New Blog

In case you didn't get the message, I've been writing on a new blog for a while now.

It's here: Adventures in Nagoya.


Shall We Dansu?

As you all know, Dustin and I will soon be wed. We decided to brush up on our dancing skills for the reception, since we'll be on the dance floor all by ourselves for the longest three minutes of our lives. Now, I love to dance... at dance parties, where the lights are low, the music is fast, and no one is one hundred percent sober. Despite my love for both music and dance parties, I have long come to terms with the fact that I have little to no rhythm. I'm a fan, but I could never ever be a musician. It's just not in my veins.

I can only remember taking one dance class in my life. It was an Irish dance class, and I only took the lessons because my best friend in junior high school was really into Irish dance, and she looked so cool when she would practice in front of me. So, obviously, I wanted to look equally as cool. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out and I quit before the recital, because the thought of going on stage with my skills was anything but appealing.

I didn't really know what to expect, but I knew it was probably a good idea to take some kind of dance lessons unless I wanted to subject my guests to watching Dustin and I slowly sway from side to side for three whole minutes. I used the amazing people at the International Affairs Center in our local Civic Center as a resource to help me research the possibilities in Nagaoka. We went with the cheapest option, but the minimum class size was 4. So, I recruited my boss and his fiancé, who are getting married a few weeks after us. They didn't really know how to slow dance either. We didn't exactly discuss what kind of dance we wanted to learn beforehand, but both couples agreed to bring in a CD of the songs to which we want to dance.

When we arrived for our first lesson, we were greeted by a tall, elegant man with perfect posture who glided towards us and dipped in a very un-Japanese bow to introduce himself. We exchanged names, and he wrote three out of the four of our names down; Kei, my boss's fiancé is Japanese, so her name was easy enough to commit to memory. He asked us what type of dance we wanted to learn: mambo, salsa, tango, foxtrot? Ummm... we all looked at each other bewildered. I asked Kei, "What is slow dancing called in Japanese?" She didn't know, but she told him something along the lines of, "We just want to learn some steps to dance to some slow songs at our weddings." He looked both confused and annoyed.

I handed over my CD. He put it on, and said, "This is very slow." So... he sped it up, and it didn't sound like the song to which I wanted to dance at all. But he started teaching us some steps. Luckily, dance terms are mostly in English, and the other words he used most frequently were words and phrases I've learned long ago: left, right, woman, man, you can do it. What we didn't understand, Kei attempted to translate, although she didn't always understand what he was saying in Japanese.

By the end of the first lesson, Dustin was ready to trade me in for a new dance partner, because I do not know the meaning of the word "follow." Try as hard as I may, I cannot help leading. I try to let my mind go blank and let him lead me around the dance floor, but at some point in the journey, I've become the one steering us forward. How do you learn not to lead?

We went back for 5 more dance lessons, one half hour session per week. Our instructor was amazed at our lack of progress. The second lesson was spent reviewing and trying to re-teach what was covered in the first lesson. The third lesson began with a new step, but we'd all forgotten the steps from the first two lessons, so he had to go over those again, and by that time, the lesson was over. The fourth and fifth lessons were much of the same, but he taught us a twirl right at the end of the fifth lesson.

For our last lesson, we spent 15 minutes re-learning the twirl and the steps we'd still never mastered from that first lesson. Then, our instructor looked at his hand (where he always had us foreigners' names written), and said, "Deena, you must teach something something something Dasuteen." I knew that I understood most of what he'd said. It was in Japanese, but I could have sworn I heard "feerings," which didn't sound very Japanese. I just stared at him with an expression of confusion. He then began slapping Dustin's shoulder and saying, "No, no, no." Dustin and I looked at each other, but neither of us understood what was going on. So, our instructor just began slapping Dustin more vigorously. At this point, I called Kei over to translate. She said, "Um, he wants you to teach Dustin about your feelings." Wah? We couldn't quite figure out what that means... but Dustin and I began to hold ourselves with more proper postures, and that seemed to satisfy him. I knew it would have taken many many years for me to teach Dustin about my feelings, and dance class was not the proper place to do it; trust me, I've been working on it for the past three, and we're still basically somewhere in the midst of lesson one.

It was sad to end our Japanese dance lessons. The saddest part was that we haven't really learned how to dance, and we'll be doing it so very soon. Hopefully, I'll have had enough champagne to take the edge off, and I won't be worrying about leading us into the nearest table full of guests. I might even be so giddy with the excitement of it all that I actually let Dustin lead for once. If you are at our wedding and you see Dustin whispering sweet nothings to me during our first dance, he's probably saying, "slow, slow, quick, quick, slow, slow, and corner, corner, slow, slow..."

Sayonara Nagaoka

This will be my last time writing to you from Nagaoka. Dustin and I leave for Nagoya on Monday. We'll be insanely busy finishing up the packing, cleaning, and partying that needs to be done before that, but I wanted to spend a little time to give my final thoughts on Nagaoka.

It's been a long, cold year and a half. I never expected Dustin could convince me to stay more than a year, but for some reason, I just couldn't imagine leaving when it came time to renew our contracts. Now, we know we'll be here at least until May 2011, and even longer if Dustin gets into a Japanese graduate school. Now that we are closing an important chapter of our lives, our introduction to Japan, I would like to reflect on all of the good things about my life in Nagaoka that I expect I will miss.

-all the really interesting people, foreign and Japanese
-the delicious koshi hikari rice that comes from Niigata-ken
-how inexpensive everything is (well... compared to the rest of Japan at least)
-how easy it is to get from one end of the city to the other on a bike alone
-the train rides
-teaching the cutest little babies and kids
-only having to work between 2 and 5 hours per day
-being able to wear jeans and a t-shirt every day of the week
-being able to sleep in until 11:00 a.m. most mornings

Although there are a lot of things to be thankful about in the life I'm about to leave behind, there are many many things I am looking forward to about this new life I'm about to start in Nagoya.

-four seasons
-museums, live music venues, yoga studios, and all kinds of interesting things to do with my time
-Thai, Indian, Mexican, and Middle Eastern cuisines' availability
-subway rides
-a consistant schedule
-learning about the Japanese public school system
-seeing the same students multiple times a week

We're getting married in two weeks and one day. We'll be in America in a week and two days. We'll be in our new apartment in Nagoya in 3 short days. AH! I can't believe it. I've changed our contact address on the right hand side of this blog. If you plan on sending anything to us from now on, please send it to this address. If you send me anything after the wedding, please address it to Dana Asby, because that'll be my name after May 01!

Dustin and I won't have internet access from April 19-April 24. I can still check facebook and gmail on my phone, but Dustin has a bit more difficulty with that, so we might be a teensy bit less available in the next week. But don't fret, we'll be home sooner than you know it !

I won't be writing again on this blog, but I have set up a new blog, and once we get to Nagoya, I'll start posting there. Perhaps more frequently than this blog turned out to be, but no promises. It's here: Adventures in Nagoya.


Long Time No See

It's been quite a while since my last post.

Dustin and I went home and saw quite a few of you over the holidays. It was really amazing. We had so much fun. I wanted to stay even longer! I ate so many burritos, got a bunch of wedding planning done, and had many good times with lovely friends. I can't wait to get back to the U.S.A. for the wedding in May!

Since we returned in January, things have been exciting and busy. January flew by filled with lots of work, work, and more work... and a bit of snowboarding for Dustin. February brought even more snowboarding for Dustin, and even more work for both of us. I was busy with wedding planning, but our friend Ian came to visit at the end of the month, and brought a friend, so I took a break.

Ian, and his friend, Austin, joined Dustin and I for a three day weekend in Nagano, a city in the prefecture south of us. You may remember that the Winter Olympics were held there a few years back. We bypassed the tours of the Olympic sites, and headed to the mountain instead.

Dustin and Austin hit the slopes immediately. Ian and I opted to meet some of my friends in Matsumoto city where we saw some amazing art work by Yayoi Kusama. Later, we headed to Matumoto Castle, and climbed some extremely steep and slick stairs in slippers. It was a feat. After the castle, we stopped by a very interesting Ukiyo-E Museum, where we saw famous Japanese wood block prints. We were presented with a strange slide show by the curator of the museum. It included explanations of the patterns of the kimonos, which was understandable, but the show got weird when the curator mentioned that stripes represented the African devils. After that, we mentioned how bad slavery was while referencing an eighteenth century map, and assuring us that Obama would bring world peace through nuclear disarmament. It was... enlightening.

The next morning, Ian, Austin, and I headed to Obuse. We saw some temples, one of which had an amazing painting of a phoenix by Hokusai on the ceiling. Near one of the temples was an incredible tofu restaurant. We enjoyed a decadent five course meal of tofu. We had tofu steak, green tea flavored tofu, tofu salad, and tofu pudding, among other types of tofu. It was delicious. After the tofu fest, we headed to the "edo style town recreation." We kept looking around for it, but just couldn't find it. When I finally asked someone where it was, they let me know that we were in the middle of it. It wasn't exactly authentic. We saw a small Hokusai museum that some of his later brush paintings rather than the wood block prints for which he is famous.

We were staying in Yudanaka, a cute little mountain town that had lots of onsen, including an onsen just for the snow monkeys. Austin, Ian, and I went to a small, secluded onsen at the top of a mountain. It was a cloudy day, so we didn't see the sunset, but the sky was a million colors of blue as it turned to night. Looking out at the mountains, it was the most peaceful thirty minutes of my life.

We met a really interesting girl from Hong Kong via Canada. We went to dinner and played cards with her that night. The next morning, she joined us for a trek to the monkey park. We walked up the mountain and saw the monkeys lounging in the onsen. I expected to see more monkeys and less tourists, but the ratio was more like 5 tourist: one monkey. Everyone was huddled around the tiny onsen with giant camera lens snapping away. Most of the monkeys were searching for food outside of the onsen. I bent down to take an up close and personal shot of one of those monkeys, but he felt threatened and attacked me. It was terrifying. After that, I was ready to go.

We strolled through the cute "onsen town" in Yudanaka. There are nine onsen in this area, and it is said that you get good luck if you visit all nine. We didn't have time to visit any of them, unfortunately, because we had a train to catch.

We caught the train to Nagano city, and headed to the Zenkoji temple. It's famous for housing an ancient golden Buddhist image. The original is never shown, but a recreation is shown every seven years. Amazingly, we happened upon the temple, right before closing time, on the very day that it was shown. Dustin and I followed the crowd of people and sat down on some tatami mats listening to a monk chant. Suddenly, a curtain raised for about 10 seconds. All I saw was a golden blur. I bought a stamp of the image afterwards and discovered what it must have looked like. We assured our place in the pureland by touching a sacred key underneath the golden image in the middle of this dark tunnel underneath the temple. It was supposed to be enlightening, but I suppose my mind was too preoccupied. I almost missed the key. I had to turn back and really search for it, but my hand did graze it eventually.

After trying miso ice cream, miso onigiri, and a lovely rice pudding type drink, we headed back to the station to make our way home from our little vacation. It was a really nice break. I love traveling and I haven't gotten the chance to do it as much as I would have liked since I came to Japan, so it was lovely to get away for a bit.

I'm glad I enjoyed my vacation, because it was immediately followed by 11 straight days of work! AH! Today is my first day off, and I am exhausted. Part of the long week was by choice, however. On Monday, Dustin and I went to Tokyo to interview for some jobs in Nagoya with our company. The interview was terrifying, because the big boss drilled me about non-existant hypothetical conflicts with my coworkers, and had me demonstrate my poor Japanese ability. Somehow, however, we got the jobs! We'll be moving to Nagoya, the fourth biggest city in Japan, literally right before we come home for the wedding. We will most likely move to Nagoya the day before our plane before for the U.S. leaves. Eeeek.

I'm very excited about this new opportunity. We will be Assistant English Teachers in a single Nagoya high school. That means we will be working with one Japanese teacher every day and see the same students a few times a week. We're very excited to be able to form relationships with our students and see their progress with English. I can't wait to get to Nagoya! It will be much warmer than Nagaoka, and there will be a lot of culture. It's going to be a very happy change in our lives!


The End of a Great Decade

It didn't cross my mind that this year's New Year's celebration would take us into the next decade until I heard an NPR All Songs Considered show titled "Best Music of the Decade." Since then, I've been noticing loads of "Best ____ of the Decade" lists. Everyone wants to tell you the best movies, news stories, medical breakthroughs, heroes, and on and on.

I tend to think more about the future than the past, but I wanted to take a moment to share the most important moments of this, the most important decade of my life thus far. I was 14 when 2000 began, and I had just moved to Missouri. I wasn't too excited about being in Missouri. I had just begun to get settled in Vancouver, Washington when my parents informed me that we'd be moving to Missouri, a state I knew nothing about. Moving to Missouri turned out to be a great change in my young life. I met so many amazing people and had great opportunities I might not have had otherwise. Though it happened a few months before this decade, it is a very important part of the 2000's.

In the first three years of the decade, I had so many fun times at Liberty High School, but most importantly, I met two wonderful ladies who have been great friends ever since and accompanied me on so many adventures. I'm glad I know you, Lauren and Sam.

Not to discount my high school years, but attending college at Missouri State University was such a life-changing period for me. I know that just about everyone considers this part of their life important, so it's a bit cliche to go on about how university opened me up to so many different opinions, cultures, and people, but it did.

This decade is the decade when I became a vegetarian, and that has been very important to me. Besides making me feel healthier and happier, it has also opened up a whole world of food to me. Before becoming a vegetarian, my cooking skills consisted of opening up a box of Rice-a-Roni and adding butter and water. Since then, things have gotten considerably better, and I can now successfully conjure up a main dish, a side dish, and a salad relatively painlessly. (Though as Dustin would reveal, I usually skip the salad and the side dish and make a really scrumptious main dish, but I CAN make and HAVE made all three.) I even bake now, though I haven't yet mastered meringue. It is a project for the next decade.

In this decade, I have had the amazing opportunity to travel to Europe, twice! Both trips were so amazing and I saw so much, took way too many pictures, saw a slew of musicals, ate a crazy amount of pain au chocolat, and drank a few too many glasses of unbelievable French wine. I had the joy of studying Shakespeare and analyzing the songs of The Beatles in London. And I studied la langue française and French history in France. My professors on both programs encouraged me to begin writing, and it is completely because of them that I did. I caught the travel bug this decade and I don't plan on getting rid of it any time soon.

I've attempted (and not quite succeeded) to learn two new languages in the 2000's, French and Japanese. French was a bit easier to understand and remember than Japanese is proving to be. I've lost much of my French, but at my peak, I was speaking to my French parents about politics and the anatomy of a baguette. Compare that to the most recent conversation I had with some Japanese teenagers during which I got flustered and mistakenly told them I was 14. I've got a long way to go with my Japanese, but I hope that I have not yet reached my peak.

Most importantly, I met my future husband this decade. Nearly 3 years ago, Dustin and I were introduced to each other by my friend and his coworker, Sarah Scharfenberg. After a very fast romance, we moved into a nice little loft in downtown Springfield together, much to the (silent) dismay of our families and friends. Though few people said it, most of the reactions we got when telling people we'd be living together after a few short months of knowing each other was a look that said, "Whoa. That's waaaay too fast." Well, it turns out that our fast paced relationship has lasted the test of time and we're going to tie the knot. It is the first time that I've fallen in love, and that is undoubtedly the best thing about this decade.

And then, of course, we moved to Japan, which has been a grand adventure of its own. Once again, I moved to a strange new land, with a bit of trepidation, and turned out to love it. I doubt that I'll spend the next decade in Japan, but I'm glad I've come to experience this crazy country, and I'm willing to stick around for a while longer.

As with anyone's life, there has been the occasional disappointment and sadness over the past ten years, but this decade has been truly amazing. I've met some of the most important people in my life, and I hope that we will remain important to each other in the next decade. I've discovered some life long loves of my life: vegetarian food, traveling, writing, and Dustin.

Though it's been a great decade, I expect the next decade to be even more important than the last. There are a great many things I wish to do in the next decade:
-have my very own classroom
-continue to see the world
-continue my writing
-go back to France and finish learning French (hopefully with Brigitte)
-become a debt free citizen
-learn to sew and knit and make wearable garments
-have a house with a big garden
-be a mother (but probably in the latter part of the coming decade, so don't get too excited yet)

We'll see how the next decade turns out! Stay tuned.

Happy Holidayssssss

Dustin and I hosted our very first Thanksgiving feast. As it so often happens, Dustin's birthday fell shortly after the holiday. A few weeks before, he'd told me that he wanted a turkey shaped caked that also tasted like turkey. Little did he know, I had already ordered a bird from a website that Tracey shared with me, and it was due to arrive a few days before our Thanksgiving party.

I know that Thanksgiving falls on a Thursday, but all of us English teachers in Japan typically work on Thursdays, so we planned Dustin's birthday party/ Thanksgiving dinner for the following Sunday. After a few rousing games of bowling, we planned on having around 15 people over to our little Japanese apartment for a fabulous feast.

Since I am usually the lone vegetarian at Thanksgiving dinner, I have made the occasional dish to bring to the table, but I have never been responsible for the majority of the meal. Neither Dustin nor I have ever had anything to do with cooking a turkey. Having observed my mother over the years, I understood that you must start the cooking the day before if everything is to be finished in time. I spent most of Saturday night cooking up a storm. I continued in the morning, and somehow finished everything in the nick of time. I made glazed carrots, gravy, stuffing, cheesecake, brownies, and about 3 pounds of garlic mashed potatoes! The gravy was lumpy and the brownies exploded all over the oven, but they were gobbled up nonetheless.

Dustin did the turkey. It was quite a task, with a few problems. First problem, this tiny 3.4 kg turkey was too big to fit in our even tinier Japanese oven. Second problem, our oven is a bit finicky. It never seems to think the suggested amount of time is appropriate; sometimes it thinks 25 minutes should be 40, at other times 5 minutes into a 20 minute cooking time leaves something burnt to a crisp... So we weren't really sure how long it should stay in there.

Dustin solved the first problem by chopping off the wings and legs, and cooking the torso on its own. The second problem was solved by lots of observation. The instructions that came with our roasting bag said to cook it until most of the cooks agreed that it was done, probably between 2.5-3 hours. Well... neither of us knew how to tell if it was done, but it looked brown, so we took it out. And thankfully, it was done. And then the rest of the poor disassembled bird was stuck in the oven, and an hour later, it too was enjoyed by the carnivores in the room. Everyone happily ate the turkey without complaint, but once the guests left, Dustin admitted that it was much drier than the turkey he's used to. It was his first attempt and it was edible, so I declare it a success.

The evening turned out to be another lovely potluck in Japan. We had more dessert than we knew what to do with, but there were very few complaints about that. And our Japanese guests brought sushi, which was a welcome addition to the dinner. Someone even made Sangria! And luckily, our American friends rounded out the dinner with a few other Thanksgiving staples like macaroni and cheese and sweet potato casserole. In a single word, the night was delicious.

And of course, after Thanksgiving the next holiday is... CHRISTMAS! Which I am so very excited about spending in the U.S. that I talk about it far too much these days, so I will refrain from blabbing on and on about all the great fun I will be having in a short week and a half (like eating burritos and seeing the Nutcracker and attending more Christmas "events" than I have ever attended in one year and seeing all of the people I miss the most)!!!

I don't know if any of my faithful readers are familiar with David Sedaris's short story "Me Talk Pretty One Day" from a book of the same name, but I found myself in the midst of a remarkably similar situation the other day. Only we were talking about Christmas traditions around the world in broken Japanese, instead of Easter traditions around the world in broken French.

I have been taking a Japanese class at my local Civic Center since April. Currently, my class consists of me, my American boss, a middle-aged South Korean man who works at a restaurant, a 19 year-old Chinese girl, a middle-aged Chinese woman who I think is a doctor, and a mysterious middle-aged Spanish man from Madrid, who recently joined our class. At the end of each chapter, we take a little quiz that involves filling in the blanks of a story. The one we completed last time was a sort of guess who passage. It was about a man who has a wonderful job where he only has to work one day a year. He wears a red suit, and has white hair. I don't recall what else was in the passage, but I was giggling about half way through having realized that we were talking about Santa Claus here.

After we finished our quiz, my adorable little old Japanese teacher asked, "Who is this?" I said immediately, and a little too enthusiastically, "Santa Claus!" To which one of my Chinese classmates replied, "Who?" Who?!?!? Always prepared, my teacher pulled out a plush Santa and showed it to the Chinese girls who seemed to have recognized the face, but didn't know a thing about him. My teacher starting giving the run down on Santa, and she began by telling us why Santa Claus brings toys to all of the children in the world. She said that Santa Claus is single, but he loves children. I interrupted her to say, "That's wrong. Santa Claus has a wife." My teacher asked her name, and I replied, "Claus San," which could translate to Mrs. Claus or Mr. Claus, so that did nothing to quell her confusion. I broke the normal "Japanese only" rule, and said, "Mrs. Claus" in English.

Being the only American in the room (my boss was absent that day), my teacher felt that I was the authority on Santa Claus, and thus began asking me a multitude of questions about him. "Where does he live?"
"Umm... very north with lots of snow and countryside."
"What does his wife wear?"
"Mr. Santa the same, but dress and glasses."
"Does he have any children?"
"No, but he has many small people friends."
(There was a very confused expression on the face of everyone present at this point.)
Luckily, my teacher understood and said, "Erufu," the katakana version of elf.
Suddenly, the man from South Korea piped up, "Santa Claus very tall. He has blue clothes."
Next the Spanish guy chimed in, "His name is Papa Noel in Spain. We get two days presents. In January, three men put presents in children's shoes."
The Chinese girls continued to insist that they had never heard of this Santa character.

It was a very interesting cultural discussion, but I have a feeling there was an awful lot lost in translation and none of us came away with a complete understanding of the Christmas traditions observed in each others' home countries. Nonetheless, I cannot wait to visit you all in person and talk about all of the things that have been happening that haven't made it to the blog, and hear about your own live in the past year and a half. See you all so very very soon!


Brigitte Invades Japan!

Last week, we had the great fortune of our very first American visitor. The lovely Brigitte came over to Japan for a week and a few days. I met her in Tokyo for the weekend before she came with us to Niigata-ken.

The week flew by, and unfortunately, Dustin and I both had to work, so it was a bit crazy, but we were so lucky to finally have a visitor. It was great to see a familiar face, and hear what we'd missed after we left Springfield. It was also wonderful to have someone to show around, because we did a few essential Japanese experiences that we rarely make the time for... all in one week.

First, Brigitte and I had an exciting weekend in Tokyo. Since we hadn't seen each other in over a year, the majority of our two days in Tokyo involved lots and lots of talking. In between all of the gabbing, we somehow managed to see the National Museum of Modern Art, visit an old school onsen, eat Indian food twice, do a wee bit of bargain hunting in Harajuku, see a lovely night view of Tokyo from the top of Roppongi Hills Tower, and traverse half of Tokyo on foot.

We both REALLY wanted to see the crazy fashion of the Harajuku girls, but despite having searched for them up and down the streets of Harajuku and running all over Yoyogi Park, we didn't see any of these fashion wonders in their natural environment. We did see two convincing "Harajuku girls," but they were both pretty blonde Westerners. We saw a tamer version of the Harajuku girls we sought out, but they were employees at a store who sold these crazy fashions, so they still didn't feel authentic. Disappointed, we met my friend Ryo at the train station to go to Roppongi for dinner. In the crowd, I spied a girl dressed in all pink, complete with a frilly pink tutu, and topped with a shocking pink bob. In excitement, I exclaimed, "Ryo, look! I found a Harajuku girl!" He looked her up and down and said, "Eh... not quite. She's trying, but..." Apparently, there are still a few Harajuku girls hanging on to this street fashion, and they meet at Harajuku Station around noon on Saturdays and Sundays, but most of the fashion craze ended five years ago. Westerners just clued into this delightful style a little too late. Boo.

Tokyo was fun, but eventually we had to leave for the countryside of Niigata-ken. To lessen the shock of Nagaoka compared to Tokyo, we went straight to Niigata-shi, the biggest city in our prefecture. We met my British friend, Ellen, and my Japanese friend, Kyoko, for lunch at a soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles) restaurant. It was an extremely rainy day, so we decided to do our sightseeing inside. We went to the top of the Toki Messe building, one of the largest in the city. The view wasn't nearly as impressive as the one in Tokyo, but it was interesting nonetheless, because we were right on the coast of the Japan sea. I could see the outline of Sado island in the distant fog.

When you think about Japan, it's pretty hard not to think about video games. They are such a huge part of the modern Japanese culture. I knew Brigitte wasn't too fond of video games, but I thought she should really experience Japanese arcade games. It was a bit of a hard sell, but when I told her that Round 1 had massage chairs, she agreed to give it a try... and she loved it! She had a lot of fun playing all the wacky Japanese video games. And we both relished the chance to use the massage chairs after two days of endless walking.

Once we got back to Nagaoka, we started showing Brigitte the typical Japanese lifestyle in the inaka. We did so much during her week in Niigata-ken. She had the chance to try so many different types of Japanese food, and she liked almost all of them. We went to an izekaiya and did karaoke. We even took her to a Japanese garden in Kashiwazaki where she got to enjoy the lovely fall momiji. At the garden, we did a tea ceremony with my friend Yumi. It was very interesting. We drank from cups that were around 400 years old. Thanks to Yumi's translating, we learned what each slow and calculated movement meant. My legs fell asleep about 15 minutes into it, but it was interesting.

I'm so happy that Brigitte got a chance to visit! It was great fun. You can see all of the pictures on facebook by clicking the new album on the list to the right!