Happy Halloween!

2009.10.31: 季節 Seasons



There's something magical about a jack o'lantern with a candle inside. Today our sons and I and a neighbor guy carved these pumpkins and put them on display by the entrance to Kamesei. Several of our guests took pictures of the pumpkins, so apparently they enjoyed them too. I like being able to share some of fun Western traditions with our guests here at our traditional Japanese inn.

信州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.

千曲市の自慢:前向きな温泉街 Pride of Chikuma City -- An Onsen Town Moving Forward

2009.10.30: その他 Miscellaneous








Togura Kamiyamada just got a new arch for its main entrance. Kamesei and the other ryokans along the main street paid to have the old arch taken down and replaced by this new one. It's a strong physical symbol of our onsen town's resolve to push on through this weak economy and to persevere.

座談会@東京a la旅行新聞社 Round Table Discussion in Tokyo

2009.10.29: メディア Media



旅行新聞の増田さん スムーズな進行はご苦労様でした。態々呼んで頂いて、有難うございました。

神奈川県湯河原「旅館ふかざわ」の深澤さん 「おもてなしはスタッフの育ちから」と言う発想は感心しました!

福岡県原鶴温泉「六峰館」・全旅連青年部長の井上さん 日本旅館に「おもてなし」を取り戻そうとして、成功事例になりました。全国の青年部の引っ張り屋、ご苦労様です!

和歌山県高野山の宿坊「福智院」の静さん 宿泊施設に仏教なりの心磨きを取れ入れる努力は偉いと思いました。



Today I was honored to take part in a round table discussions with some of my ryokan peers. Industry newspaper "Ryoko Shimbun" was the sponsor. Pictured from the left are Masuda-san, the moderator from the newspaper, Fukazawa-san from Ryokan Fukazawa in Kanagawa Pref., Inoue-san, the ryokan owners Junior Association's national president, Shizuka-san from a shukubo (temple lodging) in Koyasan, Wakayama Pref., and myself. Great discussion -- article will come out on 21-Nov., so stay tuned!

大広間の修理がスタート Repairs on our oldest building starting

2009.10.28: 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan






Kamesei Ryokan's oldest building is the 2-story wood building that houses our 2nd floor banquet room. As previously mentioned, one corner has been sinking due to a hidden pipe that I have since fixed.

We have been trying to figure out what to do with this particular building. Having the main banquet room on the 2nd floor means guests have to climb stairs (A), and it's hard on us for carrying the food up (B). So we initially were thinking of tearing it down and building a 1-story replacement.

However, after consulting with an architect, we determined the banquet room is fine as-is, and a electric chair attached to the handrail would solve (A), while a dumbwaiter would take care of (B). Plus, it would be a shame to tear down such a classic, historical building.

So we decided to make repairs on the existing building. It will probably have to be done in stages over the next 5 years. We had our local carpenter, Murakoshi-san, start with the most urgent part -- replacing the water-damaged posts and foundation.

Kamesei Ryokan's next era has started!

信州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.

基礎が既に丈夫な花崗岩 Existing foundation of hewn granite

Close-up of some of the massive beams showing the fine workmanship (note the kotatsu hole)

cross-section of the earthen wall

他の温泉地に行けば、信州の良さが分かってくる Seeing Other Onsens Makes Me Realize How Nice Nagano Is

2009.10.27: 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano









ハーレー姫との出会い Meeting a Harley Queen

2009.10.26: 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan

Chizuko-san and her riding mate




One of the perks of this job of running a ryokan is getting to meet so many outstanding people.

Last weekend, we had a group of Harley Davidson riders come and stay with us. A local Harley dealership in Aichi Prefecture organized the ride. (The owner of the dealership is a lady by the way -- how rare is that!)

One of the riders in the group was a lady named Chizuko Watanabe. She has been featured on NHK (the national TV broadcaster) for being a lady motorcyclist who learned to ride starting after she turned 40. Chizuko-san is an amazing lady. I doubt I could lift up one of the huge Harleys, but she is apparently a specialist at it. I am glad to have met such an enthusiastic person!

渡辺さんのHPはこちらClick here for Chizuko-san's website.

Kamesei's Lobby a Harley Showroom?

おニューの飲み物Pt.2 New Beverage Pt.2

2009.10.25: 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan


As mentioned in Part 1, we recently made an improvement in our drink machine's selection by adding healthy, local apple juice. We also recently made an improvement in our microbrew selection. Until now, we had been offering a reasonably priced microbrew from Karuizawa. However, it only came in cans. So we finally made the step up to Shiga Kogen's microbrews that come in bottles. They are a little pricier, but by shrinking our profit margin a bit (sorry boss!), we're able to offer it for 1 coin (500 yen). Shiga Kogen Beer, which is a neighber of the snow monkeys, has a wide variety of brews. We decided to start out with their popular IPA and (my favorite) the Porter. Our guests are apparently happy with the improvement, as the new beers are selling much better than the old ones.
So when you come and stay at this Nagano ryokan, you can also enjoy a hearty Nagano microbrew, too!

志賀高原ビールのHPはこちらClick here for Shiga Kogen Beer's website.

おニューの飲み物Pt.1 New Beverages, Pt.1

2009.10.24: 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan





Here at Kamesei Ryokan, we have a little vending machine in front of the onsen baths. I had always wanted to have a healthy fruit juice selection in it, so I asked our beverage vendor. He gave me a quote for apple juice, both a local Nagano maker and one from overseas. Despite the freight having to cost considerably less, the local juice was more expensive.

(Isn't it always like that? Up until 4 years ago, I was shipping onions from Washington State to a processor in Kobe. Our pricing was always less than Japan's domestic Hokkaido onions. It's all about production scale!)

Anyways, being that Kamesei has great relations with a lot of local apple orchards, we of course chose the Nagano apple juice. Judging by how well it's selling, I think our guests appreciate it (and I assume Nagano's apple growers appreciate it).

長野興農のHPはこちらClick here for the juice maker, Nagano Kono.

りんご狩りの楽しみ Having fun picking apples

2009.10.24: 季節 Seasons

りんごかトマトか? Is it an apple or a tomato?

りんご狩りはの人気度は年々に高くなっているのではないかと思います。今日も富山県からのグループが来はって、りんご狩りしたいと言っていました。亀清旅館が付き合っている宮下農園さん(Tel 026-275-3356)に連れて行ってきました。宮下農園の入り口にこの新しい看板があります。実は、私の作品です。以前にあった看板がちょっと錆びていたのでこの手作りのを上げました。横文字もちゃんと入っているし。ただ、絵はりんごじゃなくてトマトに見えるという声もあるからちょっと不安・・・

It seems like apple picking is getting more and more popular each year. There's something about being out in nature, plucking an apple off a tree and eating it right there. The freshness can't be beat! And being able to breathe in the fresh air, along with the earthy scent of the apple orchard. It all combines for a wonderful experience.
We had a group of guests today from Toyama Prefecture. They wanted to go apple-picking, so I took them to one of the farms we have a relationship with, Miyashita Orchard. They had this new sign at their entrance. It happens to be made by Yours Truly. I made sure to include some English on it, too. I kinda goofed up the apple picture, though. Some people say it looks like a tomato instead of an apple. What do you think?

紅玉が今、一番美味しい Kogyoku variety is in its peak now

温泉業界のキーパーソン(!?) The Onsen World's Key Person (?!)

2009.10.23: メディア Media

温泉エッセイストの山崎まゆみさんにインタビューされまして、日本温泉協会の「温泉」という雑誌で亀清旅館を紹介してくれました。YOKOSO!JAPAN 大使の山崎さんの海外の温泉の経験、そして海外から来ているこの私の日本の温泉の思いについての記事です。



Kamesei was featured in the September / October issue of the Japan Spa Association's journal "Onsen". Onsen essayist Mayumi Yamazaki wrote about her experiences in hot springs oveseas, and then about the thoughts of yours truly from overseas on Japan's onsens. Mayumi-san is a Yokoso-Japan Goodwill Ambassador.

I am honored to be featured in such a prestigious industry publication. Soon after the issue came out, we received a visit by Onsen Mineral Spring Researcher Saito-san from neighboring Gunma Prefecture. He apparently wanted to experience first-hand the 100 Year bath I built that was featured in the article. Saito-san surprised me with his fluent, technical English. Apparently he studied chemistry at the Grad School level in the States.

I am flattered by this attention from my onsen colleagues and realize how much more study on my part is needed to join the community of Onsen Researchers.

山崎まゆみさんのHPはこちらClick here for Mayumi Yamazaki-san's website.

斉藤さんの「温泉道大全」のHPはこちらClick here for Saito-san's "The Way of the Onsen" website