Saturday, April 26, 2008

Empty spaces on our grocery shelves...

***If you are looking for information on the Global Day of Prayer, please follow this link now. ***

For the past few months I've noticed that butter is missing from my local grocery store shelves. I thought it strange, but expected to see it restocked soon. It hasn't been. And I just ran across a news article that explains why...

Where's the butter? Shortage of milk spreads stocks thin

At an elementary school in Osaka Prefecture, the children's favorite butter-flavored buns used to be served once a week. The tasty rolls were dropped from the lunch menu in February.

Salad oil has also replaced butter in curries and stews.

The changes were not made for nutritional reasons; it was simply because butter was in short supply. Domestically produced butter is scarce at retail stores because of a shortage of raw milk and higher prices of butter imports.

A shortage of butter for commercial use began to hit cake shops and restaurants last fall. The problem has now spread to homes.

Worse, butter makers are planning to raise retail prices in April, when raw milk prices are set to increase. The move will likely keep butter off more mealtime tables.

A second-tier supermarket chain in Tokyo put up a notice at outlets that states: "Butter stocks may run out due to a drop in production." Butter products arrive two to four times a month at the chain's stores. Packs generally sell out the same day they are put out for sale.

The Seijo Ishii supermarket chain in the Tokyo area began to limit per-customer purchases of butter in November. "We are afraid the short supply will continue to the end of the year," an official said.

Major supermarket chains managed to secure supplies, but "competition is tough to lay in stocks," a Tokyu Store official said. Ito-Yokado has stopped listing butter in its ads because it isn't sure about future supplies.

Japan's domestic production accounts for about 86 percent of total butter demand. But domestic raw milk production was cut in fiscal 2006 after a glut forced farmers to dispose of not only surplus milk, but also dairy cows.

Now, milk is sold mainly for higher-priced drink or cheese production.

In fiscal 2006, milk for butter and skim milk production dropped 7 percent from a year earlier. The first 10 months of fiscal 2007 saw a further 4 percent drop. Domestic butter production fell from 85,500 tons in fiscal 2005 to 78,000 tons in fiscal 2006.

The drop came just as international prices of butter shot up due to a drought in Australia, higher grain prices and increased consumption in newly developed countries.

Some food makers switched from imports to domestic butter, leading to drops in the volume of butter stock. The stock rose to 19,700 tons in January for the first month-on-month jump in seven months, but it was still at 80 percent of the level a year ago, according to the farm ministry.

Raw milk production is expected to climb in fiscal 2008, but how much will go to butter production is unknown.

Calpis Co., known for its quality butter, expects fiscal 2008 production "to be about 70 percent of a year ago."

Yotsuba Inc. plans to raise prices of its six butter products by 30 yen to 60 yen in April. Other makers are expected to follow suit.(IHT/Asahi: March 14,2008)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Plans for the Global Day of Prayer

Stan had been busy these past few weeks with the committee* planning for the Tokyo gathering on the Global Day of Prayer--May 11. He is very enthused, and it is catchy! On Monday, he met with about 15 pastors from the Tokorozawa area to share this information. Last night he shared the GDOP information with a group of high school kids. He was encouraged by their interest--and their prayers. Every Saturday evening for the past two months, the committee has been meeting for prayer and planning. On Sunday evening Stan will be speaking at another church in Tokyo, again encouraging focused prayer.

If you're in the Tokyo area, you can get information on the GDOP Gathering in Higashi Kurume. If you're in another part of Japan, you can get more information (in Japanese) here. If you're in one of the more than 200 countries who have registered for this world-wide prayer meeting, and want more information, check out the Global Day of Prayer website.

Leading up to the May 11 prayer gatherings are 10 Days of Prayer. There is an English-language guide on the Global Day of Prayer website.

Also, this coming Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for North Korea. Please follow the links listed below for more information. We have brothers and sisters in that country who need our prayers!

* The committee is comprised of lay people with a heart to pray for Japan. They meet the first Saturday evening of each month and this has led to the desire to develop the Global Day of Prayer/Japan. There is also a committee that has formed in the Osaka/Kansai area.

This is not the first time for the GDOP in Japan. In 2006 we celebrated with about 60 people on the roof of the local YMCA. Last year we had a very small (5 people--including the reporter from a Christian newspaper!) gathering after church at ICCS. This year they have reserved a hall for 300+, and have recruited people from various churches and national groups to participate in the two hour prayer gathering.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Worshiping with the Chamber Singers at ICCS

Sunday we had the Chamber Singers from the Christian Academy in Japan lead us in worship at the International Community Chapel of Saitama. It was wonderful to have the 25 students sharing with us in song.

A has been a part of this auditioned group for two years.

The seniors sang "Above All" as a smaller ensemble. It was fun to watch some of the kids very involved in worship as they sang for us.

A has less than two months left at the Christian Academy. There are lots of papers and projects yet to complete. We hope that in the rehearsals and concerts ahead she will continue to allow the music to minister to her soul. It certainly minstered to ours yesterday!

Much Ado About Nothing...set in the roaring twenties...

Last week the Christian Academy in Japan High School put on the Shakespeare play, "Much Ado about Nothing." The setting was in the roaring 20's.

A was cast as Antonia, sister of the governor of Messina (the original is Antonio). This was A's last play at CAJ, and while she didn't get a lead with lots of lines, she developed quite a character for her part.

Is this our daughter? She was down in the costume room the week before performance and ran across this black wig.

The characters are Leonato, Don Pedro, Antonia, Beatrice, Margaret and Benedick.

A's character seemed to be drinking constantly!

In one scene A and her friend emptied two bottles. A has studied Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett acting "under the influence" and we noticed their influence in her performance.

These are the seniors in the cast. Maybe they'll be back someday! The play was directed by two fairly recent alumni of CAJ.

A plans on studying musical theatre in college, so we look forward to her continued development and future performances.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Looking for a snack?

Stan has told me about this food stand in the Ikebukuro train station, so when we had a few minutes the last time we passed through there, we stopped to take some photos and filmed their explanation.

You can buy nicely packaged boxes of dried pressed squid (above) or octopus (below).

We ran out of time...and didn't have a chance to buy any ourselves... and really, please don't bother yourselves to get us some.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

When playing with your food is expected

My entire life as a mother has been in Japan. I've been through pregnancy, early childhood, preschools and day care programs, and international schooling. I think that some of my thoughts on what makes a good mother are colored by the cross cultural experiences of these years.

Case in point. Lunches for kids. The peanut butter sandwich, chips, fruit and a cookie are not acceptable lunches for children going to preschool. Instead, mothers get up early and make incredible works of art with food. The obento box lunch is the ultimate mark of successful motherhood here. I failed miserably--but gratefully my oldest daughter has forgiven me for my foibles of lunches at Kohitsuji Yochien. (I still occasionally run into her classmates mothers who will bring up some of my failings in this are--nearly 17 years later...)

So, when I went to buy a diet drink this past month and there were little packages on the top with magnets made to look like sausage animals, I started collecting them. These intrigued me, because they also came with instructions on how to make them yourself.

Welcome to the penguin, elephant and lion made of out one or two sausages each. The beak of the penguin is a minute slice of carrot. The eyes in all the animals are dark sesame seeds.

Its not easy to see, but here are the instructions for how to cut the sausage to make an elephant.

The lion requires two sausages, and a toothpick to hold the mane onto the rest of the body.

The penguin is just plain cute. I chose this one over three or four other magnets out there hanging around the soft drink top.

Now I am sure a good mother would probably make a zoo in the lunch box--with lettuce as the floor, along with rice balls and vegetables sculptured to look like landscaping.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Taking a look around

The view from our balcony this morning--

I lift up my eyes to the hills--where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1,2

This massive Cherry tree is in the park across from our apartment building.

Our apartment building is on the left (though our apartment faces another direction).

The road past our apartment in lined with these trees--an arched cathedral of whispy, pale pink blossoms.

Japanese traditionally view Cherry blossoms as a symbol of the transitory nature of life. I see the earth praising God's glory!

May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in His works
Psalm 104:31