蓮の花の時期 Lotus Root Flowers in Bloom

July 29, 2011: 季節 Seasons

Lotus Flower in bloom above Togura-Kamiyamada

戸倉上山田温泉の裏の城山に善光寺別院のお寺さんがあります。お寺からの眺めが綺麗だし、お客さんに時々連れて行きます。

今回は眺めより、お寺の庭の蓮の花が印象的でした。「そう言えば、今は蓮の花の時期だ」と思い出した増した。善光寺別院の庭にもありますが、この千曲市の八幡地区の大雲寺の蓮がこの辺の代表的な蓮スポット。お城の様なお寺の建物に広い蓮の池で、お勧めです。

Above our onsen town Togura-Kamiyamada is a branch temple of the venerable Zenkoji Temple in Nagano City. The view from the temple's deck is spectacular, so I often take guest up there.

This time, though, more than the view, the lotus flowers blooming in the temple's pond grabbed our attention. That reminded me that this is lotus flower season.

Here in Chikuma City, the main lotus flower viewing spot is Daiun-ji Temple in the Yawata neighborhood. The castle-like temple building features a huge pond covered with lotus flowers. This is the perfect time to see the beautiful flowers.







なでしこジャパン 亀清の庭からエール Kamesei's Garden Cheering For Japan's Women's Soccer Team

July 28, 2011: 季節 Seasons

Matsukaze's garden

亀清旅館の庭師の岡田さんからのコメント:

「(先日の)メンテナンス後の松風に庭の写真。
なかなか良い感じになってきました。

今、オレンジ(朱色)の花を咲かせている植物は 「フシグロセンノウ(Lychnis miqueliana)」。
ナデシコ科センノウ属の宿根草。亀清の庭でも、今 “ ナデシコ ” の仲間が花盛りです。」

日本女子サッカーのワールドカップ優勝をおめでとうございます。アメ人の私は優勝戦でどれを応援すべきか悩みましたが、なでしこの皆様の嬉しさを見たら、こちらも嬉しいです。庭の花をこう見たら、なお嬉しいです。これが花のナデシコなんだ。

ちなみに、庭師の岡田さんが最近に出た「住まいnet信州」の住宅建築の本に紹介なされました。亀清旅館の事もメンションしてくれました。

Kamesei Ryokan's gardener, Okada-san, came by for regular maintenance on our gardens. He sent these pictures of guest room Matsukaze's garden. Right now this orange flower is blooming. It is called nadeshiko (Lychnis miqueliana).

Nadeshiko is also the nickname for Japan's womens national soccer team, the same team that just won the women's World Cup soccer tournament. It seems our garden is showing its support for the team. I have to admit mixed feelings about Japan's victory as it came at the expense of America's ladies team. The goalkeeper, Hope Solo, went to the University of Washington, my alma mater. But after seeing the joyous faces of the nadeshiko ladies, I couldn't help but be happy for them. And now seeing the beautiful nadeshiko flower in our garden, I am even happier.

Okada-san the gardener was recently featured in a Home and Garden magazine. The article mentioned Kamesei Ryokan, too!

住まいnet信州の本及びおかださんのHPはこちらInfo on the magazine and Okada-san's website is here.



Close-up of the Nadeshiko flower


Okada-san in the Magazine


中学生35人に温泉街の案内 Taking 35 Middle School Students for a Tour of our Onsen

July 27, 2011: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi

Stopping at Shimaya, the river fish specialty shop.

私は色んな人達をこの戸倉上山田温泉を案内して来ました。でも、今日は初めて中学生35人を案内した。

地元の戸上中学校の3年生は我が温泉を見学したかった。私が旅館青年部長として声が掛けられました。上山田温泉資料館の見学と上山田温泉会社の経営している「かめ乃湯」温泉銭湯の入浴を手配してあげたうえで、私は今朝、一時間ぐらい生徒の皆さんに温泉街を歩きながら、案内しました。

カラコロ足湯から始まって、中央公園や新世界通り、川辺、戸倉温泉本通りや銀座通りなど、紹介しました。今までの町おこしの努力と、これからの夢を語りました。

生徒さん達は少しでもこの戸倉上山田温泉に関心を持つようになったのかな?

Over the years, I have guided a number of people around Togura Kamiyamada Onsen. But today was a first -- taking 35 middle school students for a tour.

Our local Togami Middle School contacted me, the ryokan junior association leader, to show the students our onsen town. I arranged for them to see the Onsen Museum as well as for all of them to take a bath at Kame no Yu. And for an hour this morning, I walked with the students around our town pointing out the various places of interest. I also explained about what type of civic improvement has taken place until now, and what my dream is for the future.

Hopefully the students gained an understanding and an interest in our onsen town.





戸倉上山田温泉の近くに乗馬クラブ Horse Riding Club near Togura-Kamiyamada

July 26, 2011: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

この戸倉上山田温泉の周辺になぜか馬が多いです。旅館仲間の上山田ホテル次男俊樹さんはポニー2頭を飼っているし、薪ストーブ仲間の村越さんは大きい馬1頭を最近に飼い始めて、森地区の知り合いは立派な馬車を作って、馬を飼い始まったそうです。

これだけ馬が多いならば、馬に乗りたくなっちゃいます。

それで、良いニュースがあります。ここから車で約15分の上田市半過地区に乗馬クラブが出来ました。HANGA馬乗りクラブ(090-8723-2722/石井さん)は毎日08:00-17:00で騎乗料は3,000円から。

馬が好きな皆様にお勧めです。この夏休みは馬乗りはいかがでしょうか?

Here in Togura Kamiyamada Onsen, for some reason we have a lot of horses. My buddy from Kamiyamada Hotel, Toshiki-san, has 2 ponies he keeps right here in town. Another buddy, Murakoshi-san, has a huge horse he keeps on the other side of the river. And another acquaintance in Mori built a fabulous horse carriage and reportedly has acquired some horses, too.

With all of these horses around, I have been feeling an urge to go horseback riding.

Fortunately, a horse club has opened up in Ueda City's Hanga district, a short 15 minute drive from here. HANGA Horse Riding Club (Tel# 090-8723-2722, Ishii-san) operates daily 08:00-17:00 and offers horseback riding from 3,000 yen.

This summer, come to Togura Kamiyamada and enjoy horseback riding along the way!







戸倉上山田温泉の射的屋さん達: 新しいパンフ New Brochure for Togura Kamiyamada Onsen's Shateki Joints

July 25, 2011: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

Shateki brochure cover

戸倉上山田温泉に射的屋さんは4件もあります。長野県の中でこんなに射的屋さんが多いのは、恐らくここだけ。

私は友達が遊びに来れば、射的によく連れて行きます。特に、子供連れの友達。皆が喜ぶ。

こんなに喜ばれている遊びはもっともっとPRしたいと思っていました。そのために、8月からは旅館青年部で射的大会を計画しています。まずは温泉街の射的屋さんを紹介するパンフを作りました。温泉の写真屋さん、富岡さんに協力して頂いて、写真撮影及びパンフのデザインをやって頂きました。写真の「さくら」はうちの娘と旅館仲間のところの子供達。

これからは戸倉上山田の旅館の皆さんが印刷して、お客さんに提供します。お越しになるお客様の喜びにつながると望んでいます!

Here in onsen town Togura-Kamiyamada, we are fortunate to have 4 shateki places. Shateki is basically a carnival-like game of target shooting using a cork-gun. And no other onsen resort town in Nagano has as many shateki joints as we do here.

Whenever a friend comes to visit, I often take him or her to go do shateki. Especially if they have kids. And everyone really has fun doing it. Our kids love shateki, too.

So I've always wanted to do something to better promote such a fun activity. And starting in August, the ryokan junior association and I are planning a shateki-related event. But first we had to make a brochure with information on the 4 shateki places.

I enlisted the help of Tomioka-san, our town's photographer. He took the photos and designed the pamphlet. And our daughter and the kids from another inn helped out by being the models in the pictures.

I've forwarded the brochure data to all of the inns for printing, so now us inns will be able to guide our guests to go and enjoy shateki!





インバウンドの言葉の壁; ユニバーサルデザイン Overcoming Language Barriers -- Universal Design

July 24, 2011: 活動 Activities

長野市の私鉄「長野電鉄」がインバウンド仲間に「外国人目線で見る」調査を頼みました。交通機関の立場から見れば、外国人対応はきっと頭を悩ませる問題でしょう。なぜかと言うと、どんな対応策でもお金がかかるから。

予算の事も考えながら、私も長電の長野駅を尋ねました。正直って、長電の入口は駅の中で分かり辛いです。一緒にいた日本人の友達は最初に分からなかった。

日本人に分かりにくければ、当然に外国人にも難しい。

しかし、長電酸は是非、外国人・外国語対応して欲しいです。なぜなら、例で言えば、亀清旅館の外国人お客さんの7~8割は長野に来る目的が地獄谷の野猿公苑です。その大半は長電を使って、スノーモンキーを見に行く。

このごろは長電が成田エクスプレスの古い車両を購入して、「スノーモンキー」と言うネーミングで走らせている。
写真の様に、入口に車両のイラストと片仮名で電車の名前が大きく映っているが、両方共は外国人に通じない。ロマン字は小さくて、見落としやすい。

案としてはせっかく雪猿のテーマを生かしているならば、お猿のイラストがあれば皆がすぐ分かる。シールで作って、今の看板に張れば安く済むし。日本人も外国人もパッと見て、ぱっと分かる。つまり、ユニバーサルデザイン。

ちなみに、一番笑えたのは切符の販売記。「English」と言うボタンがあったけど、押したら駅名は漢字のまま。これじゃ意味がない?!

長電さん、インバウンドをしっかり頑張って下さい。

Nagano City's private railway "Nagano Dentetsu" requested some Inbound-related buddies of mine and I to assess their train line from a foreigner's perspective. To be honest, I wouldn't want to be in Nagaden's shoes. Making their system foreigner-friendly would be an expensive undertaking (new English signage, multilingual website, etc.), with no guarantee of increased revenue.

But I really hope Nagaden does make some improvements. The reason why is that a lot foreigners ride Nagaden to go see the snow monkeys at Jigokudani. (70-80% of Kamesei's guests come to Nagano to see the monkeys, and the majority of them ride Nagaden.)

The other day, I Nagaden's entrance and ticket gate at Nagano Station. The Japanese guy I was with had a hard time finding the entrance. If it's hard for a Japanese person, you can bet it would be difficult for a foreigner!

Nagaden recently acquired the old Narita Express cars, and renamed them "Snow Monkey". Nagaden's entrance has a huge sign featuring an illustration of the train cars and 'Snow Monkey' in Japanese katakana script, neither of which means anything to the typical foreigner. "NAGADEN" is written in English, but in text that is way too small.

My suggestion would be for Nagaden to make use of the 'Snow Monkey' naming and add an illustration of a monkey. A simple sticker added to the existing sign would suffice. And foreigners and Japanese people alike would immediately recognize the meaning.

That's 'universal design'!

By the way, one thing really made me laugh. The ticket machine had a button for English. But even with that, the station names still showed in Chinese characters. How would an English speaker know what ticket to buy???

I really hope Nagaden makes progress towards becoming more foreigner-friendly!





飯山市へインバウンド 9月に講演 Inbound to Iiyama: Speech in September

July 23, 2011: 活動 Activities

Flier for my talk in Iiyama

長野県の北部の飯山市があります。仏壇生産やお寺の町で昔から知られて、この頃は菜の花の黄色い花と、高橋まゆみの人形や、ブナのフォレストセラピーで人気がある。

飯山の商工会に頼まれて、9月に観光関係者に「欧米人の求めるおもてなし」の公園を開催する予定です。私の経験及び亀清旅館にお越しになる欧米の観光客の目線から日本のどういう所を喜ばれているか紹介する予定です。9月21日(水)14:00から飯山商工会議所会館で開催する。参加したい方は飯山市商工会へ Tel(0269)62-2162

Iiyama City lies on Nagano Prefecture's northern edge. It has been known from times long ago as a temple town and for its butsudan (family altar) craftsmen. Recently, it's yellow nanohana blossoms in May, forest therapy in the beech tree forests in the green seaseon, and the Mayumi Takahashi Doll Museum year round have been attracting attention.

The Iiyama Chamber of Commerce is curious about the possibilities of drawing tourists from overseas to the city. They have asked me to give a talk on what westerners expect when they come to Japan. Using my experience as well as insights from Kamesei's guests from overseas, I hope to encourage the tourism-related people in Iiyama to consider ways to attract foreigners.

The talk will be on Wednesday September 21st from 2pm at the Chamber's office. If interested in attending, give the Chamber a call at (0269)62-2162.





松代の美味しいイタリアンと楽しい温泉 Matsushiro's Yummy Italian and Enjoyable Onsen

July 22, 2011: 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano

Koen no Bench's charming facade at dusk

先日に書いた様にUFOハンティングで松代に行ってきました。そのついでに独特なイタリアンレストランと温泉にも行きましたので紹介したいと思っています。

イタリアンレストラン
公園のベンチ
お洒落な煉瓦の建物に親しみやすいサービス、可愛い人形の小物のインティリア、そして豪華なイタリアン料理。一品一品が工夫されて、そしてボリュームが多いのはうれしい。
小布施や須坂かどこかのドライブの途中でも、お勧めのレストラン。
長野市松代町東寺尾2988 (国道403沿い)
Tel (026)278-7411
ランチ/11:30-15:00; ディナー/18:00-21:30
定休日 月曜日(祝日の場合は翌日)
ランチメニューは1050円から各種がある。

眺めの良い、ナトリウムたっぷりの湯
大室温泉 まきばの湯
私は温泉宿の若旦那なので、温泉に対してかなりうるさい。設備がそろっていないと、お風呂の湯質が良くなければ、怒ります。松代町大室地区にある大室温泉「まきばの湯」は施設もお湯も、両方が良くて、このうるさい人が嬉しかったです。
今回は2回目でしたので2回ともは男風呂が左の木造のふちの露天風呂の方。もう片っ方は石組だそうです。木造の方からの眺めはまあまあですが、写真を見る限りで石組露天風呂の方から善光寺平と遠くのアルプスが見れるそうです。それにしても、木造の露天風呂及び内風呂は十分気持ちいいし、内風呂の建物は気をたっぷりと、うまく使ったので、とにかくうれしい作りです。
お湯もナトリウムが強くて(1051mg/kgだそうです)、独特なお湯です。少し味見したら塩っぽい感覚です。温度は約41℃で、ゆっくり入れます。
長野県に温泉巡りで来る際、松代町の大室地区の大室温泉@まきばの湯」は木を生かした建物と、ナトリウム入りの独特のお湯と善光寺平の眺め(特に石組露天風呂から)、お勧めの一つ温泉です。

詳しくはまきばの湯のHPへ

When our family went for a drive to check out Matsushiro's UFO spot, we then went out for dinner and an onsen bath in the vicinity. The restaurant and onsen we went to would make terrific places to stop at when coming to or from Kamesei Ryokan.

Charming Italian Restaurant
Koen no Bench
The name means 'park bench', which I think refers to the cozy, relaxed atmosphere the owner is striving for. The charming brick building, friendly and attentive service, elegant meals (and generous volume) all contribute to the successful creation of the intended atmosphere.
The restaurant makes a great stop on a drive to or from Kamesei, perhaps on a visit to Obuse or the snow monkeys at Jigokudani.
Koen no Bench
2988 Higashi Terao, Matsushiro machi, Nagano-Shi
Tel (026)278-7411
Lunch/11:30-15:00 Dinner/18:00-21:30
Closed Mondays (or following Tuesday if holiday)
Lunch meals from 1050 yen.
Access: Best by car as it is located along Route 403. No train station or bus stop in the vicinity.

Unique Mineral Water with a View
Omuro Onsen 'Makiba no Yu'
When it comes to onsen bath houses, I am picky. (Naturally, since I run one myself.) There are a lot of places with rundown facilities and questionable mineral content to their onsen water.

Makiba no Yu in the Omuro neighborhood of Nagano City's Matsushiro district, on the other hand, is a very enjoyable bath house. Not only do the outdoor baths have great views, but the buildings are constructed with hefty woodwork that is kept in pristine condition, and the onsen water is high in natrium (1051mg/kg) giving it a slightly salty tang. Bath temperature is around 41 deg F, perfect for a long, relaxing soak.

There are two sides and both times I've been there the guys had the left side with the wooden outdoor bath. The right side's outdoor bath is made of river rock, and (judging by the pictures) has an even better view of the Zenkoji Plain and the Japanese Alps in the distance.

If you're on an adventure to explore some of Nagano's many onsens, you won't be disappointed by a stop at Omuro Onsen.

Omuro Onsen 'Makiba no Yu'
4108 Omuro, Matsushiro-machi, Nagano City
Tel (026)278-5687
Summer/ 09:00-22:00 Winter 09:00/21:30
Adults/500 yen Elementary&Middle School/300 yen
Access: 5 minute walk from Omuro Station on the soon-to-become-defunct Nagaden Yashiro Line.

Click here for Makiba no Yu's website.



Koen's summer special: gazpacho-style spaghetti


花火屋と千曲川花火大会 A Fireworks Maker and the Upcoming Chikuma River Fireworks Display

July 21, 2011: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

今日は会議で長野市・善光寺の近くに行っていました。街をちょっと歩いたので、よく見たら商店街に花火師の店がありました。お店の窓に色んな花火が展示してあって、一つは中身が見せられた。

花火実体があんなにきれいで、玉の中もきれいって、納得です。

花火と言えば、戸倉上山田温泉の千曲川花火大会が近づいています。毎年8月7日に開催されます。北信・東信の中で一番大きい夏の花火大会です。

長野県のHPの説明によると、

「この大会の自慢は、なんといっても迫力ある花火の音!この迫力の秘密は、戸倉上山田温泉一帯の地形にあります。
千曲川を挟むように両側に山が迫っており、その間には幅約2kmの空間しかありません。その狭い空間で打ち上げる花火の音は、周囲の山々に反響して、腹の底にズシンと響きます。」

Today I was in Nagano City near the venerable Zenkoji Temple. While walking the streets in the area, I came across a shop that makes and sells professional-grade fireworks. They had some huge ones displayed in the shop's window. One of them was showing a cross-section.

Fireworks sure are beautiful as they are lit and illuminate the night sky. So it is no wonder that the insides of them are so pretty, too!

Seeing the fireworks shop reminded me that our onsen town Togura Kamiyamada's big Chikuma River Fireworks Display is coming up -- August 7th. It is the biggest summer time fireworks festival in northern Nagano. Not only are the fireworks visually appealing, but the sound reverbrating off the surrounding mountains is also very exciting.

戸倉上山田の千曲川花火大会の詳しくはこちら。Click here for info on Togura Kamiyamada Onsen's Chikuma River Fireworks Festival






温泉の本屋さん Onsen Bookstore.

July 20, 2011: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

戸倉上山田温泉に小さな本屋さんがあります: 西澤書店。もちろん、一般の雑誌と本を販売しているけど、信州に特化した本は沢山そろっています。観光ガイドや山登り、山野草など、信州の何か知りたいなら、西澤書店できっと良い本があります。場所はかめ乃湯通りです。

In our onsen town Togura-Kamiyamada, there is a quaint little bookshop called Nishizawa Shoten. While they have the regular assortment of popular books and magazines, they also feature a large selection of books and guides about Nagano Prefecture. From sightseeing guidebooks to mountain climbing and wildflower guides, you are certain to find what you are looking for here. Located on Kame no Yu Dori street.