I decided to condense the particular 3 days into a single entry as it was more of a catching up and sight seeing trip with a friend I hadn't seen in a while and the whole experience revolved more about culture and life than it did photography. I also ended up shooting more film than digital while in Niigata so there may not be too many photos to share.
I set off pretty early to the west coast of Japan and after a bento breakfast on the train and some mountain tunnels I arrived in Niigata. Right from the bat it started to remind me of Edmonton. It's a sharp contract from Tokyo where it's near impossible to not be surrounded by people anywhere you go. Niigata on the other hand was much quieter, cooler and laid out similarly to Edmonton in some ways. The big difference is that it is a port city and as such has a lot of influence that way.
Speaking of which, the friend who was generous enough to give me a tour of the city as well as some of the popular locations happens to be a Port Queen of Niigata and not only has quite a bit of knowledge of the area but is a beautiful person all around.
The first day was spent between sake breweries, fish markets, observation towers and one of my Dave locations, the Ito family house. A edo period "mansion" that is incredibly true to the old school Japanese way of life and comes off as something you'd see in an old school Akira Kurusawa flick.
The day following I got a chance to see the merchant equivalent of such a home which also turned out to be a incredibly beautiful place. I could sit by the window and just appreciated the garden or listen to the rain there for hours. It really can make you take a step away from being surrounded by technology and fall back to the original elements.
Over the course of lunch I got to watch a Geigi performance which itself was a very cool experience but it also brought forward the history that led to the influence of hostess bars across Japan. It's something that would be interesting to discuss further in a future entry.
Finally we ended up going to a mountain temple not far from Niigata city as well as making it to the top of the mountain just in time to catch a glorious sunset over the pacific ocean. The country side along that part of Japan is a very interesting and beautiful place. I really got the strong desire to come back one day, rent a scooter and just ride across the countryside with a camera, stopping wherever.
The last day was spent making soba noodles from scratch at a cultural center in the city. It's always fun to see people teach their craft and all around it was a wonderful experience to learn some of the food culture and traditions behind a popular dish across the country. I was really glad to experience that. We also got a chance to visit a rice cracker factory. Niigata is well known for its rice, this of course has a strong influence on their sake and rice related dishes. Seeing the behind the scene elements at play, especially in a very different culture than our own is always an interesting contrast to witness.
Finally, we spent some time by the ocean, something that I kept wanting to revisit all 3 days. Edmonton doesn't have an ocean front and it's something you can't miss till you experience it. I will truly miss all the smells and sounds as well as the feel of the cool breeze.
The 3 days went by really fast, as they always seem too. I hate saying goodbye to friends, it is however a source of joy being able to see how far they've come and grown. It's a bit of a childish notion but at times it feels like being in a movie, seeing friends with such beauty and character.