Many interesting things happened while I was away at Japanese Bible Camp this month with our church. I didn’t sleep very much at all, we went swimming at the most beautiful beach I have ever been at in my life (like a postcard), the speaker made a very compelling call to Christ (using iodine, hydrochloric acid, a paper cup, and a lighter) and one of the children at our church became a Christian and wants to be baptized! I was thankful that I was given an opportunity to help. I played violin on the worship team and helped out with some of the games. The most interesting thing I found was the uniquely-Japanese things they did at the camp.
So if on a packing list you were asked to pack “gym shoes” what would you bring? Well, most of the time I simply pack my runners. That’s what I’m going to wear most of the time anyways: sandals and running shoes. I learn that isn’t what the Japanese mean. As many of you know the Japanese use slippers inside their homes. They take off their shoes in the “genkan” (This is just inside the door. It is considered dirty and part of the outside of the house, even though it is inside the house.) and they slip on their house slippers. When they go to the bathroom they slip off their house slippers and put on their bathroom slippers. I think you might be able to see where we’re going with this. They have special shoes for gymnasium activities too! I didn’t… so I ran around in my socks. Luckily I wasn’t alone, not everyone had remembered to bring their shoes… one potentially-embarrassing event evaded!
Every morning there is a flag ceremony to raise the Japanese flag. This is done to the Japanese national anthem. In the evening it is lowered again. This is standard on all governmentally-owned camp properties. While everyone is awake for the lowering of the flag, practically everyone is groggy at the raising. The flag was raised shortly after sunrise, which in our case was around 7 am. That meant everyone got up around 6:30. When you have a bunch of kids who stayed up late talking till the wee hours, that can be challenging. Not to me though. I didn’t really sleep at all. I often have difficulty falling asleep, so in a room full of boys with a wide variance in ages, sleep was not an option. On the bright side: the sunrises were beautiful! Accompanying the flag raising were general announcements and then exercises. Yes, you read that right. Everyone participated. The exercises were more like morning stretching to get the blood flowing. It was a good way to wake up!
When we were packing up to leave we all had to clean up. Most of you would associate that with general tidying, packing your things, checking to make sure you’re not leaving anything behind or cleaning up a bad mess. That’s not the case in Japan. Each person was placed into a team. Each team had a specific job. One team would pick up all the laundry and take it to the on-site laundromat, another team cleaned the bathrooms, another team swept the sleeping quarters’ tatami mats clean, and the team I was assigned to swept the hallway and stairs. Upon completion of our tasks, staff from the camp came by and inspected our work on a pass/fail basis. First, the boys were inspected (we were on the first floor) and then the girls were inspected (they were on the second), we all passed ( no one complained about the stairs that I swept… so I was relieved). Everybody pitched in: from the youngest campers to the oldest pastors. We used the facilities together, so we cleaned together. (As an aside: we’ve been told that there are no janitorial staff in schools as the students are responsible for their schools’ cleanliness; while all this camp experience was unique to me, this was normal for everyone else). While I have pictures of many of our other group activities, I don’t have any of the cleaning since I was working and had not the time for photos. Thus I’ll leave you with a sunrise picture: one of God’s greatest art shows that many of us rarely get up to see.