Karuizawa is Moss Heaven

This week I was able to go visit the Kaufman's in Karuizawa for a couple days. It was my first shinkansen since I arrived in April and went pretty smoothly. I'm so thankful. Seeing friendly faces I remember from home was so nice and chatting away about all the people we know in the states was a blast. 
Starting from the beginning, here's the start of my trip.
From Tokyo Shinkansen to Karuizawa, Japan

My first shinkansen ride all by myself

I accidentally sat in the reserved section until a very nice ticket master, with the biggest smile, nicely pointed me to the other cars. 

I take this book everywhere so I can organize my thoughts for our weekly skype bible study every Saturday.

Shinkansen views of Tokyo

So here's proof that Karuizawa is literally "moss heaven"; it's one of the most green, lush, beautiful places I've ever seen. I learned how to cultivate moss by raking and how moss can be destroyed by angry wild boars! Which are apparently somewhat common here, along with small black bears.

The walking strip full of specialty food shops, ice cream places, clothing shops, etc. The perfect thing for all the tourist that visit.

I was blessed to meet Chelsea from Oregon who is helping out Joel and Sally K. at Union Church in Karuizawa.

Here you go T. I saw this whole store of Totoro things and I immediately thought of you and our Japanese class in Bluffton.

Ok, so I can't write a true post about Karuizawa without mentioning at least in a small way the large history here. This is where there was a huge revival along time ago around the wartimes. Karuizawa had gobs of churches and missionaries and was often seen as the center place of the Christianity in Japan. Union Church, pictured below, is a historical church that has been part of many missionaries stories in Japan.
The tennis courts, pictured above, are the authentic courts where the present day Emperor and Empress met many years ago. They both played tennis here and even though she was Catholic and he was Buddhist, they apparently fell in love. I can't imagine how many hardships they must face having so many worldviews. From the side of Japanese culture though, this was seen as a great romance. 

The inside of Union Church

Everywhere is beautiful...look to the side...

...look up...

Joel and Sally are such great hosts. But more than that, anyone they meet can see write away their passion to connect with those around them. They have a beautiful energy together. They celebrated their anniversary this last Wednesday, so special. Joel suggested going to an onsen, which didn't make much sense to me since women and men have to separate in an onsen, but we had a great experience anway :)

Hoshino onsen was so beautiful. And even though the starry sky was covered by clouds, Sally, Chelsea (a volunteer from Oregon helping the Kaufmans), and I had some great talks here.

Oh yes, and I can't forget the yummy new treats I tried. The Calpis drink featured is apparently fermented milk. Which sounds disgusting, right? But it's so yummy! It tasted like a lemon-lime flavored thin milk if that makes any sense. Very refreshing. And the sweet ice cream treats were also pretty tasty.

J and S took Chelsea and I to the Stone Church. They have a really fun website here. There's a lot of history to it. But to sum up, there was a man that had a vision to create a Christian church for the Japanese people. To be completely Japanese in nature. This was a very unique thing since Christianity was thought to be a Western idea. So to break from this idea, he created "the no church" movement. There are a lot of pieces to his puzzle so I hope these photos can uncover some of what he worked on and for.

Walking into this church it seems like you'd be walking down into a dungeon. Instead, there lies marble floors leading to an amazing sanctuary with long shafts of light from the many arches of windows above.

The left wall is full of ferns and ground water trickling down the side of the wall.

And the pulpit is decorated with part of the Lord's Prayer from Matthew 6:9-10

His famous quote was "I for Japan; Japan for the World; The World for Christ; and All for God."

The path back to the parking lot
Later that day, Sally walked Chelsea and I back to a house built with fully glass walls. It was pretty crazy to think about but a beautiful idea from the architectural view.

And my last morning I got to try the classic Japanese breakfast (if you replace my coffee with tea): A raw egg mixed with some soy sauce, a bowl of steaming hot rice, some strips of seaweed, and a bowl of hot miso soup. This is how it's eaten: beat together the egg with soy sauce, take your chopsticks and pick up a piece of seaweed, dip into the egg mixture and place onto of the rice, use the seaweed to pick up a bundle of rice, and eat. The miso soup can be eaten at anytime, but it's best when it's hot. If you're adventurous, pick up some seaweed and try this at home!