Saturday, January 9, 2016

Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!

January 4, 2016: Week 62
Area: Kitakami

Companion: Mitchell Choro

Hey everyone! Happy New Year!! I hope you all had a good one! I can't believe it's already 2016! This last year absolutely flew by! It feels like yesterday I was celebrating shougatsu in 2015. It was such a privilege to spend all of 2015 in Japan serving as a missionary. I learned so much and experienced so many cool (sometimes straight up weird) things!  I'm looking forward to what 2016 holds! And it's weird to think that I'll see you guys this year! Wow, it's gone by way too fast!

Well, it's the start of a new transfer and we got our transfer calls on Saturday night, and it looks like my time is finally coming to a close in Kitakami. It's kind of bittersweet. I've been here since July so it's been a long time, but I have been able to grow really close with some of the amazing people here so it will be hard to leave them behind. I learned so much while serving here these past six months or so. It was a pretty hard area at times when it comes to the work and having success, but it will always hold a special place in my heart. 

I'm transferring up north for the winter and headed to the northern tip of Japan to a city called Aomori. Aomori is one of the places where I've always wanted to serve. I remember getting my call to Sendai and looking up pictures of the area on google and one of the places that caught my eye was Aomori. It looked super pretty and a pretty cool city, and now I have the chance to serve there. 

It's funny how last winter I was in one of the coldest and snowiest areas in the mission and while I was thinking I'd escape a cold winter this year, I transfer to one of the snowiest places in Japan just in time! I'm super stoked though. I'm also a new DL as well so hopefully I don't destroy this district. I guess all I really have to do is get everyone pumped to work so it should be fun. I'm also finishing up training a missionary named Elder Payne. But the awesome part is that he's a black guy who grew up in Tokyo, so I think Japanese is his first language, but he's fluent in English. It should be way fun! I'm super excited. And I finally get to see the ocean! Yeah!

So, I leave Kitakami tonight and take a Shinkansen (by myself!) to Sendai tonight and stay in the honbu. Then after a leadership training, I take a five hour bus ride to Aomori by myself! It will be super weird to be alone for that long; I'm not used to it at all!

So that's the exciting news for the week. Our week in itself was pretty uneventful because it was shougatsu. New Years is a huge thing here where it's like a week long break for everyone. Basically, all the shops are closed and everyone gathers as families and party and stuff. It was a pretty dead time for missionaries and we couldn't really do much. We were told we couldn't proselyte at all on the 31st and the 1st. On New Year's Eve, we spent the entire day deep cleaning the apartment! It was a grand time and I might have cancer or something from breathing in huge dust bunnies countless times. The apartment looks great though, just in time for me to leave! 

It was way funny. I was going to bed and I was at that point where I was just about to fall asleep when I hear this huge explosion which shook our apartment a little. Due to the fact I was half asleep, I thought Kitakami was being bombed or something! But then I realized that it was New Years and it had just struck midnight. I went to the window and there were huge fireworks going off near our apartment! It was way cool!

The next day on New Year's Day, we were allowed to just go around and visit cultural sites so we went down to Ichinoseki and saw some of the temples and jinjas. It was cool. Ichinoseki and Hiraizumi are considered the Kyoto of northern Japan because of its rich history. It was so cool to see the customs they have during this time of year. They go to the jinja, toss some money in, clap their hands twice, and ask for blessings for the coming year. I have no idea who they pray to though. It was kind of sad to see all of these people pray to some unknown God and basically just have no idea about the true nature of Heavenly Father. It kind of gives you more motivation to do more to help the Japanese people come to know the truth. 

Then we went to hiraizumi to see a famous temple there called Matsuji. It was sooo crowded there, it was insane--way too many people for a tiny town like Hiraizumi. It was cool though. They also had this huge kettle thing burning with hot coals. They would go to it, burn something and just cover themselves in smoke. They would wave the smoke in their hair, clothes, everything. It was so interesting. I guess it's for good health for the next year or something.

After seeing a few of the temples, we went back to the Mowers' apartment. They had this fun game they got for Christmas that tests your chopstick skills so we had a ton of fun with that. It was called Chopstick Dexterity and it was pretty hard! I definitely wouldn't have been able to play it last year. I couldn't use chopsticks at all!

After that, I stayed the night in Ichinoseki because I had splits with Elder Myers. Friday night, we had to study Third Nephi, so we did it while sitting at a nice warm kotatsu. It was the best.

Saturday wasn't too eventful mainly because it was raining all day and the city was still shut down so we couldn't do much.

Sunday I said goodbye to the members and have since been preparing to leave! It's been a wonderful six months for the most part in Kitakami, but I'm so exited to go to Aomori and serve there. Hopefully we can find some success up there and even maybe school a few Japanese kids in basketball with my new comp! I hope you guys have a wonderful week with getting back into the swing of things! I love you guys so much! Talk to you soon!

Elder Nathan Didericksen

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