What of the
From Returned Missionaries
Opening Kumamoto by Conan Grames
JOURNAL: The Opening of Kumamoto
Written March 2006 and first published on the Northern Far East Mission website
One of the sisters by the name of Yajima (I believe) had a younger sister who was about 18 years of age who had been taught the lessons by Elder Bentley and the ZL's. I had the privilege of baptizing her in the ocean the first weekend I was in Kumamoto on a cold and rainy day. The water was very shallow and we had to walk out a long distance. The ZL's were there as witnesses. I had to virtually shout the words of the prayer so they could hear me as they stood on the shore. Elder Bentley confirmed the younger Yajima. The branch now consisted of four young single sisters, Elder Bentley and myself.
I realize now
the great trust Pres. Adney Komatsu had for his missionaries so far from
Tokyo and with so little contact from him or any of the other
missionaries. That was the last we saw of the ZL's for some time.
and I lived in very small apartment with one room of about yojohan and a
tiny kitchen. We decided we needed more space and found another
apartment. On the day we packed up to move, our neighbor, who owned a
small milk depot, asked us what we were doing. When we said we were
moving, he told us he had a very large apartment above the depot which
we could rent. The apartment was much larger and the rent much smaller
than what we had found, so we crossed the road, unloaded our things and
cancelled our intended residence with only a small penalty. Our new
apartment was large enough that we eventually had two more elders there
and even held church in our apartment on Sundays.
I spent my first o-shogatsu in Kumamoto. We didn't realize that everything would close down and we had inadequate food in the apartment to sustain us through the holiday. We walked the streets looking for an open store or restaurant. We found a little restaurant and spoke to the manager who offered to sell us some dog meat. I had never heard before or since that the Japanese ate dogs, so to this day I'm not sure if he was just enjoying a jodan with the gaijins. We didn't buy it and somehow survived with the help of the Yajima's who invited us to dinner in the o-shogatsu tradition. I remember it was the first time I ever ate natto or mochi. As hungry as I was, I never developed a taste for natto but love mochi to this day! I also remember that whale meet was plentiful and cheap and we bought it frequently. Fried like steak, it was quite a treat, albeit a little oily.
Around January, Elder Bentley was replaced by Elder Charlie Furness. We became the best of friends and the work began to move forward in a major way. I learned from that experience the importance of real love between companions and hard work and how the combination of those elements creates a spirit which could be felt by the Japanese we met. Investigators and attendance grew and, at last, we even had other men coming to church.
I never saw
another gaijin in Kumamoto. Although there must have been some, we were
a very rare occurrence in most people's experience. On a particular
preparation day, Furniss Choro and I were at a bunboguya buying
supplies. The clerk at the cash register was very friendly and outgoing
and asked us what we were doing in Kumamoto. We told her and gave her
an eikaiwa chirashi. She showed up at English class and almost
immediately began taking the lessons. Her name was Wakako Do. She
convinced another member of the class that he should join her for the
lessons. They were baptized in the ocean soon after and the work in
Kumamoto began to move forward in a major way.
however, the most important element of the success of the early Kumamoto
Branch was Wakako Do. She brought her sister, Kumiko, into the Church.
Eventually, her other three sisters and her mother joined the
She converted her boyfriend who became the elders quorum president. When
I saw her on a visit in the 1980's, she told me that 25 members of her
family had joined the Church. Her children and nieces and nephews
served missions. Her father was three days from his baptism when he