A/N Forgot to post this before I left for the land with no wifi 🙂 Enjoy!
It’s not been feeling particularly Christmassy here, especially since this is my first Christmas away from my family! However this Sunday, my church had a ‘Candlelight Service’ – basically a bit like a Christingle service crossed with a carol service. This is one of my favourite parts of Christmas so I was eager to go.
The actual service wasn’t until 6pm, and I have bugger all to do here at the moment, so I decided to go into Akita early. I thought that at 2 in the afternoon, the free shuttle bus might not be too busy….I only managed to get a seat because I was near the front of the queue! You certainly can’t have any personal space issues on Japanese buses (one I was on the other day had upwards of 60 people on it).
It was a rare sunny day, so I got a fabulous view of the mountains (I know I go on about them, but they are beautiful and they remind me of home)!
Anyways….I underestimated how many people would be out shopping, so after braving the crowds I decided to get out of the shops and see if I could find the castle ruins of Akita city. They’re actually why Akita city was build in the first place – to surround the castle! While not much of it was left, there were a couple of temples, the main gate and a fantastic view left for visitors to enjoy. I certainly did!
After taking a load of pictures, I realised I had to run to get the next train to get me to Tsuchizaki (where the church is) so I carefully sped back towards the station over the snow covered streets.
Even though I was early, it was a good job I got to the church when I did – the seat filled up fast! The actual service was a collection of the various worship groups – so it was more like an end of term concert! There was the infamous Gospel Hula Group, the Hallelujah Kids and several members of the congregation. This included a very moving version of ‘You raise me up’ on the saxophone – I was caught off guard when half way through the performance they started to show a slideshow of the damage from the Tohoku Earthquake/Tsunami. I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one who didn’t have dry eyes!
The finale was what made it best. We were all given candles at the beginning of the service and at the end, we passed a flame among the congregation (wishing people ‘Merry Christmas’ as we did). The candles were amazing, the bottoms changed colour! The lights were dimmed and we all sung the Japanese version of Silent Night.
Definitely a nice way to spend an evening!
Next will be New Year’s stuff, so until then – またね！
(or, being a Christian in Japan)
Now, since Japan is mainly a Shinto/Buddhist country I thought this would be rather tricky. I’d looked up churches in Akita and they all seemed to be too far away so it seemed like I wasn’t in luck. However salvation (if you’ll excuse the pun) was at hand!
AIU has a Bible Study Group (run by one of the teachers, Clay Williams) which is not only for well established Christians, but also people (mainly Japanese students) who have never encountered Christianity or the Bible before. The club itself is held either at Clay’s house (in Kawabe, a lovely 50 minute walk or a bus ride) where his wife Bonnie cooks us fabulous meals or in a room at the university. I much prefer it at Clay’s house as we have the added madness of their dog ( who mostly responds to chinese commands and goes nuts when the doorbell rings) and their son Jimmy who is only about a year old but, when paired with dog, is part of an unstoppable duo. Seriously, they can charm the food right out of your hands!
Anyways….Bible Study club. We start off the club (after food) with a bit of worship – basically singing – and then study bits of the bible. I have to say, the order is a bit confusing. We’re starting with the New Testament, but we’re working on the bit before crucifixion…usually done during easter….ach well…
So, it was thanks to Bible Study group that I have not only found a church, but also coined a lift there. The ‘Tsuchizaki Gloria Chapel’ resides just outside the centre of Akita city (unsurprisingly in Tsuchizaki) and is mostly made up of a Jpanese congregation of all ages. Everyone is very friendly, if speaking little to no english, and I have been made very welcome.
The service itself starts with worship (the songs kindly with furigana so we can read them), then a bible reading and then the sermon (translated by the fabulous Hinako, who interprets every service for us). This is where it stops being like a normal church and the Japanese creativity sets in. The church has a Gospel choir, a youth group, a hip hop group and, wait for it, a gospel hula group.
After church they do lunch upstairs (only ¥100 so not a bad deal). It’s usually easy to bulk meals like bolognaise or noodles, but they’re always delicious!
Overall the church is a little more ‘happy-clappy’ than I’m used to but I think I’m going to enjoy it and certainly meet more people there! I just hope they don’t make me sing at the front again….
Well, until next time folks! またね！