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.

New experience & 400-year festival: I carried an omikoshi during Kanda-matsuri in Tokyo (Japan)

As part of the biennial festival Kanda-matsuri entertaining Shinto gods and celebrating this year the move of Kanda Shrine to its current location in Chiyoda ward (Tokyo, Japan) 400 years ago, Eri and I watched a parade with horses and participants in traditional costumes around 09:00 near Jimbocho station.

Horse & costumes during Kanda-matsuri in Jimbocho area (Chiyoda ward, Tokyo, Japan) on 09 May 2015.

Shishi-shaped float of Jimbocho-itchome during Kanda-matsuri in Jimbocho area (Chiyoda ward, Tokyo, Japan) on 09 May 2015.

Invited by community leaders, I then carried a divine palanquin “omikoshi” for the first time, wearing the festival attire of Jimbocho-itchome district, in company of Japanese locals and of an American married to a local lady. We processed from and to Jinbocho Mitsui Building (16:00-19:00), singing to keep the rhythm on Yasukuni avenue and in small streets of Kanda Suzuran Shopping District, lighting lanterns up on our beautiful omikoshi at night 🙂

Small & big omikoshis of Jimbocho-itchome during Kanda-matsuri in Jimbocho area (Chiyoda ward, Tokyo, Japan) on 09 May 2015.

Dragons on the omikoshi of Jimbocho-itchome during Kanda-matsuri in Jimbocho area (Chiyoda ward, Tokyo, Japan) on 09 May 2015.

Omikoshi of Jimbocho-itchome towards Shinjuku during Kanda-matsuri in Jimbocho area (Chiyoda ward, Tokyo, Japan) on 09 May 2015.

Omikoshi of Jimbocho-itchome carried high during Kanda-matsuri in Jimbocho area (Chiyoda ward, Tokyo, Japan) on 09 May 2015.

Japanese girls carrying the omikoshi of Jimbocho-itchome at night during Kanda-matsuri in Jimbocho area (Chiyoda ward, Tokyo, Japan) on 09 May 2015.

I hurt my shoulders due to my inexperience and above-average height (Update: still a bit painful after 7 days in spite of immediate medical treatment)… but I had fun and was glad to experience this piece of Japanese life, share food and drinks with so many happy friendly faces, and meet local friends!

Japanese girls in happi during Kanda-matsuri in Jimbocho area (Chiyoda ward, Tokyo, Japan) on 09 May 2015.

Big thanks to the influential owners of Hanaya restaurant, Hasebe restaurant (local omikoshi manager) and Ohya-shobo ukiyo-e shop (XYZ role) for getting me authorized to carry the omikoshi of Jimbocho-itchome.

I created my Gravatar profile “Sébastien Duval (寿春・セバスチャン)”

I just created my Gravatar profile “Sébastien Duval (寿春・セバスチャン)” in English on Gravatar Website to enhance my social presence on Internet and the experience of those reading my comments online.

Gravatar profile photo: Sébastien Duval

Free service, Gravatar gives people a standard online identity called “Globally Recognized Avatar”. The famous WordPress blogging platform uses Gravatar by default so that its users commenting on blogs/websites get their selected nickname and photo displayed automatically. It is more fun and satisfactory for commentators, readers and authors/bloggers/webmasters.

To create your own Gravatar profile and page, just register using your e-mail address, input a nickname and upload a photo 🙂 Later, you can add, change or remove information such as your core values, country of residence, practised activities, interests and hobbies, favourite movies and games, art projects, Christmas wish lists, recommended links…

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.

New project: East of the Imperial Palace map in English for tourists in Tokyo (Japan)

Tomorrow, my team will start preparing its first “East of the Imperial Palace” walking map in English to support foreigners in Tokyo city and promote local gems using help from local communities, our expertise, and our human networks. Contact me before June 2015 if you wish to advertise or recommend an exceptional business near Ginza, Nihombashi, Shimbashi, Tsukiji, or Tokyo station 🙂

As Travel Stand Japan‘s inbound manager, I mainly search businesses that interest foreign tourists and residents, that provide high-quality products or services for adults and children, that are unique or characterize the area, and that make the local communities proud! I thus favour old local businesses with eco-friendly Japanese-style products by Japanese designers and handmade in Japan, Japanese companies with headquarters in the area, event organizers, stores with friendly bilingual staff accepting payments by credit card, and tax-free shops open 24 hours a day. If needed, our travel agency can design menus/labels (translations, explanations, pictures…) and train staff to better interact with tourists (language & culture). Of course, the team also happily guides tourists to the great places on our maps to help them buy or order what they dream of during Yes in Japan tours 🙂

Making this online and paper map should be fun and rewarding but exhausting like when I prepared the “North of the Imperial Palace” map of spring/summer 2015. I enjoyed cycling in small streets, discussing with hotel staff, informing and learning from various shopkeepers and owners in Japanese language, clarifying my values while honing my sales/negotiation skills… but that took much time and energy! Wish me exceptional holidays afterwards 😉

New business: I guided 3 Japanese during an English study tour in Ochanomizu area (Tokyo, Japan)

I just guided two Japanese ladies and a Japanese gentleman for 2 hours in Tokyo to improve their English while visiting Ochanomizu area. I appreciate my experience as an English teacher at an international preschool and as an English/Japanese interpreter for this new business by Travel Stand Japan 🙂

We had a great time discussing life in Asia, Western practices and ways of thinking… while shopping, walking among beautiful flowers, observing lucky charms for computers at Kanda Shrine, and discovering a cool exhibition of paper animals at the International Origami Centre! Next time, we may also enjoy a special restaurant/teashop or attend a tea ceremony 🙂

Interested in joining a Yes in Japan language study tour to discover Japan and discuss cultural/lifestyle differences with Japanese people or foreigners in English, French or Japanese language? Contact me 🙂

English map at hotels in Chiyoda ward (Tokyo, Japan) during autumn/winter 2014

I had a great working week! I met many hotel managers and reception staff in the north of Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward, explaining and giving new Yes in Japan maps in English to ease their job, increase their customers’ satisfaction, and promote local tourism and businesses. The “Autumn/winter 2014” free map was welcomed so foreigners on holidays or business trip now find it at:

  • APA Hotel Akihabara-ekimae
  • Comfort Hotel Tokyo Kanda
  • Gakushi-kaikan
  • Hotel Dormy Inn Akihabara
  • Hotel Dormy Inn Suidobashi
  • Hotel Grand Palace
  • Hotel Metropolitan Edmont
  • Hotel Mystays Ochanomizu Conference Center
  • Hotel Niwa Tokyo
  • Hotel Villa Fontaine Jimbocho
  • Hotel Villa Fontaine Kudanshita
  • Hotel Villa Fontaine Otemachi
  • Kanda Central Hotel
  • Kanda Grand Central Hotel
  • Kanda New Central Hotel
  • Kanda Station Hotel
  • Keio Presso Inn Kanda
  • Ochanomizu Hotel Juraku
  • Ochanomizu Hotel Shoryukan
  • Ochanomizu Inn
  • Ochanomizu St. Hills Hotel
  • Remm Akihabara
  • Richmond Hotel Tokyo Suidobashi
  • Sakura Hotel & Café Jimbocho
  • Suidobashi Grand Hotel
  • The B Ochanomizu
  • The Korean YMCA In Japan – Asia Youth Center
  • Tokyo Dome Hotel
  • Tokyo Garden Palace
  • Tokyo Green Hotel Korakuen
  • Tokyu Stay Suidobashi
  • Trettio Ochanomizu
  • Washington Hotel Akihabara

Yes in Japan map: North of Chiyoda ward (Tokyo) in November 2014, front side.
Yes in Japan map: North of Chiyoda ward (Tokyo) in November 2014, back side.

Cycling everywhere, I could even eat Belgian waffles at Brasserie St. Bernardus, top grilled beef at Shozantei and a goya omelette at Nago café 🙂

Next week, I should speak more Japanese with shopkeepers and delegates of tourism/business associations… and English with embassy staff!

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.

Half-day tour in Tokyo with a couple from Mexico: washi, lucky charms, fake food…

As Travel Stand Japan‘s inbound manager, I spent half of my day in Tokyo with a friendly Mexican couple interested in graphic design, disaster risk management, and Japanese life. This personalized tour on 11 September 2014 let me introduce diverse objects made in Japan and taught me about Mexico!

I had planned the tour to meet Japanese people, present everyday life objects and Japanese architecture, and end somewhere allowing fun tourism by oneself afterwards. The joyful director of the Origami-kaikan demonstrated his origami skills and an artist from the workshop told us about colouring traditional Japanese paper “washi”. We saw an origami exhibition, old photos, pilgrimage marks, lucky charms, votive plaques, high-school uniforms and trophies, cooking utensils, restaurant signboards, fake food for display, a vending machine selling umbrellas… We followed an ancient moat, walked in backstreets, crossed streets using an aerial maze, spotted old narrow apartments and large modern offices, entered small shops…

No problem arose during this private tour but the couple unexpectedly bought lots of washi to cover a wall of their house in Mexico so I must get information about appropriate glue 🙂 The shopping list also included a flattening tool for origami, lucky charms for good health, and a pair of chopsticks for kids (with rings to properly place the fingers).

We met at the travel agency, walked to the Origami-kaikan, Kanda-myojin and Akihabara station, shortly rode a train for Ueno station then walked again to Kappabashi “Kitchen Town” and Asakusa. I guided, informed, introduced the people we met, translated in English and Japanese, and requested origami demonstrations 🙂

The Mexican wife just e-mailed me; it feels so good to make a better world:

To: Duval Sébastien
Thanks for everything its a blessing I found you to show us japan
Warm regards

Our Mexican customers increasing, should I get ready to discuss about Japan in Spanish?

Japanese photomontage of a tour related to washi in 東京 (Tokyo) on 11 September 2014.

More at 11 September 2014: Tour at Origami-kaikan, Kanda-myojin & Kappabashi (Tokyo) on Inner Japan.