全旅連委員会活動報告 Activities Reports

April 4, 2010: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi

My Activities Report for the Yado Recipe Research Group

里帰りから帰ってきて、イースターのイベントや色んな会議があって、宿題がたまっています!(このブログの更新もそうだし!)その中で、平成21・22年度は私が旅館組合の全国組織に出向しているので、21年度の活動報告が一番ピンチ。海外に行っていた時に、上司から連絡があって、「早くしろ」と。まあ、やっと書きましたのでせっかく書いたからこのブログにも載せさせていただきます。興味のある方、どうぞ、お読みになって下さい。

After getting back from our trip back to Seattle, I've been slammed with one meeting after another, as well as with putting on our town's Easter Egg Hunt. I've got so much homework stacking up, it's starting to come out my ears! The most urgent was to write a report on my activities for fiscal year 2009 with the ryokan association at the national level. I am part of a research group focusing on ways to get ryokans more involved with the local communities. For example, normally tourism people focus only on tourism, and agriculture people only on agriculture. And for us hotels, even though there are farms nearby, if we can save 1 yen and buy from the produce market instead, we will. As for the farmers, if they can sell to the market for 1 yen more than we will buy, they will. In other words, there is a huge gap between the hotels and the farms. My group's project is to find ways to bridge that gap -- to make both sides realize they are members of the same community. One example of a mutually beneficial relationship was from our group's leader, a ryokan owner in Niigata Prefecture. In his project, the inn proprietresses actually got into the fields with farmers and helped with planting, and then later with harvest. They bought the 2nd grade material that normally would have been thrown away and made caramel confectionary sweets with them. Not only did the inns get the produce at discount prices, but the growers got an outlet for their unusable product. And on top of that, the innkeepers and farmers got to know each other, and the whole project got much favorable press.
Using inspiration from that story, this past fall, our inn started a relationship with a local grape grower for the first time, with me personally going to the orchard and buying hail-damaged but delicious-tasting grapes to provide as dessert for our guests. It's a small step towards closing the gap between farmers and inns here in Kamiyamada, but one that I hope to build on in fiscal 2010!





イースターで100人の笑顔 100 Smiling Faces for Easter

April 3, 2010: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

Coloring Easter Eggs

今日はイースターエッグフェスティバルin戸倉上山田温泉が行いました。今年が5年目なので地域の子供たちが段々となじんできました様です。千曲国際交流の皆様、ご苦労様でした!そして、お風呂を提供してくれた戸倉上山田温泉旅館組合のメンバー、玉子を提供してくれた岡田商店、その玉子を調理してくれた調理師会青年部、馬車(!)を提供してくれた上山田ホテルの俊樹さん、ケバブ屋台を出してくれたニコライさん、協力してくれた戸倉上山田商工会と戸倉クリスト協会、皆様のお陰で100人のお子さんの笑顔で大成功でした!実行委員長として、嬉しかった!

The 5th annual Easter Egg Festival in Togura Kamiyamada Onsen took place today in the park along the shores of the Chikuma River. Thanks to the volunteer efforts of the Chikuma Int'l Exchange Assoc., the onsen baths provided by several of the ryokans, the eggs from Okada Shoten, the cooking of same eggs by the Junior Chefs, the horse buggy rides by Toshiki-san from Kamiyamada Hotel, the kebab van provided by my buddy Nicholai, and cooperation from the Togura Kamiyamada Business Association and Togura Christ Church, we had 100 smiling kids. As organizing chairperson, I was thrilled!



Misaki found 8 eggs!


Horse buggy rides, too!


Our chef helping cook the eggs


That irritating ring around the collar

April 2, 2010: 日米関係Culture Shock

I won't miss removing these guys any more

As a Westerner, life in Japan can seem really anal with all the cumbersome details. Sometimes you adapt and become a better person in the process. Sometimes you just suck it in and deal with it. And sometimes you pull a "Wild Gaijin Card" and blow it off.

Now, for the first time in my experience, one of the anal little details has simply gone away.

See the PET plastic bottle in the picture? Japan, as with most industrialized countries, encourages the recycling of PET bottles. And although I am not aware of any, I suppose some countries have you seperate the cap from the bottle for recycling. But only in Japan (as far as I know -- correct me if I'm wrong) is it required to also remove the cap ring.

Do you know how hard it is to remove a cap ring from a PET bottle? There is actually a specialized tool designed especially to cut the ring. Back in the States, recycling a PET bottle means throwing it in the recycle bin instead of the garbage. Here in Japan it means first removing the label (most are perforated specifically to be easily torn off), taking off the cap, using the special tool to remove the ring, then putting the now naked PET bottle in the PET bottle recycling, and putting the plastic label, cap and ring in the plastics recycling. What a hassle -- especially cutting that dang ring off.

Well, apparently the anal bureaucracy has come to realize themselves what a hassle it is and the lack of practicallity. As of April 1st, removing the ring has officially become "optional". So here for the past 4 and a half years, I have been putting up with the frustrating of cutting of each and every PET bottle ring, thinking how much better for the environment it was. And now all of the sudden, all the effort has been made meaningless.

I guess one of the bureaucrats finally threw his or her own "Wild Card".





Back in Japan 日本に帰国

April 1, 2010: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi

Exhausted stop off to see the cherry blossoms at Ueno Park

シアトルへの里帰りから日本に無事に帰国。成田への飛行機は10時間も乗って、そして時差ボケの疲れ・・・しんどい!上野で電車を乗り返った時に、上野公園でちょっと休憩しました。桜が満開でした。花見の皆さんでにぎやかでしたが、私達はとにかく、早目に亀清に戻って、温泉に入りたがっていた。花よりお風呂!

We arrived back in Japan tonight after our trip home to Seattle. The plane ride to Narita took 10 hours. That plus the jetlag meant we were pretty exhausted. When changing trains in Ueno, we popped up to Ueno Park to see the famous cherry blossoms, which were in full bloom. The park was lively with the hanami revelers. There's a saying in Japanese about such cherry blossom viewing parties being more for the dango (sticky rice sweets, i.e., the partying) than the blossoms. For us, all we could think about was getting back to Kamesei and soaking in the onsen.



Sleepless in the plane from Seattle


2mの身長のルーツ Where I got my height from

March 31, 2010: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi

With my Dad, Uncle, Li'l Brother and Cousins

我々は2年ぶりにシアトルに戻ったということで、私の家族の皆が集まってくれました。私の身長は2メーターと言うことで、日本でとっても目立ちます。まあ、アメリカでも目立つのだ。しかし、うちの家族が集まれば、普通になります。家族の集まりの写真を提供しますので、どうぞ、私のルーツをご覧になって下さい。
As it was our first time back in Seattle for 2 years, all of our family got together for a mini-reunion. When I'm in Japan, my 6'7" height really stands out. It even stands out while walking around in America. But when I'm surrounded by my family, my height really blends in. By seeing these pictures, I think you will see where I get my height from!



With the wives and kids


Andy, Kenny & Misaki with their 2nd cousins


バンクーバーへのドライブ Side trip to Vancouver

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

Outside the Richmond Olympic Oval

今年の冬のオリンピックでバンクーバーの事をテレビでよく見ていました。うちの子供たちは特に、興味しんしんでした。せっかくシアトルから車で約3時間ですから、うちの親と一緒に、旅で良い思い出を作る目的を込めて、三世代ということでドライブで行って来ました。旅行を通じて、家族のスキンシップを取るのが最適です。バンクーバーへの旅の写真です。

While watching this year's winter Olympics on TV, we saw so much about Vancouver. Our kids, especially, were interested in seeing Vancouver in person. So, since it is only 3 hours by car from Seattle, and as we wanted to make some lasting memories for them with their grandparents, all three generations of our family piled in the car and went on a road trip to Vancouver. There's nothing like a vacation together to create some good family bonding! Here are some pictures from our trip.



In front of the inukshuk


UBC's anthropology museum


The very hospitable Coast Plaza


信州の青い目の若旦那のルーツ My Roots -- How I became an innkeeper in Nagano

March 29, 2010: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi

この写真を見て下さい。私の母親と本人の作ったジャパニーズキルト。そして、緑のシダに包まれていた我が息子。

そのキルトを見ていただけたら、うちの母親は器用だと思いませんか?尚且つ、着物の生地を使って金閣寺のキルトを作るということは日本に憧れているという事ですね。

私はきっとその影響を受けています。日本に憧れているし、亀清旅館で所々に手作りのものを作っています。(母親ほど器用だったら良いけど・・・)

そして、息子の写真。その緑を見て下さい。私はその緑の中で育ってきました。そのせいか、周りに緑がないと苦しいです。だからこそ、自然で恵まれている信州で、ほっとします。

その意味で、私の現在の立場のルーツになる写真でございます。

Take a look at these two pictures. My Mom holding up a Japanese quilt that she made. My son surrounded by green ferns.

If you look at that quilt's use of kimono fabric and images of Kyoto's Golden Temple, you can tell my Mom is captivated by Japan. And you can tell she is very skilled in making things with her own hands.

I must have inherited much from my Mom, I, too, am captivated by Japan. And I have a knack for making things by hand around the inn here at Kamesei. (I wish I were as talented as my Mom!)

Then there is all that green surrounding my son. I grew up with ferns and trees all around me, and if I don't have that now, I feel suffocated. That's why I fell in love with Nagano, with all of its mountains and rivers and spectacular nature.

Perhaps these pictures show some of the reasons I ended up where I am -- working at a ryokan in Nagano, Japan.

お母さんの作ったジャパニーズキルト



緑に含まれている


里帰りの必点:お料理 A Necessity of Visiting Home: The Food!

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

Mom preparing a Turkey Dinner

毎日毎日にアメリカのお料理を食べたら、厭きちゃう(尚且つ、きっと太っちゃう)。しかし、2年ぶりのシアトルの里帰りで、せっかくだから毎日に懐かしい料理を食べました。我が子供にもアメリカの食文化も見せたかったし。その時の写真のいくつかを提供しま~す。

If one were to eat American food every single day, you would probably get sick of it (not to mention, probably get fat, too!). But on our trip back to Seattle, we made a point of enjoying as much American food as we could. I wanted to show our kids some of America's food "culture", too. Here are some pictures of our endeavors.



Enjoying Grandma's turkey dinner


Adobo at a friend's shop in the Pike Place Market


My brother and his baby back ribs


Pagliacci Pizza and Mac 'n Jack's Ale (There is a God!)


Cousins eating Mom's super spaghetti


DONUTS! (Cupcakes were getting popular, too.)


Kenny finally getting Fish 'N Chips


Grandma helping Misaki with her Fatburger


Greasy breakfast at a Greasy Spoon


Andy eating a bagel in Granville Island


里帰りの楽しみ:地元で観光 Being a Tourist in your own Home Town

March 26, 2010: その他 Miscellaneous

With Mari on Queen Anne Hill overlooking Seattle's Space Needle

里帰りの楽しみの1つは普段に出来ない観光が出来る。今回はシアトルの代表の塔:スペースニードルを眺める公園からの景色を見たり、ダウンタウンの元中心地のアンダーグラウンドツアーやフリーモントのトロールなど、思い切り「観光」しました。

時々、自分の地元を観光するのは大事だな。

One of the fun things about going back to Seattle is it's a chance to do the touristy stuff that you never get to do when living there. On this trip, we went on the venerable (?) Underground Tour (picked up some tips for my own Obasute Night View tour!), saw the Space Needle, and climbed the Fremont Troll.

It's important to be a tourist in your own home town sometimes.



Kenny and the Fremont Troll


Skylights for Seattle's Underground


Drinking Fountain at the Pioneer Square Pergola


Andy / Kenny / Shoma totem pole


at the Market