Everything here is so different. Half of the time I’m just trying to figure out what in the world is going on. Yesterday I had to use a traditional Japanese bathroom at the Buddhist cemetery and it was beyond bizarre for me. Today the “western” bathroom at the hotel kept confusing me with its automated features. Ruth King took Jenelle to see the hotel bath today. Breakfast included some mystery items, fish, rice, eggs, and unlimited vended drinks.

We left our bags with the front desk at the hotel so we could travel light on our way up into the mountain villages of Niihama. We took the bus as far as it would take us up the mountain. On the way up the mountain there were Torii gates all up the side of the mountain. The last bus stop was at a 400-year-old copper mine. From there we expected to call a taxi to take us the rest of the way. When we called the taxi service we learned that a landslide had closed the mountain road. We were told it maybe several months before the mountain access can be restored.

Since we were at the mine we decided to look around their gift shop and purchase some items that were representative of the culture in Niihama. When Japanese travel it is customary to bring gifts back from wherever you go. We bought some local treats that we will give to the Wakaba mission when we return there at the end of our trip.

On our way back into the city of Niihama we stopped at a Buddhist temple to look around. We heard priests chanting in the background so we asked a priest if we could observe what they were doing. Apparently they were only praying over their lunch, so there wasn’t really anything worth seeing! The Buddhist temple was fairly large with a girls school attached.

We made it back to Niihama and ate some lunch at a ramen shop. The ramen noodles in Japan are nothing like the noodles we have in the USA. There are many more ingredients and it is tasty! Jenelle accidentally ordered cold ramen! Yum! We grabbed our bags from our hotel and started our trip back to Takatsuki. On the way back to Takatsuki Ruth wanted to stop at Himeji castle. We didn’t know it but there was something important that she wanted us to see.

The Himeji castle is very old and is in the process of being restored. Many shoguns ruled at this castle over the many centuries it has been standing. Over the centuries additions and repairs have been made to the castle by the shoguns that lived there. Each time an addition was made to the castle, whoever was building the addition would have his family crest engraved in iron on the edge of the roof. The Japanese have made it hard to find by placing it off the main path of the castle, but if you look around enough you will find that on one of the edges of the roofs there is a large iron plaque and on it is engraved a cross. A small sign nearby explains what the cross is. Christianity was flourishing in Japan before the shogun Iemitsu banned it in the sixteenth century.  The iron cross that is engraved on the side of the castle is a lasting testimony of one of the shoguns that was our brother in the faith. He made his family crest into a cross.

We walked back to the train station from the castle. The train stations are confusing since most everything is in Japanese. Sometimes if you wait long enough the signs will change to Romanized letters. Ruth King and Jim Smith say I’m quickly picking up how the train system works in Japan. It’s a pretty complicated system and its not entirely standardized. There are many different speeds of trains and different rail companies that do things differently. Our rail passes are active now and it’s nice to be able to flash a rail pass at a rail worker and they just let you through the system. For the first week of our trip we used the same system that the Japanese use.

By the time we made it back home to Takatsuki we were drenched in sweat. Everything in our bags is wet. We are unbelievably tired. Jenelle says she feels like she has walked an entire day on a treadmill. Praise God that he has given us energy to walk all around Japan and clear minds to try and understand the Japanese people!