Posts about Japanese culture or missions in Japan.

A story of wrestling with the beast of depression in Japan

TJAB: To Japan and Back. Or maybe...Things Just Annoying Bob. Or maybe... Tibet Joyously Attacking Bhutan. I think I'll stick with To Japan and Back.I served as a missionary to Japan from spring 2008 to fall 2009. During that time, I encountered depression, loneliness, and a questioning of what in the world I was doing. I also had some really funny happenings, experienced a lot about Japanese culture, and learned some big life lessons.

And I just published a book telling the story of all this. It’s called To Japan and Back, and you can check it out here:

Please take a glance at it. It’s quite an entertaining read, and it’s also quite an encouraging read, especially if you’re going through a rough season in your life.

Because honestly, when things are tough, I don’t need a story telling all of someone’s glorious accomplishments. I need a story of someone walking with me through a tough time.

If you want, check out some sample chapters here:

Check it out on Amazon. Thanks and bye.


By |2017-11-06T23:21:09-08:00November 6th, 2017|Japan, Missions|Comments Off on A story of wrestling with the beast of depression in Japan

Sermon on Loneliness from Japan

Hi, an extra update this week for you.

Three months ago, I gave a sermon in Japan about loneliness at a friend’s church. Japan is one of the loneliest places on earth and has a higher suicide rate than any other wealthy nation. That nation desperately needs this message.

I gave the message entirely in English with simultaneous translation going on in the background. Here is the video of it:

By |2014-02-04T16:49:17-08:00February 3rd, 2014|Japan|Comments Off on Sermon on Loneliness from Japan

The Mountain of Japan

Here is the final thing I wrote on my recent trip to Thailand and Japan. I feel like this ended the trip pretty well both logistically and philosophically.

Nov. 11, 2013

My best shot at getting Mount Fuji from a moving bus.

Today, rode a bus to my final stop: Tokyo. It all starts and ends here, eh? I’m going to stay here for about 2 days and then fly back to America. I can’t wait to see my friends and loved ones.

The ride from Matsumoto (Nagano prefecture) to Shinjuku lasted about three hours. I’ve always loved highway buses, maybe just because they force you to relax. Unlike an airplane, the leg room is pretty good, and the chairs recline pretty well for a nap.

Today, due to procrastination in reserving a ticket, I left an hour late and got nailed with an outrageous $10 fee for a first-class seat. However, this was a blessing of God, because I got to spend that extra hour with my friend David, and I would have paid five times that for my first-class seat. There were only about three empty seats on the bus. One was to my right, and one was behind me (allowing me to recline to the full extent of the law). I sat in the very front and could see out of the windshield. During the ride, I just listened to music and watched the brilliant fall colors fly by. Mountains glowed and danced with the clouds.

In the middle of the ride, as the sun began falling behind the hills, I looked into the distance to see a very peculiar cloud formation. I stared for a moment, then my eyes adjusted, prompting me to quote Obi Wan Kenobi: “That’s no cloud!” It was a mountain! And if you’re in Japan and see a mountain that big, it can be only one: Fuji-san.

Nothing surrounding it even compares. Fuji-san stands alone. And that’s why it’s so famous: it rises like some primordial force of nature above anything else in the entire island chain. You cannot mistake the form for another: arched sides form a perfectly flat top, like something out of a painting. As the cold weather progresses, snow will drip lower and lower down its slopes. When I passed it, clouds surrounded its lower slopes and adorned it like a necklace, golden in the light of the setting sun.

Random Japanese trivia: Fuji-san means Mount Fuji. The “san” on the end means mountain and has nothing to do with the “san” attached to people’s names.

Perhaps even more than the Japense flag, Fuji-san represents this great nation. And as one who yearns for the Japanese people to know life in Jesus, that symbolism deepens. It looks down upon the other mountains around it. As you drive, while smaller hills grow and shrink, the fathomless Fuji-san stands still. It looks like a backdrop to a movie. Or a visualization for the spiritual atmosphere of Japan.

After the sun fell, another amazing sight assailed me. As we approached Tokyo, in the distance, the square blocks of red lights (these are the lights they put on top of skyscrapers to keep planes away) rose slowly against the black of night. The mountain of modern Japan rose to meet us.

The Bible says that every high place will be exalted and every mountain made low. God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. His voice of mercy calls out to Japan and says, “Be humbled, ye mighty mountain.” To those who work day and night, He calls in mercy, “Come to me, you who are weary and heavy laden.” To those who crumple under the pressure and loneliness around them, He calls, “I set the lonely in family.”

A day approaches when the mountain of God shall be exalted above every mountain. The Japanese Christians who lay fallen and buried under a society that does not understand or acknowledge them will rise in exaltation over the mountain that has crushed them. And He calls every suited businessman and every uniformed school girl, every housewife in the kitchen and every shut-in grandfather to come to His mountain.

Will you pray for Him to send laborers to call this people to Him?

By |2014-01-08T16:11:24-08:00January 8th, 2014|Japan|Comments Off on The Mountain of Japan

TV in Japan

Something else I wrote while in Japan. Just got around to editing it and posting it.

Television in Japan is all about food. Sorry, all you anime fanboys, but that’s just how it is. And even beyond shows specifically about food (i.e. they go to different parts of Japan and eat the regional specialty), they have shows involving food in a significant manner (i.e. they go to different parts of Japan, do other stuff, then eat the regional specialty). According to my extensive, broad, and unbiased research (which has consisted of watching TV once and a while with people I’ve stayed with), I’ve put together the following pie chart of the contents of TV in Japan:


Oh, and that 1% which is anime? I have some bad news on that, too:


Anyways, TV in Japan mostly looks like this. In a studio somewhere, a number of Japanese celebrities are about to watch a show along with you. While the show plays, the entire time, their faces are in little circles in the upper right hand corner of the screen, so you can observe their reactions to the program. Why do they do this? Well, how else is the audience supposed to know the correct way to react to what they’re watching?

Anyways, more Japanese celebrities are trekking around backwater of Japan, looking for good soba noodles in a prefecture known for good soba noodles. They come upon a famous local shop. The owner (a Japanese man in his fifties) steps out the front door. We flash to a history of the restaurant with a gentle musical interlude.

Back in the present, we see how this person makes his famous soba noodles. He and his wife get the celebrities (the ones at his shop, not the ones making faces in the upper-right hand corner of your screen) to make the noodles and assorted fixings with him. Eventually, they get ready to eat. EXTREME
CLOSEUP of the food, blurry but slowly coming into focus. The camera pans across this sexy plate of soba noodles which glistens seducingly.

First celebrity takes a bite. Camera closes in on his face as we await the verdict. Pause for dramatic effect: “Oishii” (delicious). Sometimes, they say “umai,” which is a different word meaning “delicious.” At least 20% of their lines in any given show are one of those two words. I’ve never heard them say the food was bad.

I wonder what it would be like to be on one of these shows: touring Japan, meeting middle-aged shop owners, eating good food, saying “umai.” Seems like a good life.

Other questions that haunt my mind:

What happens if you don’t like the food?

Are these celebrities famous for being on these shows are do they get on these shows for being famous on somewhere else? Do you only end up on food shows when your career is dying, or is it during the height of your career?

Do you have to have professional training to say “oishii” and “umai” correctly?

What’s it like being a cameraman and doing all these extreme close-ups of food? Do the cameramen get to eat any?

Other than the Iron Chef, could any of these programs make it in America?

By |2013-12-19T14:12:41-08:00December 19th, 2013|Japan|3 Comments
Go to Top