Forty years ago today…Feb. 7, 1978, I returned from serving two years as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I spent 22 months serving in the Japan Nagoya Mission, more specifically in the cities of Kanazawa, Nagoya, Fukui, Takaoka, Ogaki and Fuji. It was an amazing time for me and it was kind of strange returning back to the United States.
I joined the LDS Church at age 18 in Murray, UT and was baptized in January 1975. Less than a year later, after a tough decision for me, I had determined to serve as a missionary. Heading to Japan was like heading into an unknown abyss for me. I was still learning about the gospel and was heading to a country with a strange language and many strange religions to preach that same gospel to the wonderful people of Japan.
I spent the first two months of my mission in Provo, UT at what was then called the Language Training Mission (LTM). Fortunately for me, one of my companions was Elder Marc White, who I knew from Murray High School. It was comforting to have a familiar face around. I later got to serve with Marc in Fukui, Japan.
After learning some of the basics of Japanese, we were on our way to Japan. I remember that first day so well…just like it was yesterday. We arrived to a sea of black heads…I stood out way above all of these people.
It was extremely humid and there were strange smells. That night we got to enjoy a snack of “orange cream pan,” Japanese bread filled with a sweet orange-flavored cream.
My first assigned area was Kanazawa, on the Japan sea side. This part of Japan was very staunch and traditional Buddhist. We not only taught the gospel of Jesus Christ, but it was also a new concept to many of these people…and many of them had never spoken to an American in person either.
That said, Kanazawa was (and still is) a beautiful city. Famed nationally for it’s Ken-Roku Park and other places, it was a wonderful place to get initiated into Japan. So much better than the huge city of Nagoya!!
While in Kanazawa, I saw the massive Buddhist temples and other religious structures. I experienced train rides for the first time. We rode bikes everywhere. We ate strange food. And I learned the Hokuriku dialect of Japanese…kind of difficult to understand. It was an amazing time.
After three months in Kanazawa, I was next on my way to the massive city of Nagoya, which, at the time, was the third largest city in Japan. We rode subways everywhere. Got to see the lovely Nagoya Castle. I ate ramen from street vendors. But Nagoya was short lived.
I was soon transferred back to Hokuriku to the city of Fukui. This was the home of the famous Eiheiji Temple, a Buddhist monastery where monks were trained in the strict ways of Buddhism.
By the time I got to Fukui, I was much more comfortable with the language and was really learning to enjoy my time…until winter hit! Fukui got massive snow while I was there in the early months of winter 1977.
After Fukui (for about 5 months), I remained in Hokuriku, heading north to Toyama Prefecture and the town of Takaoka. I was there as well for about 5 months. From Takaoka, near the Japan Alps, I was transferred to Ogaki, a farming area near Gifu.
Finally, my last place was Fuji. My language was good and had a great fun companion in Elder Richan (who, sadly, passed away a couple of years ago).
And then it was finally heading back to the States where I was met at the airport by my best friend Jonathan Jensen. It was a wonderful 2 years.
Little did I know the impact this two years would have on my life. Since returning, I have spent many years doing work related to Japan and Japanese. Eventually, I returned to Japan with my family to work in Japan from 1987 to 1991.
So, I celebrate today…40 year anniversary of returning from a massive life changing experience that I will always be grateful for.
Here are just a few more pics.