足湯お風呂掃除My turn to clean the Foot Bath

2008.10.31: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi


The other night, I was the designated cleaner for our town's new Foot Bath. Every time I go by it during the day, people are using it, so it's apparently a big hit. I was happy to contribute my energy to keeping this 'takara' (treasure) in good condition and look forward to continuing to do so along with the other people in our town!

戸倉上山田を見下ろす善光寺別院 Looking Down on Togura-Kamiyamada from the Temple Above

2008.10.30: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

「戸倉駅に着きましたので送迎をお願いします」と言う電話が来ました。いつもの様にお迎えに行きました。そして、亀清に戻る途中でお客様にお聞きしました。直接で宿に行きますか?それか、せっかくお天気が良いので温泉街の上のお寺さんからの眺めを寄って行きましょうか? と言う訳で、今日はまた戸倉上山田温泉の「善光寺別院」に行きました。41年前に出来た建物の塗装がはげかけているけど、でかい提灯や天井の絵、そして、特に戸倉上山田温泉と千曲川の眺めが感動的。玄関や周りの灯篭が特徴です。日本の独特の「和」を感じます。
"We just arrived at Togura Station. Can you come and pick us up?" Here starts another afternoon. Another fun afternoon. After picking up the guests, I ask if they want to go directly to Kamesei, or if they would like to stop at the temple at the top of the hill behind the town to see the view. This temple is a "Betsu-In" (sub-temple) of the huge Zenkoji Temple in Nagano city. The building was constructed 41 years ago during the peak of our onsen town, but is starting to show its age with peeling paint and more. But it is still impressive with the giant chochin lantern and the dragon painting on the ceiling, as well as the view overlooking Togura Kamiyamada Onsen and the Chikuma River. And the 'toro' lanterns that line the steps have that classical 'Japan' feel.
Next to the temple is Okutsu Shrine, dedicated to couples who are trying to make babies. Accordingly, there are a couple of 'objects' on display. Unfortunately, photos aren't allowed, so I can't show a pic of the objects on this blog. But to give you an idea, the male 'object' is brought down to the bottom during our town's summer festival and is paraded around town by 40 people on a portable 'omikoshi' shrine.
The temple is a 5 minute drive from Kamesei and the town, or a brisk 25 minute walk.

The Temple's Main Hall


眺め Bird's eye view

The classic lanterns

長野県の観光シンポジウム Nagano Prefecture Tourism Symposium

2008.10.29: 活動 Activities

観光庁長官 本保氏

Today I attended a tourism symposium in Matsumoto (Nagano Pref.) Yoshiaki Hompo, the 長官 of the newly created Japan Tourism Agency, was the guest speaker, and he commented on this issue of 27% of ryokans not wanting foreign guests (as mentioned in an earlier entry).
Hompo-san presented some impressive stats on Japan’s tourism and (declining) population trends. One important figure was how much tourist expenditure it would take to cover the economic loss of one resident: 24 Japanese tourists (76 if just day trippers) or just 5 tourists from overseas. The point is Japan’s economy needs “Inbound” tourists to keep the economy stable during its population loss. In 2003, ex-PM Koizumi declared the goal of 10 million foreign tourists per year by 2010. Seemed pretty ambitious with there only being 5,100,000 at the time, but ‘08 is on target for 9,150,000. (That target is now in danger due to the recent climb of the Japenese Yen.) As Koizumi’s goal will likely be achieved earlier than expected, the JTA is now considering a new goal of 20 million by 2010. That would mean 1 in every 6 宿泊者 (lodgers) would be a foreigner (compared with 1 in 14 in 2007).
Hompo-san then said he is often asked: “With that type of stat, are you just going to ignore the 27% of the ryokans that don’t want to accept foreigners?” You know what his reply was? “Yes, we are going to ignore them.” The reasoning was that the 1 in 6 won’t be spread evenly across all inns and hotels. The percentages will obviously be higher in Tokyo than the countryside. The inns in the 27% group tend to be in the countryside and tend to not want foreigner guests because they are not confident they can provide satisfactory service to them (c.f. Iegumo-san’s in-laws). Hompo-san indicated he would prefer to let such inns persist in their ignorance rather than forcing Inbounders on them, which would only create unpleasant experiences for both parties. As Japan’s population (and therefore their customer base) shrinks, then maybe the inns will wake up to the reality of needing to direct their omotenashi towards foreigners. Or maybe they’ll just keep on sleeping… (My editorializing, not his, but Hompo-san did say he would ほっとく the 27% in the hopes of avoiding them providing 忠太半端 service to foreign guests.)

美咲ちゃんと紅葉Misaki and Fall Colors

2008.10.28: 季節 Seasons


Every Fall, this shrub in front of Kamesei turns a deep red color. It's hard to capture the how vivid the color is with a photograph, but here the shrub is with our daughter Misaki.

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

注目の箸袋 Our New Chopsticks Sleeves -- Collectors Items?

2008.10.27: 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan


A few weeks ago, we had new sleeves printed for our dinner chopsticks. We added Kamesei's turtle logo as well as some English. One of our guests today asked for one to take home as a momento. Maybe our chopsticks sleeves are becoming collectors items?

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

イベント知らせノルディックウォーキング+おしぼりうどん打ち体験 Event Notices: Nordic Walking + Udon Making

2008.10.27: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

11月18日(火)午前10時から @戸倉上山田温泉の噴水パーク 1050円(ポール代込み)
千曲市おしぼりうどん打ち体験11月16日(日) 午前9時から @高村商店 200円/人+1800円/組

We just received announcements on two events coming up in November:
Nordic Pole Walking Along the Chikuma River
18-Nov (Tues) 10am at the Togura Kamiyamada's Fountain Park, ¥1050 incl. pole rental.
Walking with a pole increases upper body exercise, hence 20% higher calorie burn and 13% higher heart rate. Contact Daimon (090)3426-3651
Chikuma City Oshibori Udon Making
16-Nov (Sun) 9am at Takamura Miso (7 min. by car from Kamesei) ¥200/person + ¥1800/group
Try making udon using our local 'yumeseiki' flour, Tour both a mushroom and miso factories.
Contact the city's Ag office 026-275-4555.

Sinano Poles(ノルディックポールメーカ)

Takamura Miso高村商店

最高なサッカー場 What a place for soccer!

2008.10.26: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

Go Andy! (In the red cap)

About 5 minutes by car from Togura Kamiyamada Onsen is the Manyo Sports Area along the bank of the Chikuma River. There are baseball fields and 'mallet golf' courses, along with a couple of soccer fields. Today, our oldest son Andy had a soccer game there and we went to cheer him on. I can't imagine a better setting for soccer than under Nagano's Autumn sky with Gorigamine mountain as a backdrop.

紅玉のアップルパイ Tart Apple Pie

2008.10.26: グルメFoodie


Togura Kamiyamada Onsen's local cake shop's current specialty is apple pie made with tart 'kougyoku' apples. The pie is filled with apples, making for a delicious pie!

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

ラヴニールのHPはこちらClick here for L'Avenir website

珍しい電車の体験 A Rare Train Ride

2008.10.25: その他 Miscellaneous

Celebrating the Sarashina Roman


Japan Rail ran a special old-fashioned train today between Nagano Station and Obasute Station. It was in honor of the 120th anniversary for that rail line. I took our kids to ride the classic train. It was fun to feel it jostle and jar us -- it certainly makes you appreciate the modern trains of today.
Apparently this particular train is popular with rail aficionados. There were so many people all along the way and at the station photographing this unique train. And at the station, we were greated by taiko drums and they ceremoniously opened a confetti ball to commemorate the 120th anniversary. It all seemed a little silly, but the mayor was there and everything, so I guess it was a big event.
The next train event coming up is a steam engine locomotive scheduled to run between Nagano Station and Kurohime on 22, 23 and 24 November.

Info on the SL情報はこちら

Andy and Kenny with the Sarashina Roman

Andy and Kenny and Misaki inside the Sarashina Roman

Sarashina Roman's Classic Interior

秋、そして国際的の果実:信濃スィート Fall Fruit: "Shinano Sweet" Apples

2008.10.24: 季節 Seasons

Watashima-san Joel and Cat

People often say that an innkeeper's job and that rural life in Nagano must be tough. But I always tell them that I am blessed. Today was a perfect example. Last night, I went to the Okagura Lion Dance practice (I am learning the flute) and invited our two guests from Australia to go along. There we got into a great conversation with Okagura's Watashima-san, who ended up inviting us to his apple orchard. So this morning, we drove up (and up!) to his orchard, and he treated us to freshly picked Shinano Sweet variety apples. Cat and Joel enjoyed experiencing an apple orchard in Japan, Watashima-san enjoyed showing off his prize apples to visitors from overseas, and I enjoyed being out in Nagano's great outdoors in the fall, as well as seeing Kamiyamada's omotenashi welcoming spirit, and getting to compare ways of thinking with people from another country. I really consider myself blessed.

Bamboo Taking on a Fall Tint

Now In Season: