When Japan Comes to You Before You Can Come To It

Japonismes Logo: Japan in FranceThis past Sunday I had one item on my to do list: Buy a new pair of jeans for my upcoming trip to Japan. It should have been an easy task, but I live in France, where things are rarely easy and never simple. That’s why I wasn’t exactly surprised to discover that the mall was closed on Sundays, because of course it’s closed on Sundays. Thank goodness I figured this out before actually getting on the bus to head out there, but nevertheless, it was with no small enough of frustration that I began to head home instead. I didn’t get very far though, because as I walked towards the Metro, I happened to glance to my right. In retrospect, I’ve never been so happy to glance to my right.

All year long, France and Japan have been celebrating 160 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries through an event called Japonismes 2018. There have been exhibits and shows all over the city celebrating Japanese arts and culture, and in September, the Eiffel Tower played host to a special light show designed by world renowned lighting designer Motoko Ishii and her daughter Akari-Lisa Ishii, a prominent Parisian designer. This past Sunday, Bercy Village was the setting for a day of celebrating Japanese culture, and this was why I was greeted to the sight of the French and Japanese flags side by side when I glanced to my right. Naturally I decided to investigate, and I was delighted to discover that I had somehow stumbled upon a Japanese cultural event exactly one week before I get on a plane to Japan.

Over the course of that afternoon I learned about Japanese culture, tried my hand at crafting a traditional Japanese greeting card, and watched a demonstration of Japanese calligraphy. While all of this was fun, it was the live performances that were the highlight of the day by far. The drummers, puppeteers, and samurai fighters were all amazing, and the dancers completely blew me away. The costumes, music, and movements were simply incredible, and they prompted me to immediately look into whether or not I could see some similar performances while actually in Japan. I also managed to pick up an info guide and Metro map for Tokyo, so all in all, I left the event more excited than ever for my upcoming trip. Oh, and did I mention that all of this took place inside the incredible Musee des Arts Forains? This astonishingly beautiful building holds the museum of amusement park and fairground arts, and just so happens to be somewhere I’ve always wanted to explore.

In the end, last Sunday was the perfect example of why I love living in Paris. Yes, it can be an incredibly frustrating city to navigate at times, and yes, I sometimes want to put my foot through a wall when trying to deal with the bureaucracy. But whenever Paris puts a roadblock in your way, it’s usually because something even better can be found when you take the alternative route. Paris is a large, cosmopolitan city that highly values art and culture, and on any given day there are literally dozens of events taking place all over the city to experience and explore. The next time you find yourself in Paris, don’t just stick to the big sites. Pick a neighbourhood, walk around, get lost. You never know what you’re going to find just around the corner.

Or by simply glancing to your right.