Cultural tour in Tokyo for 2 Israelis… Visite guidée culturelle à Tokyo pour 2 israéliens… イスラエル夫婦と東京の文化ツアー…

[EN-FR] Koma-inu. [JP] 狛犬。

[EN] Among hundreds of ancient wooden sculptures of Arhats, before a statue of Buddha covered with gold, at a wedding centre, across Shibuya Crossing, in little streets, through the Thunder Gate, at Senso-ji Buddhist temple and Asakusa Shinto shrine, beside splendid azaleas and dancing carps, near Tokyo Sky Tree tower… guiding a couple of nice Israeli travellers wishing to discover the Japanese culture in Tokyo today! During this tour, I avoided long walks and stairs (lady with a weak knee), and ordered lunch at a Japanese restaurant based on Jewish religious dietary laws (think vegetable sushi). We had a great time, and the Israelis carefully listened to my explanations about Japan as well as Hinokuma brothers’ legend 🙂 Thanks to my former customer Avraham G. for recommending me to this couple 😀

[FR] Entouré de centaines d’anciennes sculptures en bois d’Arhats, devant une statue de Bouddha couverte d’or, à un centre de mariages, dans de petites rues, à travers le carrefour Hachiko et la Porte du Tonnerre, au temple bouddhique Senso-ji et sanctuaire Shintoïste d’Asakusa, à côté de splendides azalées et de carpes dansantes, près de la tour Tokyo Sky Tree… à guider un sympathique couple de voyageurs israéliens souhaitant découvrir la culture japonaise à Tokyo aujourd’hui ! Lors de cette visite guidée, j’ai évité les escaliers et longues marches (dame ayant un genou faible), et ai commandé nos déjeuners à un restaurant japonais en me basant sur le code alimentaire juif (grand succès des sushis aux légumes). Ce fut une excellent journée et les israéliens apprécièrent beaucoup mes explications sur le Japon et mon récit de la légende des frères Hinokuma 🙂 Merci à mon ancien client Avraham G. de m’avoir recommandé à ce couple 😀

[JP] 何百もの阿羅漢の江戸時代木像の間に、金で覆われた仏像の前に、結婚式場で、小さな通りで、渋谷駅前のスクランブル交差点そして雷門を通して、浅草寺と浅草神社で、綺麗なツツジと賑やかな鯉の隣に、東京スカイツリーの近く… 日本文化を知りたい優しいイスラエル夫婦の旅行者をガイドした。この一日ツアー中、長い散歩と階段を避けて(奥様の弱い膝のため)、和食レストランでユダヤ教戒律の上にランチを注文した(野菜寿司大成功)。イスラエル人のお客さんが、日本について説明と檜前兄弟の伝説をよく聴きました :) この夫婦に私を紹介した昔のお客さん(アブラハム様)に感謝します 🙂

[EN] Azaleas. [FR] Azalées. [JP] ツツジ。

[EN] Carps + azaleas. [FR] Carpes + azalées. [JP] 鯉とツツジ。

[EN-FR] Sushis. [JP] 巻き寿司。

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!

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 🙂

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.

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.

Brushing up my Spanish by listening to news podcasts

To provide better services at Travel Stand Japan, I have started brushing up my Spanish by listening to news podcasts while commuting. This should help me (1) inquire/reserve hotels, buses, etc. on behalf of Japanese customers visiting Spain and (2) discuss with our foreign customers from e.g. Mexico. Will I soon guide tourists in Tokyo in Spanish language? For that, I should learn specialized vocabulary too: cherry blossom, tea ceremony, Buddhist temple, Shinto shrine… 🙂

USEFUL LINKS

 

USEFUL JAPANESE
  • Travel Stand Japan = トラベルスタンドジャパン (Torabelu-Sutando-Japan).
  • Tokyo = 東京.

Now inbound travel manager in Tokyo at the Japanese travel agency TRAVEL STAND JAPAN

Sébastien Duval enjoying koyo at Nagatoro (Saitama prefecture, Japan) on 30 November 2013.Since Monday 09 December 2013, I work at the Travel Stand Japan travel agency in 東京 (Tokyo), happily managing the “inbound” business (services for foreign tourists in Japan). I notably analyse the inbound market, propose strategies, investigate special destinations and experiences, establish partnerships, inform travellers, propose selected activities and tours, plan and sell personalized trips, make reservations, translate, advertise, and promote Japan and the Japanese culture abroad.

Being a travel agent here should help me (1) better know Japan and its tourism industry, (2) prepare my 1-year tour around Japan, and (3) make a better world. I will hopefully get foreigners and Japanese to share their best, empower local businesses needing linguistic/cultural support, and channel holiday trips in Japan towards ecotourism and spiritual tourism. To increase my chances, I am already preparing the exam to become a Licensed Interpreter Guide in Japan…

I love the friendly ambiance of Travel Stand Japan, discuss mainly in Japanese with my 3 nice Japanese colleagues and with our partners, speak English and French with our customers (no Korean or Spanish yet), and enjoy the project! Moreover, I can reach the travel agency from home by subway and on foot in 50 minutes, normally work from 09:30 to 18:30 on weekdays, have weekends and Japanese national holidays off, and can buy delicious lunch boxes at the closest convenience store for only 390 yens 🙂

If you (or acquaintances) plan a trip in Japan or multi-country travel in Asia, ask me for advice/proposals based on my interests, connexions and unique experiences in Japan! Residents and travellers wishing to volunteer in Fukushima/Tohoku are also welcome 🙂