Today we took the Shinkansen and an express train to Niihama. Ruth King went along with us to help as a translator. Niihama is a city located on a coastal plain on Shikoku Island. To get there we had to take the train over the bay between Shikoku and Honshu.  It was very beautiful to see God’s creation of the water, with rugged mountains just coming out of the water and small islands everywhere made of mountains that look uninhabitable. Most of them have people living where the land is flat enough to build a house.

We arrived in Niihama carrying our heavy backpacks with the stuff we needed to spend the night there.  If you look to one side of the city you see steep mountains and God’s creative glory displayed and on the other side of the city you see the bay. In the middle are people who are blinded and don’t see God’s creation or worship Him. Instead they enter into relationships with spirits of the creation or spirits represented by statues that they have created. We walked around and saw a Buddhist Temple and cemetery.  There was a place where there were rows upon rows of little statues that had been placed there that represent the spirits of aborted and miscarried babies.  Some women fear that the spirits of their aborted babies will come back to haunt them.  Some of the statues had a red bib hung around it.  Some of the statues had offerings such as baby items, bottles, and water placed next to them to appease the spirits.  Next we walked to another Buddhist Temple but there was a sign that said if you aren’t a believer then it’s forbidden to pass beyond this point.  Good thing Ruth could read and translate for us so that we didn’t go in.

We continued walking around the town and came to a Shinto shrine.  At the shrine Ruth talked to a man that was there and he explained to her that this shrine is for the god of the great mountain and the goddess of high places.  We saw people coming to offer their money and to pray to these false gods.  On the trees people would hang their prayer request on a little piece of paper or a wood plank.  How great is our God that we know he hears and answers the prayers of His children.  Also, how great it is for us as Christians to be able to worship God with our lives and at any place, we don’t have to go to a temple or shrine. Our bodies are the temples of the living God!

We had good conversations with Ruth and she explained a lot of things to us as we were walking around this town.  We saw how she was just willing to talk to the Japanese people at anytime.  It is uncommon for the Japanese people to just start a conversation with someone. They keep to themselves and live a closed, private life.  We would see idols just anywhere, even on street corners.  There would be offerings of incense or food lying in front of them.

We went to Niihama to see a different part of Japan and because there are no Baptist churches there.  However we did find a few churches there that are possibly preaching the good news of Jesus.  We even found a Christian kindergarten!  It was time for us to head to our hotel.  Our clothes were soaked with sweat.  Literally, they were the same as if we took a dip in a pool with our clothes on.  Even all of the stuff in our backpacks was soaked with sweat, including my bible. We probably walked about 10 miles that day.  So off to the hotel to relax! Right?

We arrived at the hotel and they had told Ruth that her room had been canceled!  It didn’t take long and they got her another room! Remember us saying how everything is so different?  Our room was a lot smaller than what we are use to.  Our pillows are made of something very interesting!  Tim says they felt like marbles!  You want to fill your pillowcase up with marbles for the night and sleep like that?  God is still good and we were thankful for a place to sleep for the night!  We were given button-up gowns to wear to bed if we wanted!  Of course all the tv channels were in Japanese so we couldn’t understand any shows. Although Tim tried to figure out what was going on. It would have been nice to just pick up the phone and order a pizza and have them deliver it to our hotel but that isn’t possible if you can’t speak the language and ordering pizza is expensive here in Japan!

Ruth said she was going to spend the rest of the evening in her room relaxing so we were on our own!  We were hungry so we decided to stay on the same street as our hotel and walk to a restaurant.  We saw one on our way there and headed for a restaurant called Tomato & Onion.  The name was actually written in English so we thought we might be able to read some things on the menu there.  When we walked in the waitress spoke to us in Japanese and Tim said in English, “I don’t know Japanese. I only speak English.”  She actually bowed and ran away!!  Then a guy came and pointed us towards a table.  When you are ready to order here, there is button on the table that sends a signal for the waiter to come and take your order.  The menu did not have any English like we had hoped, so we just pointed to our items that had pictures and said onegaishimasu (please).  He got our food right and was very polite to us.  We survived our first restaurant adventure out by ourselves!  We had enjoyed seeing the city of Niihama and are just in awe of the mountains!  We are thankful to have found out that there seem to be some Christian churches here and pray that God might reach all of these Japanese people in this smaller city with the truth!

Tomorrow we go into the mountains to try and see some small villages!