A Travellerspoint blog

A taste of Japan in Paris

When people think of Paris the first images that usually come to their mind are the Eiffel tower, the romantic evening walks near the Seine river and the delicious french food and pastries. In my case my profound love for Asia lets me take another approach to the city of love. What many people don´t know, is that Paris is a great place to get a glimpse of the japanese culture in Europe. Of course it will never replace the experience of travelling to Japan but as an European myself, I see it as a great opportunity to have a completely different cultural experience without travelling to much. Here is a small guide to my favorite japanese places in Paris:

The convenient thing is that most japanese shops are located in the same spot. Roughly around the metro station: Opéra, Pyramide and Quatre-Septembre. It is also rather close to the "musé du Louvre".

Places to shop:

- Uniqlo: A casual japanese wear designer with a very affordable price tag. A little bit like H&M or Zara though Uniqlo also plays the "rigorous japanese quality" card to earn the loyalty of its customers. Personally I´m already hooked. :) Many of my favorite clothes were bought there. This brand is really famous in Asia but so far they have only opened a few shops in Europe. Another reason to go there during your next visit to Paris!
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Address: 17, rue Scribe 75009 Paris FRANCE

- Book.Of: It is a famous second hand bookstore chain from Japan. As far as I know the only shops they have in Euope are in Paris! And one of the shops in Paris offers exclusively japanese books, games, movies and music. A good place for those learning Japanese to obtain reading material in Japanese. Just to give you an idea, most of the Mangas they sell cost merely 2 euros per book!
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Address: 29-31, rue Saint-Augustin 75002 Paris FRANCE

Places to eat:

- Kunitoraya: One of the best place to eat Udon noodles (the thick delicious japanese noodles). This restaurant is rather tiny inside and not fancy at all but the dishes they serve are simply marvelous. As you can see on the picture many people have to stand in line to get a seat so try to come early if you can. PS: There are many more delicious japanese restaurants in this streets! So why not give it a try?
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Address: 39, rue Sainte-Anne, 75001 Paris FRANCE

- Aki Boulanger: A japanese bakery that offers famous european pastries with a japanese touch. When I was there I had a Matcha green tea tiramisu...hmmm, yummy. :)
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Address: 16 rue Saint-Anne, 75001 Paris FRANCE

Although this was just a small overview of what Paris has to offer in terms of japanese culture, I hope that it´ll be able to awaken your interest and that you´ll go check it out yourself during your next visit to Paris. :) Constructive comments and suggestions are warmly welcome as always...

Posted by Niels1303 12:24 Archived in France Tagged paris japan shopping books opera games movies louvre sushi udon bakery uniqlo matcha Comments (3)

Sumida river firework festival

semi-overcast 24 °C

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I first heard about the Ryogoku firework festival when the staff of my hostel told me about it. It was supposed to take place before my arrival but got postponed to August 27th because of the ernergy saving messures. I couldn' t been more lucky because my hostel was just facing the sumida river and exactely in between the two spots where the fireworks were ignited.
Hours before the start of the festival, the streets were filled with women and men wearing the traditional Yukata. And the more the festival approached, the more crowded the streets became. I usually hate and avoid such crowded places in Germany, because you often get pushed around and often encounter drunken people doing stupid things or getting agressiv, but here it was a whole different experiene. It didn't feel stressful at all, no one pushed me and the whole atmosphere stayed peaceful. On one part it was due to the excellent organisation of the event and the other one probably due to the very respectful nature of the japanese people. The road to my hostel got closed, but I received a special authorisation to pass through the police check points. I really felt like a VIP. :) The view was great from the rooftop of the hostel and the atmosphere even better. Unfortunately due to the amount of people there, I couldn't use my camera tripod, so the pictures I took are a little bit blurry.
According to the informations I could gather, it is the biggest and oldest firework festival in Japan. It started during the "Edo" period and was dedicated to the water god to pray for the soul of the countless people who died of starvation and diseases at that time, but also to keep evil away.

Posted by Niels1303 19:47 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

The Fukushima craze abroad

One of the reason that influenced mi decision to go spend a part of my vacation in Japan was the tsunami and the Fukushima aftermath that struck Japan last march. I felt grieve for the people in Japan who had to face so many disasters. So I thought that by travelling to japan I could, at least somewhat, boost the declining tourism but also show others that it was perfectly safe.
Before my departure people around me almost declared me crazy to go to Japan right now. Some friend of mine was even afraid to swim in the atlantic ocean because it was directly linked with the pacific ocean where contaminated water from the fukushima plant got released. And when I told them that not a single country had warned its citizens not to go to Tokyo, they would bring up the conspiracy card.
I don't want to downplay the seriousness of the situation. What happened in Fukushima is a proof that nuclear energy is a very dangerous matter that we cannot make 100% foolproof, but on the other hand we shouldn't allow the media to make us paranoid. The first thing we have to take into concideration is that Tokyo is rather far away from Fukushima. Second: although the radiation level was farely higher in Tokyo ofter the meltdown at the reactor, even if the level didn't sink, the radiation dose that I face during the week I spent in Tokyo would still be a lot lower the radiation we are exposed to when our bodies get x-rayed. And theres even the argument that small doses over a longer period are not so dangerous as a higher dose during a short period (like for the x-ray). So I really hope that people will stop to believe blindly what the fear that the media are propagating and analyse the facts for themselves.
Japan is such a beautiful country and the japanese people are some of the friendliest I ever met. The reclining tourism is another disaster for Japan, but in this case me you and everyone still looking for a place where to spend their next vacation can do something about it!

Posted by Niels1303 09:28 Archived in Japan Tagged japan fukushima media_craze Comments (0)

Making new friends in Tokyo

When I took the kensei express from Narita airport to Tokyo, I met an American living in Tokyo who recommended me cafe where local Japanese people and foreigners met to improve their language skills. Since so far I couldn't really communicate with the people from Tokyo because my japanese vocabulary is limited to "konnichiwa", "arigato gosaimasu" and "sumimasen", and especially since I wanted to know the local people better, I just gave it a try. It was a little bit hard to find, because it's on the fourth floor and doesn't have big billboard sign. When I came there were only a few people, but after a while the place filled up pretty fast. I really had a nice evening and met some very interesting people like a japanese man who spoke very good French and even knew songs from "Charles Aznavour" by heart, a Dutch "Go" player who had won the world championship, or even a very nice japanese girl who used to be affiliated to the famous breakdance "Rock Steady" crew in japan just to name a few.
It is certainly not the usual thing people do when travelling abroad. But for me it was one of the best experiences I had in Japan. If you have a chance to cone to Tokyo, you should really give it a try. The place is called Micheyhouse (www.mickeyhouse.jp) and is located a little bit north of Shinjuku. The exact directions can be found on the site.

Posted by Niels1303 07:52 Archived in Japan Tagged japan friends cafe language_exchange Comments (1)

Oktoberfest in Tokyo!

rain 22 °C

Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower

Oktoberfest in Tokyo!

Oktoberfest in Tokyo!

Japanese Oktoberfest waitress (I'm suprised she could find a Dirndl in her size!)

Japanese Oktoberfest waitress (I'm suprised she could find a Dirndl in her size!)

The japanese Currywurst! Small but refined, like the typical japanese food...

The japanese Currywurst! Small but refined, like the typical japanese food...

A friend of mine had told me before my departure that Tokyo would have its own Oktober Beer Fest. While travelling so far away from home, I should really spend time learning more about the local culture, but in this case my curiousity to know how close to the real deal it would be was simply too big. :) My friend KaRam was really kind to guide the way, even though it was hard to find and the weather was so bad. When we arrived to the site, which was located just behind the Tokyo Tower, we could already hear the unmistakable sound of german "Schlager" music. What I saw really astonished me! The organisators had managed to recreate the atmosphere of german beerfests quite accurately. Almost all the beers that were sold were genuine german brands like Erdinger Weissbier, Köstritzer or Franziskaner just to name a few. The offered meals were also fairly traditional: from "Fleischkäse" to "thüringer Bratwürste" almost everything that can be found in Germany could be brought there. And if it hasn't been for the all the signs written in Japanese and the very slim instead of the "robust" german "Dirndl" wearing waitresses, I could have sworn that I was in Germany! Since I'll be able to drink any kind of german beer when I'll be back home and since it was so prohibitively expensive (around 2500 ¥ for one Liter, which is about 22 € for my european friends), I just decided to try their "Currywurst" sausage. It still cost me 600 ¥ but I must admit that it tasted pretty good. In Germany the Sausage is bigger and it is served with much more sauce, and this might just be the reason why the average German got his weight less under control than the average japanese person. :p Concidering the fact that it rained so much that day, a lot of people attended this beerfest. I was also surprised to the the japanese guests drink so much beer, although so many people often pretend that japanese people cannot drink. :) At the end of the day I gained the feeling the they are really fascinated by our german "beerculture". This would also explain why a big part of the tourist visting the oktoberfest in Munich are from Japan...

Posted by Niels1303 08:57 Archived in Japan Tagged japan oktoberfest currywurst Comments (0)

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