Oh, sakura! You were worth the wait. 🙂

Enjoying the glorious cherry blossom season in Tsutsujigaoka Park – “ohanami”

A family marvels at the delicate blossoms

Food stands at Tsutsujigaoka Park

Anniversary dinner – the best Japanese food we’ve had in a while at Tofuro (土風炉)

My husband and I took a break and enjoyed a few days off in nearby beautiful Sendai for our anniversary. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom and as it was glorious! Life in the area near Sendai station has returned to the way it was prior to the tsunami. People were hustling and bustling about, women in fancy-looking outfits fussed with their makeup and hair on the trains, there were men everywhere in their business suits, and life is fast-paced. Ahh- culture shock!! Truly, life in Ishinomaki compared to Sendai, is a whole new world. Living in a city devastated by the tsunami has made me see how unique Ishinomaki (and the entire region) really are in comparison to the rest of Japan.

Here are a few things I noticed: first off, many people simply do not have money to throw around on the latest gadgets, expensive clothes, hairdos, handbags, Apple products, and manicures. This city was a somewhat financially depressed area before the tsunami and now it’s even more desperate. As a result, I find that women in Ishinomaki worry far less about their appearance than in other parts of Japan and you rarely see women who seem to be almost obsessed with having the perfect look. To be honest, I find that rather refreshing! I feel like most of the women around me probably shop at the Japanese equivalents of Wal-mart or Target and go the cheapest hair salons for bargains. Especially for those living in temporary housing, money is super tight and they only buy what they really need. This is really not the “average” lifestyle in Japan, that’s for sure!

Second, the people of Ishinomaki have tasted suffering. Even if a family didn’t lose their home or a loved one in the tsunami, I think mostly everyone knows of a family who has suffered tremendously. Many others were traumatized by the sight of their neighbors perishing before their eyes and were unable to help them. I believe God has used this suffering to humble the people of Tohoku to the dust. As a result, I think that many of folks we encounter tend to value relationships with family and friends over everything else including possessions, work, and appearances. They also have grateful hearts and a gentle humility that comes from their suffering. May God use that suffering to draw them to Himself!

Third, we are surrounded by so many physical reminders that we live in a fallen world. While I am not used to seeing all the dilapidated buildings around us, I somehow find this physical brokenness a testament to the reality that this is a fallen world and that Jesus came to redeem it. Ishinoamki is far different than the pristine, trash-free, picture-perfect beauty of other parts of Japan. I have to say that I definitely have my moments when the brokenness depresses me. I get tired of seeing the land with overgrown weeds, the huge patches of empty grounds with nothing left, the demolished schools, etc. When I came back from Sendai I felt a little sad about the lack of color here, the dearth of green trees and lovely flowers and foliage. However, God is at work in this city and we believe that greater things are yet to come!

A toy in the midst of the rubble and trash – after more than two years you can still find reminders like this one of the way life used to be in Tohoku.