The Story of Larry: The Hostel

Fall 1971 - June 1974

A Hostel is a place where you can stay when you are away from home and where you can get meals and sleep.


Our Mission family had a hostel for the Missionary Kids (MKs) whose parents lived too far away to go home every day after school. One of our missionary families would be the hostel parents. They did more than just feed the kids and put them to bed at night. They planned a lot of activities for them after school. Grampie and Marilyn boarded with this family when we came back from our trip to Canada and California. They were in grades 3 and 4. Lisa boarded there for a short time too later on.

The hostel was large and long. Upstairs in the hostel there were two large rooms and two smaller rooms. The larger rooms had bunk beds. Lisa fell from one of those bunk beds. It happened like this:

After lunch the younger kids had to stay home for a rest before going back to school in the afternoon. Brent was more interested in playing than resting. He was on the lower bunk bed, and Lisa was on the top bunk above him.

Brent was having fun pushing up on Lisa’s bed with his feet making her bounce. Then suddenly she fell down on the hard wood floor. She hit her head pretty hard and it made her throw up. I took her to get checked by the doctor at the hospital in town. We were thankful that there were no serious after effects.

Once we became the Hostel parents our children didn’t have to board with the other family, instead, other children boarded with us. We were a family of 17 the first year we were hostel parents. For special times we invited the teachers to have a meal with us.

Dinner at the hostel with teachers

Another missionary family lived at one end of the house. The rest of the house was where we lived with the MKs who boarded. Some of the kids could go home on weekends like Grampie and Marilyn did the first couple of years we lived in Itoigawa. The others could go home only once a month like Grampie did when we lived in Toyama.

Grampie came and woke us up one night and said there was water all over the floor in the dining room. The dishwasher was in the corner on the other side of the bathroom where a connection to water could be made. But the hose making the connection for some reason or other had come off, and water was flooding the floor. Fortunately Grampie had been up and found this. The water was soon turned off, and the job of cleaning up the extra water on the floor began.

Grampie’s room was in different places different years. One year, just outside his wall was a fire bell which we would ring when it was meal time. Often Grampie was so involved in the project he was working on that he didn’t even hear that very loud bell! One year he and Tim Leonard were roommates.

Larry and Tim in bunk bedroom

The second year 3 more children came so we were a family of 20.

Marilyn hurt her ear at the beginning of Grade 6 in 1972 when she and Hijiri were roommates. At the time they had bunk beds, and Marilyn’s was the top bunk. I wrote in a letter to Nahnee telling her what happened:

“September 3: Yesterday Marilyn slipped and fell against the dresser and cut her ear on the part that sticks out. It really was a hard bump. The cut went right through in one spot. Have you ever tried to bandage an ear? It is kind of hard to figure out how. So we tied a scarf around her head to hold the cotton on her ear.”

Marilyn still has a scar from that cut.

Marilyn and Lisa were roommates the first year, but after that Marilyn and Hijiri Uchida were roommates. Their beds were tea boxes with a mattress on top when they were in grade 7.

Marilyn and Hijiri in their room

In our 3rd year I had my work desk in Lisa’s room.

Lisa sitting on bed, Mom at desk

During the summer before our 3rd year as hostel parents we made preparation for the following year when we would have an even larger family. We got delicious vegetables at Nojiri. Grampie, Marilyn, and Lisa all helped get the corn on the cob and green beans ready to freeze. This is what we canned and froze: 175 ears of corn frozen; 26 quarts of grapes canned; 14 pounds of green beans frozen; 5 recipes of grape jelly and jam, and a lot of dill pickles!

The hostel really buzzed with activity our 3rd year when we were a family of 23.

When more kids came we needed more space, so the missionary family at the far end of the house moved to another place, and we had the use of the whole building.

Grandma Bickle came from Canada to help us out. She did a lot of baking.

Mom & Grandma Bickle in the kitchen

The kids all loved hanging out with her in her room, just reading or working on her hook and latch rug.

In Grandma Bickle's room



The sound of the frogs croaking in the rice paddies below the hostel was one of the welcome first signs of spring. One of the girls wanted to make a pet of her tadpole. She brought it from her home to the hostel and put it in the little pond by the door as her pet.

There were a lot of colorful dragonflies around where we lived.

What color is a Dragonfly? They come in all sorts of colors like yellow, red, brown, and blue; sometimes the wings have brown spots and bands.

What do dragonflies symbolize? The dragonfly serves to remind us that we too can reflect the light of Christ in a darkened world by letting His Son shine through us.

Kids holding puppies

All of the hostel kids were happy when we got a dog for a pet. Missionary friends in Tokyo were going back to Canada, and they asked if we wanted their dog. They told us it was a male, but surprise of surprises, one day we found that ‘he’ had 4 puppies! Guess they were wrong! They were born on St. Patrick’s Day, so one was named Patrick.


When the kids were not in school, there were lots of fun things to do on this mountain out in the country. Sometimes we hiked on the mountain. If the sun was really hot, we picked large leaves and put them on our heads to keep the sun off. In the spring we hiked down to the rice paddies to look for tadpoles. Going down to the beach to collect shells and cool off in the Japan Sea was a favorite thing to do.

GGpa not only built churches, but he built a new school building too.

School building Dad built

There was a little valley between a building and a pool (for storing water in case of fire). The kids made up a game called “Crocodile” to play between the two. Ask your Grampie about that game.

Kids playing Crocodile at recess

They made a route to ride around the school on their bikes. There were stops where someone who didn’t have a bike could be picked up for a ride on the back of the bike.

In the winter there was a lot of snow. GGpa was in charge of physical activities. Snowball throwing contests were so much fun.

Kids throwing snowballs at the camera

When the weather wasn’t good to play outside they made up a game to play inside on the floor which had a pattern on it.

Activities inside the hostel living room

But one of the most fun things to do was on the weekends. A lot of kids went home, and the 9 kids who stayed at the hostel could run and slide in the long hallway!

When the weather warmed up again, lunch outside was a picnic! We opened the window and served lunch through the window! No one had to sweep the floor after those lunches!

School day lunch outside
2020-11-21 updated 2022-12-27   © 2023 Larry Grove