Just Can’t Seem to Stay Away

Big News!

I’ll be returning to Tokyo this summer… this time working for Mitsubishi Research Institute! Since I already have this media platform, I’ll start my second big Kira Kira Tokyo Travels adventure!

Follow me as I experience the other side of Japanese life – work culture, dining, karaoke bars, weekend travels, summer romance?? (Just trying to up interest here) and more!

See you soon 😉


This is The End

Aaaaand we’re back. Two feet on solid ground.

I promised I would post once more, but I ended up delaying a bit. The past two weeks have been a flurry of emotion and events and everything in between. Japan seems like an eternity away…was I really there just two weeks ago?


Blast from the Past – Reunited!!

My last week was a blur, but it was clear that God was at the wheel. Wednesday, my final full day in Tama started out looking disastrous. It seemed like every appointment was conflicting. There had been some mistakes in scheduling and we found ourselves accidentally double-booked half the day. I was so stressed – and then somehow the times all changed and everything fell into place perfectly. About half way through the day, I turned to my companion and said, “I’m not even stressed anymore. I know Heavenly Father will make sure we are exactly where we need to be, when we need to be there.” And that’s exactly how things went. The wonderful women of Tama had a luncheon and gave me cards and made my favorite washoku, and two good friends we hadn’t seen in a month were able to meet. It was amazing. We had family home evening with the Relief Society president and the children attacked Elder Poulsen, something I chose to capture on camera rather than helping. She handed me some bitter shiso leaves and a huge raw fish and a knife and I got to make my own sashimi and sushi. I was in heaven.



On Thursday I had lunch with a friend and then jumped on a train, alone. I felt like I was just transferring to the honbu. I talked to a young mother and a florist on the train while trying to come to grips with the fact that my time in Japan was quickly coming to a close. That afternoon we had some “Future Life Trainings: How to not freak out and die once you step off the plane,” or something like that, and then we had an amazing dinner of Sukiya. The meal lasted well over two and a half hours and after the hour mark I would periodically check my watch, feeling guilty for spending so long socializing and feeling like I should do something useful. We had a testimony meeting and then suddenly it was nighttime and once again I panicked at the time a little and felt the urge to hope on the next train back to Tama and be home by curfew.


From this..To that.


Like the awkward family photos you never want to reach the public…oops.

The next day we ran to the park in the freezing cold, and just like my first ever morning in Japan, I ended the journey with some good old Radio Taisou, surrounded by people older than my grandparents. The morning was spent packing and downloading photos – I even found a ukulele in one back room and got to mess around with it for a bit until it was time to leave. We walked to the bus station…and suddenly I was on a bus taking me away from the experience that had singlehandedly changed my entire life forever. 


Don’t ask how the creepy doll ended up in my arms.

At the airport I had the chance to talk in Japanese with a woman and her halfy-children, and to some businessmen from Utah we kept running into. My seat mate was a Filipino from California who I had the chance to talk to. He had an adorable little girl he showed me pictures of. He didn’t accept a Book of Mormon, but said he could see how important it was to me, and I gave him chopsticks and a Christmas card, for kicks. Merry Christmas Stranger.

The walk off the plane…well it happened. Just before leaving the gate I had to stop and take a deep breath. I could do this. I only cried once on the plane and my Filipino seat mate told me unsympathetically, “Oh, you’ll be fine.” And I was. I couldn’t speak English. Life was a blur. People were hugging me and talking to me and I was severely sleep deprived and heartbroken and so so happy.

Some of my best friends came, and one came home with me and we both promptly fell asleep on my bed after I was reunited with Cloudy. My boots, having lasted as long as they did, fell apart as soon as I stepped into the house, as if satisfied they had done their duty and not willing to do a minute more. That evening we went to pick up my sister (she got a ride home from BYU) and she saw me and burst into tears. I thought she was kidding for a second, and when I realized she wasn’t I enveloped her in a bear hug and got to tell HER “welcome home.”


Since then…I’ve scared my parents by crying out in alarm the first few days when they turned into the right lane. I apologized too much, and I still bow…well always.

I’ve been united with my skis and my Central Oregon snow and it’s been bliss.


My siblings are too big, too old, and I didn’t even know them anymore, but we have sibling dates organized, a glorified version of speed dating.

I spoke in two different wards, attended Christmas parties, had Finnish Christmas on the 24th and Christmas with my step-mom’s family on the 25th. I took a trip to Portland and to the temple with my Mother, and met up with my college roommate!

I’ve had chances to be a member missionary and get out and serve in the community and have come to grips with one fact: this is my life now, and I am in control. I determine my happiness and my future. And there’s no turning back.

I had better make the most of it.

*                               *                                 *

I’m so grateful to all who have followed my journey with me this long. A year and a half was so packed with excitement and trials and learning, and it just flew by.

Wish me luck.

XOXO, Smiley 姉妹



The Penultimate Blog

I’ll post once more when I get home, just to reassure anyone who has interest that I’m still alive.


But people. We’ve made it. This is it. The penultimate email. I was once talking to a Chourou going home in a few weeks and he mentioned that the penultimate email has to be the best. I still don’t know why. So please don’t be disappointed. This week passed by in a frenzy. One second I was telling people “Oh, I go home mid-December,” and then
suddenly it was “Oh, yes, I’ll be crying on a plane this Friday.” How’s that for terrifying?

On Wednesday we had our English classes and I had my advanced class debate whether schools should have uniforms or not. One student probably in his twenties said “No, because in the summer I want to go naked…”

Speaking of uniforms, I drew this on the train on my iPad:


On Thursday, we performed again at a different retired person’s home, and everything ran much more smoothly, mostly due to the fact that I didn’t have to dance AND be the announcer. As always, the one-year-old Yutaro kun stole the show.

The reindeer suit. I just about died.

Afterwards we rushed over to Machida for my final interview with the mission president, and he distilled all sorts of wisdom upon me. That evening we had a Washoku (Japanese style food) shokuji at a family’s home.


On Friday we had zone meeting, I called the luggage company to come pick up my suitcases (*sob*), and we made a grand tour with our friend to go visit people and give them Christmas advent calendars. We walked several kilometers, and props to her, she did it all in heels.

Saturday, we caroled in shinyurigaoka and it was freezing. And then I saw a man sitting outside 7/11 eating a Popsicle…we also received 15 apples from various Tama members. Know any good recipes?


Sunday, my last day in Tama Ward. I spoke at the beginning, and a shimai from the Kawasaki area came all the way to Tama to hear me speak. After church we had a gathering with some English class students and ate snacks, including fish cheese, and then they all gave me presents 🎁 and notes. It was so sweet! We got a ride from there to another family’s home who happened to make all the food I had been wanting to eat before I left! Okonomiyaki, Oden, pumpkin salad, shrimp and scallop pizza, you name it. They mentioned how they could tell I had worked hard as a senkyoushi, citing the time we were coming back from Kichijoji on the train together and I started talking to all the people who sat next to me. I hadn’t even realized it was anything special or noticeable, but it was nice to hear and notice that every little effort matters.

Everything is a little surreal right now. I’m pleased to say I’m 0% trunky, something my companion often reassures me of. In fact, I just never want to leave. But it’s alright, I’ll be back. This country and its people have captured my heart, and life will never be quite the same.
Japan, Sayonara for now





La Vie en Rose 2


My day is never complete unless an elementary school student boy has told me I’m beautiful or a high school group of girls has called me cute. It’s just going to be such a severe punch to my ego when I land in the States and I’m not showered by compliments all the time or having people ask to touch my hair.

That aside…my body is so broken….I feel like every time I sit or stand or move something is cracking or in pain or I’m coughing up my lungs. So this is the obaachan life. But I love every minute of it. I was passing out English flyers and this song from over a year and a half ago suddenly popped into my head “There’s no place I’d rather be (instrumental bridge)”. I don’t remember anything else or who sings it, but that one line was perfect for the moment (Lilo & Stitch?).

It seems like life is in fast forward.

Monday : went to Kichijouji for a family home evening event centered on Christmas and gratitude in the mission home with a girl a met on the train who is studying French in college. she was so cool!


Tuesday: practiced with all the missionaries and Tama shimaitachi for hula, ukulele, singing, etc. we are the personification of “jack of many trades, master of none.” Had district meeting and then a half English, half Fukuin lesson with a focus on service throughout the Christmas season. In Japan Christmas is purely commercial – cake, chicken, parties – so it’s nice to give people something more to think about and invite them to serve others this Christmas season.

Wednesday: Had a half English, half Book of Mormon lesson with our Guatemalan friend. Got to iron out some points of confusion (no, Jesus Christ was not reincarnated and born again as a baby in the Americas). Then had a very fun English class and Kid’s English class. Except that I can’t actually speak English anymore. I just now tried to say “oh I didn’t need to share that with you,” but said “O I didn’t need to share you that.” Who needs grammar anyway?

Thursday: The big day. After practicing and having an amazing prepared bento lunch, we shuttled over to the Sagamihara Old Folk’s home and got dressed in Hawaiian clothes. Along with a Santa and one funny-looking reindeer. We performed, I also was the announcer, and with only a few kinks everything went more or less smoothly and some people were so moved by the singing they began crying. Success.



Wednesday: Had a half English, half Book of Mormon lesson with our Guatemalan friend. Got to iron out some points of confusion (no, Jesus Christ was not reincarnated and born again as a baby in the Americas). Then had a very fun English class and Kid’s English class. Except that I can’t actually speak English and it seems like life is in fast forward.

Thursday: The big day. After practicing and having an amazing prepared bento lunch, we shuttled over to the Sagamihara Old Folk’s home and got dressed in 🌺Hawaiian clothes. Along with a Santa and one funny-looking reindeer. We performed, I also was the announcer, and with only a few kinks everything went more or less smoothly and some people were so moved by the singing they began crying. Success.

Friday: Explored the area and delivered Christmas Advent calendars to people, met some amazing people. After visiting someone we went and knocked on the neighbors doors and at one door the woman said something quickly and indiscernible and then said she was fine, and didn’t open the door. The next door, the same woman answered, and this time opened the door (for some reason the genkan had two doors) and quickly beckoned her husband saying excitedly “Honey, it’s ok, it’s not the (unnamed missionaries of another religion) it’s the Mormons with a Christmas message!” And the two of them came out with a completely different reception and watched our Christmas video intently and showered us with questions. Apparently they had visited temple square before and were very impressed.

Saturday: We headed over with a Tama shimai to Sagamihara for a harmonica concert that one of her friends was performing in whom she wanted us to meet. She got hopelessly lost however, and was a terrifying driver, so I find it a small miracle that we arrived safely. We were definitely the only people younger than 60 at this concert, but let me tell you, if you ever chance to attend a harmonica concert, count yourself lucky. It’s really…something. We were going to take the train back, but she needed help navigating, so once again, we held our breath and prayed really hard most of the way back. I love that woman but I am never stepping in her car again. Right afterwards we met with another friend and headed out to Kichijoji and there attended a Little Witnesses Shibuya Institute Christmas concert. In a surprising series of events I ended up translating the concert/presentation into Finnish from Japanese for someone I had met at Stanford a few years back. My Finnish is rusty, it’s official.


Sunday: It was a busy day full of miracles and seeing lots of people I thought I wouldn’t have the chance to see before I left Japan. One friend finally returned from her father’s funeral, and shared how much the scriptures we sent her while she was gone comforted her and helped her see that death isn’t a scary thing. I also gained a strong testimony of fasting (going without food or drink for 24 hours while praying for something extra special or especially needed). We started the evening before at 5:30 but as the schedule worked out for Sunday we weren’t going to have time to eat anything until 9pm, a very long time to go without any food or drink, and we would be very far from our apartment. But, the next day, as events unfolded and appointments got swapped around for various reasons we ended up visiting a Tama shimai at 5:30, and she invited us in and said she had also made us dinner, something we weren’t expecting at all. It’s a Christmas miracle!! But actually, my entire time in Japan, every single time it looked like we wouldn’t have time to eat, someone always gave us food, without us even asking or indicating we hadn’t eaten. Tender mercies.


It reminds me of the verse in the New Testament:

22 And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat …24 Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? (Luke 12:22,24)

Monday: We had splits and an old man gave us a sweet potato.

Today: We went to the temple, my last Temple P-Day, and it was surreal. Then we had lunch with two of my favorite people in the world but I’m sworn to secrecy about who it was. 🤐

Time is fleeting,




The best time to use an umbrella…is all the time

Japanese people LOVE umbrellas. They use them in the rain. They use them in the sun. And, as I found out this week, they also use them in the snow. I don’t even think I owned and umbrella in Oregon or California. And now I own around five.

This coming week we are performing at an elderly folk’s home and we have to learn two hula dances, several Christmas songs, two ukulele songs and a traditional Japanese song. Well really we were supposed to learn them earlier but I procrastinated. Somehow the “work of salvation” just seemed a little more important than the ukulele. But now I’m frantically trying to find my inner dancer and musician, because those sides were suppressed FAR too long. So wish me luck.


I had the chance to go on splits with Cox shimai, my old douryou from Yamato! It was so fun! We just spent the whole day talking to everyone about Christmas and were swarmed by little children who wanted to hold our hands and touch my hair. We found and taught one woman who was convinced she had a handicapped son because she was a sinner in her past life, which is SO sad! We were able to talk about The Great plan of Happiness, and teach about how difficult things can help us to grow and can be gifts in our life. My throat and head hurt the whole day but at his point I’m just powering through because I’m on the last stretch.

Every time we’d bike past some kids I would call out “do you have a pen?!” And they would all delightedly start yelling at the top of their lungs, “I have a pen, I have an apple! PINEAPPLE pen!” I still have no idea….but it works every time.

In the evening we attended sports night and I made friends with a Chinese college student and then I sat by a woman and realized she was the very person I had been trying to get in contact with for a month because she spoke Spanish. Her number apparently had changed! So we spent a good 45 minutes speaking in Spanish and she promised to help with some people we’re working with!


The next evening back in Tama we went to one neighborhood to share a Christmas message with people about service using the new #LightTheWorld video (which you should all check out and do the service ideas for every day of December leading up until Christmas!) and a posse of 8 and 9 year old girls ran up and introduced themselves in English and debated among themselves what they should say or how to ask certain questions, not knowing we understood everything they were saying.

It was pretty hilarious. “Should we tell them our names?” “No, their strangers!” “Yeah, but they look young and nice!” “It can’t hurt!” “Wait, but I don’t know how to ask that!!!” … something along the lines of that. They were quite surprised when the first door opened and we started speaking in rapid Japanese. Then they proceeded to follow us to every house we visited, yelling out encouragement and saying, “maybe the next person will be nicer!” When someone would “kekkou” us and shut us down, or “hey I know this house!” And “they were so nice!!!” And once, “wow, you’re so beautiful.” Let me just tell you, nothing makes you feel better about yourself than a group of Japanese schoolgirls.

We saw so many miracles that night and the next!

Random goats I found in the middle of the city

We also had a potluck/ surprise wedding reception for a recently married couple (met at BYU, American husband Japanese wife). Some people attended church for the first time and I think they got their expectations set pretty high for future weeks.


My douryou’s bike was stolen few weeks ago and so she’s borrowing a Tama Ward  member’s electric bike for the time being, and I’m just pumping my legs as fast as I can to keep up while she glides along. It’s fun.

I’m absolutely soaking up every second here and life is good.


Smiley shimai


First Things First

Did you know that Pokémon stands for Pocket Monster? Because I didn’t. You’re welcome. 

Second, do doors in America open in or out? A church member and I have been discussing this heatedly for the past few weeks and I figured I’d put it to the jury. 

Moving on:

I ate a raw egg, and wanted instantly to throw up. Despite my multiple attempts to train myself to accept raw or partially raw eggs in my diet, it turns out my stomach (and gag reflex) still remember the Pasta carbonara incident of 2006 (Sorry Isi). 


I made a child cry when I asked him to turn down the noise on his smartphone. Not even chocolate bribery worked. Oops. Let it be known I highly disapprove of letting kids play with smartphones as a form of distraction. Phone games are the worst. 


Now onto things you actually (hopefully) care about:

This week we had transfers and Orton shimai left for Tokorozawa, with a farewell from our beloved Middle Eastern Ping Pong champion grandfather. Beck shimai arrived without incident and was probably mildly confused to be welcomed by an old Man with an Arabic accent and a Hershey’s chocolate kiss. 


For a transfer 4, Beck shimai’s Japanese is outstanding (and I’m not just saying that because I’m 99% sure her mother is reading this blog entry). I’m constantly blown away at how quickly she learns and picks up phrases and is just ready to go. It’s always so nice to have companions who are just willing to work hard and effectively all the time. Interestingly, I was also transfer 4 when I sent off Eyring shimai from our training threesome so I’m having all sorts of deja vu. The difference: Beck shimai *will* love running by the end of our month together. 

In other news we’ve been practicing for our Christmas caroling in a few weeks (and Thanksgiving isn’t a thing here) and I kid you not, they’re trying to get me to sing a high A. This is as my good friend would say, “Muri”. 

Recently we’ve been just taking the time to really get to know the church members here and love them, and through that we’ve built some great relationships and gotten lots of referrals for friends they think would be interested in learning from us or attending our English classes. It’s been so rewarding, and I’m so grateful for their help and love. 


We’ve also been reaching out to those who for whatever reason, stopped attending. It seems that 9 out of 10 times the reason is social instead of faith-related. It makes me so sad, and just reiterates to me the importance of reaching out to others and being a friend. It can be intimidating to put your heart out there for fear of rejection, but the results can be so worth the time and energy. People don’t want to be “assigned” a friend, they want to be naturally loved for who they are, and for that reason in the end fellowshipping people can’t come from any sort of structured program if the motivation is just a grudging sense of duty, or a request from the bishop. It’s up to members individually to reflect Christlike behavior and focus on the “one”. 

And finally. I have less than three weeks left. Ask me if I’m freaking out. 

Making the most of it though. That being said I’m off to a squirrel park, because apparently those are a novelty here. 



Someone brought these for us to wear at a restaurant. Literally so ….insulting. I almost died except that I love her and didn’t want to hurt her feelings.


No -missionaries don’t talk about politics.

This rule could possibly be the most difficult to follow (and also the biggest blessing) for a missionary in the midst of a heated election. Literally everyone and their Hello Kitty costume-wearing miniature dog was talking about the American elections. 

Bbb lll ooo ggg


Here’s the word, the word’s history, family history. I’ve been literally obsessed with ancestors for the past three weeks or so, and found family names all the way back to BC  era and beyond. Some highlights include an ancestor named “Louis the Fat,” “Yaris the Wise,” “Charlemagne,” “Uther Pendragon,” and Joseph of Arimathea. So that’s crazy.


But really, the spirit of Elijah is so strong right now. If you haven’t already, I highly highly recommend setting up a free account on familysearch.org and finding out all the amazing people you’re related to. Do it now!


Other highlights of the past little while:

We’re really focusing on bonding with the members, and have been trying to get to know the youth better, so we go to seminary at 6 a.m. once a week. Everyone’s so tired and no one really talks, so it’s nice to know seminary is the same in Japan as in Oregon. We brought Captain Crunch cereal and bribed people to answer questions and then got blown away by some amazing answers. So that just goes to show the power of cereal and the gospel.

We’ve been trying to visit lots of people as well, and google maps has gone on strike one too many times. So we’ve gotten pretty lost. And ended up at completely different addresses from where we had intended to go. Sigh. But! We had the chance to meet several college students thanks to technology spazzes, and introduced family history and gave away a Book of Mormon! You can tell it’s a college student apartment by the number of bicycle pumps and fire extinguishers outside the door.


Our friend also made dinner for us and then used a crazy foot massage (as in she actually used her foot) technique and my back (which is just so broken right now) feels so much better!

We made takoyaki with her as well! Read: octopus balls…

In other news I’m still going strong on one month of no sugar. I’m trying to last until December. Please, by all means follow up and ask me how I’m doing.

On Thursday I attended mission leadership conference to give a training, and the atmosphere was so powerful. People were crying. Lives were changed (maybe). If you’re interested, I’ll send you the PowerPoint. I also got to see all the people I came to Japan with on the plane almost a year and a half ago. Plus one Mexican and one accidental photo bomber in the background.


I lost my douryou one evening and got more of a work out than I was counting on.We had to climb and then descend this massive hill, and somehow on the descent there was a fork and I kept going straight, but she was some ways behind me and turned left. I didn’t notice she was missing until a few minutes later at the bottom of the hill. Then I frantically started asking random college students if they had seen a foreigner in a helmet recently (that description is spot on by the way) and climbed the whole hill again looking for her. When I got to the top and she was no where to be seen I just prayed really hard she would wait for me at the 7/11 nearby (which by the way is giving away Harry Potter scarves if you buy 2 onigiri for a limited time only). Luckily she was. I asked her how she knew she had gone the wrong way and she said, “the ‘turn around, bright eyes’ song popped into my head all of the sudden, so I did!” It’s official. The spirit can also work through pop songs.

Finally, this one’s for you Natalie:


Have a great week (and no nightmares!)


Smiley Shimai

image11Recap from Halloween party costume contest

YSA family home evening!



Halloween in Japan?

This is called, stream of consciousness writing style. Call me Toni Morrison:

This week is Halloween. Halloween is this wonderful event that happens in October until the actual holiday. Then Christmas advertising starts. I’m trying this new dictation thing so if it doesn’t work you can blame the Internet.


Anyways we had a lot of things happen this week. One day when we were knocking on doors and old man answered the door. He was frail and fairly tall but he told us that he wasn’t interested in our message but he knew these Christian people down the street and with that he stepped out and started leading us. Normally, I would have thought this was incredibly sketchy, but this man looked so frail and I could probably take him with one hand so I decided to give it a go and follow him. We thought it was very close but, upon walking for a few minutes, he turned left into a dark alleyway. We kept walking down the alleyway up until we were about to hit the forest and he kept slowing and turning back towards me to try and touch my arm, so I was feeling very creeped out at this point and took a few steps back. And then he said we had arrived and instead of just a normal family we had arrived at a church…so contacting our referral didn’t quite go as planned.

Another time during the week while we were knocking on doors to talk to people, we found a door that had no doorbell and upon knocking a man answered and said he was working. We left him in English class flyer and he said while he wasn’t interested, he would give it to his customers. Not thinking much about it we left, but once we went around the corner we saw that it was a bar. Hope someone comes to English class!

Getting ready for Christmas

We’ve been teaching a lot about family history this week and I started my own family history. I search back to my grandmother’s line and found people dating back to the year 609 and 509 , even dating-back before  the year 500.

At one point during the week, we got a text from an unknown number saying “Help me!” It ended up being a English class students from a previous area who needed help translating private documents for an international oilfield transaction document, and I end up spending 2+ hours helping him. He promised to get me free dinner in return. Not
something I expected to be doing on a Friday night.

Then, one evening we got another text from a random person we thought was a woman inviting herself to our graduation party over text. Thinking we were someone named Hocchan. It turns out this person was actually an actor from Tokyo had mistaken the number while the friend was drunk. Now he wants to be friends.

Bishop had a “heart attack”

We were able to meet with lots of our friends this weekend have an amazing spiritual and meaningful interactions and experiences, and he also got lots of free tissues (???) from the people flyering for maid cafes.

Our Halloween party was a great success with over 50 people coming lots of people from English classes and those were teaching, and right at the moment when it felt like all the candy would run out someone save the day and showed up at about seven Costco pizzas. Hallelujah! It was a pretty crazy week, and just made me so happy to be in Japan
enjoying every second of it. We’re working hard every day, and I’m finally over my sickness. This morning went running and did strength and it felt like the best thing ever.

Love life!

Yes, this is terrible, forgive the dictation device, for it knows not what it does.

My vocabulary list
Smiley Shimai



A Few Random Updates

Blog on hold (October 24, 2016), because:
1) I need to catch up with my family
2) I’m sick and just want to sleep
3) …

Well I love life and I’m so grateful to be in Tama!

This week (October 17, 2016):
Hula Class.
Elder Bednar conference.
Train disasters.
All the lessons.
All the miracles.
Spotted: President Wada.
Training and conferences galore.
Housing and schedule: officially done (on my end).
Running hills with trees (!!!) everywhere.
60 days.
Going hard in the paint.

Come at me, Japan.
To be continued…