Ever wonder what life as a missionary in Japan is like? Well, wonder no more! Here Charlie describes a typical day for us:
The alarm goes off at 6 a.m. and Novak Choro and I get up and go running down the street for about a mile or so. The smell of car exhaust along the road can be suffocating but then you turn the corner and get away from the buildings and all of a sudden there’s a rice paddy, there just to freshen things for us. We come back, shower, get dressed, I throw a couple of slices of bread in the toaster for breakfast. We want to get ready early so that we can have time to get to the church by 8 a.m. to start our study on time. We pack our study things, hop on our bikes, and race over to the church while shouting and waving “Hello” to all the school kids as we pass by. A shinkansen [bullet train] passes over us on the huge bridge we cross under every day.
We get to the church and study the scriptures, Preach My Gospel [missionary study manual], etc. for one hour. Then we have companion study for an hour and we plan things we want to do that day, discuss the needs of our zone, etc. Then at 10 o’clock we start our language study. Flash cards, grammar books, scriptures in Japanese. I’m trying to learn how to say all the cool words for Lehi’s dream*, like “The iron rod” and “great and spacious building”. Then we cook the yakisoba [pan-fried noodles] we brought with us to the church so that we don’t have to go back to the apartment. After lunch we walk over to the college right by the church for an hour or so and pass out flyers for Eikaiwa [English conversation class]. After that we bike over to visit Toratani san, an 85-year-old investigator who speaks the worst mix of Kansaiben [Osaka dialect] and broken English that I’ve ever heard. Then we bike over to the neighborhood we picked to go housing at that day. Today we’re focusing on family history work. What Buddhist doesn’t like learning more about their ancestors? Well, apparently none of the people in that neighborhood.
*Lehi’s dream–as recorded in the Book of Mormon, a symbolic vision that the prophet Lehi had concerning his family, the tree of life, the temptations of this world, and how God’s love fills us with true joy. Recorded in 1 Nephi chapter 8.
Then we go visit Shota san, the most golden guy ever known to mankind. We ask him what his favorite scripture is and he says “The chapters in 2 Nephi written by Isaiah that talk about the scattering and gathering of Israel.” I never thought a 3-week convert would know more about the gospel than me. Then we spend our last few hours at Kitaguchi train station and talk to whomever we can start a conversation with about the gospel. After that we go home and make phone calls to all the potential investigators we found. Not a lot of them answer, but we still call them anyway! Then we have follow ups. We’re making phone calls to the zone members, district members, and the assistants to see how everything is going and then report on the missionary work in the zone. It can be a little stressful; a lot of the missionaries in the Kobe zone need a lot of help. But it’s very rewarding. We plan our next day and pray a lot about where the Lord wants us to go. We finish up planning about 9:30 and then have a few more follow ups. By 10 o’clock it’s a quick dinner, change into pajamas, and by 10:30 we plop on our futons. We’re exhausted but we know we have zone training this week so we spend some time praying and pondering about what to teach. After a few minutes we talk about what we feel we should do. By then it’s pretty late, and we can’t resist sleep any longer. And that’s a day in my life here in Kobe.
Are you tired yet? But wait! There’s more! He answers some of our most pressing questions about life in Japan. Charlie, what’s something that puzzles you about the Japanese culture?
I have never been able to figure out how people can sleep on the train all the way to their stop and wake up just as the train stops at their station.
Any strange fashion trends over there? Take a picture of it so we can see back home!
Lots of girls wear colored contacts. But I’m not going to take a picture of that.
What do you miss most about pre-mission life?
I miss being able to spend time playing the piano.
What do you miss the most about being in America? What don’t you miss?
I miss mom’s cookies. I miss the low prices in America. I don’t miss hearing bad words.[Charlie just earned big brownie points. Cookies are on the way!]
What do you think is the biggest difference between the Japanese and Americans?
Japanese people are much shyer than Americans. Also, they all wear nice clothes when they go outside. No pajamas outside the house. They also work really, really hard, for really long hours.
What are some of your favorite foods in Japan?
My favorite Japanese meal is…maybe okonomiyaki? I love melon soda and omochi. And chocolate koalas.
What’s your favorite thing about Japan?
My favorite thing about Japan is… everything? That’s a hard question. I’d probably say the Japanese people.
Finally, what’s your favorite part of being a missionary?
My favorite part of being a missionary is being able to walk outside with a Book of Mormon in hand and a commitment to give it to the first person you see. I love seeing people come unto Christ and taking his yoke upon them. I love having the opportunity to make decisions by the Holy Ghost every day. I love getting a stronger testimony of the Lord and his work. I love the opportunity I have every day to come closer to Christ myself. I just love it all.