Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Tokyo Day Two

What a whirlwind! I think I counted that throughout the day today we got onto and off of 10 different trains! I love the Tokyo subway and train system. I think the longest we waited for a train was 2 minutes.

We started out early today by going to St. Alban's, which is Chikako's Parish Church. It is on the grounds of the Diocesan compound right next to St. Andrew's (the Cathedral). St. Andrew's is a Japanese speaking congregation, and St. Alban's is English speaking, with American and British expats and others (including Japanese) in attendance. St. Alban's is truly multicultural! I loved the beams in the church ceiling!

We did a bit of shopping and sight seeing this morning. It was a beautiful tourist shopping area, decorated for autumn. We all found fun things to buy for friends and family.

There was a beautiful temple at the end of the row of shopping stalls. As we walked down and looked st the different booths, I couldn't help but think of the impact the typhoon (or inclement weather) has on this basically open air market. Steve and Anna stopped for an ice cream burger (it was an ice cream sandwich!)

We then went for lunch and ate this amazing grilled vegetable patty with other ingredients either on top, in it, or both. I had beef -- delicious, it was so much fun to watch the men cooking the patties as we sat there at the grill.

It was good to sit for a bit before we headed out again. We enjoyed tea and each other's company.

It was time -- you guessed it -- to get into yet another train. We did so gladly, running behind Chikako as she zipped along the streets of Tokyo.
We were taken to a very small museum in the compound of the United Church of Japan -- WAM. As I cried yesterday at Hope House, I fought back tears at the stories of women who were taken and set up as "comfort women" for Japanese soldiers during WWII. It was just Korean women who were taken and used in this way -- women from the Philippines, Taiwan, the Netherlands, Indonesia, etc.

The women who came forward and agreed to have their stories told publicly were brave -- some, due to the shame, waited until their spouses passed away. The first one who came forward did so after a government statement saying that "it never happened" was issued -- anger at what had been done to them brought this woman -- and others -- out of hiding their stories to speak out.

The mural in this picture was done by a Filipina who was taken and kept as a "comfort woman" -- it depicts what was done to her and others -- it was difficult to study because the images and the words (in English) were painful. The women were forced to work during the day at various jobs and then were expected to "comfort" the men -- sometimes many in one night. There were pictures of men lined up outside, looking in through windows as to what was going on. There were pictures of the women, including one who had become pregnant by one of the soldiers -- she was one of the women who came forward and was willing to share her story publicly -- the baby was born dead.

Japanese soldiers, years later, also offered their stories to corroborate the stories of the women. The Japanese government recently again tried to downplay (read deny) the existence of this situation stating that the women came voluntarily to existing brothels.

We also learned that boys were taken as well and were raped by Japanese soldiers -- their stories are more difficult to capture because of the shame they felt and feel. Only four (I think that is what I heard) are confirmed, but the suspicion is that there were many others.

The other issue that came up was that this is not something limited to the Japanese. Women in Okinawa have come forward with claims of rape by US soldiers -- this museum and gathering point for these stories showed us maps of where the women reported that they were raped on Okinawa. We were also told that people in Okinawa feel marginalized from mainland Japanese, and this situation doesn't help as they are largely ignored by the Japanese government.

As with Hope House, this was a very heavy visit.

I think Chikako knew we all had heavy hearts leaving the museum, so she took us for a bit of a diversion. We got on a train and got off to look for two things -- ice cream and a porcelain shop for me to purchase something for a friend. The ice cream shop she wanted to take us to had closed but the porcelain shop was still there -- thank goodness for that -- but it was more than a little surreal after what we just saw and heard.

We hopped on another train to go to a stop for ice cream -- yes, we did. Got off the train and got on another one just to have amazing ice cream.

We then boarded yet another train to go to back to the Diocesan Center to meet with members of the clergy. We spoke with the Dean of the Cathedral (a woman) and with her mentor Fr. Bart who was instrumental in getting the vote to allow for women's ordination in Japan. There are still two dioceses in Japan that don't recognize women's ordination.

We talked with William the Rector at St. Alban's before he had to head out. It was also great to see Grace, the priest I met three years ago in Seoul for the celebration of the opening up of ordination to women -- she came over with the then new Bishop Oohata for that day! It was great to see her and to catch up a bit. We talked about the role of women in the ministry in Japan and in the United States. It was a good discussion.

It was after 7pm when we finally headed to dinner.

Here are a few more pictures from today

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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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