15 August 2015: You & I at Nishi-kanda Family Summer Festival in Tokyo (Japan)?

Invited by community leaders, I plan to enjoy the annual Nishi-kanda Family Summer Festival at Nishi-kanda park (Chiyoda ward, Tokyo, Japan) from 18:00 on Saturday 15 August 2015 🙂 Like last year, I should wear my kimono, join easy bon-odori dances and songs with adults and children, listen to dynamic traditional music (notably taiko drums), discuss with the locals while eating Japanese food…
Poster of Nishi-kanda Family Summer Festival (Chiyoda ward, Tokyo, Japan) on 15 August 2015.

You are welcome to experience Japanese life and ancient traditions for free with us! Locals will gladly take a few minutes to teach you simple dances and songs 🙂 Just check your calendar and contact me in advance for help regarding kimono rental or translations between English/French and Japanese that evening.

I tested SGRS Tourism Agency‘s Sumida river cruise and Walk with Geisha in Asakusa area (Tokyo, Japan)!

Invited by SGRS Tourism Agency to test its tours for foreign tourists in Tokyo, I enjoyed this afternoon a fun Sweet & Sound Cruise on the Sumida river and a Walk with Geisha in Asakusa area then attended its business presentation and a funny show (see next post). As a tourism professional and former preschool teacher, I believe these tours will be great once refined, providing fond memories of Japan to Western adults and children alike! I now look forward to a walk with a Japanese warrior, ninja or samurai 😉

Odaiba island (Minato ward, Tokyo, Japan) from the Sweet & Sound Cruise boat on 18 April 2015.

Geisha Otoki-san in kimono with Sébastien Duval holding her fan at Asakusa Shrine (Taito ward, Tokyo, Japan) on 18 April 2015. Photo by Eri.

I had a great time all along: Ken (from Hawaii) and Miki (from Japan) sang in English and Japanese during the cruise while Oui played the piano and Nanako the violin, Harusa (from ???) guided us in the streets of Asakusa accompanied by the “geisha” Otoki-san… Bilingual and wearing a kimono, Harusa motivated us to look for statues on rooftops (e.g. the thief Nezumi-kozo) and portraits of Japanese movie stars (e.g. Takeshi Kitano), touch a giant straw sandal at Senso-ji Buddhist temple, pray under cherry blossoms… Under a big blue sky, we took splendid photos of Odaiba island from the platform of our boat as well as cool photos with the staff here and there 🙂

Miki & Ken singing with a piano and violin during a Sweet & Sound Cruise (Minato ward, Tokyo, Japan) on 18 April 2015.

Harusa Matsuyama in kimono with Sébastien Duval at Asakusa Shrine (Taito ward, Tokyo, Japan) on 18 April 2015. Photo by Eri.

The cruise is fine for Westerners but would be even more exciting with albums containing old maps, photos or ukiyo-e woodblock prints placed on the tables, with sale of traditional Japanese sweets/snacks like wagashi and karinto (plus a list of ingredients for allergic travellers), and with more Japanese songs (adding a lullaby would be great to transmit the Japanese culture).

The walk requires a method to avoid losing participants in the crowds and to prevent interruptions by bystanders jumping in for a photo with the geisha! To enhance the tour, the guide may bring a piece of kimono fabric to freely touch and may introduce holy seals at the last spot (Asakusa Shrine): watching a Shinto/Buddhist calligrapher write a goshuin is amazing but few Westerners know that! Finally, the guide may give maps introducing local restaurants and shops (see the Get Japan maps for examples).

I hope this feedback will help SGRS Tourism Agency make a better world, happier people 🙂 I just e-mailed the team!

Ken with Sébastien Duval on the Sweet & Sound Cruise boat (Minato ward, Tokyo, Japan) on 18 April 2015.

Invited to Friendship Day by staff of the American embassy in Tokyo (Japan)

Invited by RAUB Konna from the embassy of the United States in Tokyo (met at the Yukata de Guide Tour 2014), I enjoyed today the annual Friendship Day organized in Minato ward by the American community and embassy in Japan. A street and park decorated with American flags, a Sesame Street show, concerts, games, delicious roasted chicken, a beautiful sunset after the rain… Japanese children and adults (including one of my colleagues) were excited to get their photo with marines in uniform, Elmo or Cookie Monster! I preferred a charming lady from the US air force in camouflage gear 🙂

As a travel agent and interpreter, I appreciated this opportunity to meet foreign residents in Japan and bilingual Japanese people. An English teacher and a marine even asked me to get them cheap international flights 😉 I got an official polo shirt of the American embassy in Tokyo as souvenir and participated to a lottery; will I win a flight to the USA, luxurious dinner in Tokyo or something else?

Japanese photomontage of Friendship Day in 港区 (Minato ward, Tokyo, Japan) on 20 September 2014.

More at 20 September 2014: Friendship Day in Tokyo’s Minato ward on Inner Japan.

10-day tour in Japan with a family from Oman: Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Osaka!

As Travel Stand Japan‘s inbound manager, I just spent 10 exciting days with an Omani family (2 parents, 5 children, 2 maids) on holidays in Japan for the first time. This great experience on 19-28 August 2014 let me for the first time meet people from the Sultanate of Oman, spend more than a week with customers, and guide travellers in Kyoto and Osaka.

I had planned the stay to have fun, provide new experiences, discover Japanese nature, introduce traditional and modern Japan, and eat food suitable for Muslims. We explored 3 theme parks, went to a zoo, enjoyed a Cirque du Soleil show, got caricatures from Japanese artists, spent much time shopping, wrote prayers in kanji and katakana alphabet, rode a shinkansen (notable because Oman has no high-speed train), cruised on a river and lake, drove along the sea and in forests, saw Mount Fuji, ate among the clouds on a mountain, entered a bamboo grove, observed rice fields, walked in ancient streets… The bus drivers and my colleagues at the travel agency helped wonderfully!

No big problem arose during this private tour beyond an insect bite (fixed at a pharmacy), crowds at the theme parks (summer holidays!), and an American Express card unusable at Universal Studios Japan (fixed with cash). As my colleagues had requested, every hotel provided 3 rooms on the same floor, near each other, and the staff of Hotel Nikko Princess Kyoto prepared a delicious birthday cake for one of the daughters.

We met at Narita international airport when the family arrived in Japan, immediately went to Tokyo and spent every day together until the departure from Japan. I personalized the itinerary as I learnt more about everybody, informed, translated in English and Japanese, requested massages and a private room with open-air bath (Hakone is perfect for that), carried luggage, played with the children (my experience as a preschool teacher came in handy)… and learnt some Arabic from the elder son! The goodbye at Narita airport was poignant: the elder son held me tightly for a long time and the 1 y.o. daughter waved goodbye to her parents instead of saying goodbye to me 😉

I promised to visit the family in Oman; shall I go just after spending Christmas in France with my parents?

Japanese photomontage of a tour in 東京 (Tokyo), 箱根 (Hakone), 京都 (Kyoto), and 大阪 (Osaka) on 19-28 August 2014.

More at 19-28 August 2014: Tour in Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Osaka on Inner Japan.