Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to go to a church retreat in Okutama (奥多摩), which (unbelievably) is still part of Tokyo. The retreat center is called Okutama Bible Chalet, and has rooms for groups to come and stay. It felt a little like summer camp, but in the spring :)
This post is off-season, as I went to Okutama in March, but I think it’s important, as we begin to welcome the holidays, to reflect back on the year and all that’s happened.
This year, 2016, I have gone to not one but three whole church retreats in the mountains! It’s amazing how quickly I forget, and start to feel like I don’t do anything but go to work and study, but all it took was a look through my pictures to remind me that’s not true. That’s why it’s important to reflect.
One of the biggest things that happened this year was just finding a church. Since I had a hard time finding a church the last time I was in Tokyo, this time I did my best to take my time, visit one place at a time, and not settle down anywhere until I was really, really sure. Since there was a Bible study I wanted to attend at the church sponsoring the Okutama retreat, I spent 12 or 13 weeks at that church. As a result, I came to Tokyo in August 2015, visited churches before staying at once for a while, and didn’t finally find my church until around May of 2016. It was a long process.
This is one of the stations I stopped at with another retreat-goer on the way to Okutama, Oume Station (青梅駅). The waiting rooms and chairs were made of wood, and there were vintage posters (is that what they’re called? haha). I couldn’t get enough of this station.
At the time that I took all these pictures, I still hadn’t decided on a church, and was considering the one I was going on the retreat with. I’d gone on the retreat with the intention of getting to know people and make some friends, but it turned out that the retreat had a really serious topic, and between that, meeting tons of new people my own age, and not being able to produce Japanese as well as I wanted to, I got overwhelmed–so as soon as we were out for an afternoon break, I slipped away and began to follow a path that I found behind the chapel, leading up the mountain. It didn’t look like an official hiking path, and so there weren’t any people.
After I’d been walking for a while, I noticed someone coming up behind me. It was one of the other girls from the retreat. She really liked hiking and the outdoors, and I think she’d seen me going up the path and come after me. We ended up talking (which is a lot easier to do in the middle of a quiet forest with only two people), and then on the final day, we went on a walk through Okutama, taking the really long way to the next station. We walked along the river, through some bamboo, in, through, and out of the river and back up onto the road. (haha)
It happens to be her birthday today, too, so if you see this, I had fun on our adventure together! :) The retreat wouldn’t have been the same if you hadn’t followed me up the hill! (haha)
We’d agreed to walk one or two stations from where we started (whatever seemed possible–we were following the phone GPS). On the way, we had some great kibi mochi or kibi daifuku (like a millet rice cake, can’t remember if it had red bean or not) at this place–I brought some back for my friends and they loved it, so if you like daifuku or mochi then you should definitely check this place out. There’s a map on their description page. I don’t have pictures of the mochi…it didn’t last long :)
Our trip concluded at this adorable little station nestled in at the foot of a hill or grove of trees. It’s one of the smallest stations I’ve ever visited. So cute! :3
It took me till now to reflect on this trip and get a blog post, but that just shows you how life has changed with my new job here in Tokyo (after more than a year, it still feels new, haha). It’s easy to get swept up in everything you’re doing and forget why you’re doing it, or what you’ve already done so far. It’s something I need to work on, but with Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, I think it’s a good time to reflect.
United Pursuit, “Never Going Back”