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.

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 😉

Party with Jimbocho’s Yomiuri Giants baseball fans at Hanaya restaurant in Tokyo (Japan)

Invited at Hanaya restaurant by its owner, I partied this afternoon with joyful Japanese elders from Jimbocho area (Chiyoda ward, Tokyo, Japan) including a Shinto priest, a chef, staff in the publishing industry… I was introduced as the promoter of the local area and businesses thanks to my Yes in Japan map of Tokyo Chiyoda North. During this annual gathering of baseball fans (Yomiuri Giants team), we talked in Japanese about sports, the Kanda Festival, Japanese life in the 1950s… while savouring tuna sashimi, beef stew and udon noodles prepared by the chefs! The drinks featured excellent old plum liqueur and smooth cold saké.

Japanese photomontage with sashimi, stew and udon noodles at 花家 (Hanaya) in 千代田区 (Chiyoda ward, Tokyo) on 08 November 2014.

Good news! I will have the honor to carry a omikoshi (portable Shinto shrine) during the Kanda festival of May 2015! Besides, I should accompany the group in March 2015 to a hot spring in Hakone that normally requires membership 🙂

Volunteer distribution of Osanpo Jimbocho 18 in Chiyoda ward (Tokyo, Japan)

Volunteer of the Osanpo Jimbocho team, I distributed today the well-designed 18th Osanpo Jimbocho magazine made in Japan and a related flyer at bookstores, restaurants, a cleaning shop, an art gallery, and the Gakushi-kaikan hotel near Jimbocho station (Chiyoda ward, Tokyo, Japan). Thanks to the whole team, visitors enjoying Jimbocho Book Festival or Kanda Ancient & Rare Books Festival (25 October to 03 November 2014) will learn about the community and local services in Japanese.

Osanpo Jimbocho 18 on 01 October 2014.

As a local travel agent, I happily walked along the Suzuran and Yasukuni streets on this beautiful autumn day like many Japanese and foreigners speaking in English, Chinese, Korean… I also shared a good time with shopkeepers such as the owner of Mambaken, who joyfully showed me handwritten documents in French including notes by Jean-Paul Sartre and a letter by Napoléon!

The Osanpo Jimbocho team will soon resume its meetings to prepare the Spring 2015 magazine, to be distributed before the Suzuran Matsuri 2015.

Sales to business owners in Chiyoda ward (Tokyo, Japan) for autumn/winter 2014

Manager at Travel Stand Japan, I sold advertising spots on a map promoting Chiyoda ward (Tokyo, Japan) to business owners/representatives this week. We will give this Yes in Japan map in English to foreign tourists, businessmen, students, and residents near Jimbocho station in autumn and winter 2014. I do the sales in Japanese language by myself because typhoons keep my colleagues from the travel agency busy: cancelled flights, rescheduled trips… I secured 19 advertisers so far while broadening my human network and learning about the local businesses!

I visited former advertisers (Nago café, Otsumami-kaasan…) and new places such as the exciting cultural centre Origami-kaikan promoting origami and Japanese paper since 1858, the luxurious restaurant Shozantei and the new restaurant Mokuchi Jimbocho.

To attract more customers, Nago café now proposes food from Italy in addition to Okinawa (I savoured the “black cabbage and pork stew” for lunch). I will update the English menu then give a copy to the nearby hotels, starting with Hotel Niwa Tokyo.

Dining at Otsumami-kaasan, I happily met a Japanese gentleman from Kyoto who discovered the restaurant on the summer map and has already dined there 4 times! Unexpected proof of return on investment 🙂 I am now writing an English menu to ease interactions with foreigners staying at e.g. the nearby Hotel Villa Fontaine Kudanshita Tokyo.

The setting of Shozantei impressed me: beautiful tatami mats, good lighting, big decorations with flowers, top-quality meat, menus in English… Expensive but exceptional!

Finally, I did not know the restaurant chain Mokuchi but had a great time at its Jimbocho branch: friendly smiley staff, delicious fried chicken, an English-speaking chef translating his menu, cheap lunch boxes…

Japanese photomontage with flowers and products of businesses in 千代田区 (Chiyoda ward, Tokyo) on 06-10 October 2014.

This interesting week was crowned with a morning tour in Bunkyo ward, guiding a British couple to discover the Japanese gods. They loved that touch of inner Japan 🙂