I was in Tokyo for about three days this past week for a mission president's seminar. While I was gone, the assistants and Sister McIntyre picked up our new office couple, the Pypers, from the airport. The Japanese all wear masks to prevent "getting" sick. We have been assured this will have little affect, but the Japanese still wear them. When the Elders walked into the terminal, there were people, mainly high school students going on a school trip, packed into the terminal. For some reason when they saw the two American Elders they were surprised and started clapping. The Elders ate it up.
There has been no deadly cases of the flu, but the situation has began to have in impact on the work. The church policy is for us to strictly follow the government's directions and when a city closes its schools and asks that you not hold any big gatherings, church meetings are cancelled. As a result, we have had some baptisms postponed and this coming Sunday there are no meetings being held in several parts of Osaka and all of Kyoto. In fact, stake conference in the Kyoto Stake was completely cancelled. This month has turned out to be a challenge as we seem to have had a wave of bad luck and have lost many people scheduled for baptism for various reasons and now a flu epidemic. We have been seeing great success this year in the mission but it currently feels like the adversary has stepped up his activity to thwart our efforts from all directions. We can't baptize people unless we can get them to church! Nevertheless, we will move forward and establish and strengthen the church in Kansai.
On a related note - To our surprise the other day, while the elders were in the front of the church, a black car pulled up and a man got out and introduced himself as a member of the Yamaguchi Gumi (The Japanese Yakuza). That is one of the most famous crime groups in Japan. The Yamaguchi have their headquarters just a few blocks from the mission home. He handed the elders three boxes of surgical masks and said since the flu broke he thought we might need them. For those not familiar with the Japanese crime syndicate, these are the real thing. They have however, over the years been friendly to the church and can often be seen looking after the neighborhood. One year a couple of them showed up with bags of candy at a primary holloween party. At the time of the Kobe earthquake the church and the Yamaguchi Yakuza were the only groups to provide water and support to many people in the immediate area in the days following the disaster. Just an interesting side story about the mission. I would post a picture of their headquarters but they may see it and try and find me!