CCC:次回の市民サイクリングが5月29日 坂城バラ祭 Next "Citizens' Cycling" is 29-May: Sakaki Rose Festival

2010.04.30: サイクリング Cycling



親子サイクリング: 坂城バラまつり
上山田温泉観光会館前集合 09:00

*坂城町内 (村上義清史跡巡り)
*ロビニアチョコレート工場直売所 (試食?)
*大望橋 坂城バラ園(昼食)
*サイクリングロード ~ 14:00完了


Chikuma Cycling Club's next "Citizens' Cycling" event schedule has been set:

Family Fun Ride to the Sakaki Rose Festival
Saturday May 29th, 2010
Meet at Togura Kamiyamada Onsen Tourism Hall at 9am

*Follow the Chikuma Cycling Road along the Chikuma River to Kogai Bridge (rest stop)
*Peddle through Sakaki Town (tour various sites related to Sakaki's samurai hero, Yoshikiyo Murakami)
*Stop at Lobinia Chocolate Factory's factory store
*Have lunch at the Sakaki Rose Festival site
*Return via the Chikuma Cycling Road, finish at 2pm.

For those without bicycles, the Togura Kamiyamada Onsen green rental bikes will be available, so come and enjoy this fun event with everyone!

詳しくはCCCのHPへFor details see the Chikuma Cycling Club website.


文化会館に愛 Giving the Cultural Hall some Luv

2010.04.29: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

putting a personal touch to the Culture Hall flags



This year, our town's Cultural Hall will celebrate its 30th birthday. Today, all the various groups that use the hall volunteered to do a major spring cleaning. After our guests checked out, I took our kids to participate along with the other member of the Kamiyamada Okagura lion dance group. By the time we got there, the hard work was over and everyone was having fun decorating some flags with handprints. Of course, our kids enjoyed that!

In celebration of its 30th anniversary, the Kamiyamada Culture Hall is holding a display of posters and announcements of concerts and plays of the last 30 years in its lobby. And on May 5th at 1:30pm there will be a free concert. I will be busy that day directing the big Zenkoji Walk, but if anyone is interested, feel free to call the Culture Hall for details -- 026-275-0500.

レンタサイクルで戸倉上山田温泉を盛り上がる Getting some good press for the town with the Rental Cycles

2010.04.28: サイクリング Cycling


The rental cycle project that started on April 1st as a colloboration between the Chikuma Cycling Club and the Togura Kamiyamada Onsen Ryokan Association got some press in the local Shinano Mainichi Shinbun newspaper. I hope visitors to our town can use the bikes to enjoy puttering around our onsen town and the neighboring historical districts, and/or enjoy the river and mountain scenery while touring along the Chikuma Cycling Road.

旅館青年部県総会@駒ヶ根 Back-to-Back General Meetings

2010.04.27: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi




Normally I use this blog to introduce various interesting places about Nagano, Togura Kamiyamada Onsen, and our inn here, Kamesei Ryokan. Today's topic, though is a little boring: an update on my ryokan junior association activities. 'Tis the season for annual general meetings. Last week was the national one in Tokyo, today was the prefectural one in southern Nagano's "flagship" ryokan, "Futari Shizuka" in Komagane, and tomorrow is Togura Kamiyamada Onsen's -- our local chapter.

At the prefectural one today, I had to MC for a couple of speech presentations by a top chef (Akio Saitoh) and a TV celebrity from the local area, Mineh Ryuta. Needless to say I was a bit nervous, but that made the beer at the banquet afterwards all the more delicious!

drinking beer with a Blues Brother

Gen'l Mtg location: Futari Shizuka

家族のドライブで高山村の一本桜巡り Going for a family drive to Takayama Village's Singular Cherry Trees

2010.04.26: 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano

250 year old cherry tree in Takayama Village






日光vs.月光 Sunlight vs. Moonlight

2010.04.25: 日米関係Culture Shock


偶然、私が今、読んでいる本にその話題がちょうど出ました。Simon Mayという作家のAtomic Sushiと言う本。彼が10年前ぐらいにUKから来て、東大で一年間で哲学を教えた時に欧米と日本の文化や物の見方の違いの話。



Yesterday's topic was about our lighting fixtures here at Kamesei Ryokan, how we are hoping to upgrade from fluorescent to LED lights. In addition, I am hoping to upgrade our types of lighting in order to enhance the relaxing mood of our inn.
For example, our guest rooms typically have one ceiling mounted fixture with round flourescent tubes, and a straight flourescent tube lighting the tokonoma alcove.
Is this the best way to provide lighting for the guestrooms? Even our boss here (my mother-in-law) complains that the one ceiling fixture doesn't provide enough light -- the guests can't see what they're eating. The lighting pro that came yesterday mentioned that Japan's lighting level standards have changed. New construction nowadays would provide more light in these types of rooms.

Just by coincidence, the book I'm reading now discussed that very subject. The book is "Atomic Sushi" by Simon May. He came from the UK about 10 years ago to teach philosophy at Tokyo U. for a year, and he wrote this book based on the differences in Western and Japanese thinking and world view.
Regarding interior decorating, he commented:

*Western rooms tend to be bright and colorful. Windows are positioned as to allow sunlight to reach every nook and cranny. Walls and shelves are covered with decorations and "objects" that express the taste and interests of the owners, personifying the room.
*Japanese rooms on the other hand are usually more reserved and shadows play as much of a role as light does. Sunlight doesn't come in directly, but is filtered through the rice paper of the shoji screens. The texture of the rice paper screens and the straw tatami mats would be lost in harsher light, but come alive with softer light, like that of moonbeams.

In other words, Western rooms are meant for sunlight, and Japanese rooms for moonlight. Interesting ideas. I would add that traditional Japanese rooms are enhanced by candlelight, too.

As we upgrade the lighting here at Kamesei, I want to use it as much as possible to enhance the inherent calming aspects. The lighting expert gave us some tips: Use warmer colored light bulbs, and the lower the better. I intend to use his ideas to use downlights to light the walls, bringing the focal point of the lighting down closer to the floor. And use spotlights in the tokonoma to focus light on the wall hanging and the object placed at the bottom of the alcove.

It'll be fun to play with some of these ideas.

For more on "Atomic Sushi"の詳しくはこちら

Old style lighting -- How can this be improved?

和室vs.LED Japanese Rooms vs. LED Lights

2010.04.24: 日米関係Culture Shock

Warm yellow lights greet our guests in the lobby

Japanese ryokans are, in principal, places to relax. With the onsen baths that rejuvinate your body, healthy cuisine featuring local, seasonal ingredients to nourish your body, traditional Japanese rooms with natural straw mats and paper shoji window screens, a comfortable yukata robe -- ryokans are perfect for relaxing all five senses.
Part of the process of creating a relaxing atmosphere is the lighting. Here at Kamesei Ryokan, when we first moved here 4-1/2 years ago, most of the lights had white fluorescent bulbs. The bright white lights tend to make people excited. They seem to say "Move faster! Work harder!" However, like I mentioned, a ryokan should be a place to calm down and relax. So every time one of the bulbs went out, I replaced them with warm colored fluorescent bulbs. It only took 4-1/2 years, but I finally have most of the light bulbs in our inn upgraded. However, even these seem to flicker too excitedly, and fluorescent bulbs in general all have mercury in them which isn't good for the environment.
Lately, LED light bulbs have become more available. They cost quite a bit more, but even more energy-efficient than fluorescent bulbs, plus they don't contain mercury so they are better for the environment. However, they work better in some applications than others. Yesterday, we had Nagano City's leading lighting fixture pro come and tour our inn to give us ideas on how / where we can upgrade to LED. The baths are out, because apparently LED bulbs don't do well with warm temperatures. And while they work great for spotlights, they don't work well for dispersing light, like from the central ceiling fixtures in guestrooms. Another factor is that, for example, LED downlights are available, but in standard, Western-looking designs that don't fit well with a traditional Japanese-style room. Most of the manufacturers come out with new catalogs and products in May -- I hope they will offer some Japanese-style LED lamps, too.
Now that our 1st generation of lighting upgrades (to fluorescent lights) is finished, I am looking forward to the 2nd generation -- upgrading to LED lights!

雨の止んだ後の姨捨夜景 + おまけに満開の一本桜 Obasute's Night View After the Rain + Bonus: The Singular Cherry Tree in Full Bloom

2010.04.23: その他 Miscellaneous

姨捨: 夜景と桜


Last night I took some guests to Obasute Station for our Obasute Night View / Local Legends tour. We timed it right -- it had just stopped raining, so the sky was clear and the lights of the Zenkoji Plain were twinkling sharply. Plus, we had the added bonus of the Singular Cherry Tree there being in full bloom. Down here at Togura Kamiyamada Onsen's elevation of 370 meters, the cherry blossoms are already gone. But at Obasute Station's elevation of 540 meters, the trees are in full bloom.

今度は桃の花 川中島周辺は満開 Now it's peach blossom time; Kawanakajima area is in full bloom

2010.04.22: 季節 Seasons

Pink peach blossoms putting on a show





First the apricot blossoms.

Then the cherry trees.

Now the peach trees are in bloom, with their bright pink flowers.

Nagano's Kawanakajima district is a major peach growing area. Today I drove through it and was treated to a colorful show of pink blossoms. It was a rainy, grey day so the pink flowers showed up even more brilliantly than normal.

朝方:露天風呂から湯気 Steam rising from the outdoor bath at dawn

2010.04.21: その他 Miscellaneous

steam coming off the outdoor bath


Even now in late April, Nagano is still chilly in the mornings and evenings. When I checked on our outdoor bath, steam was coming off the surface of the hot spring mineral water and rising up into the crisp spring morning air. If I didn't have to flip futons and was a guest instead, I would have loved to warm my body up in the inside bath first, then move outside and plop down into the outdoor bath, soaking in the warm water as the cold air bites my face, watching the sun come up over the garden and listening to the morning serenade of the little birds, as steam rises up around me. Ahhh, aren't onsen ryokans great?

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