My Japanese Heaven – Part 1 of 4 – Welcome to Tokyo!

I’m going to be completely off topic here, but I hope you won’t mind My French Heaven becoming Japanese for a few posts…

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My birthday present this year was a two week vacation in Japan to visit my niece and her husband who live in Tokyo. What a trip that was. I chose to go at the end of November as I wanted to witness the leaves turning colors. What a good call that was! A photographer’s heaven…

There are so many things about that trip that I want to share with you, that I have decided to write 4 posts about it:

  1. Part 1: Tokyo and my impressions of Japan and the Japanese people
  2. Part 2: The countryside and a few travel tips
  3. Part 3: The gardens and temples of Kyoto
  4. Part 4: Sushi heaven and the Tsukiji fish market, style and craftsmanship

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My Japanese Heaven – Part 1/4 – Tokyo and first impressions

Japan is such an iconic country and its culture so well known and admired around the world, that one cannot help landing there with tons of preconceived ideas about the place. I must say that did find everything I expected to find there from the temples to the old ladies in kimonos and great sushi. But I got so much more from this incredible journey. I knew the Japanese people to be very disciplined and serious for instance, but what I didn’t expect was for them to be so kind and friendly. So welcoming and delightful and every way. I also expected everyone to bow and smile and giggle. I was actually shocked to realize that all this actually came from the heart… Not one once of passive aggressive behavior here. What you see is truly what you get! What a noble people the Japanese are!

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Here are a few things about the Japanese culture that I found most remarkable:

  • Traditions are very important. People show great respect at all times, especially for their elders. Young people and old people still wear kimonos. Especially on weekends.
  • Everyone is extremely polite and disciplined. Lines form everywhere, even to cross the street.
  • Most people seem very serious (like VERY serious) and quite formal, but they are just focused on the task at hand and will smile at you as soon as you address them. To me, one word says it all about Japanese people: KINDNESS
  • They always think of the other person first. For instance, a lot of people wear surgical masks. I thought at first that they wanted to protect themselves from pollution, but they wear them mostly when they have a cold because they don’t want to infect other people.
  • Bow + give a genuine smile + say hello. Then ask your question. Remember, politeness and genuine care first!
  • You eat the best sushi in restaurants that ONLY serve sushi. The chef, usually the owner, will only serve the very best. This means that any ingredient that isn’t up to par that day will not be used. This depends on what is or isn’t available at the market that day. You will eat 10 to 15 pieces and they will be served one by one. But more about my sushi experience in part 4.
  • Japan is extremely safe. No crime whatsoever it seems. I’m told that the mafia takes care of petty thieves. The police seems to focus mostly on traffic. Over the course of my 2 week stay, I drove more than 2000 Km and only saw 1 police car on the highway. Not one cop in sight in the city except for a few traffic attendants here and there.
  • If cleanliness is next to godliness, they’re all so close to God they can touch the guy’s beard!
  • Japanese people LOVE their dogs and truly consider them as their children. They are the best groomed pets I have ever seen!
  • A lot of people seem very shy. They never say no. They’ll find a way to make you understand that they don’t agree with something, but always through subtle body language. It’s your job to read between the lines.

OK, enough bla bla. Here is the first batch of photos:

54 Comments Add yours

  1. Sho says:

    I loved the photo of the rickshaw-puller. What a smile! 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I know! Right? I love doing portraits!

  2. Simply…so beautiful, words and photography. Yes, we Japanese are what you have described exactly as mentioned. Too shy at times….a homogenous country yet in this modern era.

  3. anniedm778 says:

    What a wonderful birthday present! I look forward to reading all 4 posts.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I hope you do Annie! I think you’ll enjoy the 3rd part about Kyoto 🙂

  4. terrepruitt says:

    What a lovely birthday present! I look forward to the rest of your posts!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks terre. I think you will particularly enjoy part 2 and part 3 about Fuji, the countryside and the incredible colors of Kyoto…

  5. What an absolutely fantabulous article and post. I feel like I was visiting myself. I actually feel like I want to visit Japan now. Absolutely fabulous. Can’t wait till your next article in the series is posted! Best, Sora.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks Sora! Try Japan if you get a chance. A truly underrated destination!! 🙂

  6. Barbie Beaton says:

    What a fantastic opportunity to share with your readers. The photos are gorgeous as always. Mmmm…sushi.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Oh Barbie, the sushi… I don’t think I can ever have sushi in France ever again…

  7. Farmgirl says:

    What a tremendous experience. Happy Birthday! The people there are so beautiful and I hear the food is outstanding and fresh. I can’t wait to read more. I landed a modeling contract when I was younger to go to Japan but in the end I declined (scary starting over with three children in a new country) but I would like to go there some day and see what I missed! Thanks for sharing your lovely photos. Fabulous as always.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You’d have loved it Katie. If you get another chance, do go. 😉

  8. sabine says:

    Your words and photos pay such an respectful, almost loving tribute to the country and people you´ve visited. It´s really a pleasure to follow you on that trip!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      It really was special Sabine. Thanks for joining my virtual trip 😉

  9. V 8 Mile says:

    Such beautiful photos– Japan is on the top of places I’d love to visit.

  10. Stunning photos as always, and they paint an interesting narrative. I love your cultural insights.
    Japan is high on my list of places to visit. Thanks for the vicarious delights! Can’t wait to see the next instalments.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I really think you’d love it. Japan doesn’t top most people’s list of places to visit, but it really should. I don’t get it… Glad you enjoyed the post 😉

  11. Olivia May says:

    I am looking forward to the 2, 3, 4 …

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks Olivia! Part 2 on Monday 😉

  12. a very special post with beautiful pictures!!

    -Do check out my new post on ‘by the window’ strawberry shake @ https://noodles4thoughts.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/by-the-window-strawberry-shake/ if you would like to.

  13. Merci, mille fois merci, Stéphane! I have been looking forward to your Japan posts so much and can not wait for the rest. And that was definitely not “blahblahblah” but really helpful and insightful too. 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks Heather! You always know what to say 😉

  14. elsonsequeira says:

    What a lovely post Stephane! I felt i was walking down Tokyo.. Eager to read part 2/3 and 4. Wish you a happy 2015 my friend.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Happy 2015 to you too!! 😉

  15. ladyredspecs says:

    Your photos are simply beautiful Stephane. You seem to have captured the essenc. eJapan has been on my bucket list for quite a while

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You’d love it Sandra! I hope you get to visit someday. Truly a magical place and a lovely people…

  16. Wonderful to see your take on Japan Stephane; I’m looking forward to the next episodes. From what you say the Japanese people have not changed since in was there in, I think, 1968 but obviously a lot of things are very different. Apart from the characteristics of the people which you mention, my most abiding memories are the booking clerk for the then amazing, pretty new ‘bullet train’; he calculated the price of the ticket on an abacus! The other outstanding memory was the little yellow flags available at every road crossing; pedestrians grabbed one and waved it while crossing to stop the traffic. I guess those will be two things no longer there.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      No more yellow flags no, but boy are they disciplined 😉 Glad you liked the post. Thank you for taking the time to read it 🙂

  17. malgay651 says:

    Beauty in a place, is in the eye of the beholder.
    What an eye you have for capturing what you see, and then the generosity to share with us all.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You are so very kind! I am so glad you enjoy this little virtual trip. I hope you’ll enjoy the next few installments 😉

  18. Angeline M says:

    Wonderful photos and intro to your vacation, Stephane! I really look forward to this series.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks Angeline! Yes, I really think you’ll enjoy the next few posts. Part 2 will be posted on Monday 😉

  19. How wonderful. Happy Birthday sorry it’s belated. What a great gift and wonderful photographs. So interesting to read about the Japanese and their culture and etiquette.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      No worries, my birthday is April 12th 😉 Japan really is a special place…

  20. Dina says:

    What an excellent, captivating picture story! Loved see-reading it very much.
    Kind regards, Dina xo

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks Dina! Can’t wait to read what you think about the next posts 😉

      1. Dina says:

        Patiently waiting, my dear friend. 🙂

  21. Stephane, what fun to travel to Japan with you. Our younger daughter, who studied Japanese for a number of years, went there for six weeks and really enjoyed it. One reason pets are like children is that most Japanese aren’t having children, which is going to cause a problem down the road. Lovely photos as usual.

    janet

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Oh I know! My nice has two young daughters and people are always asking to touch them and take selfies with them. So if we’re in a restaurant or a café, my niece will let young ladies play with the girls as much as they want. She says it might make a difference when one day they’ll make their choice between career and family… 🙂

  22. chef mimi says:

    Gorgeous. The four posts could easily be a book or commercial travel brochure! Albeit a thick brochure!!!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Wait till you see the pics I took in Kyoto. You’ll be amazed by the colors

  23. Wow. Your pictures are gorgeous as always! I’ve always wanted to visit Japan. But I have neither the time nor the funds at present…*sigh*. Maybe someday. You certainly paint an excellent picture! 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      It really is worth the expense. It is not very expensive once you’re there. Quite cheap actually. Anyway, I hope you get to go someday! 🙂

  24. I love this Asian detour!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I’m glad Catherine! I hope you’ll enjoy the next few installments 😉

  25. I’m very pleased that My French Heaven is becoming Japanese heaven for a bit so that we can enjoy some of your trip to Japan. I’ve never been there and am looking forward to more of your photos and insights into Japanese life.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I think you’ll enjoy the next post on Fuji and the countryside! 😉

  26. Linda Duffin says:

    Oh, gorgeous pictures and I’m so jealous. I was only saying to my husband last night how much I’d like to visit Japan. I look forward to your next three installments. Linda x

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Knowing you a litle bit, i know you’d love Japan Linda. It truly is a special place with very special people! 😉

      1. Linda Duffin says:

        Sadly, not a possibility at the moment. I shall have to continue living vicariously through you! Lx

  27. Oh fabulous!! I am making my first trip to Japan in June! I will be poring over your posts like a woman obsessed! What timing.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Oh how wonderful! You will love it. I will post the next instalments every Monday…

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