24 July, 2013

Our Hokkaido Adventure Days 2–6

OMF Japan Conference at Jozankei

Monday 24th

B is Jozankei, a little to the south of Sapporo.
Jozankei is known for its hot spring.
Despite the utter darkness in our room, our middle son’s inner alarm clock had him up soon after 6am. I dozed on and off for another hour or so before we went up to breakfast. The boys were happily engaged by drawing on the new 100 yen whiteboards: they played one of our favourite games (Mr Squiggle), as well as drawing original cartoons.

We landed at Tomokamai, Hokkaido at about 11am and disembarked. As we walked down the steps to the elaborate “gang plank” in actual life a covered walkway, we were serenaded by “arigato gozaimasu” (thank you) by hostesses every four steps. One lady near us had a wheeled suitcase that was neatly passed down the staircase by the hostesses without any of them leaving their step (what do you call attendants on a boat?).

It took a little longer for the vehicles to disembark from the belly of the ferry, which gave us time to appreciate that the air was a little fresher and cooler up there.

So as not to deceive you, I do have to mention that we had interchildren conflict at that point. One boy, upset at the change and uncertainty of it all, began to boss his brothers around in the disembarking line. This eventually became a push and shove fight. So, while waiting for David with the van, not only were our bodies cooling down, but it gave one member of our family time to cool his temper. It wasn’t long enough, however, and we had a tense time for the early portion of our drive.

Once we left the small port town of Tomokomai, we drove along lush green tree-lined roads. A feast for the eyes. We also drove along the shore of a large lake, Shikotsuko, and then ran into a heavy rain shower.

The reality of how much more rural Hokkaido was than the Kanto area became obvious when we couldn’t find a convenient convenience store for lunch. So we snacked on what we had with us until we got to the outskirts of Sapporo.

Then conference wasn’t too far away. We got there by 2pm and had time to explore the pool complex in the basement before the welcoming session at 4.

The rest of the week

From this point I didn't really write any more about conference in my notes. This was to be
OMF Japan 2013 Conference attendees.
about our camping trip, but I'll add a little below about our week.

To start on Monday we had a welcome time. It's been six years since the Marshalls have been at one of these all-Japan OMF conferences. They are generally held every three years, but we were on home assignment last time and missed it. So, it was a little overwhelming to see all the new faces (and there have been many new missionaries join us, some are even into their second term without having met us).

The wall of OMF missionaries in Japan, the units adding
up to 120 currently serving.
We did an interesting activity to start. Everyone had been seated in the order that they came from the field and we then briefly introduced ourselves, names, country of origin and when we came. Then we put a "brick" on the wall (see the photo). It is colour coded for decade and starts at the bottom. We're the first of the 2000s in light brown. You can see how many "units" have joined (and are still here) in the last 13 years!

Dining room
The food aspect of conference demands its own category. Breakfast and dinner every day was a huge smorgasbord meal. It was so mind-boggling on the first day that I wandered around quite a while before I chose anything. Lunch was a set menu, but on the last day we were "upgraded" to an even fancier restaurant with a very flash buffet indeed.

The hotel looks very upmarket, but in reality we had a very good deal from them. They did house us in the "older" part of the hotel, but it didn't feel very second rate at all.

The hotel included a whole water-park complex of pools in the basement. You can guess where our boys were headed as often as they could. There were also Japanese baths in the basement and on the roof, with a variety of pools for soaking in, not that we had a lot of time to do that!

Sports on the free afternoon (ultimate frisbee)
Every morning we had Bible input time, followed by small group discussions. This was an important part of a conference for few of us receive spiritual nourishment in anything but Japanese.

View from our room
Most afternoons and evenings was given over to various mission-related stuff. Like AGM, talks by various leaders (finance, regional directors, personnel director etc.), and discussion about structural change. 

We also enjoyed one free afternoon, and accompanied our boys to a local sports field with other young men (I was the only female in attendance) to play some social sports. One great thing about conferences like these is watching the offspring of missionaries interact. Some of them have never met before, or it was so long ago that they hardly remember each other, yet they generally quickly become firm friends.

Conference finished after lunch on Friday and we headed off to the other end of the spectrum in terms of accommodation. More on that another day.
The hotel

Our meeting room

Closer view of the river with the hotel on the right.

My wonderful husband with his meal. The teenagers loved
the smorgasbord—they ate huge amounts.

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