Japan – Not the trip we expected

We left for Japan last Tuesday with adventure on the horizon, having no idea what really lay ahead. 


(Wednesday) An overnight layover in Shanghai gave us the chance to try some unique cuisine (and laugh over some of the crazy options none of us really wanted to try.)

(Thursday) We arrived in Japan and began navigating the crazy train and subway system through Tokyo (this is impressive, believe me.) Our hostel was a fun mix of Japanese hipster, and we really enjoyed the people, view of the Tokyo river and the easy access we had to get places.

Little Ginza, Traditional Area of Tokyo

Day 1 (Thursday): Jetlag heavy though we were, we trekked down through little Ginza (around since 1274) where these OLD shops have seen customers for centuries. We dined in a local little place.



Tsukigi Outer Fish Market and Biking Tour Through Tokyo

Day 2 (Friday): The outer Tsukiji Fish Market was so fun to explore! We spent the morning walking through crowded side markets seeing all sorts of fun areas.




In the afternoon, we took a biking tour around Tokyo and had a fabulous time seeing far more of city than we would have! We hit everything from the very center of the city to the Imperial Palace. Although we were all tired, we had a great afternoon!

That night we had a 4-course dinner at a place with a grill in the middle of the table. They would bring out different foods to add to the grill and we had so much fun laughing over each new item. Monja is a traditional dish made with noodles, scallops, octopus, cabbage and many other unique things.

Guided Tour Through Tsukigi Fish Market and Sushi Lessons

Day 3 (Saturday): we met our tour guide in the morning to get a tour through the largest fish market in the world. There are sure some unique fish out there 🙂


Large Tuna getting cut with a really intimidating knife!



Squid – with creep eyeballs…



Octopus (which we would later eat!)




We learned that fish is prized when it is REALLY fresh. So in the market, they cut the spinal cord (to prevent rigor mortis) – so it can’t move, but technically is still alive. Then when it’s cut into filets it dies. So the meat is… really fresh.


They then took us back to learn how to make sushi ourselves. What a fun experience!



In the afternoon we went back to the hostel to rest. Mark took a nap and then Nick, Javon and I headed out for the evening. We went on a Tokyo Cruise (a little like a river boat cruise only in a futuristic boat with a deck on top.)  we stopped at — at an onsen where we had a fun dinner, and went to a foot bath where little fish ate the dead skin off our feet. We had some great laughs. Onsens are a very common activity for Japanese (of all ages.)

We got back very late. Becuase of a lack of internet connection, communications were sketchy and certainly not consistent. Lori had tried calling us but we didn’t get anything until we were back at the hostel. She thought Mark might have had a stroke, but symptoms were pretty light. Through much prayer, it was decided to wait until morning to see how he was doing.

Mark Has Stroke, Head to St. Luke’s International Hospital

Day 4 (Sunday): There are so many things I could say about this day, but in the end, we got Mark to an International Hosptial here in Tokyo. Things have been very difficult and he deteriorated quickly on the way to the hospital. Lots of scary moments and unknowns. It turns out that he had a pretty significant stroke, we just had no idea how bad because he remained stable that night.

Finally, that afternoon, Mark  was admitted into acute care, unable to speak, paralyzed (not completely) on the right side, and quickly developing pnemonia. Prayer chains were notified early, and we are SO continually thankful for the prayers and support that have flooded in. They are well felt.

Hospital Days and the Stroke’s Aftermath

Day 5 – Day 7 (Monday – Wednesday): Things have been up and down, but the majority of ourtime has been spent at the hospital. We have rotated spending the night with Mark, but this last night was probably the calmest he’s been. We are thankful for the little victories – and praying for many more.


We are still trying to get away a little each day to have some fun. Very thankful that we were here to help through the first days after the stroke.


There is much more ahead, and we still aren’t sure what the future will hold. But we are trusting that we serve a big God who knows all that is happening. Updates might be sporatic, but please continue praying!

Step by Step,

Amber - signature


9 Comments Add yours

  1. Kristi Gerber says:

    We’re praying for you!

    1. Amber says:

      Thanks for the prayers!

      1. Carolyn Steffen Manz says:

        Dear cousin Mark and Lori, God helped you thru your last stroke and are praying He will help you through this one. Love Carolyn Steffen Manz

  2. Maureen Stettner says:

    Thanks Amber for posting. You can’t even imagine how wonderful it is for Lori to have you all with her and helping her with all the thought processes such a journey involves. So glad God brought you into the Mark Steffen family!

    1. Amber says:

      We are so glad we were here too. Thanks so much for the prayers.

  3. Danielle S says:

    Prayers for each of you and thankful that you are together and not alone in such a time.

    1. Amber says:

      Absolutely. Thanks for the prayers!

  4. Amanda Adams says:

    Prayers with you and your husband! You are one of the VERY VERY few that acquainted themselves with me over the several years I was in college/school bc I was SO painfully shy – thank you for being YOU – u have no idea how MUCH it means to me AND people like me just how sweet and helpful u were💜 I pray/hope there are more people like u on this earth 💜 best wishes hun 🙂 💜

    1. Amber says:

      Thank you Amanda. That means a lot to hear! How are you doing?

      And thanks for the prayers and well wishes.

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