Hi. I`m in Tokyo.
My grandpa took me to see the Imperial Palace for the second time. It was a lot of fun. A lot of walking, and exhausting. He`s getting old and being out and about with him is just plain stressful. He insists on it though.
I was invited to attend institute in Shibuya by one of my friends from my mission. Shibuya is that first picture up at the top. You`ve probably seen that crosswalk in movies before. There`s not a more crowded crosswalk on earth, I`d guess. My grandpa and I split up at Shibuya and I had a couple hours to myself.
I wandered the streets for a couple hours, did some shopping, did a lot more people watching.
During my short ten days in Utah, I was mostly at home and if I ever left, I was with someone else. Essentially, this was my first lengthy experience alone in public since being released as a full-time missionary. And it`s quite the dramatic place for your first all-by-yourself stroll if I do say so myself. It was pretty scary. I had all kinds of thoughts running through my head but I couldn`t turn to my companion and express them.
I remember coming here when I was 14 years old and thinking it was heaven. I could`ve stayed there all day. The buzz, the noises, this lights, the people, the people, the people, the people, the people, just really fascinated me. I loved the city. I still do, but I think age opens your eyes to so many things. I`m sure I was perfectly safe which really is a blessing. This country is miraculously safe. However, I noticed a lot of things my 14 year old eyes couldn`t. I suppose that`s the curse of age and our loss of innocence. As I`m sure you can guess, anywhere where people gather in mass, there`s bound to be people up to no good. I got a little bit nervous in certain places. I also got lost looking for the church. I looked it up previously but didn`t have a cell-phone equipped with GPS to guide me and I ended up going in exactly the opposite direction and had to ask the police for directions
There WAS thrill in getting lost amongst the swarms. You feel so insignificant, yet so alive. That didn`t change for me. That was a sensation I got addicted to when I was 14. None of these thousands of people know you in that instant...but there`s no denying that God does.
Institute was a fun experience as well. I was nervous as heck. It felt like my first Sunday as a missionary all over again. The Saitama stake president (one of my companion`s stake president and good friend that he always raved about) gave the lesson on "ward council." The class was a leadership class. Yet another opportunity to count my blessings. These kids, all very close to my age, most of them freshly returned missionaries are already filling ward leadership callings in which they have to attend ward council. I was so awed by their maturity and so grateful for their willingness to accept and fulfill those callings with the very few years of life experience that they have. This is the Lord`s church. If it weren`t, it would fall apart because kids my age are helping to run it.
The instructor had us do a role-play ward-council discussion and chose me (by patriotism? He happened to be American...) to be the bishop. I was so nervous. If you were to ask me to do the same thing three weeks ago as a missionary I`d jump at it, but I amazed myself with how nervous I was. It turned out to be a really good experience though. I really felt like even though it was a role-play, the exercise was inspired. We perfectly demonstrated what the instructor was trying to teach. The discussion just naturally ended and we resolved the issue (an investigator stalking a member) we were given beautifully, if I do say so myself.
It was also so great to see friends from the mission as their normal non-missionary-selves. They were so impressive. Just good people. They had an EFY counselor meeting after class which ended at 8:30. Add in an hour train ride home and they were probably all getting home right before midnight on a school night all for church callings. I bow in awe of the members that sacrifice so much for the work of salvation in this country.
I rode the train home unable to wipe the smile off of my face.