JOY in finding one’s Prince

For my 40th birthday, I wanted a view of still waters and a beautiful mountain. And so when a friend mentioned about her beautiful stay at Ashinoko Prince Hotel in Hakone, that is famous for its view of Mt. Fuji against the peaceful 3000 year old Ashinoko crater-lake, I immediately booked one night at one of its premium rooms. So we planned on having tea at the balcony, a picnic near the lake and a run around this circular hotel. 

But it rained so hard we did not see Mt. Fuji at all. And worse, Adana had moderate to high fever all day, all night that I ended up staying in the room without a view, hearing only the rush of wind and smashing rain disguised by a massive cloud of fog. 

Pido gently reminded me that while things did not turn out as planned, my heart should be in a position of gratitude. After all, there could be beautiful surprises in the rain.

And so I spent time reading, praying and reflecting. Everything around me reminded me of how my life has been and should be. 

The beautiful hotel, reminded me that one can age gracefully. It felt like entering a facility that was once grand years ago but has chosen to embrace its oldness. I loved the hall with a red carpet and golden ceiling that led to the rooms. I loved the winding stairs that were understated elegance; the walls of various materials ; the wooden furniture that added so much character to the place. I loved the French restaurant with high ceiling and a 180-view of the lake. The walkway towards the lake with towering trees stood tall and charming despite the intermittent fog that fell like a soft blanket. The onsen that was almost empty when I had the chance to take a dip was exactly what I needed. The view of boats and the sound of birds and splash of water all made me feel really grateful for all the 40 years.

That while so many things did not turn out as planned in my life, specially the past decade, I was reminded that there was so much to be thankful for. My past decade has been filled with heartbreak, all cannot be seen in my Instagram and FB posts. I felt the most rejected and deeply hurt for things that only God and closest friends will ever know. I felt the most afraid for my life during the big earthquake that hit Japan while on my 9th month carrying Adana; the most helpless when my mom had a heart attack on the eve of Adana’s birthday. I cried so much more this past decade than I have in my life the rest of the years. 

Yet, my heart remains grateful. I have experienced the comforting, fatherly and unconditional, faithful love of God in all those times. That while the past decade has not been the best, I also experienced the best of God’s surprises and provision, all of which I did not feel I deserved.

So on my birthday morning, although sleepless, I dressed up and spent so much time in worship. Whether things turn out well or not in my life, my God remains good. That is my place. Right at the feet of my Lord; in the loving arms of my Father; in the sweetest embrace of my Prince. 

This love changes me like no other.

Thank you my Prince for September 29th, 2:45 pm and for my Mama who fought hard to give birth to this now 40 year old. These and the blessings thereafter. 

Birthdays are God’s miracles. 

JOY in finding new surprises

Yesterday was a day well spent. 
We had breakfast at home – I heated the bread and burned some of them; ate some fruits; had no time to enjoy my coffee and to wash the dishes and hurried to take the bus as it was raining. 

We went to church. I will always be grateful for spiritual family. To me, it is so much more than being in a community. It is being around people who add to your faith, push you to worship, inspire you to make a difference and to really always choose to walk with the Lord, specially in moments when we don’t feel like it. I guess life is easier lived on our own but when we choose to be part of a spiritual family, our lives get a little bit more complicated, less convenient, our schedules busier, but our lives become more meaningful. 

We had lunch with family friends. I always say that best friends need not go a long way back. While I treasure a lot of best friends in childhood and those from my hometown, I am thankful for new friends who stick close like a family. Sometimes they come to our lives later in life, in an odd, surprising way. But special nonetheless. And when they come, I choose to stay and enjoy the new love. 

We played in the park. Our little girl enjoyed the see saw, the slide and the roundabout. It was hot and she got hurt. I forgot to put on sun block and yet while I sat there with my girlfriend talking about parties, life, family and plans, as the little girl played with her friends,  my heart swelled with joy for the precious time I could spend with family and friends. That while there are so many things lacking in my life right now, and that I miss my Mama and family and good friends back home, my needs are being provided right now. I choose to remember and give thanks. 

We went on a date. Pido is back from a business trip and we decided to see a Ghibli exhibit. The line was so long and the little girl was sleepy and tired, that we decided to see an exhibit with ten minutes of waiting time. It was the biggest surprise because it turned out to be so special. It was about a few pieces of work as France promotes “manga” or comics as the 9th form of Art. 

A lot of Pido’s work is about manga, and he loves and can spend hours in a museum. My dream is to see Louvre in Paris. While I am not a big fan of museums, I am married to someone who is. And so over the many years that we have been together, I have learned to appreciate it more and more. And he has learned to understand that I go through a museum much faster than he does and that all he needs to do is to find me at a cafe waiting for him later on. Marriage works. 

But today was even made more special because we brought the little girl who surprised us with her patience and appreciation of such work of art. Only, she asked me many times why she could not touch any of the pieces and why the staff were following her around. 

The exhibit was one of the most beautiful I have seen in recent years. I was especially moved by Jiro Taniguchi and promised to not forget to see his work when I get the chance. I loved the general atmosphere of the art speaking to admiring Japanese. I loved the way they presented the exhibit as if we were entering the actual museum. I loved that there were videos showing behind the scenes as well as the history of the Louvre. I loved that there were a few places where we could take a picture. 

And to make things even more special, Pido took me and the little girl to the Sky Deck to see Tokyo Tower and the rest of the city. I kissed Summer goodbye and I gave my man a sweet kiss. Adana looked up to the sky and held our hands. Little surprises are beautiful. And they are everywhere. 

That night my heart was thankful for the sweet little surprises. 
Family and spiritual family, friends, our chance to enjoy art, and a cool summer night 270 meters above the ground and a lot of walking and a lot of talking and a lot of laughing, as well as my dinner of all things good. 

God has a way of making me find His peace and joy despite losses and grief; His reason and clarity, despite my many whys; and His presence and His promises despite my many doubts. 

Hoping we all find little surprises in our everyday. 

JOY in being accidental staycationers 

People close to me know how much I love staycations. A staycation which simply means “to stay and enjoy a vacation in one’s home country or at home to enjoy day trips to local attractions,” is cheaper, stress-free, and can be done for just a couple of days. I find it truly refreshing. 

We have gone to a few staycations in Japan. We usually do so on special occasions. The special occasions give us a reason to splurge a little bit (and not feel too guilty about it.) And since I am bad at organizing big parties, I always look forward to every birthday, anniversary, Christmas, spent in town. 

That’s me and the little girl enjoying Odaiba at night from the outdoor jacuzzi at Hotel Nikko in Odaiba (a surprise and generous upgrade on our wedding anniversary).

One of our favorite places to do staycation is Odaiba. Aside from all the beautiful memories of living there for 2 years when I was a student (and memories of Pido, commuting all the way, just to see me for a while), and of being married there, there are so many things for families to do in Odaiba. There are also many hotels to choose from. And you would love the view of Tokyo Bay, Tokyo Tower and the Rainbow Bridge anytime of the day. 

On Adana’s 5th birthday though, we became accidental staycationers in Chiba. After a few dinner and lunch celebrations with some of our family friends, we wanted her to enjoy her fifth at her happy place. We intended to take her to Disneyland and just stay overnight at Sheraton Hotel, a stone’s throw away from the Disney Resorts. 

But because of bad weather, our one night turned into two nights and three whole days of staycation. It was an unexpected, much needed fun, rest and family bonding for all of us. It was great to see Adana graciously accepting the bad news of not enjoying Disney as planned. As parents, we were delighted to being sitting on the floor explaining the change of plans and seeing the sadness that quickly turned into a jolly response,”that’s ok, Nanay and Tatay.” 

I highly recommend the Tokyo Bay Sheraton Grande Hotel for a few good reasons. Aside from its good location, it is cheaper than the more popular Disney Hotels; it is family-friendly. The breakfast on the 12th floor offered a great view of Tokyo Bay on one side and Disney Resort on the other. It has a club lounge that we thoroughly enjoyed from breakfast to late night drinks. It has ample facilities for young children and the rooms are cozy and big enough. The staff are all friendly and customer-service is superb. It has a swimming pool that allows young children (many big hotels in Tokyo don’t allow small children). It has a spa, gym, outdoor pool (in summer), putter golf area, a big garden, table tennis area, photo studio, an arcade, many restaurants that offer late night buffet. And the hotel has a shuttle to Disney and Maihama JR station. Our room on the 11th floor had 2 queen size beds, a lot of extra pillows, a big bathroom and a good supply of coffee and many kinds of tea. Wifi is freely available too. 

I told Pido that it was one of the best staycations we had recently. It is not really much about the place, but the amount of quality time we spent over breakfast, while just sitting on a rocking chair, while swimming, while holding each other’s hand watching our little girl enjoying a big garden. 

I love staycations because we get to slow down and not really make the trip weigh more than being around each other. We don’t need to rush to take a train or catch a flight. We don’t need to spend a lot of time analyzing a map or checking the Internet for the best ways to go around. And while I still dream of traveling overseas with Pido and the little girl, I am always thankful to God for moments like these. We stay and take things slowly. And we get to spend time thanking God for the 5 precious years of entrusting us with the joy of having, raising and discipling Miki Daniela. My heart is full and swelling with grateful memories of God’s sweet goodness in our lives. And I will forever be grateful for the precious chance to do all these with Pido.

JOY in finding Heritage

When we moved to this side of Saitama more than 3 years ago, we discovered an old hotel with a golf course, a swimming pool and hot spring. It is located one train station away from where we live and a few minutes by car or the free shuttle the resort provides to visitors and guests. The shuttle service provides a few trips all throughout the day, starting at 8:30 am from the station and 8:30 pm as the last trip from the hotel to the Shinrinkoen station. 

It has always been our happy and secret place. 

When we want to relax after a heavy snowfall…

When we want to celebrate birthdays quietly…

When we want to eat Japanese food in a place with a very Japanese ambience…

When we want to enjoy some night time illumination…

When we want to visit a golf course and take pictures…

When we want to swim in summer when public pools can become crowded…

When we want to relax and not spend a lot…

When we want to buy good Japanese sweets one cannot normally find in supermarkets…

When we want to enjoy the onsen or hot spring…

The hotel/resort is quite old, but well maintained. It provides vast space if you have children you want to run around. There is a place for a swing and a slide as well as for putter golf. There are two big restaurants (maybe there is another one on the top floor) open for non-guests and visitors. And offers a good place to just sit, relax and read a good book. At night, one can enjoy an illumination that sits there all throughout the year. During the Christmas season, they play Christmas songs too. 

So this has been our routine: 

From our station, we get on the train and get off at Shinrinkoen station (about 3 minutes away by Tobu Tojo line). 

Then we get on the free shuttle (a van or a mini bus). There is a stop across the station for the resort as well as the other golf country clubs. We usually take the 2:30 shuttle. It takes about 15 minutes to the resort. 

We walk around the resort ground, play with Adana (or we sit and talk as she plays). We take pictures and we enjoy an early dinner. Sometimes we eat in the big Japanese hall that serves udon, tempura, among others. Recently, we tried the Chinese restaurant that sits beautifully in a round shaped restaurant with a good view of the hotel grounds. At lunch, there is a set meal of ¥1,300 including salad and dessert. For dinner they serve a la carte for about 1,000 or a little more per dish. 

Then we go to the other side of the hotel where the hot spring is located. Because Adana does not like hot spring, Pido goes first while I and the little girl watch TV, explore the shops, or just play in the small area for kids. Sometimes, I sit on the tatami floor, order snacks and wait for the little girl to wake up from her nap. 

Pido comes back after an hour, happy and relaxed. He plays with Adana while I enjoy onsen. 

For those who don’t know the Japanese hot spring, men and women go to separate areas. There are lockers to leave your clothes and valuables. You go in naked. Take a shower (shampoo, conditioner and body wash all provided). Then you walk slowly and quietly to the indoor and outdoor onsen. The rest is beautiful history. 

I love the outdoor onsen. Even in winter it is just awesome. I soak in very hot, mineral-rich water right under the sky. Nobody is talking. It can be crowded on some days but last night, it was just me and the night sky. 

Then I would shower and dry my hair. Moisturizers and everything you need are provided in the grooming area. I dress up and meet up with Pido and Adana. 

Last night, I got to see the other onsen where bathing suit is allowed because both men and women can go. With water falls and several places to soak, it is a good place to invite friends for a hot spring party. And one can even order drinks as there is a “bar” in the area. And if one is too shy to go naked with strangers (same gender of course), this is a good alternative. 

Oh, the onsen costs ¥1,000 per person and you can stay for as long as you like. On regular days, it costs ¥1,300. I usually stay for about an hour or so. 

We take the 8:30 pm shuttle back to the station. Last night there was a big mascot to entertain the kids on Children’s Day. We spent a good 30 minutes being entertained. Adana and the mascot chased each other. 

It was a day well spent. 

And we will be back, as a family and with other good friends. 

Our free shuttle, reservation is not necessary. You don’t even need to book a hotel room. Just hop in. 

This is not mine. Not allowed to take photos inside the onsen facilities. This is from the Internet 

Again from the Internet. But last night I got to see this and it is a lot more special than what this photo can show. Oh and the sound of waterfalls from the mountain. Heavenly. 

This side of the resort is where they hold weddings. Behind this is the area that leads to the vast golf course. 

And last night, we celebrated Children’s Day and had Chinese. They serve dinner from 5:30 pm. 

But on one of our other visits, we had Japanese food in the big hall. Prices were reasonable too. 

The photos above were taken in winter. Walking down the hallway, makes one excited for the hot spring. 

One can enjoy illumination all year round, plus Christmas songs in December. 

There are shops and big spaces for kids to enjoy. 

And buy great sweets too. 

JOY in chasing peonies and bubbles

Adana loves to go on a picnic. So today I took her to a small garden of beautiful peonies right next to a shrine about two minutes away from our station. The peonies and flowers were in full bloom. The day was sunny and cool. So off to a picnic we went. 

The Yakyu Inari shrine which was originally completed in 712 and later on reconstructed is a popular shrine among professional baseball players and even among those who are into the sport. I think it has to do with the similarity in the pronunciation of the name of the shrine and the kanji for “baseball.” Baseball is a big thing around here that Adana often asks me to teach her how to play it. Someday. Someday. In the mean time, we can do picnic everyday. 

I was surprised to see how big it is, with a big parking lot, ample spaces even for kids to walk around. There are stalls selling Japanese food like yakitori, yakisoba, some snacks. Right next to the shrine is the charming peony garden that leads to a restaurant called “The Garden.” On Tuesdays, they have a lunch buffet of about ¥2,000 (free for 4 and below). Lunch buffet of Japanese and French cuisine will be served on the Golden Week. 

Today we had a picnic, chased bubbles, admired the flowers, enjoyed the quiet and peaceful surroundings and learned about how the Japanese worship. We also watched a beautiful performance of Japanese harp by elderly women. 

Adana also learned how to respect the elderly, how to treat people who are physically challenged (people in wheel chairs came to see the flowers) and how to just have fun with all the simple things. 

We ran a lot as we chased bubbles in a beautiful backdrop of peonies. We chatted and laughed at each other’s antics. We talked to strangers and the little girl got to practice basic Japanese. 

It was a fun day for me and the little girl. We will be back with her Tatay. There will be special events on the golden week such tea ceremony for just ¥500, a Japanese buffet at the restaurant overlooking the garden and more cultural performances. 

What a joy to discover new things right where we are. Pretty much like how we discover the gifts of the seasons in life where we often find ourselves. We just need to stay on the look out for the beautiful things. And perhaps, walk a little farther away from our usual train station. 

JOY in crying new tears 

Yesterday was a very special day. 

In an evangelism workshop, we were asked about how we experience God. Because an answer to that question would lead us to clues to our tendencies on how we reach out and evangelize. 

The workshop was short, well thought of, very informative. It facilitated an intelligent exchange of experiences, concerns, prayers and vision. 

It was also a very inspiring challenge to keep breaking the code – how to evangelize effectively in Japan. A question that is so big and difficult to completely answer. But an important question nonetheless. 

Pido and I sat in one corner of the room (with our little girl allowed to play as she waited) drinking in all the scriptural basis of why we need to do this for the sake of the Gospel and our love for Christ. We sat, knowing we did not have a clue or even a good answer even after living in Japan for many years. We sat there willing to learn and be challenged to be out of our comfort zone, once again. 

And so when Pastor John asked us about how we experience God, images of how I got to understand the Father Heart of God reminded me of my personal spiritual journey from the university I got to really experience God as well as my baby steps in leading others to Christ in this country. 

There is so much fatherlessness wherever we go. There are some who, like me, lost their fathers at an early age and spent the rest of their lives coping without a fatherly love and presence amidst a secret cry to be fathered in many seasons of woman’s (or man’s) life. 

There are those who have fathers but still longing for the kind of father who stays when others walk away, who always chooses to love, who prefers to be present, who prays and leads in a godly way, who chooses family above all. 

And so when I quietly reflected about how I could evangelize and tell others about the Christ and His truth in this nation, images of people who fathered me in big and small ways, danced like a short video clip in my head. 

That while I grew up envying others who had someone to call their Papa, I have not been forgotten. 

I have been sent to school, have been provided for, been comforted and have been led graciously to the Lord. But most of all, I have been discipled, patiently and oh so lovingly, just like the father heart of God.

And so last night I prayed as if I was holding a physical box of all the things that weighed me down. I ran to God and fell at His feet, throwing my character flaws, mistakes, sins, fears, questions and past at the foot of the cross. 

I was just like the younger version of myself more than 10 years ago when I first came to Japan, my heart full of passion to do something for Christ. I was nothing. I was a nobody. I am still a nobody today. But yesterday, my love for this country and its people, has been rekindled a thousand times over. 

It all started because I started remembering that the God who fathered me, is still fathering me right now. That despite everything that did not turn out right in my life, I have not been forgotten.

And my hope, my future, my joy, is Him. 

I cried new tears because my heart became full of new prayers for this nation and its beautiful people. 

Please use this nobody, Lord. 

In whatever way.

Because I live to give you praise. 

JOY in finding Sakura in the suburbs 

To experience Sakura in the city is great. Vast land filled with Sakura trees, crowds and festivities. There are unique food stalls in places like Ueno park and there are interesting activities if you go on a weekend. I always look forward to seeing Sakura in Shinjuku park, Ueno park, Kichijoji and Yoyogi park and along many streets downtown. The streets around the Imperial palace and Tokyo Midtown are beautifully adorned in pink. 

But to experience Sakura in the suburbs is a unique experience too. When one rides a train away from downtown Tokyo, one can feast on a pocket of Sakura trees in a children’s playground. A Sakura tree also makes an ordinary backyard or creek, a little bit more special. The Sakura trees that stand charmingly next to a shrine or temple or an old house for example, exude a different character. 

I am sharing some of the Sakura moments I had while walking around the suburbs in my neighborhood, at a children’s zoo and in the very historical Kawagoe. To walk under Sakura trees along a seemingly endless street by the river on a quiet afternoon, away from the crowds, with my loved ones peacefully enjoying the view, is nothing but precious. While I love many things about the city, I thank God for this gift to be able to spot treasures in the suburbs. 

Walk along with me through some of my random photos. 

And find your little great joys this Spring. 

JOY in spending a day with Prince Josh 

My sister-in-law’s name is Princess and she came to visit with her husband Joshua. They are two of our favorite visitors and a day with them is always precious. 

Last weekend, we got to enjoy Spring going around a few places. What a joy to finally enjoy Spring. Because of our really nasty pollen allergy (hay fever), we usually spend the entire March indoors. But because of prayers, our new medicines and maybe my new diet (and also maybe because pollen count is not that bad this year), our allergy is quite manageable. What a perfect way to spend the moment with loved ones. 

Princess is almost a decade younger than us. And Pido only has happy and heart warming stories about his little sister. So spending time with her is special because I get to be with someone who was there while Pido had yet to meet me. And I just love watching them talk and laugh and make fun of each other. 

My brother-in-law, Joshua is a blessing to our family. So easy to be around with and he loves our little girl that he does not get tired of playing peek-a-boo with her anytime, anywhere. Adana wonders why he needs to go to Kyoto instead of going home to Saitama with us. She really likes him a lot. 

And so going places in a beautiful spring weather with these two is one of the highlights of this season for us. They bring with them a little bit of home and we get to be reminded that some of the best things in life are those little things that you have always had like family, old friendships, familiar smiles and old, silly stories. 

We brought them to Shingawa Aqua Park and headed to Yokohama to see the red brick building in Sakuragicho in the evening. 

The next day we went to church and then spent the afternoon in Shinjuku. We had our first hanami (picnic under a Sakura tree) at Shinjuku Gyoen and then walked around Shinjuku and showed them some of our favorite places. It was in Shinjuku where Pido and I first stayed when we arrived in Japan as students. Shinjuku will always hold a special spot in our hearts. 

I always say that one thing special about being under a Sakura tree is that chance to look up and see something really beautiful, no matter where we are in life. And it becomes more unforgettable when you are sharing the moment with people you love.

Sharing some of our photos of a day spent with our favorite couple Prince Josh. Joshua takes the most beautiful photos too that I insist they visit us more often. 
Someone was so happy to see them. 









JOY in sharing their secrets

A lot of friends think that because I live in Japan, I am privy to all the best Japanese beauty products. Many Japanese women have nice skin and spend a lot on the best skin care and cosmetics. I have some skin issues and I do not spend so much on skin care. My only secret (hardly calling it beauty secret) is my daily use of sunblock regardless of the weather and season indoors and outdoors, extensive use of Oil of Olay as my moisturizer, and refusing to wear make-up everyday. While I own a few pieces and once in a while dab my favorite RMK lip gloss and a shimmer of green eye shadow, my friends and colleagues are so amazed that I seldom use a concealer, foundation, cheek tint, mascara, eye liner, etc. Because I am so lazy to remove make-up, I have decided that an everyday no make-up look is the best for me. 

So I am sharing their beauty secrets, not exactly mine. I have Japanese girlfriends who have beautiful skin and friends who are in their 60s with very young looking skin. I have asked them a few times what they do to have such glowing skin. The list may not be comprehensive and because I am not an expert but just a keen observer, the following secrets may contradict opinion of others who know the Japanese beauty secret better. Nonetheless, let me share my observations. 

1. They avoid the sun. 

Women here love sunblock. In summer, there are a lot of different brands and it is quite overwhelming. A very good friend whose skin is so beautiful even in her thirties told me about the Nivea sunblock that is made in Japan as one of the best. It is reasonably priced, light on the skin and provides very good protection. I also love the Shiseido with Q10 which is a lot cheaper than Anessa, another good Shiseido sunblock. So they use sunblock, on top of carefully wearing hats and those items specially made to cover one’s arms when they walk, or ride their bicycles. Sun causes damage to one’s skin. Avoid it and cover yourself up. 

2. They exfoliate. 

The number one brand is called CURE. I think it is made of mostly water with some natural ingredients to help remove dry skin cells. It is very gentle on the skin and for about ¥2,600 a bottle, you can use it for many months as you do not need to use more than twice a week. I love this product and I often wish I had discovered it many years ago. Use it once and you will immediately see the difference. 

3. They use make up remover, serum, moisturizer, facial masks etc.

I am not an expert so I cannot really give details here. I just know that they use a lot of make up so they need to clean their faces carefully too. Many people love the Shu Uemura cleansing oil. I have used it once and I loved the fragrance. Another cheaper alternative is DHC cleansing oil which you can find in any drugstore. After removing their make up, they wash their faces with “soft products.” They use facial foam or wash that cleanses but does not make your skin dry. There are so many to choose from. One of the most popular is the Shiseido Perfect Whip, a reasonably priced one that creates a soft and rich foam, penetrating the pores while leaving the skin clean and hyrdated. The list for the moisturizer and serum is so long. But my friends who are in their sixties but have glowing nice skin mention the Arouge products to be their favorite. They are not as expensive as anti-ageing line of Shiseido or SK II, but are believed to deliver results. Facial masks are everywhere too. I use one, once in a while. But Adana gets scared so I use it whenever Pido agrees to look after the little girl so I could hide and enjoy a longer bath time with a mask soaked in mild serum for about 15 minutes. 

4. They get facial and other beauty treatments in esthe or special salons. 

The only time I visited one of their “esthe” was the night before my wedding. I even got a promo so I paid about 20% only of the total price. I had facial treatment, body scrub, body massage and enjoyed their beautiful sauna. A few of my Japanese girlfriends confessed paying so much for things like these. They would normally buy a package which is equivalent to a few visits, specific treatments and a lot of pampering. I think they do not have a habit of telling people about it. It is something they think ladies, specially the single and young professionals simply have to do to look best. The price is really hefty and I do not think I could ever spend so much on such things. 

5. They do so many other things. 

They drink a lot of green tea. They eat seaweed. They eat the very exotic “natto.” They eat “wakame.” They take multi vitamins. They depend on collagen drink and collagen products. They regularly go to an “onsen” or hot spring. They massage their faces in a very special way. They spend a lot on skin care. 

I am not the best source but I hope I was able to share a few useful information on why their skin is just the envy of many Asians and Westerners. It gives me joy to share even simple things like these. A great skin, after all can fill our hearts with littlegreatjoys.

So what’s inside my skin care pouch? I have facial masks and smaller bottles (freebies or those you can get from trial kits). I have tried a few facial masks. My favorite so far is the SK-II (not in photo) that gives instant glow to very tired skin, and Lululun facial sheet masks (not in photo) that are reasonably priced and available in drugstores. 

These are my top picks for the sunscreen. I use the Curel brand for our little girl too. Avoid sunscreen that comes with SPF over than 50. 

  Moisturizers need not be expensive. These favorite items are about ¥1,000 yen or less. 


My favorite cleansing routine includes a mild facial scrub (use once a week) and a scent-free facial foam or cream. This Shiseido item is very affordable. 

Bath salts turn one’s bath time into a very relaxing experience. It is a great way to end a busy day. Since the Japanese love their bath time, one can find a wide array of this kind to choose from even in drugstores. 

JOY in being loved by a Rose 

I love keeping letters. I read letters over and over. I love the smell of old paper and stationery and I love running my fingers over years old hand prints. And whenever I read letters from family and friends, I feel a special kind of joy. 

My dear friend Rose has been very faithful in sending letters, post cards and holiday cards. While I am so bad at sending cards, I always feel grateful for the time, money and all the thoughts spent in the making of that card. And for someone living overseas, these simple cards with well thought of expressions of love are precious. 

Rose is one of my long time friends. We helped start a church back in my hometown years ago. We have gone to local mission trips and have spent time together reaching the young in our community back then. She is one of my heroes (heroines) in the faith. She used to work as a nurse with a really bad schedule. But her heart to serve, to lead others to Christ and just to be a great friend is so awesome that I am always inspired by how she loves so tirelessly. She is one of my favorite buddies over coffee and her friendship always brings me so many happy thoughts. 

Today is her birthday. I have not sent any cards and have not bought her a gift. But I am thinking of her and praying to God almighty for all of God’s best in her life. While she has lived in a few (cold) places around the world, her friendship stays warm and real and sweet. 

Thank you Rose for your faithful friendship over the many years. You will never know how much you have communicated love to me in the most timely ways. Pido and I will always love to see you and cheer you on your new adventures. Know that you are always cherished and I know so many people are so grateful to God for your life. 

I will always treasure the letter you sent me right before I left for Japan. 

“…that’s how I see you as my friend. Thank you for immediately seeing the flower and not the dust in our friendship garden. You are a nurturer, a motivator and an encourager. And because of your example, people around you begin to realize their own potential. 

“As we separate (for now), I will always be thankful to God that I became your friend. Thanks for not giving up on me.” 

You are also all these to me, and so much more. 

I cried reading those sweet words 12 years after I first read them. You love so well and you have this amazing ability to just help us set our eyes on Jesus. 

Thank you my friend. Take care on that side of the world. May you feel loved and treasured specially today. 

I am missing you terribly. 
Friendship over many many years   

Singles Retreat 


Christmas “hat” party 


Your 2004 goodbye letter and the postcard you sent while on a long term mission trip are so so precious. 

(Photo grabbed from her FB account)
Happy Birthday, my dear friend. You are well loved.