Sunday, February 27, 2011

Only in Japan: Lipton Seasonal Teas

This was on the shelf from last week Yuzu (citron) tea, with honey

Now I know that Japan is not the only country with a variety of tea beverages, but in Japan they really try to capitalize on the seasons when it comes to perishable products. One prime example is the Lipton Brand iced tea available at any convenience store in Japan. Each season has its own harvest of a certain fruit, from grapes, apples, oranges, strawberries, pears , and so on. These flavors of tea are available but only for a limited time. This time limit brings a sense of shortage and a feeling that you have to "buy it now" or you will have to wait till next year to drink it again. This is especially frustrating if you like that flavor iced tea, but that means you will enjoy it all that much the next time it is available. I am not sure of all the reasons why they do this but it seems to be the Japanese way of business, and is perhaps very effective and profitable. The same goes for snacks, fast food, and many other foods and drinks.

The label 期間限定 (kikan-gentei) or "limited time only" is a mark you will see very often in Japan. Buying with the seasons becomes part of the rhythm of life, as you await the unveiling of the next season and the products that come forth. It is an interesting difference from my own country and how usually most products are ready available year round (If they are popular). In Japan it doesn`t seem to matter, popular or not, once the season is over you can`t buy it at all!

So enjoy it while you can in Japan, I guess that`s the culture, when it comes to food and drink. I hope you enjoyed this tid-bit of information on life in Japan. If you did, please leave a comment

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Reflections of Worship: Needing Him

In the middle of my battles, I realize that I have so many limitations.  I see my true state of desperation.  I think of the scope and significance of my life. That`s when I begin to realize I am flying through space and time only to arrive at an eventual destination one day.  Along the way I trick myself into thinking that I can take care of myself.  I get caught up in the ability to solve problems and make plans and preparations.  I forget how much I "need" my God.  My every need from the air I breathe, the food, the water, the shelter, the job, the clothes, He is the ultimate source.  In the act of worship, the human spirit engages God, it recognizes the essential "need" for Him.  So I encourage you to stop and tell Him how much you need Him, and you be filled with the peace of His presence.  Declaring your desperation and emptying yourself, you will find yourself to be filled, and renewed...

This is an awesome worship song sung by Bethel Church`s Kim Walker.  Enjoy the depth of worship and lay it all out before Him.

This is another great song by Hillsong that pulls me through, remembering that God is mighty and is able to bring us through.

God bless you as you listen and worship in spirit and in the truth!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Connecting Life with Faith: A New Kind of Righteous

Most of us deep down inside, wish we could be better people.  Seriously, most people sincerely desire to be better in some area of their moral life.  It could be as simple as wishing we weren`t so moody or angry with our kids so much.  Maybe we would like to be more generous or loving to others.  Humans naturally want to be considered "righteous."  There is a real need for us to feel like we are on the side of "good" isn`t there?

However, on the other side we have "lawlessness" always pulling on our physche.  When we see a set of rules, we may feel strongly against them and rebel choosing our own way as the absolute authority.  That is the essence of the criminal mind.

Yet with as many laws and codes within the religions of man, we cannot stand as completely righteous people. We are all imperfect, fractured people.  We have to admit, we are missing something.  Some days we know it more than others.  We can follow all the rules and do a lot of good in our lifetime, but when it comes to even our own ideals we fall short.  We cannot live the "perfect" life. 

Is that okay?

Well "yes" and "no."  God does not expect perfect results, if He did there would be no need to establish the Old Testament laws and statutes.  However God does expect "perfection" in our effort.  This meaning our commitment to pursue godliness, or in other words, holy and God-likeness in our character. God gave commandments to the people of Israel saying "Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach" Duetronomy 30:11. God understood their limitations yet still created a system to promote godliness among His chosen people at that time.

So God knew His people were going to make mistakes, and within that sacrificial system there was allowance for the forgiveness of lawlessness or sin.  In addition to obtaining forgiveness in creating the sacrificial system, people also could tangibly understand the cost of sin.   I.E. They had to give up physical things for their sin.  Through the system people were able to maintain a status of so called legal righteousness.   In fact, Paul himself, claims to be perfect regarding the "law" of the Jews, but again something was missing in his life, and luckily he found it on the road to Damascus one day.

But let me make this clear, God does not want us to abandon rules and regulations for utter wickedness and chaos in our lives.  He wants us to use those rules and precepts in His Word as a tutor, a training and a guide to follow in the path of the God-man, Jesus.

"Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith." (Galatians 3:24)

So what is this new kind or different brand of righteousness I am talking about?

Jesus said, "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."  (Matthew 5:20)

The Pharisees were legally the most kept and righteous people around.  They were the "Supreme Court" of the land, they were the good guys, the "District Attorneys" and prosectors of law breakers, they were the  really well respected and proper people of the day who knew and kept the law perfectly. 

Yet Jesus knew of their money laundering scams, and the many other legal loopholes they had made for themselves.  (Read more in Mark 7) This accusation by Jesus showed they did not possess true righteousness.  Hence Jesus` words stating "surpass." The Pharisees` righteousness was of the letter only, but not of the heart.  They did not have the Spirit of the Law but only the letter of the Law as their guide.

So why all this talk about ancient laws and people who seem to have little relevance to society today?  Well, simply this:  Righteousness is developed through the journey of the human heart with God, not in fundamentalist legalism, or striving for legal perfection. 

If you are in an authentic, living relationship with God and are walking with Christ, you will find yourself becoming more righteous as time goes on.  It is an incremental, life changing, metamorphosis.  It is essentially becoming the form of righteousness that Jesus expounds on in  Matthew Chapter 5

Righteousness is the result of walking with Christ, and knowing and living His words in your life.  There are many different facets of that experience.  There is the Word anchored in the Bible and unction of the Holy Spirit, there is belief and understanding, also the good deeds that come from that understanding.

It is best to see ourselves as a progressive work of righteousness.  That being the result of faith, not something that we have earned, but a gift of God.  Grace gives us a new kind of righteousness that is not "self" righteous.  It is a humble and contrite form of righteousness that is grateful for each day, and the opportunities that await.

So be relieved and have peace because righteousness is achieved not through our hard work, but relying on the both the finished work of the cross of Christ and the faithfulness of God to work in and through our lives, so that we become a new kind of "righteous."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Only in Japan: Land of Ice Walls and Giant Snow Cones

Japan is surprisingly cold in the winter time.  In fact, it snows quite a lot in some places.  The Minami Alps of Japan is a well- known winter vacation spot.  The hot springs and location makes for a great trip, but the road is what makes the trip a unique experience. 
Photo taken 2011 on the road through the Minami Alps

The snow in that area of Japan can pile up over 4 and even up to 5 meters tall.  And the funny thing is they just let it be and carve the road through making a wall of snow on both sides. 

There could possibly be houses abandoned under all that snow!  In fact, some Japanese people exit from the second story of their houses in those regions because of all snow.  Climb up the stairs and off to school you go Ichiro!  

I`m not a weather expert but apparently the moisture from the sea of Japan gets trapped and held in by the mountain range keeping heavy snow fall from occuring in the Kanto Area.  That would include the metropolitan area of Tokyo and the surrounding prefectures (like where I live, in Chiba.) 

We usually only experience a few days of snow a year while Nagano (famous for the 1998 Winter Olympics) and its surrounding Prefectures receive meters of snowfall every year.

No, this is not ice cream but snow covered Bonsai
 taken from last night`s snowfall
Japan is a country where nature has a strong impact on the way of life.  The four seasons in Japan have led to the development of many Japanese traditions in its various prefectures.  I still have a lot to learn about its ways and people.  There are so many differences from dialects, lifestlyes, manners, food, and cultural events between its people, yet the devotion to the concept of harmony or "WA" 和  keep them together.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Only in Japan: Wacky Safety Drills

A group of school children doing a disaster drill (photo: BOUSAIYA 防災屋)
Living in Japan I have seen many interesting, albeit strange things.  I have seen many police officers, firefighters, various public servants, and of course schools performing various safety drills.  The funny thing is that these drills are often performed in public view (maybe to show the public they are working hard?).  The other thing is that they are done with such seriousness, while requiring sometimes interesting disguises or equipment, such as the bousaizukin, or disaster prevention hat.  This hat is flame retardant and has pads to protect the wearer from falling objects.

I came across a great video to illustrate my point, the other day.  It is of a zoo safety drill.  A rhino has escaped and this is how you are supposed to handle it.  PS- Note the number of legs the rhino has LOL

Japanese are known as a people who highly value safety.  In general, they are a reserved culture and are always seeking to minimize risk both in government and private matters.  Having experienced many disasters historically and being one of the most active places for earthquakes on the planet,  I guess it is SAFE to say that nobody knows "safety and prevention" like the Japanese.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Future and Technology: 3D Entertainment is Here!

In Japan I have noticed the last couple months a big push by the major electronics stores like Yamada Denki, Kojima, and K`s Denki, and others to sell 3D TVs.
The truth is that this 3D TV technology has been around since 2009, but now Japan seems to be going all out to bring 3D entertainment to the high tech, gadget-loving population.

The other day I couldn`t resist and had to watch the High Defintion 3D TV for myself.  I am not an expert on the technology, but the 3D effect is not the typical illusion of projection, but the illusion of depth on the screen.  The background seems to go on endlessly as if you were watching from a window.

And apparently there are different settings for TV watching and gaming.  The somewhat disappointing part is that you need to watch wearing special, expensive battery-powered 3D glasses.

Wearing glasses to watch TV, a little of a let down...

Store set up where you can watch the 3D HDTV

The 3D TV is the first major step in bringing 3D technology into the everyday lives of the general public.  Now the average citizen can enjoy a whole new world of entertainment in the privacy of their own home.  One can only imagine that the 3D projection messages like that of R2D2 in Star Wars is not far off.

I think the ultimate form of 3D entertainment would actually be something like the Holodeck from Star Trek: Next Generation; as pictured below, where the observer can walk into the world and experience the show in real time and even interact with the characters themselves.

It is astounding to think of the advancement of technology being driven by our need to be entertained.  But that plays a major role in its development.  Especially in the age of information, the entertainment industry needs to develop new ways to maintain its top position in struggling economies across the globe.  So 3D technology has become its new selling point, it started with the movie theaters and now has come to home entertainment

Besides the TV, other 3D technology devices will be arriving on the market soon.  In Japan the biggest one being the 3D Nintendo DS portable gaming system. which is scheduled to come out this month.  It is almost impossible to reserve yourself one, most stores have already sold out before the release date. Check out a preview on this video below!!

Apparently it is a whole new experience for the gamer, and it has many people of all ages excited about the potential for 3D technology.  I hope to try it out eventually and see what all the fuss is about.

That`s it from Japan!  Where 3D is becoming another part of the entertainment experience!
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