New 2-Day and 4-Day Bus Passes to Enjoy Kamikochi and Beyond

2010.05.31: その他 Miscellaneous



Many foreign tourists travel around Japan using a JR Rail Pass. But when they get to Nagano Prefecture, they are hit with the realization that most of the most popular destinations like Kamikochi, Togakushi and Jigokudani Snow Monkeys (as well as my onsen town, Togura-Kamiyamada) all require non-JR transportation. Then there's the issue of getting from Hida Takayama to Matsumoto, two major "Inbound" tourist destinations. Using JR would take over 5 hours. However, another option would be the trans-Alps bus that takes just over 2 hours.

Well, the people at Alpico Bus have apparently been listening, and have come up with the following 2 new bus passes that are perfect for people wanting to explore the Matsumoto - Kamikochi - Hida Takayama area:

2 Day Free Passport Kamikochi / Norikura
*Price: 5,000 yen for adults, 2,500 yen for children
*Area: Kamikochi, Shirahone and Norikura to the west, Matsumoto, Asama Onsen and Utsukushigahara to the east.
*Availability: Buy at the Matsumoto Bus Terminal or Shin Shimashima Station from 01-April 2010 until 31-March 2011.
This pass covers Nagano's most spectacular scenic spot, Kamikochi, which is also the launching area for mountaineers to climb the Japanese Alps, as well as secluded Shirahone onsen with its milky white hot spring waters and Norikura, outdoor sports paradise. Then you can ride back down to Matsumoto and see its world-famous castle, take a dip in the hot springs at Asama and Utsukushigahara Onsens, before riding back up to the panoramic views from Utsukushigahara Kogen.

4 Day Alps Wide Shinshu/Hida Free Passport
*Price: 10,000 yen for adults, 5,000 yen for children
*Area: Same as the 2-day pass PLUS Hida Takayama, Shirakawago, Shinhotaka Onsen and Gero Onsen
*Availability: Buy at the Matsumoto Bus Terminal, Shin Shimashima Station, and Takayama or Gero Bus Centers from 01-April 2010 until 31-March 2011.
Included in this Pass are the impeccably restored neighborhoods of Hida Takayama, the world heritage thatched roof farmhouses of Shirakawago, Shinhotaka Onsen on the western side of the Alps, and Gero Onsen, known from long ago as one of Japan's top 3 onsens.

Fellow Nagano Inbound Ambassador Tom-san reports that Kamikochi is in fine spring form, so take advantage of these new passes from Alpico and enjoy!

For more information, contact Matsumoto Dentetsu at 0263-28-3111

戸隠忍者になれ! Going Ninja in Togakushi

2010.05.30: 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano

Ninja Andy on his 10th birthday


It was our son Andy's birthday, so we took a half a day off, piled the kids and their friends into the car, and went for a drive to Togakushi's Ninja Village. The new spring growth of the trees in the Togakushi highlands felt like a "power spot" and recharged our bodies' batteries. Meanwhile, the kids (and their mom 'n dad) became ninjas and had a blast playing on the athletic structures and exploring the ninja fun house. I am so glad we live in Nagano and can have this fun!

戸隠チビッ子忍者村は戸倉上山田温泉から車で約90分。Togakushi Ninja Village is approx. 90 minutes by car from Togura Kamiyamada Onsen.

Ninja Kenny

Ninja Misaki and Mom

blue ninja Misaki

pink ninja Misaki

Andy and 10 candles

CCC市民サイクリングvs坂城バラ祭 Chikuma Cycling Club vs. Sakaki Rose Fest

2010.05.29: サイクリング Cycling

CCC Team Pose

千曲サイクリングクラブ(CCC)は普段の長距離ヒルクライムを保留して、戸倉上山田温泉の緑のレンタサイクルで隣の坂城町のバラ祭まで出かけました。私は久しぶりに参加して、子供たちを連れて皆と一緒に走りました。リーダーのスピッツさんは村上義清の里を案内して、そしてチョコ工場のロビニアにもよって、坂城バラ園で休憩しました。(花より団子というか、バラよりチョコだったかな?)坂城バラ祭は毎年に大きくなっています。今回は太鼓の演奏もあって、そしてなぜかチロール踊りも(日本の坂城町で?)。最後は千曲川沿いのサイクリング道路で温泉に戻りました。山ノ内町のCrazy Craigも来てくれて、他の子供たちも参加していて、CCCは段々と親子化そして国際化になって、嬉しいです。
The Chikuma Cycling Club took a break from the long distance hill climbs for a family fun ride today. Several of the members used the Togura Kamiyamada Onsen green rental cycles for a leisurely ride to neighboring Sakaki town for the Rose Festival. Our kids and I hopped on our bikes, and joined the ride. Along the way, our leader, Spitz-san, guided us to several locations related to local samurai hero Murakami Yoshikiyo, then we stopped at the Lobenia Chocolate Factory before enjoying the fragrant roses at the Sakaki Rose Park. The Sakaki Rose Festival seems to get bigger and better every year. We got to see some of the entertainment, too -- a taiko drum performance followed by some traditional Tirolean dancing. (In Sakaki, Japan? Don't ask!) Finally, we followed the Chikuma Cycling Road along the Chikuma River back to Togura Kamiyamada Onsen. All in all, a very enjoyable excursion. My buddy Crazy Craig from Yudanaka came, and there were a few other kids riding too, so the Chikuma Cycling Club is getting more and more international as well as family friendly, too!

詳しくはスピッツさんのHPへFor more, see Spitz-san's website.

Murakami's Grave

Approach to Sakaki Shrine

Murakami landmarks

Inside the Chocolate Factory

Along Route 18

The Sakaki Rose Fest

Tirolean Dancers (?!)

Crossing the Yellow Bridge over the Chikuma River

Eco-Cycle Low Rider

庭の手入れ:奥深い! Taking Care of the Garden: More to it than I thought!

2010.05.28: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi

Hmm, which branch next?

Since moving from the States to Nagano, there has been a lot to get used to and to learn. One of the biggest for me has been gardening. Back at our house in Seattle, over the years I gradually got to know what flowers did best in that climate, how to trim the trees, and what shapes the plants should be. Moving to Kamesei Ryokan meant starting all over again from scratch, with the different climate and Japan's gardening "rules". Plus, I've had to get a feel for what style of gardening would match Kamesei -- a strict, traditional "Japanese Garden", or a more natural one that would reflect the relaxing tone of our inn as well as all the beautiful nature that surrounds us.
One tree in the naka-niwa garden is a point in case. I had called it the poodle tree. You know how people cut poodle dogs' hair so that it's poofy in spots and shaved down to the bony skin in others? This tree had round poofs of leaves bare, "bony" branches in between. I wanted a more natural look for it, so I let the branches grow a year. Today I got out the clippers and tried my hand at trimming it. I tried to figure out which branches to leave and which to trim. There sure is an art to trimming.
While I enjoy gardening like this, I also have to determine, as the owner of the inn, if this is the best use of my time. Just one more thing to worry about...

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.

長野の最新のインバウンドパンフと商品 New News For Foreign Travelers to Nagano

2010.05.27: 活動 Activities






Azumino & Ueda brochures

New Nagano Map and Zagat

雲と太陽 大正橋から見た戸倉上山田温泉 Sunlight and Clouds: Togura Kamiyamada Onsen as seen from Ta

2010.05.26: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

Togura Kamiyamada as seen from Taisho Bridge


Crossing over the Chikuma River by bicycle on the Taisho Bridge, I was treated to this scene of the sun peaking through the clouds, bathing Togura Kamiyamada Onsen in bright sunlight. Situated as it is on the Chikuma River, surrounded by green hills and mountains, Togura Kamiyamada Onsen truly is in a blessed location. And with the fresh, clean air, absolutely the best onsen mineral waters, and an abundance of fresh water fish and delicious produce to eat, Togura Kamiyamada really is a great place!

稲荷山の町並み保存 市長に挨拶 Preserving Inariyama -- Taking the case to the Mayor

2010.05.25: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi

Taking it to the Mayor

まあ、去年は千曲市が「花いっぱい運動」を中止したぐらい町並み関心の(及び予算)がないから言い訳で終わっちゃいそう・・・  悲しい。
Last week I wrote about how Kyoto was losing its Kyoto-ness. Then at the Japanese Inn Group annual meeting, one of the Kyoto innkeepers got upset, saying that Kyoto has come to realize that it doesn't exist in a vaccuum, that it is in Japan, and as such has a responsiblity to honor and respect its traditions as such.
I wasn't trying to be critical of Kyoto per se. I was just mentioning it as one example. All over Japan, areas of Japan-ness are disappearing. Here in Chikuma City, the most noticeable is the Inariyama district with a large concentration of earthen-walled storehouses. At one point, the city was using pictures of Inariyama in its tourism literature. But so many of the classic storehouses have been demolished, or covered in aluminum siding, that it's become an embarrassment as a tourist site. Today, some of the members of the Inariyama Preservation Society and I got an appointment with the mayor and passed on our desire for the city's help in preserving these irreplaceable buildings. Private owners can't pay for the upkeep themselves -- public support is necessary. The mayor was surprised to see me attend. I told him it was for districts like Inariyama that I came to Japan!
However, Chikuma City's cancelation of its city-supported flower program last year I think is an indication of how little importance the city pays to its appearance (as well as how tight the budget is). I am afraid Inariyama's storehouses will dissappear in a sea of excuses... How unfortunate.

川辺でアカシアの花 Acacia flowers along the river

2010.05.24: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi

Fragrant Acacia Flowers

A couple of our guests walked to Kamesei from Togura Station. They asked me, "When we crossed over the Chikuma River, there was a lovely scent in the air. Was it coming from all of those white flowers?" Hmm. What flowers? I went to go check it out, and was surprised to see that the acacia trees along the river bank had grown and where covered in white flowers. Ah ha! That's where the scent is coming from.
After our kids got home from school, I piled them in our "K-Truck" mini pick-up and we went for a drive down to the river bank. It was amazing that a short 3,4 minute drive could take us to such an acacia flower paradise. The kids loved it! This type of fun can only be possible in a place like Togura Kamiyamada Onsen, blessed as it is by the river running down the middle and surrounded by all the green mountains.
I brought a few branches with flowers back to Kamesei. Our chef will use some to make acacia flower tempura for our guests. And I used the rest to make some sort of ikebana arrangement for one of our outdoor baths. Acacia flowers don't keep long, but hopefully our guests will be able to enjoy them for a couple of days.

Acacia Trees with Togura Kamiyamada Onsen across the river

雨の日だからこそ、花が綺麗 Flowers seem even prettier in the rain

2010.05.23: 季節 Seasons

Lavendar blossoms at Kamesei's entrance


It's been raining all day today, and the weather forecast shows rain, rain and more rain for the foreseeable future. Japan's official "rainy season" has yet to start, but if you ask me, it's already here.
Coming from rainy Seattle, I actually find rainy days like this to be relaxing. On a clear day, the sunlight can be too harsh, while on rainy days like this, the softer colors of the flowers in the garden really come alive.
Here at Kamesei Ryokan, we have gardens at our entrance, around the central koi pond, pocket gardens here and there, as well as private gardens for many of our guestrooms. Throughout these, there are so many lovely flowers in bloom now. They may not stand out as much, but if you take the time to enjoy them their soft, muted colors will delight.
And an onsen ryokan is the perfect place to slow down and take time to appreciate the garden, as well as to soak in the onsen baths and enjoy our chef's gourmet meals.

Purple Flowers in Chitose's Pocket Garden

フジテレビを見た皆様に感謝 A Big Thank-You to All Who Saw Us on Fuji TV

2010.05.22: メディア Media

5月20日OAのフジテレビ「スーパーニュース」特報:国際結婚 青い目の若旦那の反応がすごいです。番組で紹介されたこのブログはなんと30人+の方々からコメントを頂いた(通常は月に3,4人です!)、そしてアクセスの数はなんと12,580個の日でした(今までの平均は一日に1500個!)。


The feedback from Fuji Television's special report on Kamesei Ryokan that was aired on Thursday 20-May has been amazing. 30+ people were kind enough to write a comment on our blog (we normally only get 3+ a month!), and looking at the blog's access numbers, it was 12,580 the day after the show aired. (Normally the average is 1,500 per day.) And the TV company called up and said they've already gotten requests to for re-broadcasting the show. With all the work the cameramen, directors, producers, editors, sound / narration, etc. did, I am glad the show will get additional airings!
Normally I would like to send each and every one of the 30+ commentors a personal thank-you, but due to the large amount of numbers, I won't be able to. So instead, I would like to pass on my appreciation via this blog article. I hope to keep up my efforts in using the best of my western as well as Japanese "omotenashi" in running Kamesei Ryokan, and I hope for everyone's continued encouragement!

フジテレビのスーパーニュースのHPはこちらClick here for Fuji TV's Super News website.