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Japan Holiday 2018

We just came back from a 2 weeks holiday in Japan. It was a wonderful time – certainly a memorable one.

I really enjoyed the fact that we didn’t encounter many international tourists during our trip – perhaps we picked our spots and time well. We did encounter a lot of local tourists as it was a school holiday period in Japan.

Memorable moments

Awa Odori festival at Koenji

If you want to know what Awa Odori is all about, you can read it in this wikipedia article, the Koenji Awa Odori website also has more information and videos.

Prior to seeing the parade, we went to a shrine in Koenji where the locals open up food and game stalls. Our boys, Matthew in particular, were so happy to participate in Kingyo-sukui (goldfish scooping game) – yes they’ve seen this game in a few anime.

Goldfish scooping game

Goldfish scooping game

Jet, Matt and I didn’t do well in this game – however Lina is a pro – she caught more than 10 goldfish (and we have a video to prove it). I guess years of looking after our guppies has trained her to be a fish whisperer.

The food stalls were amazing, they have different types of okonomiyaki (sister in law told us apparently different regions in Japan do okonomiyaki differently). We were still full, so we decided to watch the parade first and then come back to get some food. This was a mistake and probably the only regret I have in our holiday – we couldn’t make our way back to the shrine afterwards due to the crowds and road closure.

Fish on stick

Fish on stick

Anyway the parade itself, it was great, I totally loved it – definitely one of the highlights of our holiday. I loved the beating of the drums, the silly and cheeky dance movements, the colour of the clothes and the cheerful atmosphere. If you travel around end of August – make sure to check one of these festivals (apparently they have it in few places – the Koenji one is the biggest in Tokyo).

Awa odori parade - Koenji

Awa odori parade – Koenji

Disney Sea and Disney Land

Nothing much to say about these to parks, I love them – as expected I love them more than my kids did.

Disney Sea

Disney Sea

If you have to choose between Disney Sea and Disney Land, I would suggest pick Disney Sea, as it is the only Disney Sea in the world. You need to be a bit older to appreciate Disney Sea, I totally loved the details on the buildings and the overall atmosphere of the place, no expense was spared in this park, you will totally feel immersed in another world.

However if you are travelling with the young ones, Disney Land would be better – it has more attractions, shorter queues, lots of parades and involves less walking compared to Disney Sea.

If you are a planning person like me, Disney Tourist Blog is an invaluable resource, just search for their one day plan for each parks. Also this iOS app (it has an Android equivalent too) – TDR Wait, Fast Pass, Show Times is a must have when visiting the parks, it really helps with planning which attractions to go to depending on the queue time.

If you are like my wife, just go, take it easy and take in the atmosphere as much as you can – do whatever attractions that catch your fancy and does not involve long queue.

Hakone

Hakone is a mountain area, about 80 mins express train ride from Shinjuku station. It is a beautiful place with really well organised transport system.

You should definitely get a Hakone Free Pass to make use of all the transport mode in Hakone, which includes: boarding a pirate ship across Lake Ashi (yes, you read that right, pirate ship), ropeways to travel between mountain tops, cable car, train and buses.

Hakone - Lake Ashi pirate ship

All aboard the pirate ship – har!

We stayed in a Ryokan (Japanese traditional hotel) for a night. Our room has an awesome view to the woods.

After onsen ice cream

After onsen ice cream

The ryokan has a private onsen (hot bath) – which the boys really enjoy (was super hot though). The private onsen is one of the main reason for me choosing this ryokan, normally public onsen in Japan would require you to be totally naked and I don’t think we are up for the full monty (I later found out that Yunessun has an onsen that allows swimming clothes – more on that below).

We did some bush walking, followed by the Hakone Round Course using all the transport mode as provided by the free pass. It was nice trip overall, too bad that it was a very cloudy day hence we couldn’t see Mt. Fuji from the lake, otherwise we’d see this:

640px-LakeAshi_and_MtFuji_Hakone

By Kentagon – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5622308

Our Lake Ashi’s view :(

Lake Ashi

Not quite as advertised

We stayed in Hakone for 3 days, on the last day we went to Yunessun – I’m not sure how to describe it, it’s like a small water park and it has a various pools with differing themes for example a coffee pool, a wine pool etc – they make the water colour and smell to match the theme. Yeah, it was silly but the best part is the outdoor hot pool with the view of the mountain – this is the way onsen should be in my mind.

That outdoor onsen alone is worth visiting Yunessun – oh yes – most importantly you can wear your swimming clothes here, which is great.

Church

I realised now, visiting churches is just part of how we the Tjandrawibawas do holiday. And I really glad that we have that tradition, it’s never a waste of time for us, in fact it’s usually an encouraging time.

I personally was glad to see fellow believers in Japan no matter how in the minority they are (1% of Japan’s population claims Christian belief).

We attended 2 services at the Double O Cross Church in Kichijoji – the church that my sister in law serves in. I was glad to hear Pastor Ryuta preached the gospel clearly and faithfully in Japanese.

Food

I was officially done with eating Japanese food after the 4th day. The bentos, okonomiyakis, takoyakis, tempuras, karages, sushis – while they are nice, but I got bored by their taste after awhile. Lina and the kids were fine though – so it could be just me.

We frequented the convenient store such as 7-11, Lawsons and Family Mart almost in daily basis to get our food. You might say that’s why I got bored by the food – but I did honestly try to find restaurants – but from their menu, I can see similar food from the mini markets but with more expensive price tag.

I really missed Lina’s cooking and thankfully she cooked for us for few days (although she said she didn’t want to cook during the holiday – glad she did :)). I guess my tastebud really used to the full flavour of south east asian food (Singapore is food paradise for me).

I do love the ramens though, we got to eat a lot of them. The best ramens that we ate was from Ippudo in Shinjuku and from a place in Kichijoji – the place has no English name, my sister in law said it’s Kyushu ramen.

Dreamy ramen at Kichijoji

Dreamy ramen at Kichijoji

We went to the supposedly most famous ramen in Tokyo, called Rokurinsha in Tokyo station, but it was overrated, nowhere as good as the two places I mentioned earlier. I didn’t mind it – but Lina really didn’t like it.

Lost and Found

At Disney Sea, Jet managed to lose Lina’s wallet. It was quite frustrating at first but we managed to keep our cool heads (despite the super hot weather) and enjoy the rest our day there.

At the end of our day, we went to see the Customer Service department to check if someone has found the wallet. Note: there is no Lost and Found in Disney Sea – which we worked out finally after a couple gestures + mix English / Japanese dominated conversations with Disney Sea’s employees. And to our joy and relief, they have found Lina’s wallet! Thank God :)

We’d hoped that was the last time when we lose things, but unfortunately not. We stopped at Odawara on our way back to Tokyo, to visit the Odawara castle (which was awesome). When we speed walked back to the station from the castle, Jet tripped and hurt his ankle – Lina sat him down to check and she put Jet’s phone on the bench. Matt wanted to sit down on the bench too, moved Jet’s phone aside. When we were back on our feet again and started to walk towards the station, no one remembered the phone :/

We only realised it after 20 mins on the train to Tokyo. I was quite tired and upset that time and told everyone that we should just consider the phone lost, it was highly unlikely that the phone still there anyway. Lina however was determined to go back and try to find it. And so we did. We back tracked our way to the place and sure enough it wasn’t there.

We then went to Odawara’s station koban (small police station). After half an hour of questioning and form filling – the police finally told us that they have the phone! Praise God. And then after they gave us the phone – another rounds of forms to be filled in! :D

At Odawara's Koban

At Odawara’s Koban

I am quite impressed by the Japanese’s honesty. I also learned the lesson of not giving up easily, thanks to Lina. And I hope we as parents have shown grace and forgiveness in the way we handled those frustrating moments. On the flip side, those frustrating moments are the ones that make holiday memorable.

Closing Remark

I am thankful for the trip – I think we’ve made some good memories. I quite like the pace of the holiday too, I didn’t make the same mistake as I did with our Melbourne holiday – which was cramming too many things into the schedule. Also God’s willing I suspect we’ll be travelling to Japan quite often, so there’s no rush to do and see all the things.

When we asked the kids what their favourite thing about the holiday, they said they said it’s the time they spent with their aunt – I think they got their priority right.

Reflection on 1 Peter 2:11-12

Last Sunday, 1 Peter 2:1-12 was being preached at church. I found the 1 Peter 2:11-12 stands out to me and even more as I re-read it this morning.

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

It’s about Christians being exiles, sojourners in the world – not sure why but it seems God keeps remind me about that fact.

Being a Christian in Australia especially in the last few months you do feel like you are an outsider. With issues like SSM and euthanasia – Christians are at odds with the masses and indeed have been portrayed as evildoers like Peter said. But shall we expect anything less? No, we shouldn’t – the pastor said on Sunday, we are not Australians, we are not Indonesians, we exiles even in our countries.

Keeping our conduct honorable is a good point to remember too. Last night, my wife told me an encounter with a parent at school whom want her child to be enrolled in Scripture class. She herself is not a Christian strangely enough. But she said her child’s teacher who is a Christian left such a good impression to her as such she wants her child to have exposure to Christian teachings.

The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness – book review

I am almost half way through reading Tim Chester’s book called
The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness (affiliate link btw). Apparently you can read the first 50 pages online on Google books

As someone who likes to be busy and love his work (and dare I say driven?) – this book has been a timely reminder personally. How much do I love my work? Well, I am currently on holiday and I am using it to plan for my career (had finished some coding tests and learning for my certification. So I am glad to pick up this book for my trip, I have bought it few years ago, but never got around to finish it.

What is this book about? From The Goodbook UK:

While offering practical help to busy Christians, Tim Chester also opts for root-and-branch treatment: it’s not enough to slow down, or to simplify your lifestyle, you need to deal radically with the things what are driving you.

If you’re busy because of the following:

  • ‘I need to prove myself’
  • ‘Otherwise things get out of control’
  • ‘I need the money’

Think again! At the root of our ‘slavery’ are serious misunderstandings, often reinforced by our culture. If we want to be free, then we need to counteract them with God’s word. It’s important to manage our time, but it’s more important to manage our hearts.

God has promised his rest to all who are weary and burdened (Matthew 11:28). It’s up to us to accept it.

The book is easy to read, but the points Tim makes are loaded with biblical truths and to be honest they are personally confronting to me, I definitely felt rebuked as I read through the pages.

Reading the book has helped me refocus ‘why’. As a side note, I was introduced to Simon Sinek’s Start With Why – which highlights the importance of knowing your personal why. As a Christian though, my why comes from my creator, as Tim alluded in the book, for a Christian the ultimate why (including the reason for work) is to have God say in the end “well done, good and faithful servant”.

The ultimate why for a Christian is to have God say in the end – well done, good and faithful servant.

In the early part of the book, Tim gave practical tips to avoid being too busy – I guess that’s the how bit, but on the subsequent chapters he deals with more important question – why are we (Christians) so busy? A question that he asked is, is it possible that we do more than God wants us to?

It’s important to manage our time, but it’s more important to manage our hearts.

I am looking forward on finishing the book and perhaps re-read it every year or two, I think this is one of the books that worth regular re-read.

Some interesting points that I picked up:

  • People are getting busier at work, our secular age gives a material answer to spiritual problems (I forgot why Tim identifies busy as a spiritual problem). For example: going to the gym to relax. But in the end you must work harder to afford this leisure (gym membership).
  • Access to data doesn’t make you wise, wisdom takes study and reflection. Study and reflection needs time.
  • People used to work to maintain a standard of living, but today we work to attain higher standard of living.
  • Greeks and Romans aspires a life of leisure, free from work. Work is seen as necessary evil. I guess that thinking permeates to today too, for example: people work so that they afford overseas travelling.
  • Our culture assumes that holidays are the answer to busyness. But holidays are a modern invention. 48 weeks work, 4 weeks holidays, 40 years work and then retirement, this cadence is human invention. The bible for example, does not recognise the idea of retirement. This is challenging for me, having been involved with an investment community, the majority of the group is driven by the goal of retiring early or at least retire comfortably. While it is certainly nice to have that option, God does not ask me to retire early – it’s not what important to him and I better not make it as a goal in life either.
  • Value people over schedule. I am guilty of this – I like my days planned (and packed), but if I do that I will not have time for people. My God is a god that values relation – so I need to reflect that in my life too.
  • The goal of Christian living is not to achieve work life balance – but to use both work and life to God’s glory.
  • Christians should not compartmentalise work, life, leisure, ministry, family time – all of them should be ministry.
  • What you do matters, not how much – so sort out your priorities.
  • How you do it your work matters, not how much – so glorify God in all that you do.
  • Why you do your work matters, not how much – so identify your desires.

Church Camp 2017

Just came back from FOCUS church camp 2017 – this year topic was “Living Success – God’s Wisdom for Life”.

It’s interesting that God’s words keep on speaking to me even though I have been through camps / sermons / bible studies on Proverbs (the main book we’re studying for this camp) several time. In fact, I was a bit reluctant to go thinking that I know this stuff already – which is a very arrogant statement, as a Christian you could never be hearing His word enough.

My main take from this camp is – the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. Wisdom, wise sayings, observations are not exclusive to the bible – other religions or even the non religious have theirs too and many are the same as Christians wisdom. However there is one big different – Christian wisdom is rooted on the fear of the LORD.

Having all the wisdom but not knowing the LORD is the same as not having wisdom at all. It can even be said the wisest thing someone can do is trust Jesus – God’s wisdom.

I don’t know how many FOCUS church camps left for me and my family, so I am trying to treasure this as much as possible. I throughly enjoyed talking to and getting to know the next generation in our Indo church – thing that I found difficult to do in the weekly church. I am thankful to be part of a faithful church.

Last day of 2016 in Ambon

Last day of 2016 will be a memorable one for me and for our family. At that time, we were in Ambon holidaying with Lina’s family, as usual we live at my in-laws house, it is a huge three levels house (bare with me this is an important details).

It is a custom with Christians in Ambon (Lina’s family included) to go church on the last day of the year for kebaktian tutup tahun. As family we were going to the 5pm service in 2 groups / cars.

As the 1st car was about to leave, they found that the road outside the house was blocked by government’s/military cars. There was a little bit of commotion as we were trying to get them to move their cars so we can get ours on the street.

Pa was upstairs at this stage as he would go later with the 2nd group, but he noticed the problem downstairs and he went down to help out (as he always does). At that time I was downstairs helping with opening the gate – since I have done my part, I was heading back up to prepare myself.

Me and pa passed each other on the steps – shortly after that I heard a noise and when I turned my head, to my horror I saw Pa fell down the steps, it happened so quickly I was shocked and couldn’t do anything to prevent it. Pa was lying down at the bottom of the stairs not moving, people downstairs were rushing to him as they heard the thud. Pa was bleeding from the cut on his head. He bled quite a lot.

Sui, San and some other people then took him to hospital after that (thank God that Sui can drive and the generous cousin that lend us her car). Thank God again that apart from the cut and some bruises, there were no major health issues.

The aftermath

After it happened, I apologised to Pa, I should’ve been more thoughtful when passing him on the steps – I should’ve let him hold on the rails or I should’ve stopped and let him pass first.

He quickly dismissed my apology, he said it was no one fault, he also didn’t see the accident as something “bad”. He said nothing happens that God doesn’t allow to happen, we may not know what God has in store from this accident, but it’s for our goodness.

To be honest, at that time I can’t see the good that comes from this accident. But maybe he’s right – at the very least God shows me how a Christian should handle a misfortune or suffering – he should handle it fully trusting in God’s goodness not by complaining or anger.

I am always amazed at my parents in laws for their simple yet deep and strong faith in God – they’ve experienced so much sufferings in their life and yet I never once I detect any resentment from them.

I thank God that we still have them around so me and my family so we can learn from their faith.