こんばんは！ This weekend one of my oldest friends, Hannah, came to visit us in Tatebayashi with her boyfriend, Francesco! Hannah and I first met almost eleven years ago when she came to the States as an exchange student from Switzerland. She stayed with my friend, Kathleen, and together we had a blast making music (Hannah sings, plays piano and violin, and also composes beautiful pieces!), traveling to Las Vegas (thanks Mom!), doing photoshoots, and just in general having a great time together.
The last time I saw Hannah was five years ago at my wedding! She flew all the way from Switzerland to Kansas City and was our ring bearer. (Wedding photo credit to Travis and Bethany at Cohesion!) I was so happy she made it; I was able to have everyone I love there for the big day!
So, here we are, five years later: reunited!
Japan has made spring my absolute favourite season, and in Tatebayashi it is gorgeous. I’m so happy Hannah and Francesco were able to make it at such a beautiful time of year!
One of the biggest things they wanted to experience, they said, was the food. So, we did our best to make sure they got a sample of as many different Japanese foods as possible – some that are famous abroad, and others not so much!
First stop was, of course, ramen! We went to the amazing ramen shop Tokoton down the road. They liked it so much we went a second time just before they left!
They also wanted lots of sushi! One night we had sashimi for dinner at Donsantei, a seafood izakaya restaurant, and another day we ate at the sushi train restaurant Uobei for lunch. (I was amazed at how expensive sushi is in Switzerland! They told me that at their favourite Japanese restaurant they spend the equivalent of 7,753 yen for a meal of sushi. At Uobei they only spent around 2,000-2,500 yen!)
We also ate at Dotonbori, an okonomiyaki restaurant. You order a bowl of raw food like egg, flour, cabbage, and tempura bits, with extra ingredients like pork belly, seafood, mochi, and/or cheese; then you mix it up and cook it yourself on a special hot plate set in the table.
We also had udon and tempura at Marugame Seiman! (I love this place, you can sprinkle the fried tempura bits all over your noodles!)
We also spent a night in, during which Francesco showed me a fast and simple (but fancy to me!) Italian way to cook pasta. It was so tasty! Thank you Francesco!
We also stopped by our favourite bar, Carter’s. There our friend Koba brought out his Daruma, a Japanese doll used to help people set goals (I made a post about Tatebayashi’s Daruma festival here), and had us all sign it.
Maybe my favourite meal was on Sunday, when we went out to hanami, which means “flower-viewing” in Japanese. The park was crowded, but we were able to find an out-of-the-way spot in the shade. We laid out a tarp, took out our bentos, beer, and umeshu (plum wine), and just sat out beneath the trees watching the cherry blossom petals fall. It was so nice to just relax and talk.
Living in a foreign country has really made me realise just how big and diverse the world is, and I enjoyed hearing about their lives in Switzerland and their experiences with European languages (between them they can speak/understand Swiss German, German, French, and Italian! And English, too, of course. ^.^ )
What else did we do? We sang karaoke one night, though I don’t have pictures from that; too busy singing Uptown Funk, haha! We also visited Guruguru, a thrift shop that sells everything from anime figurines to manga to games to airsoft guns to clothes to DVDs and CDs to guitars…this place has everything! No pictures from that trip, alas.
Paul and I took them over to my favourite shrine, Obiki Inari. There they got to do a Shinto prayer – toss a coin in the box, ring the bell, clap, bow and pray, then clap twice. The shrine was resplendent with cherry blossoms.
We also went on a day trip to Takasaki, a city about 58km northwest of Tatebayashi. By train it took us around an hour and a half to get there. From the station we took a bus to the Byakue Dai-Kannon, a 41.8 meter tall statue of the Goddess of Mercy built in 1936.
For 300 yen we were able to go inside and walk up to the shoulders, where we saw a full view of Takasaki.
There were something like 3,000 cherry blossom trees in full bloom all around the statue! It was so beautiful.
Takasaki is also the home of the Japanese Daruma!
Also, back home, while our cat Olive was a chicken and hid away for most of their visit, Aster loved Hannah and Francesco (especially Francesco!) Here, Hannah is a cat whisperer:
And that’s that! These two lucky ducks are off on the next leg of their trip in Kyoto and Tokyo, and hopefully they are finding many more beautiful places and eating so much delicious food (and sushi!).
Thank you guys for coming to visit us! I’m so happy you came, and I look forward to the next time we see you, wherever in the world that may be! ❤
Until next time – matane! (またね！)