My friend Moo visited me in mid-March - she was my 4th visitor in the space of an exhausting 2 months. Given I hadn't seen Moo (or anyone from my much-missed Tori group) in over a year I was tremendously excited in the weeks preceding her visit!
Her first meal in Japan - Moo had some difficulty with her chopsticks...
... but still enjoyed her meal. Especially gyoza.
Moo's first day in Tokyo - and we were lucky to happen upon a Shinto wedding at the Meiji Shrine.
The place I was most looking forward to taking Moo was Harajuku - I knew she'd go nuts walking down Takeshita-dori.
One of the few Japanese words I taught Moo the night before (when she arrived) was かわいい (kawaii), which means "cute". As anyone who has been to Japan can attest, it has to be one of the most spoken words in Japanese culture (hey look! It even has it's own wikipedia entry!) - you hear it EVERYWHERE. Everything is described as "kawaii", because, well, nearly everything in Japan IS kawaii. And sure enough, while Moo was purchasing a dress at a small boutique in Takeshita-dori, the store clerk pointed to Moo and said "kawaii" and "dooru"' (ie she was saying Moo looked like a doll). Moo, while flattered, was quite taken aback, especially considering the store clerk herself was about 5 ft nothing and looked even more like a doll (including her clothes). See? Kawaii, ne.
Moo prizes her long-desired crepe in Harajuku.
On the evening of the second night of Moo's visit, we went to a monthly dance party called Hard to Explain. Moo quickly realised that living in Japan does have its annoyances (taking off shoes inside the door)...
... but also its benefits (alcohol vending machines).
In our favourite music t-shirts (mine: Patrick Wolf; Moo's: Blondie) we got our boogie on down to indie music I'd mostly never heard before but could still dance like a nutter to.
Well.. when you stand in front of the speakers...
Moo getting to know the locals. I think this photo was taken just before Moo jumped like a kangaroo across the dance floor - either to explain she was from Australia, or to scare him away, I can't remember. (This photo is actually quite innocent - just poorly timed and the depth is difficult to work out).
Another case of timing and difficult-to-determine depth. Moo wasn't REALLY slapping Annie - Annie is quite lovely (and from Brisbane!) - but it's an amusing shot ;)
At about 4am the fatigue set in, however the first trains don't start running till 6am, so we had to soldier on.
On Monday 17th of March Moo and I took a trip to Nikko. I'd visited Nikko once before, back in November, and loved it. It's one of my favourite places in Japan, offering amazingly beautiful scenery, spectacular temples, and is quite peaceful, with much fewer tourists than places like Kyoto. Plus, it is possible to visit on a day trip to Tokyo.
By this stage Moo was handling her chopsticks like a pro - I'm so proud of her :)
Some shots of Nikko:
Spot the Moo:
Moo in front of Shinkyo Bridge.
Just as my first trip to Nikko gave me my first glimpse of snow, so did Moo's. Isn't she kawaii?
On Tuesday 18th of March we went to Disneyland.
Moo really wanted to ride "It's a Small World". I, having gone on this ride back in December and knowing it to be equivalent to one of the circles of Hell (uh, let's say the fifth - that's got a boat, right?), was vehemently against this idea. However, I was bribed into it with the promise of going on the teacups next. And so it was that Moo and Tyrone boarded the boat across the river Sty- sorry, the boat through Fantasyland.
About halfway through, Moo realised how terrifyingly dull the ride was, and so tried to teleport out of the boat.
However, there is no escape from this diabolically designed ride (unless there's a fire, in which case you have to look for the bright green "Exit" signs - kinda spoils the fantasy), and thus her attempt to flee failed. She had no other option but to sit, grin and bear it. Look at the frenzied look in her eyes - like a caged animal!
As promised, we then rode the teacups. Moo doesn't handle motion well, but she stuck it out like a trooper.
This is Moo concentrating on her breathing.
This crazy bastard invited us to a tea party, made us repeatedly change positions around the table, and then stole my hat!
Unfortunately, we happened to go to Disneyland on a day which was in the student holidays, and so the park was incredibly busy. This meant that the lineup times for the popular rides was ridiculously long. It was also quite cold. Luckily we'd remembered our headphones.
I believe this picture was taken about halfway through our wait in line for Space Mountain.
This picture was taken a bit further along, as evidenced by the progression on our faces from boredom to misery.
In a bid to relieve our boredom Moo practiced her magic "disappearing fingers" act, and had trouble with the "reappearing fingers" part of the act.
Moo has a shocking experience in Toon Town.
Cartoon doors. Difficult.
For the record: this was my third visit to Disneyland in as many months. If I never see Mickey Mouse again I'll die a happy man.
Moo brought a special friend for Beaker. However, while Gumby was very kind and open to friendship, Beaker snubbed him with a look of startled nonchalance (is that possible?).
By the second last day, Moo had grown to love Japanese food so much, she was quite protective of her lunch.
Alas all holidays must come to an end. Here we are at the airport, thinking back on all the fun we'd had over the previous week...
And then realising it will be months till we see each other again, and then it won't be in Japan :(
Moo is probably the last visitor I will have had visit me by the time I leave Japan - and I'm happy to say that every visitor I've had has fallen in love with the country (I think). It is such a great way of renewing your love for the city you live in, when you show people around. It is very easy to get stuck in the same cycle of work-home-work-home, and so when friends or family visit, you of course show them the things you love, and in doing so remember just why you're living here (or why you enjoy living here). The few periods over the last 15 months in which I've been feeling frustrated with living here, for one reason or another, have ended because I've had people visit me, and I've seen them experience the things that have made me come to love this country so much - the food, the unique culture, the quirkiness, the (amazingly) efficient transport system (seriously!), and most importantly, the Japanese people. This country will always hold a special place in my heart, and I will definitely be returning at some (many?) time in the future. For the next two months I will be trying to see as much of Tokyo as I can.
This post is dedicated to the memory of my Poppa, Henry Richard Miles, who passed away on the 17th of March, 2008, aged 75.