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Tokyo day 5: Weekend jazz, conversation, laughter

I first noticed the shift from Tokyo's work week to weekend last night when we were returning from the game night. After almost exclusively silent trains rides in which our group was one of the only parties talking, I noticed small knots of people conversing -- some on the train, others in stations. Though many still wore their work-week "uniform" (white shirts and dark suits for men, conservatively feminine skirts and dresses for women), you could sense a new air of relaxation.

This morning, the sidewalk in front of the hostel seemed empty, compared to the steady flow of business people earlier in the week. The train, too, as we headed to to our host church's jazz-event outreach, held fewer and more casually attired people.

About 200 adults and young children turned out for the event, a jazz and gospel choir performance and lunch at a Spanish-themed restaurant.

 Unloading equipment for the event.

Unloading equipment for the event.

The menu included giant platters of paella, (cooked with fragrant garlic and shellfish while we set up the space), charcuterie, cheese and wine.

 A chef prepares one of the large platters of paella.

A chef prepares one of the large platters of paella.

The gospel choir included a mix of adults and children from the congregation, who sang one song. After a jazz set, a gospel quartet featuring the choir director and three other women sang a few songs. The music was quite good and very well received.

 The choir sang with quite a lot of enthusiasm.

The choir sang with quite a lot of enthusiasm.

During the event, our team mingled with attendees, chatting when we could, and helped pass out some party favors for the kids. Afterward, several people visited on the street out front a bit longer. I recognized several people from events we'd done earlier in the week, so it didn't feel like we were strangers any longer, but somewhat an extension of the congregation.

 Attendees mingled on the side street outside the restaurant afterward, some taking pictures with the choir director (foreground, back to the camera).

Attendees mingled on the side street outside the restaurant afterward, some taking pictures with the choir director (foreground, back to the camera).

Once we wrapped up, the team split into smaller groups for the afternoon (I bought my fabric), but I think today's the most we've laughed together. Both a goody-bag assembly line at Denny's this morning and a funny ordering experience at our dinner restaurant brought some moments of almost helpless laughter. After so many trips and adventures relatively alone, it's been a real joy to experience Tokyo with this group, even though we had greatly varied exposure to each other before the trip.

Leaving the restaurant tonight, the waitress asked if we were family. (I'd shared a table with my pastor and his daughter, but the rest of our group was Asian or fluent enough in Japanese to serve as translator.) The waitress knew only slightly more English than I do Japanese, so she didn't understand until I grabbed the cross I wear. "Church," I repeated. "Church family." I hope she may someday get to experience that for herself.

 Our most fluent team member talks with the waitress afterward.

Our most fluent team member talks with the waitress afterward.