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 😉
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 🙂
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!
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 😉
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!
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
- 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
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 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.
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 🙂
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?
More at 20 September 2014: Friendship Day in Tokyo’s Minato ward on Inner Japan.