タイラーという市民の声 A Citizen's Voice

2009.01.31: メディア Media

The latest issue of Chikuma City Council's report features a "Citizen's Voice" corner. This time around, the citizen is ... me! A previous entry contains a summary of what I wrote. Somehow, the dates on our city's first English travel guide got mistaken in the article. Newest info is that it will be released at the end of February 2009. I don't mean to brag, but the majority of the contents was written by yours truly.

市民の声の内容はここClick here for a summary of my essay.

Unauthorized Spy Photo of Chikuma City' upcoming 1st Ever English Sightseeing Guidebook

荒砥城から見る笄渡し Kogai-Watashi as seen from Arato Castle

2009.01.30: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

During the Warring States Era, the neighboring lord, Murakami Yoshikiyo, was charged with defending northern Nagano. Murakami's mountain fortress was called Katsurao Castle, and was located on the shoulder of Gorigamine Mountain, on the other side of the Chikuma River from Togura Kamiyamada Onsen.
One time when Takeda Shingen invaded from Kofu, they did battle at Ueda-ga-hara. Murakami's men were few, but they fought valiently. In the end, Murakami had to draw back to his fortress. Shingen tried to blockade Murakami's fortress, but needed to enlist the help of neighboring Sanada forces. Sanada was supposed to be Murakami's ally, but he succumbed to Shingen's negotiations and turned sides.
When Murakami saw Sanada's forces join the blockade, he realized there was no way he could win. So first he had his wife escape. He ordered her to the safety of Arato Castle, the mountain fortress above us here at Togura Kamiyamada Onsen. After sneaking down Gorigamine, the princess had to cross the Chikuma River. Back then, there weren't any bridges. So she asked an old man to ferry her across in his boat. The princess was touched by the old man's kindness and wanted to repay him, but she was on the run and so didn't have any money to give him. Instead, she gave him one of her hair ornaments, a traditional one called a 'kougai'. Even today, the place where Gorigamine meets the Chikuma River is called 'Kougai-Watashi' (watashi means crossing or handing over).
After the princess continued for a bit, she took a rest at Chishiki Temple, famous for its 11-Faced Buddha statue. When she glanced back, she saw black smoke billowing up from the top of Gorigamine. "Ah, my beloved husband is doomed," she thought, and started crying in anguish. Today, the place is known by the name of "Onnamizaka" which means the slope of the woman's tears.
Murakami was able to escape and made it Joetsu in neighboring Niigata Prefecture, where he entreated the help of Uesugi Kenshin, Shingen's arch-rival. The two then held on of their series of clashes at Kawanakajima.
...that is a tale handed down through the generations around here. And that is the tale I told some guests from Kyoto as we enjoyed the view from Arato Castle, looking down over the Chikuma River and the Kougai Watashi.

冬の名月棚田 The Moon Viewing Rice Fields in Winter

2009.01.29: その他 Miscellaneous

This morning I tried taking some guests to Obasute Station for them to catch the train. However, the road was closed for construction. I decided to detour through the Obasute terraced rice fields, not recommended to do with a big car unless you are familiar with the narrow roads. Thanks to taking guests on the Obasute Night View / Legends tour all the time, I am familiar with the roads.
The construction worker was surprised we'd take such a detour, and asked if our purpose was to take pictures. What a coincidence -- our guest was a photographer, Haraguchi-san. As we entered the rice paddies, we were struck with this view of the terraced fields in the foreground, Chikuma River in the middleground, and the snow covered peaks of Togakushi, Takatsuma and Iizuna mountains in the background. I stopped the car and Haraguchi-san and I took pictures.
The construction worker must have had ESP.

戸倉上山田温泉の亀清旅館のHPはこちらClick here for the website of Kamesei Ryokan in Nagano

亀清の松、剪定タイム Pruning our inn's pine tree

2009.01.28: 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan


Pine trees in Japan get so manicured, sometimes I think they are more art than living organism. We have a stately pine tree gracing the entrance to our inn here at Kamesei Ryokan. Today it got its once or twice a year pruning.

CCCの09年予定とサイクルジャージ(案) CCC 2009 Schedule, Cycling Jersey Designs

2009.01.28: サイクリング Cycling

Chikuma Cycling Club's 2009 tentative schedule has been announced. New jerseys are also being planned (possibly with Kamesei Ryokan's logo!). My son Andy and I were only able to participate once last year. Hopefully this season we'll get out riding w/ CCC more often.

2009 Schedule (予定)

*3/08 寒中サイクリング 田沢温泉 Chill+Hill Ride to Tazawa Onsen
*3/20 雪解けサイクリング 湯田中・小布施 Snow Melt Ride to Yudanaka / Obuse
*4/12 あんずサイクリング 森 Apricot Blossom Ride, Mori
*4/25 市民サイクリング#5 小布施 Public Ride, Obuse
*GWx2 白馬、安曇野 Hakuba, Azumino
*5/30 市民サイクリング#6 松代 Public Ride, Matsushiro
*6/13 聖サイクリング 青木 Holy Ride thru the Holy (Hijiri) Heights
*6/28 市民サイクリング#7 沓掛温泉 Public Ride, Kutsukake Onsen
*7/04 海サイクリング 上越 Sea Ride, Joetsu
*7/? ジンギスサイクリング 新町 Khan Ride, Shinmachi
*8/? 千曲川源流 南佐久 Chikuma River Headwaters
9/06 市民サイクリング#8 松代w/伊勢自転車愛好会 Public Ride, Matsushiro w/ Ise Club
10/31 市民サイクリング#9 別所 Public Ride, Bessho
11/07 そばサイクリング 大田原 Soba Ride, Otahara

詳しくはCCCの会長のHP Details here.

女将社長からのメッセージ:お昼の大衆演劇プラン A message from our Okami: Special Taishu Revue Lunch Plan

2009.01.27: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada


山風荘 026-275-1262
ホテル晴山 026-275-1201
若乃湯 026-275-1560
亀清旅館 026-275-1032

須坂に夢のトレインギャラリー Suzaka's Dream Train Gallery

2009.01.26: その他 Miscellaneous

Misaki enthralled by the trains

I had to drive to Suzaka to pick up some guests, so along the way I took our kids to "Train Gallery Nagano". We got to meet the owner, Fukasawa-san. He even put on a special demonstration for us of his miniature trains. Our kids really enjoyed it (as well as their dad!).
Fukazawa-san says the soba and tonkatsu in the adjoining restaurant are pretty good, and he gave us some coupons for free gelatto. So any of our guests that are interested in taking their kids to see the train display can ask us for the gelatto coupons, too.

ギャラリーのHPはこちらClick here for the Gallery's website.

戸倉上山田温泉の亀清旅館のHPはこちらClick here for the website of Kamesei Ryokan in Nagano.





ピアノの内臓 Piano Guts

2009.01.25: 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan

Our lobby's piano received its once-a-year tuning at the able hands of local tuner, Gomi-san. Seeing the insides of the piano brought back lots of memories. In my previous life (before moving here to help out at Kamesei Ryokan 3 years ago), I worked at a trading company in Seattle. As I recently mentioned here on the blog, one of the many things we handled was lumber. Another was: used pianos like this shipped from Japan that we distributed wholesale in the States. Our piano gets used frequently -- by our son Andy who is studying piano and by our guests. But there are hundreds, thousands of pianos throughout Japan that were bought for daughters who have grown up and out. The pianos now just sit and collect dust. They are in strong demand in the States, where someone who is looking at buying a piano often compares one of these old but sturdy used Yamaha or Kawai with a mostly plastic, made in China new piano.

戸倉上山田温泉と戸倉駅の関係Togura Kamiyamada Onsen & Togura Station

2009.01.24: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

I took this photo as I waited for some of this evening's guests to come off the train at Togura Station. This is the 1st sight our guests who come by train see. I wonder what kind of 1st impression everyone gets.
Togura Station is only 2km from Togura Kamiyamada Onsen, and is our life-line to Japan's transportation network. But how important is the Onsen to the station? Judging by this huge Welcome sign, I would say it's pretty big.
A new station one stop down line is scheduled to open in March. There was a proposal to at the same time change the name of our station to "Togura Kamiyamada Onsen". But apparently the proposal was not approved due to the costs related with changing the signs, etc.
Before the Nagano Shinkansen bullet train was built, Togura used to be a main stop on the "Asama" Special Express train from Nagano to Ueno (Tokyo). Every once in a while I hear people say that one of the reasons our onsen is so quiet is the Shinkansen doesn't stop here. However, if you ask me, being on a bullet train line would make it convenient to come for just the day and not spend the night. As it is now, guests from Tokyo take the Shink to Ueda or Nagano, change to the local Shinano Railway and get off Togura Station, where I meet them to take them to our inn. That sounds like a proper way to make a "journey".

戸倉上山田温泉の亀清旅館のHPはこちらClick here for the website of Kamesei Ryokan in Nagano.

戸倉上山田温泉:日本一ラーメン屋密度 Togura Kamiyamada: Most Ramen Shops Per Capita in Japan

2009.01.23: その他 Miscellaneous




There are lots of ramen shops here in Togura Kamiyamada Onsen. I once heard that we have more ramen shops per capita than anywhere else in Japan (for that matter, probably the world). I took one of our sons out tonight for a walk around our neighborhood to count the ramen joints. Starting with the one across the street from Kamesei Ryokan, we counted 12 in a 5 minute radius. If there are 12 just in our neighborhood, there must be about 50 throughout the entire onsen.

It's common sense to avoid talking about politics and religion with casual acquaintances. Here in Nagano, there is one more taboo subject: which soba restaurant is the best. (That always leads to heated arguments -- we are passionate about our soba here.) Furthermore, here in Togura Kamiyamada Onsen, it's probably also difficult to talk about which ramen shop is the best. You'll just have to come and decide for yourself!