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Who Is My Neighbor?

Angie Hoikka | The Voice of Zion November 2023 - Column --


In June 2023, Angela Hoikka moved to Misawa, Japan, with her husband Mark and six of their nine children. They currently live on Misawa Air base and attend virtual services. They look forward to visiting the States during confirmation time next summer.


Dear neighbors on this journey to our eternal home,


Amori province is in northern Japan. It is our new, temporary home for the next three years. The custom in Japan is to greet your neighbors after moving in, showing up at their door with a small gift. The gift is traditionally something of low monetary value but useful like a snack or a box of tissues. Your introduction should be in their native language and goes something like this: 


“Nice to meet you. We are the Hoikka family and have six children living with us. I hope we will be good neighbors.”


Hajimemashte. Watashi wa Hoikka des, roku nin kodomo ga imas. Youroshku onagai shimas.


These greetings help to establish good relationships. Caring for these relationships of proximity involves greetings when passing; a simple good morning, evening, or afternoon is considered neighborly. In the time you live close to these people, it is considerate to limit noise. These simple gestures are unspoken communication of concern for others’ comfort, they instill trust. By not invading someone’s home acoustically, we show respect and hope that this gesture will be reciprocated. 


When moving out, the customs are similar; bring a small gift of similar value to the one you gave initially and say something like: 


“I am moving away; thank you for everything.” 


Kore kara hikko shimas. Osewa ni nari mashita.


These greetings are accompanied with a humble bow in place of a handshake.


Whether in Japan or North America, it is important to consider how our actions affect our neighbors. It is fortunate that we have ways to research a culture, area, and language by learning geography, local customs, and even figuring out how to greet neighbors in a way they will understand.


We already understand our own customs and culture, so in theory it should be the easiest to interact with the people we know the best. I have discovered in my own family lack of communication and clarity often are the culprits of unrest. Without ill intention, little effort is made to care for the simple comforts of good relations; assumptions are made and patience is least abundant for the people closest to us. When patience wanes, tolerance is low and respect can be forgotten.


Considering any communication, even a daily one between a spouse or child and parent, how much better could our relationships be if we set aside our worries and dedicated a few seconds to receiving and giving greetings of the holy spirit – gifts of love and charity. Forgiveness is so comforting to receive when name sins and a heavy heart drag us down, and it is just as comforting to receive when we are feeling good. I’ve noticed at night with the children that hugging and blessing is so refreshing; time slows, allowing us to appreciate all that we have. It’s the same in parting, a reassurance of love and God’s blessings of forgiveness gives strength for a short time and keeps us from getting ensnared in the little brambles on our travel path. 


Our time in this unfamiliar land has slowed time that way all new experiences do. We try to relate the unfamiliar to the familiar and then give it autonomy and categorization. This whole process is enjoyable but even more enjoyable when the other seven people in our family can share these same experiences.


Their interpretations of the same experiences will be different and unique. By discussing feelings and interpretations of experiences we can learn even more about the culture we live in and the people caring for us. 


I am grateful for this opportunity, more grateful for the family support and small home congregation God has provided us here and most grateful for our mother congregation. The support and care we receive gives comfort and security. Comfort and security give feelings of safety that make us feel brave to explore this new land. We have experiences and hope to share them with our neighbors near and especially the ones far away. There are distant neighbors we know so well we can taste their homemade oatmeal cinnamon raisin cookies, wild rice soup, or pulla; we can imagine their responses to our words and actions and picture their expressions even when we cannot see them. I hope we can continue to share this culture with the culture we are representing and sharing here in Japan. We extend a hearty welcome to our believing neighbors who would like to experience the Pacific North and nurture warm relations. 


God’s Peace, your neighbors on this journey  

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