Between July 30th and August 6th, I was on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. I went with four other people from YWAM Tokyo, as well as four people from YWAM Singapore. The purpose of the trip was mainly prayer. To seek God about his plans for Hokkaido, to build bridges with Christians friends there, and to pray for restoration of relationships. I went because in April of 2014, I felt God tell me to go on to Hokkaido the next time YWAM Tokyo sent a team there. My going on the trip was a step of obedience to that word.
The first day, landed at night at New Chitose International Airport. That night we traveled about two hours to an area just north of the city of Sapporo and spent the night at a Bible School.
The next day, we started off by getting a quick briefing about Hokkaido and it’s history. We also learned a bit about the history of Christianity in Hokkaido. After that, we said our good byes and headed north. We traveled at least eight hours in a car. We got to meet police officers twice that day. We got pulled over once and we had to call them, because a large vehicle scratched up one of our rental cars. We also had to deal with swarming horse flies of unusual size at one of the rest stops. We arrived at our hotel at 7:30pm. We rushed in, so we would be able to eat before to kitchen shut down. The hotel was about 30km south of the northern point of Hokkaido, in a town known as Sarufutsu.
On day three, we woke up and ate breakfast at the hotel, before heading north. We arrived at the north point by 10am and spent sometime praying and seeking God for his direction and about praying for revival in Hokkaido and Japan. After this, we drove south. Back to the town we had stayed in. We went to pray at the city office. The Town of Sarufutsu had tried to construct a monument to remember some Korean forced labours who had died during WWII. They were forced to stop because of calls by Radical Conservatives to boycott their shell-fish industry. We went to pray for the City Office, that the people there would have the courage to do what is right. We also prayed for the nation as a whole, that God would bring healing on the people and the land. Then we continued to drive till we arrived at about 8pm in Sarabetsu (similar name, different place.) There we stayed with the Lee Family for the rest of our trip.
Day Four, was our rest day. Which it turned out to be pretty busy anyway. We stayed at the Lee’s house most of the day. We spent the morning praying for and blessing them. They have faithfully been serving God in Hokkaido for a long time. They are pioneers, who run a few different businesses with the purpose of sharing the gospel. After praying for them, they gave us a briefing on the subregion known as Tokachi, where we were. We learned about the history of Christianity in the region, as well as learned about the relations between the Japanese and the Ainu people in the area. After this we ate lunch and then spent the rest of the day planning the second half of the trip. We went to sento afterwards and went shopping for food for the next few days.
Day five, we went northeast to a Ainu meeting place. Many of the people on our team had the Ainu people on their hearts and want to see restoration between the people groups in Hokkaido. We drove for about two to three hours before arriving at our destination. We went in and got to visit with some of the people there and ask lots of questions. I don’t remember to much of it, because I wasn’t feeling well while we where there. Afterwards, we had lunch on a beach before heading to another place to pray. The next place was a road leading to a coal mine in the mountains. The road was compromised, so we weren’t allowed to travel up it. We did get to pray were it was blocked off. The coal mine in the mountains was another place in which many people were forced into labour to help with the war effort. After the war, the mine was closed and most people don’t know anything about it any more. We prayed for over the area before heading to an onsen that Samuel Lee had purchased passes for us to go to.
Day six, we went to the largest city in the Tokachi region, Obihiro. There we started off by praying at a monument dedicated to a very famous Christian woman from that area. She was the sister of one of the three people who started and ran an organization for homesteading the subregion. Two of the three were Christians. She later married the other Christian founder. During here life, she ran a school for the Ainu people in the area. Teaching them Japanese, Mathematics, and the gospel. She is remembered as a humanitarian. We then went to the oldest Anglican Church in Obihiro. We had planned on meeting with the pastor there, but he had to fly to Korea last minute and so we went to bless his church. The Anglican Church had a lot of success in Hokkaido around the beginning of the Twenty-ith Century, especially among Ainu people groups. The next thing we did was meet up with a man that John Sommers-Harris is discipling. We got to hang out with him for a bit. I later went on a prayer walk through the city and ran into a massive festival. Afterwards, I left to go back to the Lee’s house.
Day seven, was our last full day in Hokkaido. We spent the morning gardening with the Lee’s as Ayumi Lee told us about different ways God has used gardening to teach her about how he likes to work. We got to participate in harvesting and had a wonderful lunch from that food. After lunch, we went to a bible study that the Lee’s are apart of. The bible study is run by a Christian woman who felt God calling her to open her home up for praise and worship. It is interesting though, because her husband is Buddhist. He did invite us in and was really nice. We finished and then went to our next event. Now one of the ladies at the bible study wanted us to go to a onsen her family used to own. Until 50 years ago, onsens were major areas for prostitution. This lady went on a search for real love after helping out at the onsen and seeing the hurt and pain. She found Jesus and ended up leading her entire family to the Lord. So we prayed outside her onsen. We also prayed for another lady there who had cancer. After this whole thing, we went for Hokkaido ramen and finished the day with some late night fireworks, after giving a gift to thank the Lee’s.
Day eight, we left really early and headed towards the airport. Our journey took us past the center point of Hokkaido. We stopped there and prayed and discussed everything God had been saying on the trip. Basically, finalized everything before heading out. We then headed south to Sapporo and we stopped for about five minutes to pray at a statue to William S. Clark. He was an American who pioneered an agricultural school in Sapporo. He was also a very strong Christian and all his students were saved. He had to leave after 9 months, but his students went on to lead the entire next class to Christ as well. When he left he said, “Boy’s Be Ambitious.” However Christians claim he really said, “Boy’s Be Ambitious For Christ.” We then headed to the rental car place before arriving at the airport. Then we split up and went our ways.
Now, I have spent the last week thinking about the trip and pondering the things that happened. For some reason, I feel like there is a very strong connection between Hokkaido and Alaska. Hokkaido and Alaska are very different, but are also similar in many ways. I feel one there is something God wants to do with Japanese from Hokkaido going to Alaska and Alaskans visiting Hokkaido. I feel like my part in this was carrying that torch as an Alaskan. I also think the timing was interesting, with all the war anniversary stuff going on. Our team had Americans, a Britton, a Canadian, Singaporeans, a Korean, and Chinese Singaporean. Just interesting connections that I don’t know what to do with. Anyway, the trip was wonderful. I came back super tired, but it was absolutely worth it. Next time, I want to go to Hakodate, a southern city in Hokkaido. I have wanted to go there, but there wasn’t enough time this trip.
Note about the video:
The video clips are chronological to each other and so are the photos (excluding the photos at the very end.)