Japan is not a small country as far as size goes, but when you factor in its relatively large population and the fact that most of the geography of the country is mountains and valleys, you are left with an interesting conundrum. How do you fit all of those people in a relatively small inhabitable area? Dealing with these factors in the way that the Japanese have dealt with them over the years defines what Japan is today.
Everything is compact in Japan because it needs to be compact. Everything is smaller than in Western counterparts. Homes, offices, roads, parks, stores and the list goes on. But no where else is that as plain obvious then when you compare Japanese furniture stores to Western ones. Beds are smaller. Couches and seating are on the floor. There are aisles of space saving contraptions. Everything is purposeful, stylish and practical.
Compare that to any Western furniture store (say IKEA) and you see the differences. Furniture is still stylish, but it is large and inexpensive. You can save a bundle if you don’t mind putting it together yourself. And that’s where the differences start. Both kinds of stores are useful and nice, but both are very different. It’s time to explore the unique world of Japanese furniture stores.
Not far from the bustling metropolis of Tokyo in nearby Chiba lies a village with a very interesting identity: it is Tokyo’s German Village. It’s been on our list of things to try in Japan for a while, so when we got a few days off as a family over the holiday break, we knew right where to go.
It’s always fun to see another country interpreted through some other culture’s eyes. That’s one of the reasons why people enjoy watching Life in Japan, they get to see Japan through our perspective as foreigners. So seeing Japan’s take on Germany seemed especially interesting to us.
Although we could easily do it as a day trip (it’s only an hour and a half by car from our home), we decided to book a cheap hotel to act as our home base and do some extra exploring around us. It turned out to be a great call, as we stumbled upon some really fun and unique places, including the the longest slide I’ve seen or done anywhere!
So what was the verdict? Did Tokyo’s German Village seem authentic? I feel like I am partially qualified to answer, since my last name is German (even though my ancestors are Swiss) and I’ve been to Germany before. For the full verdict, you need to watch the video to the end, but suffice it to say if felt more Japanese than German, and that’s not a bad thing. It was a fun mash-up of the two cultures (more, if you count our culture!) It was definitely worth the trip.
If you’re reading this, you made it through 2020. Congratulations!! What didn’t destroy you has the potential to make you stronger. And what we learned in 2020 has set us up for a powerful 2021, even amidst all of the limitations we may encounter this year.
Limitations do not have to limit our potential, but can actually be a catalyst for breaking free from old patterns that have truly been our greatest reason for a stagnant life. It’s not life that was limited, but “normal” life. For that I am most thankful for 2020 — not for all the bad things that happened, but that it got the whole world out of the rut it was in. We often get so focused on little things that eat our time and energy, when they are merely superficial things that, in the long run, don’t really matter.
2020 helped show what those things were, because we had to stop many things we were doing and reevaluate everything. In fact this is still happening.
What can we expect in 2021?
No one saw 2020 coming, so it would be a little bit audacious to imagine what 2021 will be like. But I believe the biggest secret to thriving this year is not in what will or will not be allowed, or even what happens with Corona Virus or other world events.
The secret to thriving in 2021 is centered in our response to whatever happens. We can’t control the circumstance in life, but we can control our response. We can embrace the limitations and through that, find new ways to thrive.
In 2020 we lost many precious people and many precious “normalities” we had become accustomed with. We certainly can’t take anyone or anything for granted. Ultimately, I can’t hold on to my life, the life of precious ones near me or my way of life. But I can continue to look what can’t be taken away from me: my relationship with God the Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ his son. His Word and promises gave me something to stand on, a source of joy and hope amidst a world full of dark news. And I know that even if my life or the life of my loved ones would come to an end, it is only a passing on to the glorious presence of God where I can enjoy life as it was always meant to be: without pain, sin, sickness, disease, corruption, war and all the effects of our fallen state.
If you would like to know more about a relationship with God that can do this, I invite you to join us in reading through the New Testament of the Bible this year. The New Testament is the part of the Bible that talks about Jesus, his life, death and resurrection and what happened afterwards as a result. To say that it is life-changing is a huge understatement.
The great part of reading through the New Testament is that it takes only a couple of minutes each day. When you read, ask God the Creator to reveal Himself to you. Discovering how much God loves you and that He desires a relationship with you is life’s greatest discovery. Here is the link to this reading plan: https://my.bible.com/reading-plans/13233
Our Christmas this year was different from all others. We weren’t able to get together with other people and host house parties like normal. It was a little sad thinking of our family and friends that we weren’t able to meet with. But instead of looking at the negative, we decided we would throw the biggest Christmas house party in Reutter family history — an online, livestream to celebrate Christmas altogether. This Life in Japan goes down in history as our biggest Christmas house party EVER!
One of the first thing foreigners often notice when they come to Japan is the sheer amount of vending machines there are. They’re literally everywhere. On streets, in back alleys, on mountain tops, in buildings, in the city, alone in the countryside, you can find these ubiquitous machines just about anywhere. And once you’ve lived here for a while, you get used to seeing them everywhere, but if you go anywhere else in the world and you are reminded that vending machines aren’t guaranteed to be where just everywhere.
I can’t be sure why Japan loves vending machines so much, but I can guess that it’s because of their inherent simplicity and convenience. They sure are nice. For the most part, drinks (hot and cold) are what’s most commonly found in vending machines. But I have seen flowers, meals and even clothing sold in these machines. This made me wonder, “What’s the craziest thing that Japan sells in one of these machines?” It was the question that drove this weeks’ Life in Japan episode.