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 😉

6th Tokyo Local Thinking seminar at Editory: Network to make a better Jimbocho (Tokyo, Japan)

Invited tonight at the 6th Tokyo Local Thinking free seminar by Editory‘s dynamic organizer KAWARADA Yasuhiko, I enjoyed live music, attended talks, joined a group exercise, and networked in Japanese language with local guests wishing to dynamize, enhance and promote the Jimbocho area of Chiyoda Ward in Tokyo. Sadly, I missed 20 minutes as the owner of a nearby restaurant requested an interpreter immediately to explain his menu to American customers.

Like last time, the seminar was refreshing 🙂 I chatted with acquaintances but also met the CEO and an executive officer of the excellent Good Morning Café, a cooking instructor who worked 5 years in California, staff from real estate agencies… OnJapan‘s UCHIYAMA Masayuki asked my views (as the sole foreigner in this packed room) about his Jimbocho Yomatsuri project: a festival in May with Japanese food stalls, traditional music and songs, dances in kimono… I notably suggested to end the event late to attract and entertain Japanese and foreign tourists after a full day of tourism elsewhere. Update: I e-mailed him additional suggestions on 07 March 2015.

I invited some participants to eat together near Travel Stand Japan on a Friday evening or week-end before the next seminar on 01 April to network and make a better world without worrying about our last subway/train or work the following day!