家族でつけばへ Family night out to Tsukeba

July 2, 2010: グルメFoodie

Senmasu Fish Shack

戸倉上山田温泉の真ん中に千曲川が慣れて、川沿いに3つのつけばもあります。亀清旅館の若女将はつけばの体験がなかったので、昨夜は家族で行きました。自分と子供たちは以前に体験したことがあったが、ママは気に入ってくれるかな?
今回行った場所は季節料理「川萬寿」(せんます)でした。つけばの建物の全部は基本的に仮設です。河川敷に固定した建物はだめだから。ですから、「つけば」はどうしても女性が喜び沿うようなきれいなお洒落な施設が少ないです。その中で、川萬寿さんはアットホームな落ち着いた雰囲気で、良かったです。大げさな川ソファに座って、隣の千曲川の流れを眺めて、川辺で遊んでいたキツネを見たり、とっても良い雰囲気でした。
そして、つけばの主の目的:川魚のお料理。鮎はもちろん塩焼きそして天ぷら、唐揚げ、魚田、などなど。最後に出た鮎入りの味噌汁が最高でした。川魚が苦手な方には恐らく地獄だろうけど、好きな人にはそうやって川沿いで川魚の色々なお料理を食べるのは最高!
つけ場を体験したい方には亀清旅館の朝食付きの半泊まりプランがおすすめです。つけばまで歩いて10分なので、夕食はつけばで、また宿に戻ってゆっくり温泉に入ったりしていただけます。
Togura Kamiyamada Onsen has the Chikuma River running down the middle of it. Along the banks here in town are 3 "Tsukeba" river fish restaurants. They're more like fish shacks, as by law they have to be built using temporary construction. No permanent buildings are allowed to be erected along the banks. So, by definition, the fish shacks don't tend to be the elegant type of place that ladies would appreciate.
So when my lady, Mari, mentioned she had never done "Tsukeba", it was with a bit of apprehension that I took her and the kids last night to Senmasu. With its patched up leather couch and eclectic decor, the ambience was a bit tacky. But being able to look out at the Chikuma River flowing by and seeing a fox play in the rocky beach made for an enchanting scene. Plus, the cuisine was delectable. Ayu sweetfish prepared in so many ways: rubbed with salt and grilled, tempura, sashimi (!), etc. The fish head miso soup at the end was outstanding!
For people who don't appreciate river fish, this cuisine is probably hellish, but for those that do, eating river fish on the banks of the river is like heaven!
If you would like to combine tsukeba with a stay at Kamesei Ryokan, we have accommodation only plans so you can walk the 10 minutes to one of the fish shacks to enjoy a tsukeba dinner and return to relax at our inn and soak in the onsen baths.

川萬寿は夏の間営業が続いています。お昼は11:00-15:00、夜は17;00-20:00(予約がおすすめ)
Senmasu's hours are from 11am to 3pm and from 5pm to 8pm (reservations recommended).
Tel(026)275-0019



Family Tsukeba Dinner


ダブル取材: NHK教育とテレビ信州 2 TV Filmings in 1 Day

July 1, 2010: メディア Media

The NHK crew

NHK教育テレビは高校生向けの番組で、日本で活躍している外国人のコーナーがあるそうです。7月27日の番組にこの青い目の若旦那を紹介してくれるそうです。昨日、今日はその札せいで来てくれました。竹田プロデューサー、ご苦労様でした!良いストーリになるように。
そして、偶然、今日の午後は峯竜太さんが来てくれました。地元のテレビ信州の夕方ゲット(You Gotta Get)という番組の取材で、本人の息子と千曲市に来ていました。息子さんが森の杏狩り、お父さんは戸倉上山田温泉の大衆演劇@大勝館。お二人は汗をかいた後、温泉に入りたいと言い出した様で、峯さんの思い出になるお風呂、亀清旅館の露天風呂に入りに来てくれました。OAは7月8日だそうです。
こうやって戸倉上山田温泉のPRになって、嬉しいです!

National broadcaster NHK's Educational Channel has a program for high school students that occasionally features foreigners making an impact living in Japan. For the July 27th episode, they will be featuring the blue-eyed innkeeper, me! Takeda-san and his crew finished up 2 days of filming this morning. I wish Takeda-san luck in editing everything into a good "story".
Then this afternoon, TV and movie celebrity Ryuta Mine stopped by. He and his son were in town for local station TV Shinshu evening program. The son was shooting footage in Mori "Anzu-no-sato" picking apricots, while dad was enjoying the geisha drag show performance at Taishokan here in Togura Kamiyamada Onsen. They wanted to have an onsen bath after their hard (?) work, and Mine-san mentioned our outdoor bath here at Kamesei Ryokan. (He had cleaned it once as part of a previous program.)
So we did our part today to help promote Togura Kamiyamada Onsen!



峯親子vs。亀清旅館の100年風呂


講師として勉強になる When the Teacher Learns

June 30, 2010: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi

長野県商工会呼ばれまして、先週の水曜日@松本そして今日@長野市で講師で頼まれました。指導員研修会に指導する皆様に「欧米人が求めるおもてなし」という講演を致しました。
私はこういう講演するのは二つな理由で大好きです。
一つ目はそのインバウンドの認識度アップ、
二つ目は講演先の現地が見え、色んな人と出会えるし、つまり良い勉強になります。
今回の研修会のもう一人の講師が上田市の服部 年明様でした。長野市のルネサンスの建築家と呼ばれているそうです。本人が長野市のタウンマネージャーだった間、大手デパートの跡を市が回収し、市民の中心的な場所を作った;またもう一つのでかいデパートの跡はToigoってテレビ局の本社や人が集まる施設ができた;善光寺の手前にいくつかな空き店舗があって、「パティオ大門」って蔵のテーマの商業施設ができた。とにかく、ものすごく効果を出している人。会ってみたいと思いました。そしたら、今日の公演は昼食の為に少し早く来る様に言われて、隣に座っていたのは、なんと服部さん本人でした!ちょうど良い機会で私が興味津々でしたから色々と聞きました。服部さんはすごい人です。会社のマネージャーなら、商品の組み合わせを管理して、どれが効果を出しているか、何が抜けているか、全部を管理する。町もそうしないと進まないと説明してくれた。亀清旅館は独自で動いてもダメ。温泉街があるから亀清がある。川と山があるから温泉街がある。つまり、全体を合わせて動かないと駄目。
実は、私が最近に「民衆」や「行政」の事に色々と不安を持つようになりました。アメリカで国レベルにも私の生まれ育ちのワシントン州も、私が応援している民衆党が与党になった。色々と期待していたが、あまり改善なし。「民衆」が世界一進んでいる(はず)米国がリーマンショックを起こしたという事は、民衆が最適じゃないんだと最近に思ってきた。もう一つな例はこの千曲市です。2003年に2町1市が合併し、千曲市となりました。合併によって、行政の効率が良くなり、ダブっている部分を削れて、人数が少なくなるはず。実際は合併後、行政の人数が増えた。会社のM&Aの場合はそういう現象は許されない。
服部さんのお話を聞き、シンガポールのようなタウン・国のマネージャーのやり方の方がいいのか?今の「民衆」・「行政」がいい効果を出せばいいけど…
Nagano Prefecture's Chamber of Commerce invited me to give talks in Matsumoto last week and Nagano City today at their annual Instructors' Seminar. The idea was for me to give the instructors some new concepts to use when advising various companies in the prefecture.
I really like giving these types of talks, for two reasons. One is it gives me a chance to raise awareness for the "Inbound" cause. The other is I get to see and meet new places / people. Today's talk was no exception. One of the other speakers was Toshiaki Hattori. During his time as Nagano City's "Town Manager", one defunct department store's building was bought by the city and several essential city functions were centralized there making it a major people draw. Another defunct store was replaced by a TV station's HQ, another people draw. And several empty stores near Zenkoji were remade into "Patio Daimon", a snazzy warehouse-themed shopping plaza. This Hattori-san managed to produce some fantastic results for Nagano City. It was fascinating to talk with him. He explained that, for example, our inn, Kamesei Ryokan, doesn't exist by itself. It's because of the Togura Kamiyamada Onsen town that it exists. The town itself exists because of its proximity to Zenkoji. The entirety has to be taken into account and managed as one.
Talking with Hattori-san raised some anxieties that I have with government and democracy. Back in my home state as well as at the national level in America, the Democratic Party took control, but all of the promised improvements have become bogged down in politics. America was supposed to be the pinnacle of democracy, but that same 'pinnacle' caused this world-wide recession with the sub-prime crash. Perhaps democracy isn't "progress" after all. Another example is here in Chikuma City, which was made by the merger of 2 towns and 1 city in 2003. Usually these mergers result in efficiencies allowing for a reduced total number of city workers. However, the number has actually grown! No corporate M&A would allow that to happen. There isn't enough accountability!
Listening to Hattori-san makes me wonder if a Singapore-like city / country manager system wouldn't be more effective...




信州の「人」 Nagano "People"

June 29, 2010: メディア Media

Daddy's in the paper again!

今日の信濃毎日新聞にどこかで見た事がある顔が写っていました。この秋は私が亀清旅館の後継ぎとして戻ってきて5年間になるのでその間の活動についての記事です。インバウンドの事、祭りの事、戸倉上山田温泉の他の若旦那達との努力、などなど。どうぞ、今日の信毎で読んで御覧なさい。

岡田さん、良い記事を有難うございました!

Today's Shinano Mainichi daily newspaper had a familiar face in it. This fall will make 5 years since I moved here to take over Kamesei Ryokan. Shinmai's local reporter wrote a feature article on my achievements since then. Inbound, festivals, working with the other innkeepers of Togura Kamiyamada Onsen, etc., etc. Pick up a copy of today's Shinmai and check it out!

Okada-san, thank you for a well-written article!





旅館若旦那達は偶に休まなきゃ Us innkeepers need an occasional play day

June 28, 2010: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi

Catch that ball!

旅館の経営者は本当に休みが少ない。24時間働いちゃう。これは確かに健康に良くない。しかし、長野県の旅館青年部が新潟、群馬、栃木と茨城の県青年部をホストして、キックベース大会をやるって聞いた時に、旅館の方で直す所が沢山あるし、仕事がたまっていて、誰が遊ぶ暇があるか?!とブブ文句を言いながら、今日は青木村へ行って、大会に参加しました。
そしたら、良く分かりました。時々は布団引き以外な運動も必要だと。今のこの北関東ブロック長(akaブロック王、さらにaka「オッ」)がカリスマの人で、彼の強い意志で私みたいな頭の固い若旦那の皆を引っ張って、こうやって大会を行います。有難い事で。

Running a ryokan can become a 24-7 job. It's easy to become lost in the work -- which can't be good for one's health. But when the Nagano Junior Ryokan Association announced they would be hosting a kickball tournament, I thought, "Who has the time to goof off like that? There are so many things that need fixing here at the inn, and so much work that has piled up!" So, grudgingly I went to Aoki Village to play in the tournament.
It was a good thing I went. I realized that it's important to occasionally get some exercise other than futon flipping! The Northern Kanto Block leader (or "king" as he likes to be called) is the very charismatic guy that willed this event to take place. I am very thankful!




Kicking Tochigi's butt


Team Nagano


King with his Mad Max Interceptor


まだちょっと酸っぱいけど、杏狩り楽しみ Still a bit Tart, but Fun Nonetheless -- Picking Apricots

June 27, 2010: 季節 Seasons

Andy picking Apricots

昨日は午後から雨の予想(鮎釣りの解禁なのに・・・ 釣りの皆さんがかわいいそうでした)だったので、午前中は子供達と一緒に自転車で出かけて、親戚の杏の木に行って杏狩りしました。まだ尼酸っぱいけど、一部は柔らかくて甘かった。とにかく、子供達に果実はスーパーで育っているのではなくて、太陽の下で木から出る事は認識させたかった。実際の杏の木へ行って、自分の手で取って、その場で食べてみるのは一番良いんだ。
この千曲市の森地区は杏で有名です。「あんずの里」とも呼ばれています。杏の木の本数は日本一だそうです。杏狩りはもちろん、そしてピック下杏は今度ジャム作りや缶詰の体験もできます。詳しくは千曲市観光協会のHPへ。

Yesterday the weatherman called for rain in the afternoon (despite it being the first day of ayu fishing season -- all those guys out there fishing on the Chikuma River probably felt lousy), so in the morning I grabbed the kids and we went for a short bike ride over to a couple of apricot trees that some relatives own. The fruit was still a bit tart, but there were a few that were soft and juicy. Besides, I think it's important that our kids understand that fruit doesn't grow on supermarket shelves, but out in the sun on trees. Going to an actual tree, picking the fruit yourself and eating it then and there -- that's the best way!
Here in Chikuma City, the Mori district is famous for apricots. Nicknamed the "Apricot Village", it supposedly has the most apricot trees in one spot of anywhere in Japan. That's the best place to go for U-Pick apricots. In addition, there are also places to can or make jam with the fruit that you pick. For more info, check out the Chikuma City Tourism Assoc. website (in Japanese only).




いよいよ鮎釣り解禁 Fishing Season Here at Last!

June 26, 2010: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

Entrance to the fish shack left, Alps straight ahead, and the Chikuma River to the right

千曲川の上山田・坂城周辺に今朝5時に花火が上がりました。鮎釣りの解禁です!

昨日は坂城のオトリ小屋「マルケン」に挨拶をしに行きました。今年の解禁は去年より2週間遅らしたのでそのお蔭で鮎の大きさは良さそうです。

鮎釣り解禁に合わせて、亀清旅館のChef武井はこの頃、鮎塩焼きを出しております。旬の味、地元の味、やはり長野はいいね!

Along the Chikuma River here in the Kamiyamada and Sakaki areas, fireworks went off at 5am this morning. They were announcing the start of the Ayu Fishing Season.

Yesterday I paid a visit to one of the fish shacks, Maruken in Sakaki. This year's start was delayed by 2 weeks to allow the ayu to size up, and according to the Maruken guys, it was worth the wait.

Here at Kamesei Ryokan, Chef Takei is marking the start of the season by serving salt rubbed grilled ayu to our dinner guests. 'Tis the taste of the season, and our region. Ahh, it's so nice to be here in Nagano!

千曲川鮎釣り漁業組合のHPはこちらClick here for the Chikuma River Ayu Fishing Association website.





First Fishers


Practice for NInJA練習

June 25, 2010: 活動 Activities

Tourism Survey and ... Ninjas!

以前にも書きましたが、我々NInJAプロジェクトの仲間が有志で民間レベルでこの長野地方に来る海外からの旅行者にアンケートを実施するようになっています。アンケートが出来上がりましたので協力してくれる清泉女学学院の生徒達と今日、練習しました。メンバーの宮下さんが本物の戸隠忍者で忍術の演奏もしてくれました。新聞の記者も地元のテレビも来てくれて、段々と進んでいます。

As previously mentioned, the NInJA Project group of volunteers that I belong to is preparing to do a survey of foreign travellers coming to the Nagano City area. The survey has been completed, and yesterday we held a practice with the Seisen Women's College students that will be assisting us with the survey.
Miyashita-san, an actual Togakushi ninja and a fellow member of the Project, did a ninjutsu performance for the class, and a couple of newspaper reporters as well as a local TV crew came, too. We are getting closer and closer to making the survey a reality!

Click here for the website of NInJA ProjectのHPはこちら







上山田のもう1つの宝物:サクランボウ Another Kamiyamada Treasure: Cherries

June 24, 2010: 季節 Seasons

上山田にサクランボウの農家があるって噂を前から聞いていました。最近にどこの農家か、わかりました。まさか私の上山田神楽保存会の仲間の渡島さんだと思いませんでした。昨日はシンガポールからの客さんを連れて、渡島さんの農場に行ってみました。サクランボウが沢山あって、びっくりしました!シンガポール人が喜んでいました。「シンガポールで桜の実の木はまず見えない。我々シンガポール人がこういう果実の農場を見るのが好きだ」と仰いました。すみませんけど、果実農場で喜ぶのはシンガポール人だけじゃないですよ。我々欧米人も大好きです。特に、サクランボウ!この上山田にもあるって、嬉しいです。
ただし、1つなバッドニュースがあります。渡島さんのサクランボウがこの頃人気になってきて、今年の分のサクランボウ狩りは既にキャンセル待ちになっています。来年の楽しみだね。
I had heard rumours that some farmer was growing cherries in Kamiyamada. Just recently I found out who -- my fellow okagura lion dance buddy Watashima-san. Yesterday I took some guests from Singapore to go see the cherry orchard. They were so excited to see the fruit on the trees. "In Singapore, we never get a chance to see this. We Singaporeans love to visit orchards." I hate to tell you, but it's not just Singaporeans -- we Americans love fruit trees, too. Especially cherry trees! I am so excited to find out about Watashima-san's orchard here in Kamiyamada!
However, one piece of bad news: Watashima-san's cherries are so popular, the U-Pick for this season is already booked out. So that just gives us something to look forward to next year.

渡島さんの農場の連絡先は下記です。場所はマップをご参照に。Watashima-san's Contact number is as below. Location is as per the map.




Cherries as far as the eye can see!


Under cover from the rain and inside netting from the birds


Orhcard Envy from Singapore


What a day! にぎやかな一日

June 23, 2010: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi

Today was quite a day. Not all of my days here at Kamesei Ryokan are this busy, but on the other hand, it wasn't all that unusual either.
The day started at 5am, with taking Pauline and her classmate from Keio U. to zazen meditation. Then we came back to the inn, and I cooked pancakes for the kids' breakfast. After that I flipped futons and sent off our guests from the previous night, including a family from Singapore. We stopped at a cherry orchard on the way to the station -- more on that in a later post. Then the director of the city's Economic Development office came to discuss the English walking map / restaurant guide I am making. Next I drove up to Obasute Station, parked the K-Truck and hopped on a train to Matsumoto. There I gave a talk to the Prefectural Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting. (That was a bit daunting to be lecturing to the lectors...) I had a bit of time to kill before the next train back, so I hooked up with my buddy Tom working at a think-tank in 'Moto for a late lunch bowl of ramen. Then it was back to Obasute Station and to Kamesei, where one of our new regular guests was waiting. Itogawa-sensei had been intrigued by one of the statues on display in our inn, and had researched all about it for me. After flipping futons for tonight's guests, it was off to Okagura practice at the town's main park. Somewhere in there was a phone call from NHK, the national broadcaster requesting to do feature TV show on Kamesei.
5am zazen, okagura practice, speeches ... nothing new. But all in one day -- that was a first. Also, at the zazen room, the monk was away so I had to lead the meditation. That was also a first. And at the okagura practice, I put my flute down for one dance and tried my hand at being the rear person in the lion -- another new experience.
All in all, a very full day!
今日は長い一日でした。朝五時から始まった。フランスからの留学生のポリーンさんとの友達を連れて、座禅に行きました。戻ったら、我が子供たちにパンケーキを焼いて、お客さんの布団を上げて見送りして(内、シンガポールのご家族を駅までの送迎の途中で、サクランボ農園にも寄って)、市役所の商工労政係長が作成中の英語マップの打ち合わせで来てくれて、それから電車乗って松本へ行きました。県商工会指導員研修会で講演を頼まれました。指導者の前で立つのは非常につらかったけど、なんとかできました。帰りの電車まで時間があったので松本のシンクタンクで働いているTomさんのラーメンを食った。亀清の戻ったら、常連のお客さんが気になっていた床の間の飾り物を調べてくれて、その結果を説明してくれた。お客さんの布団を引いてから、今度はお神楽の練習。その間のどこかでNHK教育から取材の問い合わせの電話もありました。
とにかく、特ににぎやかな一日でした!