

Hope House was developed to care for the homeless in the last stage of their lives. When a homeless man or woman is taken to the hospital and determined to be terminally ill, the hospital can keep them for a little while (up to three months -- yes, really) and then they call Mr. Yamamoto. He houses and cares for up to 32 people at one time at Hope House. Today there are 30 people currently in residence. We met one elderly, small woman with very few teeth who greeted us warmly and moved her arms and shoulders about like Popeye, declaring she was feeling strong that day.

We were taken to and seated in the chapel on the roof. Surrounding the altar are pictures of the homeless men and women who have died this past year. Each year on or near All Saints Day Mr. Yamamoto takes the ashes of those who have died in the past year (which are housed in the Chapel) and takes them for burial. The man in this picture died recently. All the pictures of the men and women that were displayed truly captured their souls.

Mr. Yamamoto explained to us that people who come there to die discover they can unburden themselves of the things that have been weighing heavily on their hearts for many, many years. Mr. Yamamoto told us the story of one man who died recently who told the Chaplain of a burden he had been holding since WWII. When he finished telling her the story, he thanked her for hearing his confession, and died. It was stories such as these that made me cry sitting there in the Chapel. I was asked to offer a prayer at the end, and I did so through a cracking voice and tears.

Hope House is supported by many churches including the Diocese of Tokyo.

We then headed on another train -- VERY late (I told Chikako to blame it on the typhoon), where we were to meet a friend of Chikako's who is a Vice President at Rikkyo University (where we were heading).

We literally ran to Rikkyo University from the train station. Rikkyo was started by Bishop Channing Moore Williams (from The Episcopal Church) in the late 1800s, and was moved to its current location years ago. It looks on the outside like a typical East Coast Ivy League University -- indeed the older brick buildings are covered in ivy!

We did not meet Chikako's friend, but the President of the University received us. Chikako's father-in-law is the former President of the university. There was a plaque written but Chikako's father-in-law on the outside of the administration building. The President greeted us warmly.

The President's assistant had worked for Chikako's father-in-law, so she graciously offered to show us the new library and to take us to the Chapel and the museum.

The new library is state of the art and has not only areas for private study but for group work where you don't have to be silent. The students can borrow laptops there so they don't have to carry their own around campus.

We were all very impressed with the library -- from DVDs available to play in stalls to hundreds of thousands of books to displays of alumni work.

We saw students studying by themselves or in a large group room with various groups meeting, as well as in private group rooms that had video displays that could be reserved by a group.

We then headed to the Chapel -- a beautiful old building, well used and cared for. We walked around and looked at the different plaques and pews. I said a prayer there. Here is a picture of Chikako and the President's Assistant.

We went over to the museum but it was closed -- it has information about the beginnings of the University and the Episcopal handprint that is on this place.

We also saw the statue of Bishop Channing Moore Williams.

We hopped on yet another train and headed off to have dinner with Bishop and Mrs. Oohata. He was dressed in traditional Japanese garb. The restaurant was a very traditional Japanese restaurant -- we all took our shoes off (which were neatly stored for us) and we sat on the floor. The food the Bishop treated us to was traditional and delicious!

We talked about mission and ministry. We shared remembrances about Bishop Oohata's time with us last year in Los Angeles. We laughed and we ate a delicious meal! We made plans for potential new ministries together.

We said our goodbyes and headed back to the hotel.

It was a VERY full day, starting with quite a violent storm and ending with a peaceful, loving meal. In between? Tears of thanksgiving for lives cared for -- from those no one knows except the people at Hope House, and those whose lives are starting out at Rikkyo University.

Here are more images from today:

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