信州の地酒で1万人乾杯 10,000-person Toast to Nagano Sake

2011.08.31: グルメFoodie

A 10,000-person 'Cheers!'






Nagano Prefecture's sake brewers and sake shop owners have created 'Jyowakai' to promote the great sake made here in Nagano. They are planning a huge event called:

'Kanpai' Fes 2011

On 15-Sept (Thurs) at exactly 6:30pm, an estimated 10,000 people from throughout the prefecture will make a toast with Nagano sake.

Kamesei Ryokan is also registered to participate. We proudly serve our town's local sake, Obasute Masamune, and will be joining our guests in the 'kanpai' to honor Nagano sake.

I recently had an opportunity to meet some of the Jyowakai members and was impressed with their enthusiasm. You can find out more about them at the website link below.

醸和会のHPはこちら。Click here for Jyowakai's website.

ハワイから信州のぶどう畑へ From Hawaii to a grape orchard in Nagano

2011.08.30: 季節 Seasons

Aloha Nagano Grapes



Kamiyamada's grape season has officially started. Today I took a family from Hawaii to Crown Farm's orchard. Normally when you are travelling, you don't get a chance to take a break from the busy sightseeing schedule and actually step foot into an orchard, smell the sweet fragrance of the grapes, feel the musty earth underneath your feet, touch the grape leaves, ask Tobita-san the grower all kinds of curious questions.

It made for a great memory for the travellers from Hawaii.

Heck, it made a great memory for me, living here.

クラウン農園のHPはこちらClick here for Crown Produce's website.

家族風呂造り: 木造屋さんで丸太選び Building the Family Bath -- Selecting Logs at the Lumber Yard

2011.08.29: その他 Miscellaneous

At the Minemura Lumber Yard




For Kamesei Ryokan's family bath that we are building, we have to make a structure to go over the bath. It is an unusual shape requiring beams that aren't readily available. Today I went to our town's local lumber yard and ordered the materials. They even let me pick out which log to cut the beams from.

You can't get that experience at a home center store!

We are going to build one cool bath!

上田のもう一つの拘りのあるパン屋: 穀蔵 Another of Ueda's Specialty Bakeries

2011.08.28: グルメFoodie

Kokuzo-san's facade







Ueda City is fortunate to have not one, but two gourmet bakeries. I've written about Levain, located in the city center, before. Today I went to Kokuzo, located on the outskirts of the town right before Sanada on the way up to the Sugadaira highlands.

Both Levain and Kokuzo bake hearty European-style breads. And both are located in historical buildings. Levain is in an old sake brewery storehouse in Yanagi-machi, a post town on the old Hokkoku Kaido road to Zenkoji. The building is a you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it maze of twists and turns and lofts and cellars, with amazingly hefty posts and beams everywhere to dodge. If I were a ninja, this is the type of house I'd want.

Kokuzo is also located along a historical road. It is in a renovate old farmhouse with a narrow road lined with stone gutters on both sides running by it. You really get a sense of history from the house and neighborhood that nicely complements the richness of the bread they bake.

So if you are touring around Ueda Castle, I highly suggest stopping in at Levain. And if you're on a drive up to Sugadaira, definitely give Kokuzo-san a try.

穀蔵さんの詳しくはこちら Click here for details on Kokuzo.

家族風呂工事: クレーンで柱を立てる Family Bath Construction: Craning the Posts into Place

2011.08.27: その他 Miscellaneous



Today we called in a crane to help put the posts in place for the structure to go over the family bath we are building here at Kamesei Ryokan. I have used a 2-ton UNIC crane before, but this one was twice the size. Pretty cool!

Now we'll put the scaffolding into place and start work on the structure. Hopefully everything will be done by the end of October, our target completion date.

県旅館組合親会に参加し、いきなり小委員会リーダー First time at the main ryokan assoc. -- and made a group leader!

2011.08.26: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi

The Prefecture's 'Food' Promotion Plan

旅館組合青年部で色んな活動してきました: 戸倉上山田支部も、県も全国も。今回は県旅館組合の親会の委員会に呼ばれました。









亀清旅館の家族風呂作り: 柱準備 Making Kamesei's Family Bath: Prepping the Posts

2011.08.25: その他 Miscellaneous

Murakoshi-san hard at work.




This summer's project here at Kamesei Ryokan is to build a family bath. Right now we are prepping the posts for the bath's main structure. Murakoshi-san, the carpenter, is using a combination of North American log house and Japanese temple construction techniques.

It never ceases to amaze me how precise a carpenter's work is. I am sure our guests will appreciate the final project.

鑑別師pt.2: 39年前の写真 Kanbetsu-shi pt. 2: 39 y.o. Photo

2011.08.24: 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan

This is what Kanbetsu-ing looks like.








As I previously mentioned, we had the honor of hosting a lady who used to be a kanbetsu-shi. That's the profession where you separate boy silk worm grubs from the girl grubs. Before I met that lady, I'd never known such a profession existed.

The same guest came again, and when I paid a visit to their evening banquet, she pulled me to the side to show me a photograph. "You seemed interested in 'kanbetsu' -- here's an old photo from my kanbetsu days."

The photo was from 1972. I was only 2 years old then.

When I was in college (my major was International Studies), I researched about Japan's transition from Edo to Meiji eras. Silk production often came up. Then when I moved to Nagano, I was introduced to the Ueda Tsumugi silk weaving tradition and became familiar with seeing the old houses with the unique rooflines where silk worms used to be grown.

This further deepened my appreciation for Japan's silk culture.

In honor of that culture, I did a slight remake of one of our guestrooms based around a 'tsumugi' (silk weaving) theme. That brought me into contact with this veteran kanbetsu-shi. I feel honored to have been able to meet what I regard a person of 'living history'.

若若女将の目線での亀清旅館 Kamesei Through the Eyes of 4 y.o. Misaki

2011.08.23: 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan


Our 4 year old daughter Misaki often gets her hands on my smart phone. Before I know it, there are a whole bunch of funky pictures in the camera roll. Some of them are real keepers. Here are a few of the pictures, providing a glimpse of what Kamesei Ryokan looks like to a 4 year old.

Daddy at work

Chef heading for the toilet

Obachan funky pose

Brother Kenny


funky-pose Daddy

The front desk

Mommy Changing the Baths

The giant water cooler

千曲市「神楽の里: 獅子の舞い2011」 9月4日 Chikuma City's Kagura Lion Dance 2011 Sept. 4th

2011.08.22: 上山田お神楽 Kamiyamada Lion Dance

この千曲市のそれぞれの地区にお神楽は大体あります。千曲市の文化振興事業団がその文化を記念して、「神楽の里: 獅子の舞い2011」を開催する事になりました。


詳しくは更埴公民館 026-273-1880


The various districts in Chikuma City have their own Kagura lion dance troupes. This year, the Chikuma City Culture Foundation has decided to honor this rich tradition and hold a Shi-Shi Lion Dance event.

The event will be marked by a lecture on 'Nagano and Kagura' as well as performances by two of the city's most active Kagura groups, Kojima Kagura Ren and the one I participate in, Kamiyamada Kagura Preservatation Association.

Sunday 04-Sept
From 2pm
Anzu Hall
Free of charge
For info, contact the Koshoku Community Center at 026-273-1880

I am scheduled to perform on flute with the troupe, so please come and watch!