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Published on November 28th, 2007 | by Alex and Brett Harris

An Update from Japan

The Royal Green Plaza Hotel in Hakuba, Japan.

Thank you all for your prayers. We have been in Japan for just over a week now, and are thoroughly enjoying it. Our earlier post was made as we were running out the door of our hotel in Tokyo the morning after we arrived — and we didn’t have reliable Internet access again until now. So it’s time for an update.

The whole family made the trip (l-r: Grandma, Isaac, James, Sarah, Brett, Alex, Mom, Dad).

The purpose for the trip was two-fold: First, for Dad, Mom, Brett, and me to speak at the Christian Home Educators Association (CHEA) conference in Hakuba last weekend, and second, to host a Rebelution Tour event in Tokyo this Saturday.

The trip marks the first time any of us (besides Mom and Grandma) have been to Japan. It’s been exciting. Eating raw everything, including squid, octopus, and whale; experiencing two earthquakes in 24 hours; going to a public bath; playing on the coolest playground ever; and meeting the greatest master potter in Japan.

After arriving in Tokyo last Monday, we spent the night near the airport before the all-day train ride to Hakuba. We arrived to the first snow of the year at the Royal Green Plaza Hotel — a stunningly beautiful, Swiss-style ski resort.

Q&A time with interpreter, John Broman.

The CHEA conference went wonderfully — despite our feelings of unpreparedness. Brett and I opened the conference with the first keynote session. Speaking with an interpreter was a new experience (i.e. hard thing) for us. It required that each of our sessions be cut in half. But God was good, and it went well.

We gave three more workshops over the weekend, as did our parents, while also enjoying the snow, the food, ping pong, and the daunting, but truly splendid public bath (including a wine bath, sauna, outdoor bath, and waterfall).

Brett throws a well-aimed snowball.

It was such an honor for Brett and me to participate in what God is doing in Japan. The homeschool movement in Japan is where the US was twenty years ago. To see how far we’ve come, and to see how God is working there, is an exciting thing.

After Hakuba we headed by van to Marumori, where we spent several days with a community of missionaries and Japanese Christians who are doing great work to spread the gospel across Japan and the rest of Asia.

We called them “gospel tanks.” Vans equipped with speaker systems that proclaim the gospel across Japan.

The time at Marumori was a real highlight for all of us. Hearing the stories of the missionaries who pioneered the efforts being made today — who started with just five dollars in their pocket fifty years ago — and to see the multi-generational vision and cooperation among the families there, was inspiring and challenging.

Sunday was the date of the Keimei Christian School annual field day, with races, games, and barbecue. Just watching was a real treat, but we also got to participate in the relays — as well as play basketball and soccer with the other young men.

Alex, Isaac, and Brett line up for the start of the relay race.

Yesterday we made the trip from Marumori to Sendai, home of MeySen Academy — the world’s coolest kindergarten. This is not only because the Japanese children are adorable (they are), or because the school is shining the light of God’s Word (it is), but also because it has the most incredible playground ever.

James and Alex… Climbing around at MeySen.

We have made so many new friends and created countless memories. Tomorrow we head to Tokyo to prepare for the conference this weekend. Please continue to pray for us — and for our work on the book, which will continue once we return.

For now, check out a lot more Japan photos at our Flickr account. Please leave a comment here or shoot us an email. We love to hear from you. God bless you all!

+ The Japan Trip Flickr Album +

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About the Author

are the co-founders of and co-authors of Do Hard Things and Start Here. They have a passion for God and for their generation. Their personal interests include politics, filmmaking, music, and basketball. They are both graduates of Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Virginia.

  • Lydia D.

    I’m so glad everything is going well. Awesome pics! Though I have to wonder what happened after Brett threw that snowball :)
    I’ll be sure to keep you guys in my prayers still.
    Blessings, Lydia
    P.S. Did you really eat raw whale?

  • Beckye Estill

    Those are great pix! As a homeschool mom for the past 20 years here, I know that they are in for some great things in Japan! What an exciting time for them. Seeing how God has used your parents here, I am very grateful that God is using them in Japan for His kingdom as well. And what a blessing to have y’all there as “proof of the pudding” as examples and encouragers for them. I’m excited for your opportunity and pray that God will move strongly on your and their behalf over there. Have a great trip!! Looks like a lot of fun, and what a treat to get to experience your mom’s culture! Blessings!!

  • How neat! Thanks for sharing what you all have been up to in Japan and letting us see a lot of pictures! It sounds like a very memorable trip. I’ll be praying that the Rebelution conference goes well!

  • Elizabeth

    Nice pictures! Thanks for sharing them. It’s nice to see what your whole family looks like! It looks like you guys are having a great time. I’ll be praying for your conference there to go well. Ditto to Lydia’s question: What happened after Brett threw the snowball? 😉

  • those are some amazing pictures!

    god bless you on the rest of your trip and with your book :-)

  • Erin

    Snow? Lucky!

  • Lauren Walker

    I’ve heard of public bathing in Japan…but only as an ungodly practice of lots of people, including all members of a family, bathing together nude. I’m confident that the public bath you guys attended was decent, but just thought I’d ask if you knew about this indecent Japanese tradition.

  • Emma

    Who was Brett throwing the snowball at? 😀 Great pictures, and I’m glad it’s going well!

  • I miss you guys so much! I’m praying for you, and can’t wait until you get back! In the mean time, I pray the Lord’s blessings upon you as you carry the gospel overseas. God bless!

  • Erika

    great pics!! Love the snow!! 😀 Are you enjoying the food? Have you had nato (sp?) at all? My dad had a funny experience with that when we were in Japan!! Anyways, praying for you guys!!

  • Jon Kayser

    Have a safe and enjoyable trip! I’ll be praying for ya’ll!

  • Hey Guys! We won’t talk about how Erin is breaking one of the Ten Commandments while looking at all your pics on flickr. But seriously, looks like your family has been having a great time together and we have been praying for your work there each evening during family worship time. God Bless you guys and have a great trip back home!

    Speaking of home, when do you all plan to be back in the states?

  • Bethany S.

    Wow — thanks for the update and wonderful pictures! It sounds like an incredible experience. And how great that you guys are doing a conference there in Tokyo! You are all in my prayers. God bless and have a safe trip home!

  • Chelsea

    Those pictures are AMAZING. God bless your time in Japan.

  • Lydia: I’m not sure what happened after that snowball picture — but he wasn’t throwing it at the camera. And yes, we did eat raw whale. :)

    Lauren: The public bath was gender-segregated, but it is public — and it is a bath. It sounds weird, but it’s really just a cultural difference. Once you do it, there’s really nothing indecent about it.

    Sean and Erin: We’ll be headed home on December 3rd.

  • Emma

    When will the conferences be available from Noblebooks? I REALLY want them for Christmas……….!


  • Leah

    Hi guys – WOW these pictures are incredable!! Its good to hear that your having a great time spreading the word of God around =D God bless ya’s heaps!

  • ariadne

    Wow, looks like you’re having a lot of fun! Praying…

  • Maiden of God

    I’m glad you guys had fun. Christ bless.

  • Great up-date! How amazing to hear about the homeschool movement in Japan! Praise the Lord!! Hopefully you’re book will be avaliable in Japanese!
    Blessings on the rest of your trip!

  • Felicity

    Hey guys sounds like you are having a great time. I’m just wondering, as I am having trouble seeing the pictures, is there any other way to view them? (As in a different site, or format????) Thanks. 😀

  • Megan Liz

    Wow, looks like you’re having an awesome time! I cannot believe you ate raw octopus, but otherwise…sounds really neat! :-) God bless you guys!

  • CT

    So when are you coming home? I have a whole list of questions for you (stored up for over a month now) 😉

    Anyhow- HOFCC misses you both and your whole family. We’re definitely praying for you all.

    as ever,

  • CHEA…I’ve heard of that somewhere. :)

    Wow, the snow looks great, the resort looks inviting, and looks like you really had a great time. :)

    God bless!

  • Tiffany K.

    That is so neat! I loved reading the update and seeing the pictures!! (I think those “gospel tanks” are really cool! :)) It is so wonderful to see what God is doing in Japan, and how He is using y’all there as well! Many blessings! :)

    P.S. Raw octopus and whale??? How can you guys eat them like that? I’d be grossed out! In fact, I think I already am… 😛

  • Cana

    Hi guys,
    Great pictures! It looks like you had a good time down at Marumori and Meysen. :)

    I’ve eaten raw squid and octopus before…but whale? It must have been an interesting experience…:)

    I’ll be praying for ya’ll and I hope you guys have a good time during the rest of your stay! God bless you guys!

  • Lauren B.

    Hope you aren’t suffering from too much jet lag!

  • I’m still so amazed at how God blesses your ministry all the time :). May you young leaders be found blameless, pure and spotless in serving our generation. Thanks to God! xoxo

  • Grace Wieske

    Looks like you have all been having fun!! Nice pictures 😀
    The playground looks great!!
    So, when are you all coming to Australia?

  • R.M

    Okay, I’m buying myself a ticket to Japan right now…

    Just kidding.

    Those pictures are incredibly beautiful! It looks like your entire family is having such a wonderful, blessed time! I can’t believe you two were brave enough to eat raw ANYTHING. I have a very adventurous brother who adores eating squid, octopus an all those other jiggly, chewy sea creatures. He hasn’t tried whale yet, except for my adopted cousin who’s from Alaska. He’s eaten whale blubber. *yum* I think the most exotic food I’ve ever dared to try was sushi with pickled ginger. Now that was an experience! So, did you like the whale, the squid and the octopus?

  • Ellie

    That hotel is awesome!!!! I imagine speaking with a interpreter is VERY hard….. its difficult enough for me to even SPEAK!!!! Anyway, God bless…..


  • Ben P.

    Alex, Brett & Family,

    Thanks for sharing your pictures and experience as you encounter the Body of Christ around the world. Families working, growing, serving together for His Glory — whether in the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, or Japan — is a beautiful thing.

    We look forward to working together on the Rebelution Tour in Minneapolis/St.Paul, Minnesota in June 2008!

    Blessings from Ben, David, Betty and “Do Hard Things” for His Glory youth at BBC

  • Lydia D.

    You did eat raw whale? YUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😉 I’ve had some interesting food, like cow’s tongue before, but anything raw (especially whale) just sounds disgusting!:) I hope you liked it, because I probably wouldn’t have.

  • Such fun pictures!! I loved them all! (I looked at all 106 on Flickr =D.) I’m praying for you guys. I hope the Japan conference goes well on Saturday.

    Every blessing,
    ~Nella Sound-Out

  • Wow, guys – I was so excited to see this new post. I love the pictures! They are amazing (who took them?) and give us a glimpse of what it must be like. The joy in your faces at being there is definitely visible! I just can’t help grinning along. 😀

    It’s wonderful to see your family being able to experience this together…making new friends and memories. Hehe – Brett looks popular among the little ones. 😉

    Prayers going up for this weekend.

  • Hannah

    Those are really great pictures- thanks so much for posting them! I love to see other countries :) You’re right about the playground, it is really cool!! I wish I had one like that :) It sounds like you have quite a schedule and add on to that jet-lag (ugh!) I’ll be praying you can keep going with as much energy and enthusiasm as you are now!

  • Ellie C.

    Wow, except for the raw food, Japan sounds awesome! That playground is enough to convince me that I want to go! ; ) I hope you all will continue to have a safe trip.

    -Ellie C.

  • Amazing photos, amazing Japan, amazing home school movement, amazing fun, amazing family… it all points to an AMAZING God. Hope you have a simply amazing conference!

  • Fabulous pictures, guys! It certainly looks beautiful! I have been praying for you..and your book!

  • Karen Kovaka

    Wow. I love how much of a story the pictures tell. Japan looks absolutely gorgeous!

  • Carlin N.

    Thank you so much for posting the pictures! I love how they tell just how much your family enjoys spending time together!
    What a wonderful trip – I sure God is using you guys mightily in the hearts of the Japanese as he shapes your hearts as well.

    Have a great conference Saturday, keep enjoying yourselves, and have a safe trip home!

    Carlin N.

  • That is amazing! And it looks like so much fun. I wish I was there too! I can’t wait to see more pictures.

  • Theresa

    Just heard about your website on FOX News Channel Greta Van Susteren show with Chuck Norris.
    Nice site, good pixs and wonderful info about your trip. God bless your work and those of the faith spreaders in Japan. Safe trip home.

  • Kylie

    Will be praying for you safe journey back on december 3rd! It sounds like your having a lot of fun!!

  • Sue in Japan

    Great photos. I could see my husband and I in one of the shots of the conference room (quite fuzzy, but we were there!). I can’t tell you how much you encouraged us at Hakuba. I think it was so important for us over here (particularly the “Japanese only” families — my being American makes things somewhat easier) to see what amazing young men of God you have grown into. We need to see examples of that here, as we grow into “toddlerhood” in the homeschooling movement here in Japan. The messages you and your parents had for us were also incredibly important, and challenging. Thank you so much!

    Your mom talked as if it was goodbye forever, but I am waiting for you guys to come back again in the future to see how the homeschooling movement is growing over here!

    I will be praying for your seminar in Tokyo this weekend, and for safe travel back to the US.

  • It looks and sounds like it was an amazing trip. It is so exciting to see what God is doing! It also sounds like the people in Japan were blessed and encouraged.

    Again, way to go!

    ~Lady Tai

  • Grace

    That playground does look really cool. Thanks for the pictures, its alot of fun looking at them.
    Will pray for the conference and a safe return.

  • Margaret

    Greetings from Ontario. Your trip looks really exciting, although the idea of eating raw everything gives me the shudders. God bless you and the work that you’re doing. It’s exciting to see God using young men in such a mighty way who are willing to follow wherever He leads!

  • Adrienne Gilbert

    Hey guys! Nice pics! It almost looks to me like Alex is the photographer, though. Lots of Brett in Japan! :) Actually, Alex, your new hair-do makes you look more like Isaac than Brett now. Weird, you know. Anyway, I’ve been praying for you guys. Your conference should be starting in a little while. Maybe you’re waking up now. Is it like 12 hours difference or so? Hope everything goes well, and the book can get finished soon! God bless you all!


  • Gracie Martin

    The only thing I can say is great job being a leader to these people!!!

  • Some of that food sounds… well, a little nasty to my Western tastebuds…
    Ah, snow! I haven’t seen snow… well, it was this summer a the continental divide, but I wasn’t playing in it. :)

    Looks like you’re having a lot of fun!
    Praying for the rest of your time there and a safe flight back!

  • Thanks for the update and pictures! It looks like you’re all having an absolutely awesome time. :-) We’re praying for the conference today!

  • Anna Edwards

    I’m glad that you guys are having a blast in Japan!!
    I trust that your conference in Tokyo went well today! You’re in my prayers!

    Oh, and it looks like somebody was starting past the line in the relay race picture…cheaters never prosper! 😉 haha..have a wonderful time during the rest of your trip to Japan!

  • “The trip marks the first time any of us (besides Mom and Grandma) have been to Japan. It’s been exciting. Eating raw everything, including squid, octopus, and whale; experiencing two earthquakes in 24 hours; going to a public bath…”

    Yeah…I can’t think of anything more exciting then eating raw fish and talking baths with fifty other people! 😀

    Thank you for sharing the pictures! The one thing I crave most in my life is to travel. It was nice seeing life in Japan. (The picture of the pretty flower was particularly nice. 😉 )

  • Anna: You can’t see the curved line they made in the dirt. The person on the outside always starts a bit forward, because the circumference of the outside ring is longer than the inside ring. 😉

  • It sure is hard to talk with an interpreter! A couple years ago I went on a mission trip to Albania to help put together a vacation Bible school for some of the children in one of the mountain villages. During one of the days I had to teach the lesson with an interpreter, which was a culture shock all on its own. I found it hard to not lose my train of thought while the interpreter was translating.

    It’s such a wonderful experience to meet people who you know are likeminded brothers and sisters in Christ even though you don’t even speak the same language.

    I know for myself that sometimes getting a little space from a project that’s completely dominating my life and thoughts can make it easier to not get burnt out on it, and I hope your trip does just that for both of you. :-)


  • Kimberly

    As a part of Christ’s Body, let me thank you for the “hard things” you’re doing to build Him up, let me tell you of the inspiration you’ve given to me and glory I give to God because of you, and let me encourage you to keeping sowing with all perseverance, in hope of a gloriously rich harvest, for God’s glory!

    Know that many requests on your behalf are going before the Father.

  • I am so happy for you guys!

    This trip must be an unimaginably memorable experience for your entire family. Cross-cultural ministry is indeed a challenge, but the joy of reaching beyond cultural and linguistic boundaries is amazing. I am sure exploring your Japanese roots must be wonderful as well. Hope you enjoyed the sashimi, sushi, and warm ramen noodles. I am thrilled to see God gifting you with the experiences in this trip.

    Take care, God bless :)

  • Amanda Howell


    I loved all the pictures! Japan looks beautiful. I am continually amazed and breathtaken at how beautiful God’s creation is. I’m glad you all had fun while there. Though I must say I do not envy you eating all that raw seafood:)

    I really like the new hair-do:) Makes you look older and more mature (my opinion anyway).
    God bless both of you for all your efforts.

    A sister in Christ,

  • Anna Edwards

    Thanks for pointing that out for me, Alex! I used to run one of the relays in track a few years ago, but I had forgotten about starting at different points to make the distances fair. =D

  • Ray

    While organizations like CHEA are endorsing church schooling, the homeschooling movement has yet to take off in Japan. I see very few fathers willing to homeschool their children; sure they might come to a conference but if fathers and families are not discipled in the church, how can they disciple their children? For now it is still viewed as an unfortunate alternative to those who didn’t do very well in the public school system. Japan needs churches that teach that God is real… Sunday AND Monday.

    -A Japanese homeschooler

  • Sophie Barnes

    Hey, sounds like you all had a blast in Japan!! I am glad you guys could go. I really like the pics. I looked at them all and the game ones had me laughing. My little sister (4 yo) came in and was looking at some of them with me and was laughing too. I hope you have safe trip home and I will be praying for your family.

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