We love our sushi. It wasn’t always that way — I mean Ruth has always liked sushi, but not me. It wasn’t until we moved here to Japan that we began eating sushi. I never choose it personally, but when friends and family would choose where to eat, we would usually end up at a sushi restaurant. Soon I found that not only did I not mind, but I looked forward to eating sushi!
Fast forward to this year. Our good friends John and Silvia invited us to try their favorite sushi restaurant with them, a place called Sushi no Midori. This isn’t a conveyor-belt sushi — this is tried and trued Japanese sushi prepared as you order by a chef you can watch work! And the sushi did NOT disappoint.
When you move to a foreign country, it takes a lot of adapting. First impressions can be deceiving… me with sushi for example. But the more you give something a try, and the more you work at adapting — whether it’s a new country, a new town, a new job — the more you might even find, like me, that you like it. Keeping an open mind towards life, even towards things we don’t initially like, is key to growing in life. I hope I can grow to like things like eel as well. Ha!
If you are born in America, even if neither one of your parents are Americans, you are a citizen of the USA. The same goes for Brazil, or any number of countries. But in Japan, even if you’re born here (like Joshua was), you’re still not Japanese. Why is that? Because Japan sees themself not just as the country of Japan, but as the nation of Japan. That means that one of your parents needs to have Japanese blood in order for you to be Japanese (in general). And as Americans living here in Japan, even going to Japanese schools, that difference is ever in front of us.
Being different in Japan can be a hard thing to live with. There is such a strong pressure in society to conform to the norm. And while there are many things we are learning to do differently because we live in Japan, there are so things we could never change: like the natural color of our hair, skin or eyes. Sure, you can die your hair, take skin treatments or wear contacts, but your core identity remains the same.
And even though there have been times when we thought “It sure would be nice to not stand out,” I have also released that it’s part of what makes our experience here so unique. So instead of focusing on the negatives of being different in a place where different is not usually a good thing, we choose to celebrate it.
A few weeks ago we tried out this restaurant that is, hands down, the most incredible restaurant experience we’ve had. Imagine that Disney met with Ninjas from ancient Japan and got together with some great modern Japanese chefs to collaborate on a restaurant, and this is what you would get. When I recently asked the kids what was their favorite Life in Japan episode, a number of them said this one. And when you see it, you see why.
Recently I had a lifelong dream come true — I went skiing with my kids. You see, growing up I have amazing memories of skiing with my family. Since we lived in Illinois, possibly the flattest state in all of America, we had to drive several hours just to go skiing. Our favorite trips were ones that took several days to make it all the way out to Colorado. On those trips, we would ski our legs off, and boy was it fun. We were young and fearless, and soon we could tackle any ski course you could throw our way.
Fast-forward to this year. Rebecca and Anna went on a two-day ski trip with their junior-high school class, getting lessons and a lot of practice in. They came back chomping at the bit to go skiing. I knew my good friend John takes his boys skiing at least once a year, so we planned a special one-night family trip, him with his boys and me with my girls. I was very curious to see how well the girls were doing. And the girls were ready for a vacation! Little did I know just how special this trip would be for all of us.
You see, skiing is great, but it’s what skiing does that’s truly important. Learning to ski is a big challenge. Every bit of progress takes determination, a positive attitude and overcoming fear. But as progress is made, you start to believe in yourself. That you can do this. That you can conquer your fears and the challenge. The experience becomes an incredible bonding experience. And with my girls now teenagers, it’s so important to constantly be connecting with them.
I know that a ski trip is not exactly an educational or spiritual trip so to speak, but being able to connect with my teenage daughters on a deep level, learning new skills and making memories — that to me is absolutely priceless. It’s these kinds of moments that give you relational credit that will help when you get back to everyday life.
Life is wonderful, but it’s easy to lose sight of how wonderful it is. My prayer is that I don’t lose the wonder of life, and I don’t lose sight of how purposeful a life lived well can be. But a life lived well will certainly result in a healthy family with good relationships. No amount of success is worth losing any family members over. Things like work and school are temporary. Even the longest careers will at some point end. But family doesn’t end — it goes on and on. Even after we are gone, our family and descendants live on! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the most important work there is is family.
And here I set out to write about a ski trip. But it’s not about the skiing after all.
Things have been busy here in Japan, at home and at church. Here are some highlights from the start of the year… did you miss any of these?
At home 🏡
We’ve not just been dreaming of a great 2023, but we’re planning on it. We can’t change much of what is happening in the world, but we sure can plan on making the most of it. And one of the keys to doing that is to not just imagine the future you’d like to see, but visualize it and write it down.
In Japan 🇯🇵
Perhaps one of your future goals involve coming to Japan? Well in that case we have a number of tips for coming to Japan, whether to visit or to stay, that can make the difference between a mediocre trip and a great one. You don’t want to travel before seeing what’s on this list!
Once you’re here, there’s an overwhelming amount of places to go and things to do. How do you narrow it down? Well, if you’re a Nintendo fan and you’re in Shibuya, then you might want to check out the world’s first official Nintendo Store. First opened in 2019, this is quite a unique experience.
While Nintendo may only be interesting to some, eating is interesting to everyone. And when you’re in Japan, you absolutely must try conveyor-belt sushi! It’s a fashion of some of the best aspects of Japanese culture.
At Church 💒
People sometimes ask “what kind of things do you do at Paz Church? Can you make a video about that?” Well, even though we have made a number of videos about that, the best way to see what we do is to subscribe to our Paz Church channel, because it’s full of awesome content that won’t just entertain you, but has the power to change your life! Take for example this exciting song we recently produced.
I’ve helped produce loads of fantastic music videos with Paz over the years, but one of my favorite things to do is to preach. Nothing has the power to change us like the Gospel — nothing! So whether it’s having a happy family, good relationships, planning for 2023 or just trying to live happy, how do you actually change? Well one of the names of God has to do with this — you don’t want to miss this video!
So now you have to do us a favor — visit us at Paz Church. And if you live and Tokyo and have not yet visited us on a Sunday at Paz Church, what are you waiting for?! Here’s your invitation! Each week we meet people for the first time and have a blast getting to know our online family, and we’d love to meet you! Now tell me, what would you like to see for your life in 2023?