Meguro Gajoen is a wonderful hotel with exquisite design, a museum inside, and a waterfall included. This summer, it's sparkling with festival lanterns and dragon lights.
Tokyo never stops being amazing. The New Otani Hotel Gardens, open to the public, are delightful in summer. Check it out!
"Hibiki - Japanese Harmony", as they say
If the Japanese calendar is dominated by meaningful celebrations, old graceful rituals and respected traditions, there are also a few moments in the year when heavily marketed events take the power. Typically: Valentine day, Christmas, and Halloween. These imported, made-in-the-West celebrations were adopted to fill gaps between "real" Japanese ones, and to give shops sales opportunities. And so it feels a bit cheap, unreal, misunderstood. As Valentine is already a very commercial celebration in the West, it doesn't matter so much, but Christmas for instance is kind of depressing in Japan. Japanese Christmas is too Disney, too KFC, too Sexy-Miss-Santa costumes to be good.
But Halloween... I don't know, Japanese Halloween is working well enough. Or maybe because as a European, I was not used to celebrate Halloween when I was a child, so my opinion doesn't count. No trick-or-treating kids on the streets, no one ringing the bell at night to ask you for candies... Maybe Japanese Halloween is missing the point. BUT, for adults, let's admit it's a nice partying opportunity. In the country of cosplay, people do'nt hesitate to go wildly costumes... Here is a sample of 2015's not-so-little monsters. Check it out!
Tokyo Halloween is for grown-up only...
Shibuya horror show - It's more fun with friends
Kawaii costumes - It's Japan after all
Tokyo Westerners - Bend it like the Japanese
I sware that I don't exaggerate when I say that wearing a kimono is a very special experience. First, this is not the kind of dress you can jump in and forget. Not only you need at least two persons to put it on correctly, but it is like a rigid, heavy, solemnel piece of fabric folded around you. A kimono itself is a very light and smooth sheet of silk, but under it you also wear three or four layers of cotton; scarfs and ribbons to keep it close to your body and a hard, wide under-belt to give the right shape to the obi. Once you're set, you have to keep your back straight, you can't release the pressure on your belly and you need to control your steps, your breath, every single movement. Sounds like hell? Actually, not at all. The kimono does impose a certain discipline, but it also supports you and it guides your behavior. Personally, I just can't get enough. So when a friend of mine proposed me to model for a kimono brand at the Tokyo Design Festa 2014, I couldn't decline.
The French models team - Before
The French models team - After
... Who said "Power Rangers" ? Oh, come on.
I am the Green Power Ranger. Let me show off.
Our Japanese counterparts
In the past, the way the ladies were wearing the obi gave some clues about their rank in the society, their marital status or their position inside their own family. Each obi is a real piece of art, it's really the most impressive part of the kimono.
The way of the obi
Pretty cool, uh ?
But of course, there are still some ways to be foolish in a kimono. You can count on us to add the French touch.
Be young, be foolish, be happy.
Guys, I'am definitely happy to be back in Japan, but amazing pictures of my trip to New-York City are coming soon. Be ready, it's going to be legendary.
Last Monday, I went to see a sumo fight for the first time at Ryogoku. As many Westerners, I had always been a bit disturbed by the aesthetics of this wrestling sport - naked, huge bodies and inscrutable faces. But it was the perfect opportunity to try to understand more about it, and so I did.
A rikishi (wrestler - in Japanese, "professional of strengh") on the ring... The clash is coming !
First, the place : Ryogoku Kokugikan, in the Eastern area of Tokyo. At the entrance, colourful banners welcome the visitors. Inside, the atmosphere is lively - people drink and eat, shout the name of their favorite rikishi and loudly comment the fights.
The dohyo (figting ring)
The dohyo iri (wrestlers presentation)
Even the cleaning of the dohyo looks like a choregraphy
For your information, us women are not allowed to walk on the dohyo, even when nobody's around. And even nowadays. We are such impure creatures. Jeeeeez.
Sumo champion showing-off
The gyoji (referee)
The rikishi throw salt on the ring before fighting, to purify it.
This world-wide famous gesture is for chasing away the bad spirits
Fists on the ground to accept the fight
The tachi-ai (clash) - trust me, they are surprisingly fast !!
The sumo fight is all about make you opponent walk/touch/fly the area outside the ring. This is why the wrestlers have to be so heavy. Still, there is no weight categories like in boxing, so the two rekishi's weight can be 100 kilos different ! Ouch, my spinal column... They say that 150 kilos may be the best for a wrestler : heavy enough not to fly too much, but offering a minimum of flexibility.
The rikishi have to follow a very strict physical discipline to maintain their body in the right shape - a bit like classical dancers in Europe. They wake up at 5am, train themselves all day long and eat carefully - mostly boiled vegetable and meat (nabe). Being a sumo fighter requires a permanent body and mind controle.
This rikishi is Bulgarian-born. More and more foreigners (especially Mongols) try to make a career in sumo, so the Japanese Sumo Association had to restrain the number of non-Japanese to one new member per year. Not so bad. Among the Japanese, the number of candidates is decreasing. A rikishi life doesn't make people dream anymore...
What do the sumo rikishi fight for ? To please the gods. For sun, for rain, for harvest and for long life.
Thank you for your heavy prayers, guys !
If you plan to come to Japan one day, you have to understand the concept of matsuri. Matsuri is a Japanese "festival" consisting in gathering the greatest number of food stands a possible ; plus cute girls in yukata ; plus something traditional like dances, songs, contemplation of fireworks or wathever. In summer, you have dozens of matsuri all around Japan. They are most of the time totally packed and you come back home with the smell of takoyaki on your clothes. Actually, there is nothing very funny about matsuri, except the very special feeling to be in Japan for real.
In the case of Mitama Matsuri, the beauty of the lanterns alone justify your presence there. Of course, Yasukuni Jinja is one of the most controversial subject in the Japanese International Relations, because it is dedicated to the people who fought on behalf of the Emperor between 1868 (Opening of Meiji Era) and 1951 (end of the war) - about two million soldiers are honored there, including, unfortunately, some war criminals. The Yushukan Museum, just next to the shrine, is also famous for providing very incomplete information about the war crimes perpetrated by Japan in Asia during WW2. As a result, this beautiful place in Tokyo is considered abroad as a symbol of extreme nationalism and even Japanese imperialism ; and the Japanese people themselves are not in favour of their governement's high-level visits at Yasukuni Jinja anymore. To mak it short, Yasukuni is a touchy subject and sometimes people are surprised you go there, even for an innocent matsuri. Whatever.
But let's go back to the basics : as I said, matsuri is made of
Girls in Yukata
And something traditionnal : shrine and beautiful lanterns
Magic, isn't it ?
The lanterns stand for the souls of the dead soldiers. In the middle of the way, a dancing group performs a simple choregraphy and every one can join the dance.
Mitama Matsuri 2011 / July 13th-July 15th / Yasukuni Jinja, Kudanshita Station / Free entrance