france

An afternoon in Kagurazaka, Tokyo’s French Quarter 【Hidden Tokyo】

An afternoon in Kagurazaka, Tokyo’s French Quarter 【Hidden Tokyo】

Kagurazaka is one of the most attractive and interesting enclaves in all of Tokyo. Its name in kanji, 神楽坂, literally translates to “God Music Slope”, referring to kagura, the spiritual music traditionally dedicated to Shinto gods. Located at what used to be the outer edge of Edo Castle, the gentle slope that still runs through Kagurazaka today was once filled with the sounds of music emanating from the Imperial Court.

Today, this is one of the few remaining areas of Tokyo where you’ll find exclusive geisha houses hidden off the main street and kimono-clad women shuffling through narrow cobblestone alleyways. It’s also the best place to experience a taste of France, as it has the largest concentration of French restaurants in Tokyo, and a vibrant French expat community. You’ll even hear the strains of accordions as they pipe Parisian music through speakers on the street!

Join us after the jump as we take a stroll through the area and reveal why a visit to Kagurazaka should be on your list of places to see in Tokyo.

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Champagne, macarons and Pikachu? Paris plays host to Europe’s first Pokémon Center

Champagne, macarons and Pikachu? Paris plays host to Europe’s first Pokémon Center

The Pokémon video games may have been created in Japan, but there is no lack of Pokémon fandom in the rest of the world from redesigning sports logos to pokéball engagement rings. And to showcase France’s Pokémon love, a pop-up Pokémon Center has opened up in Paris this month featuring original art, limited edition goods and even a special pokémon sent directly to your Nintendo 3DS.

Unlike Japan’s eight Pokémon Centers, which usually focus on the series’ merchandise, the highlight of this pop-up show is the Pokémon gallery where you can sip champagne, munch on Pikachu macarons and appreciate the amazing artwork, including some amateur fan art. Click below to take a peek inside the “Pokégallery” and find out which Pokémon is France’s favorite!

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His name is Balse and he looks like Colonel Muska: Japanese netizens go wild for new French PM

His name is Balse and he looks like Colonel Muska: Japanese netizens go wild for new French PM

Japanese netizens are bursting with excitement about Manuel Valls, who was appointed as France’s new Prime Minister this week. But what are these Twitter users so astounded about? Well, the newly appointed Prime Minister supposedly bears a striking resemblance to evil genius Colonel Muska, from Hayao Miyazaki’s 1986 movie Castle in the Sky.

And what’s more, in Japanese his name sounds just like barusu or “balse”, the incantation from Castle in the Sky. So this new guy not only looks like a character from the classic animated movie, his name also happens to be the movie’s most important word – which, incidentally, is a record-breaking Twitter meme in its own right.

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6 strange laws to take note of before embarking on your worldly travels

6 strange laws to take note of before embarking on your worldly travels

Who doesn’t love a good vacation? Particularly for working adults, it’s the only time we can take a step back from our hectic work lives, unleash the wild-child within us, and perhaps do something silly without worrying about (too many) repercussions since we’ll be jetting off in a couple of days.

But wait, hold your horses! The last thing you would want to do on an overseas vacation is to unknowingly breach the law, right? Some of the things that we normally do in our homeland might be illegal in other parts of the world. Things as normal as ladies wearing pants. Strange, huh? There’s more coming up!

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Meet Les Romanesques: The most famous Japanese people in France

Meet Les Romanesques: The most famous Japanese people in France

This is Tobi and Miya. Together they make up the music duo, Les Romanesques, whose intriguing stage performances have made them a huge hit in France. Their appearance on France’s Got Talent became the most watched YouTube video in all of France, and the 4th most watched video worldwide. Since then, they’ve appeared in French TV commercials for Mazda, and even helped promote the Paris International Film Festival with Jane Fonda and the Mayor of Paris. Their entertaining performances and music videos have just the right mix of talent and zany Japanese appeal that’s got audiences around the world asking for more.

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C’est Si Bon! Enjoy a Taste of Gourmet France in Central Tokyo

C’est Si Bon! Enjoy a Taste of Gourmet France in Central Tokyo

Okay, this is a question for you francophiles out there. Where should you go if you’re in Tokyo and you want to eat and feel like you’re in France? Ask Tokyoites, and chances are they’ll say Kagurazaka, where the official Institut français du Japon–Tokyo is located and where you’re liable to find many French nationals as well as numerous French restaurants. But according to an article that appeared recently on Japanese news site Excite Bit, there’s another rather unexpected area of Tokyo with a surprising concentration of shops offering a taste of France.

And just where might that be? Well, the article informs us that quite a few famous French gourmet establishments have set up shop in Shibuya, that mecca of young pop Japanese culture. Read More

French Commentator’s “Radiation” Joke Angers Japanese Government

French Commentator’s “Radiation” Joke Angers Japanese Government

Following Japan’s 1-0 victory over France in the friendly football (soccer to our North American readers) match last week, a French variety show host made a joke that has touched a nerve here in Japan.

Alluding to Japanese goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima’s impressive skills on the field, the show presented an edited image of the player, showing him with four arms.

The show’s presenter then suggested that Kawashima’s additional limbs might be the result of “the Fukushima effect” and that they had grown after exposure to radiation leaked from the nuclear plant damaged by the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. While the joke went down well during the show, many Japanese are understandably very upset…

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How to Organize Zen? Japanese Buddhists’ Adapt to Western Views of Their Religion

How to Organize Zen? Japanese Buddhists’ Adapt to Western Views of Their Religion

What do you think of when you hear the word Zen?  For most people, “organized religion” probably isn’t a phrase that pops up immediately.  This can be a bit of a predicament for Zen Buddhist missionaries working in places like Europe and North America.

The word, which comes from a Japanese translation of the Chinese word chán, literally means meditation, and has developed a romantic sense of being purely in the moment and devoid of all thought.  This concept has been focused on by various artists in Western culture like Jack Kerouac, with a diminished emphasis on the less sexy doctrines and worshiping of Buddha that are very much a part of the whole religion.

This image dichotomy is something that the Headquarters of Missionary Work for the Soto School of Buddhism in Europe has to deal with all the time.

Excite News Japan recently went to interview them on the state of modern Soto Zen Buddhism abroad. Check our rundown of their findings below!

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Olympics-Schmolympics, Who Makes the Better McDonald’s Burger; France or Japan?

Olympics-Schmolympics, Who Makes the Better McDonald’s Burger; France or Japan?

Fresh off the most recent stint of Big America burgers released in McDonald’s restaurants across Japan like the Texas Burger, Idaho Burger, and Broadway Burger, the taste of the month now has turned its eye toward France.

This time though McDonald’s Japan has completely copied one of French McDonald’s sandwiches, the Le GrandTo see if it lives up to the original I tried one in France and Japan for a tête-à-tête taste test.

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One Man’s Junk Food is Another Monsieur’s Gourmet

One Man’s Junk Food is Another Monsieur’s Gourmet

There’s this new potsticker (aka gyza, aka dumpling) restaurant that opened in Paris, that people are actually lining up to get into. We wondered what all the fuss was about, so we went there to check it out ourselves. Read More

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