A view from my house

Picture of the day

May 2nd 2010

This a view of a Chinese buddhist temple, taken from the balcony of my house in Kobe

Kobe Ikuta jinja and Sourakuen

Picture of the day for

May 1st 2010

This is Kobe Ikuta Jinja on the first day of the Golden week 2010

 

 Kobe Sorakuen

 

An interview with Guillaume Marcotte from Tokyoluv

Today I’m bringing you in the world of Guillaume Marcotte or as most people call him Mac. Guillaume is a French Canadian from Montreal. He moved in Tokyo in November 2009, to in a way escape the dreaded Canadian winter and to accomplish a dream of his. Mac is an urban fan, he love the atmosphere and the vibration of a big city. He grew up in the suburbs around Montreal, when he got is first job he quickly made the move to the city of Montreal and ever since kept his passion for big metropolis. Now he lives in one of the biggest and busiest city in the world Tokyo.

Here is Mac

Guillaume is an up and coming photographer, he owns the www.tokyoluv.com website which

as an incredible daily collection of photos, and he now writes and takes picture for the famous Japanese fashion website xojapan.jp.

Here is my interview with Mac

Hello Guillaume, how are you today?

” I’m doing pretty fine today”

What is your favorite quote or life motto?

”You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

When did you start photographing?

”Not so long ago unlike many people think, just over a year. But since I got my first SLR I’ve shot every day, everything, with everyone. I’ve learned from great photographers and I think my graphic design background

help me progress in photography.”

What are your interest in Japan?

”Tokyo, I’ve always loved city, I’ve grew up in the suburb and as soon I got a job to pay a rent I moved to Montreal. I also went to New-York city countless times and now I moved in the biggest and most interesting city in the world.”

What truly touch you since you moved to Japan?

”It’s the people maybe, or at least how respectful everyone are to each other, I wish it could be the same in north America. I think it is something we are lacking else where in the world.”

Do you speak Japanese?

”I speak English , French and I’ve been trying to improve on my Japanese’, but I’m still at basic conversation level, like, “Bar” conversation level hehe.”

What did living in Japan brought you in your life?

”Joy, maybe… I wasn’t unhappy back home, but it seems like every day in Japan is a new adventure. I am always meeting new people and experiencing unique stuff, I guess the kind of work I do help thought…”

Where do you

picture your self in 5 years?

”If it’s not a photographer in Tokyo, then I really don’t want to think about it. Plus as long as I find work to pay my rent and onigiri I’ll stay around here.”

What kind of music do you like? any Japanese bands?

”I love electro music, my favorite band are Boys Noize, The Qemists and MSTRKRFT. I also like smooth stuff like shirft, Emiliana Torrini and Radiohead. I don’t know many Japanese artist beside FLOPPY and Hatsune Miku, if she really count like one ^_^”

And to finish off could you tell us what are you working on at the moment?

Well of course there is always my website tokyoluv.com which I try to update everyday with some original photos, also I’ve recently start blogging for xojapan.jp a blog about fashion in Tokyo, those people are super cool. I’ve been shooting more and more fashion lately and I have a new project in progress that I will announce soon. I’m always open to collaboration and proposition too! ^_^

Of course I strongly recommend you to visit his web site.

If you are also interested to communicate with Guillaume all his contact info are on his web site or just click here

It was a pleasure fo me to bring you a little insight in the life of a gaijin photographer in Japan hope you liked it.

Yugo

I will leave you with some of my favorite pictures taken by Mac and that you can view on his web site.

all the pictures used in this post are copyrighted and belong to Guillaume Marcotte

The Geisha 芸者

The Geisha 芸者

Geisha are traditional entertainers in the field of Japanese arts and music. They mostly specialize in Japanese dance, singing, and a variety of instruments including hand drum, shoulder drum, shamisen or Japanese flute. They train throughout their lives, are very highly skilled, and some of the older geisha are even “living national treasures”, the highest status of artist in Japan. There is a really sad misconception about geisha being prostitute and it is seriously wrong to think about that. Of course in the Japanese culture prostitution always had a strong place but geisha were no part of that.

Geisha under the age of 20 or so are called maiko in southern Japan, and hangyoku in northern Japan. Contrary to popular misconception, girls only do five years of training if they begin in Kyoto at 15. In most other districts in Japan, girls who begin as hangyoku or maiko begin at 18, so only do two or three years, and if they are older than 20, they normally debut as ippon-san or geisha. Whether one debuts as a maiko or hangyoku, or as a geisha, it is rarely done without a year or so of training. After their years of preparation, new geisha debut either as hangyoku or as geisha depending on their age at the time they debut.

Geisha are called out to tea-houses or to events, functions and parties, to entertain. This kind of tradition of private entertainment was very common in the West too in previous centuries. Bach or Mozart would have been called out to play at the parties of lords and the nobility. In the West, this former tradition of private entertainment has largely evolved into large-scale public entertainment like ballet, or opera. In Japan, geisha also perform at large public events and annual dances, but the former tradition of small-scale private entertainment of customers having a private meal at a tea-house with friends or acquaintances and calling in geisha to entertain them as they eat and drink – has remained in Japan to the present-day. Geisha are very cultured independent businesswomen with their own customers, some of whom have been patrons for decades, and they often manage younger geisha too. Like any Western artist or musician or actress, they can and do fall in love and have relationships, but this is always entirely a private matter and never part of the job.

Is there any gaijin geisha!?

Yes there is one!

Here real name is Fiona Graham, she holds a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Oxford, and an M.B.A. from the same. Her first degrees was in psychology taken at Keio University, where she was the first Western woman to graduate. In 2007 as part of a social anthropology project she became the first gaijin geisha in the 400-year history of the geisha. For this she took the name Sayuki meaning transparent happiness. She work in Asakusa one of the oldest of Tokyo’s six remaining geisha districts. She has lived in a geisha house (okiya), and participating in banquets as a trainee for the past year. She has been training in several arts, and will specialize in yokobue (Japanese flute). Sayuki made her debut after a year of training which is normal timing in her district.Sayuki became a geisha initially with anthropological fieldwork in mind, but is currently planning to continue as an actively working geisha for some time. Sayuki has lectured at a number of universities around the world, and has published several books on Japanese culture. She is also an anthropological film director with credits on international broadcasters.

Tempura 天麩羅 or Tonkatsu 豚カツ !?

Tempura 天麩羅 or Tonkatsu 豚カツ !?

Where is Tempura from? Most people would answer Japan with out hesitation. They would be wrong! What is Tonkatsu?

Tempura 天麩羅


In middle of the sixteenth century, the Portuguese landed on Japanese shores. In addition to establishing trade, trying to convert the Japanese to Catholicism, the Portuguese introduced tempura, the technique of dipping fish and vegetables into a batter and frying them. This is one example of Japanese food evolution by incorporating foreign influences.Tempura comes from the Latin word tempora, which refers to Ember Days or quattuor tempora. Ember Days refer to the days when Catholics avoid meat and instead eat fish or vegetables. Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, loved tempura so much that he apparently died after eating too much of it. Could you imagine that—dying from overeating? But of cours it’s not a proven historical fact. Still a funny anecdote.

Personally I love tempura, it’s a considerably light fried food.  On of the best places to eat tempura in my opinion, is around the Senso-ji 浅草寺 temple in the Tokyo district of Asakusa. Impressively tempura is one of the only Japanese dish that you can eat anywhere in America that would taste like in Japan. Of course some sushi restaurants maybe but it is still a debatable subject. In Japan a good Tempura meal run around 12 to 25$ more would be too much.

Tonkatsu 豚カツ


Tonkatsu is another Japanese fried dish, mostly called katsu amongst Japanese. Katsu’ roots are not as old as Tempura but still hold a big place in the Japanese food diet. It was invented in the late 19th century as a Japanese version of European cuisine. Katsu is breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet sliced into bite-sized pieces, generally served with shredded cabbage, rice and miso soup. The meat is usually salted, peppered, dredged lightly in flour, dipped into beaten egg and then coated with panko (breadcrumbs) before being deep fried. Tonkatsu has Japanized over the years, today it is usually served with rice, miso soup and tsukemono in the style of washoku (traditional Japanese food) and eaten with chopsticks. Tonkatsu is also popular as a sandwich filling. These days’ tonkatsu may be made by sandwiching an ingredient like cheese or shiso leaf between the meat, and then breading and frying. Tempura is a light fried dish, but it brother katsu is really heavy in the sumo weigh category. But it is a really desishious dish, now served in a fully traditional Japanese way.

The best Tonkatsu I ever had was in Sapporo as crazy as it sounds. But you can eat and enjoy a good Tonkatsu meal anywhere in Japan for around 15$. Plus normally in most katsu restaurant you can all allyou can eat rice, miso and cabbage.

Sapporo and the anual snow festival

Ooooh Sapporo wow what a city. I lived in Sapporo for a year, actually my first year in Japan. I must say it was one of the most comfortable city were i lived in Japan. People from Sapporo are extremely nice and welcoming. There is a really small population of gaijin living in Sapporo which I must say makes living there a little bit more special. The city is kind of small if you compare it to some other major cities in Japan. It size make’s it warmer and comforting, you don’t get the vibe of a big city. Living in Sapporo makes all the life easier everything you want and you need within 10min of walk or metro. Like the roads too! In the urban district the roads are laid to make grid.  If you like to go out for a drink or more , you don’t have to worry about the metro closing at 12am and all that in Sapporo, because taking a taxi to the hotel or home will be relatively cheap. Of course the city has some down sides. The island and prefecture of Hokkaido where Sapporo is situated  does not have a major history in japan apart from being small agricultural settlement. Which mean there is not a lot of old temple, most of them are new. There is no castle in Hokkaido. The Sapporo city surrounding area are full of nature and beautiful scenery. It is near the Toyohira River, on the western and southern part of Sapporo you can see many mountains including Mount Teine, Maruyama, and Mount Moiwa, as well as a lot of rivers including the Ishikari River, Toyohira River, and Sousei River.

If you are traveling to Sapporo there are many places you should check out!

The Sapporo beer factory


It a really important and historical building in Sapporo. It is a bit out side of the city itself but easily accessible by public transports. At the factory there is a museum you can visit about he Sapporo beer brand and the process of making beer. The museum is relatively cheap around 10$ per adult.

The Sapporo Factory


The Sapporo Factory is the old beer factory that was transformed into a shopping mall. It’s a really nice shopping center 1/2 modern and te other 1/2 in the old factory. On the in side there is an impressive glass dome which is fully illuminated and decorated for the winter holidays. It is near odori station and accessible in metro or buses.

Susukino and Tanokikoji


Susukino is where the night life happens, there is a multitude of nightclubs, bars, dance clubs, restaurant, lat night shopping and adult entertainment. But when I say adult entertainment it’s mostly for Japanese only, maybe if you speak really good Japanese. Susukino is also where you can find the famous Sapporo Ramen Yokocho which is the ramen alley. Over there you will find a multitude of incredibly delicious ramen shops. Be sure to try the miso ramen because it’s birthplace was Sapporo. Betwin Susukino and Odori park you can find Tanokikoji The oldest Shopping center if I can say in Sapporo.The Tanokikoji is a street which is covered, the circulation is closed on that street. really near tanokikoji 6 you can find the Norubesa a building with a ferris wheel on its roof and the famous Gaijin bar where my name is probably somewhere on the wall of the second floor if they did not repaint.

The Sapporo Jr tower


If you visit Sapporo you will pass by the Jr tower. It is the main train station in Sapporo. The Jr building is the highest in Sapporo. There is an observatory on the last floor where you can admirer a splendid view of the city. You will also find a shopping center in the tower and a hotel. If you are adventurous you can go in the 2 basement floors where you will find more shops in different underground passage and metro passage. If it cold outside or snowy you can always walk from the Jr station to Odori park and Susukino because those 3 area of the city are connected with an intricate underground system.


Odori park and the T.V. tower

In the middle of Sapporo you can fine an impressively big park. It’s called Odori park. In Summer the park is full of flower and is a really nice place to picnic or to sit down and relax. In winter the park is not so attractive but during Christmas time you can witness the Odori park illumination. All the trees and the T.V. tower are illuminated and it makes for a really pleasant holiday feeling. During February the Odori park transform into the annual snow-festival also known as the yukimatsuri.  It you walk to Odori park 1 you will be confronted to the Sapporo T.V. Tower. The tower is a nice vantage point to admire Odori park and downtown Sapporo. The tower is not as high and massive has Tokyo tower but it’s a fun activity. Of course Odori park is not a place that you will spend an awful amount of time but its a really nice stop to put on your list wile visiting Sapporo.

The Sapporo sweet’s factory

Shiroikoibito park



This is a special place in Sapporo. It is kind of far from downtown but I think that if you are in the Sapporo Area for a week or more you should plan a trip the sweet’s factory.  First time I went there I was impressed. You know the Willy Wonka factory!? This is it!! The Shiroikoibito is the Willy Wonka factory.  The building look like a big Swiss inspired castle. Just having that view makes you get in a childish mood. If you are visiting during the summer you will be able to see beautifully maintain gardens. Making your way inside will revive your inside child. You will be treated with a wonderful architecture and an old European style. The Factory museum is the host of a major tea-cup and accessories collection, an old toy and memorabilia collection and sweet confection activities.  If you want to have a great time I would plan 3 or 4 hour to visit the factory. The sweets made at this factory are famous all around Japan and the factory is a major attraction for Japanese tourist in the Sapporo region.

I’m sure I could write even more about things to see or to do in Sapporo. It’s a great city and region in Japan. lots of things to do, lots of nature, incredibly good food especially sushi and wonderful people. I would now like to finish this post with 2 events in Hokkaido that are 2 must see in a life time.


Sounkyo ice fall festival


The little village of Sounkyo, is situated at the foot of mont Kurodake (1984meters) in Japan’s largest national park, Daisetsuzan.  The city of Sounkyo is mostly an Onsen (hot spring) village, with a population of about 300. It takes about 2 hours to get to the village from Sapporo. The multitude of Onsen resorts gives you the possibility to enjoy a traditional Japanese activity. During your stay there you will be able to relax in a hot bath filed with natural mineral water and relax in a traditional Japanese hotel room. From january 23th to March 28th the city of Sounkyo holds its anual Ice fall festival. The festival is really a magical place. They transform the ice falls in big sculptures, slides and even a shrine. At night you can enjoy a wonderful view of the festival and some fireworks. Every time im in Hokkaido i take the time to stop there for a week-end. There is also a lot of travel agencies in Sapporo that offerweekend trips, a popular one is Asaikawa zoo, Sounkyo and Mombetsu.

The Sapporo snow festival

Sapporo Yuki Matsuri さっぽろ雪まつり

Every year in the 2 first weeks of February, the city of Sapporo hold’s its annual snow festival.The first festival began in 1950, at that time six local high school students built snow statues in Odori Park. In 1955, the Japan Self-Defense Forces from the nearby  base joined in and built the first massive snow sculptures, for which the Snow Festival has now become famous. The festival is one of Japan’s largest winter festival. International Snow Sculpture Contest has been held at the Odori Park site since 1974.Every year the number of statues displayed is around 400 in total. In 2007, there were 307 statues created in the Odori Park site, 32 in the Satoland site and 100 in the Susukino site. One of the best place to view the creations is from the TV Tower. Most of the statues are illuminated in the evening.  In the susukino district, on the main strip you can see some 100’s of ice statues and even an ice bar. I’m from Canada so obviously I don’t mind the cold, if you’re like me and not afraid of the cold and you love winter the Snow festival is the place for you. During the festival brings many Gaijin to Sapporo which makes the nigh life even more interesting.



Here is some useful links about Sapporo check them out!

The Sapporo tourist assosiation.

http://www.sta.or.jp/english/index.html

City of Sapporo

http://www.city.sapporo.jp/city/english/

A trip through history in Asakusa

Asakusa is at the eastern end of the Ginza subway line, about one mile east of the major Ueno station and area. Asakusa is on the banks of the Sumida River. In the 1900’s Asakusa was the major entertainment district in Tokyo. It has now been surpassed by Shinjuku and other colorful areas in the city, in its role as a pleasure district. Personally I love Asakusa it’s a really old part of Tokyo with tones of history. There is a lot of temple and shrines in this area one of which is the Senso-ji 浅草寺. The Senso-ji temple was built in the year 645, it is the oldest temple in Tokyo and one of its most significant. The temple was designated as the tutelary temple of the Tokugawa clan.  This temple is a wonder and a great starting point for Asakusa excurtion.

In the shops all around The sensoji temple you can find a massive amount of omiage(gift)  shop with everything from traditional Japanese sweet’s to yukata and kimonos.  I would not recommend buying gift in that area since there is a really high concentration of tourist but looking around can be a real pleasure. Asakusa also hosts a major cluster of domestic kitchen ware stores on Kappabashi-dori, which is visited by many Tokyoites and travelers alike. Keeping up with the cooking theme Asakusa is pleased to have wide variety of really good restaurant. Good things to eat in Asakusa are Tempura specialty which are particularity exquisite.  For those of you that share a passion for beer this area of Tokyo as something for you too. In walking distance of the Sensoji temple you will find the Asahi Beer Hall. The Beer Hall  is the Asahi Breweries headquarters. The headquarters are a beautiful golden modern building that in my opinion is a must see if your in this area.

I would recommend a one day visit at Asakusa

If you want to put a little bit more planing on your visit to the Asakusa region try to make sure to come during a matsuri.

A matsuri is a festival, Asakusa is the host of many festival year-round.

I would be a great opportunity to witness  and experience Japanese traditions.