アメリカ風のポップコーンPopcorn American-style

2008.05.31: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi

For this Saturday, we had several families with children as guests. So after dinner, I gathered all the kids in Kamesei's lobby, and brought out our popcorn maker from the States, and popped a bunch of popcorn for everyone. Freshly popped popcorn is the best!
亀清旅館のHPはこちらClick here for Kamesei Ryokan website


作務衣の初着 New Samue

2008.05.31: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi



Innkeepers in Japan typically wear 'samue' traditional work clothes. The problem is, samue makers usually don't have my size (I'm 6'7"). I've looked all over the place, and the only one who can accomodate me is an NPO out of Matsumoto, Access・21, that makes them at a coop in Thailand. So I wear a traditional Japanese samue and at the same time, support relief work in Thailand. Pretty cool, eh?

亀清旅館のHPはこちらClick here for Kamesei Ryokan website.
Access・21 Link

庭改造の次に一歩Next Step in our Garden Improvement

2008.05.31: 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan


Kamesei Ryokan's design is mostly 1-story wood structure, with gardens here and there throughout, creating a very relaxing atmosphere. However, the gardens haven't been updated for many moons, and are getting rather dated. Starting with the garden for the outdoor bath last year, we are renewing our gardens one by one. Here is our gardener, Okada-san, putting the final touches on one of the gardens off the watari-rouka corridor. I am looking forward to the day when guests say they came to Kamesei to see our gardens!
亀清旅館Kamesei Ryokan link
ガーデナーの岡田さんOkada-san the gardener link


唯一の青い眼の刀工 The first and only foreigner Katana maker

2008.05.30: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

Austin-san display

Next to Togura Kamiyamada Onsen is Sakaki Town, in which there is a Katana Museum. I went there today with Sakaki resident Keener-san. On display through June 22 is a feature on the first foreigner in history to get certified by the Japanese government to make katana swords. Apparently there have been many foreigners since who have studied, but Keith Austin (American, died 1997) is the first and only to achieve certification. The display also mentioned Keith-san loved Japanese sake. I'm not sure what the connection to katana was, but I wish me, the first blue-eyed ryokan innkeeper, could have shared a sake with Keith, the first blue-eyed katana-smith.

鉄の展示館Katana Museum Link
キーナーさんKeener-san Link
亀清旅館Kamesei Ryokan Link

katana close-up

Austin's favorite (and mine!): Tobe-yaki

museum facade

Eco Recycle

2008.05.29: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi


Our bathroom remodel here at Kamesei Ryokan is creating a lot of wood waste. Rather than just dispose of it, I decided to keep it for kindling for the wood burning stove in our lobby. It took an entire day, but I cut it all up and stacked it. Lots of work, but I'm sure the environment appreciates it.

亀清旅館のHPはこちらClick here for Kamesei Ryokan website.

芸者の踊り@亀清 Geisha Performance here at Kamesei

2008.05.28: その他 Miscellaneous

Takeshi and Harugoma repeat performance

The Kamiyamada Onsen Ryokan Assoc. Annual Meeting was held at Kamesei's banquet room last night. Five of our town's geisha provided entertainment with song and dance and shamisen and taiko. The timelessness of the geisha dance makes you forget the wars and economic problems of today, and takes you to a dream world. Then, as the geisha make their rounds of the guests, their entertaining conversation takes you further into the realm of dreams.... (Of course, the sake probably helps, too.)

商直市場 Produce Market

2008.05.28: 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano


About 15 minutes by car from Kamesei Ryokan is a large produce stand called 'Yamasan'. I stopped there for the first time yesterday, and was impressed by their selection of fresh local fruits and vegetables. Back where we lived in Seattle we had a stand nearby like this -- it's comforting to find one here, too!

亀清のトイレ改造工事Kamesei's main toilet remodel

2008.05.27: 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan

If you come see us here at Kamesei Ryokan, don't be surprised by this construction -- we are remodelling the main bathrooms. We are making them brighter and more spacious. I want to thank the carpenters for their hard work (but also ask them to hurry up so we don't inconvenience the guests much longer!)
亀清旅館のHPはこちらClick here for Kamesei Ryokan website

Michelin Presentation ミシュランへの発表

2008.05.26: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi

Michelin dancer Takeshi, mismatched with her cell phone 🙂

まあ、これで二星ぐらいかな?:) (メンションさえされたら嬉しい!)
Today was the big day to make our 10 minute presentation on Togura Kamiyamada Onsen and Chikuma City to the Michelin Guide Japan editor. I talked about our namesake Chikuma River and our famous 'Obasute' mountain, and then explained about our onsen's history and the geisha heritage. Takeshi and Harugoma, two of our most talented geisha, then performed 'Chikuma Ko-Uta' with dance and song and shamisen. I think the editor was impressed, as he took a picture of the dance. He also asked about the Obasute legend -- were old people really thrown away at the mountain? I wanted to answer "Of course! There are lots of graves up there, and ghosts, too!" But a couple of guys from City Hall were there, too, so I had to stick with the official reply: in the year 768, a local man was selected as one of the Top 9 people in Japan for filial piety. As the legend's theme is also filial piety, the connection was made.
I thought the presentation was good for at least two stars. 🙂 (We'll be lucky to even get mentioned!)

Presentation Venue: Shibu Onsen