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!

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