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



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

シアトルでの最初の日 新鮮さたっぷり Our First Day in Seattle -- So Many Changes

March 25, 2010: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi

Seattle's new light rail






It's our first day back in Seattle -- our first time back here in 2 years. There have been lots of changes in these 2 years. One of the biggest was being able to take the train from Seattle's airport to Downtown, on the recently finished light rail train. There are still people in Seattle that think light rail is a waste of money. I'd like those people to come to Japan, and see how convenient trains can be. America relies too much on cars. It's great to see Seattle has started improving its public transportation with this new train!

After riding the train, we went with my folks to the University of Washington, my alma mater. Our goal: to see the cherry blossoms. It was the first time for my mom to see them, so I was delighted to be able to share them with her and our kids. I have fond memories of shaking off the post-finals depression of winter quarter by enjoying the beautiful blossoms at the U-Dub's Quad.

One more new experience on our first day was going to the town where my folks live now, Mukilteo, and seeing their new park down on the beach. It was my first time to see the new generation of playing equipment. The kids and I had a blast.

It's great to be back in Seattle!

U-Dub Cherry Blossoms and Kenny

Ahh, the memories...

Newest playground equipment

Mukilteo's ferry and lighthouse -- and Andy

シアトルへの里帰り On Vacation to the States

March 24, 2010: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi

Andy, Kenny and Misaki, getting ready to depart Narita

Hello Everyone! Our family will be travelling to Seattle for about 10 days, so I won't be able to update the blog as frequently as normal. But we are collecting quite a few tales to tell and am looking forward to sharing them here, so keep tuned!

From Tyler in Seattle.



お猿の温泉 写真800枚 800 Pictures of the Snow Monkeys

March 23, 2010: その他 Miscellaneous



We have a guest from Norway staying here at Kamesei Ryokan for the better part of a week. Marius-san made a day trip to Jigokudani to see the snow monkeys. Seeing his huge camera, I jokingly asked how many hundreds of pictures he took. His reply: 800! He shared some of his best with us for our blog.

To see more about Marius and his 8 week (!) trip here in Japan, check out his blog:

Marius Risting Andersen マリアス・リスチング・アンドソン

まさかな姨捨夜景 A Whodathunkit Obasute Night View

March 22, 2010: その他 Miscellaneous

Night View? What night view?


The night view from Obasute last night was the worst. All day long the weather had been so weird. The day before was an unseasonably warm 23 deg C clear day, but we woke up to the worst "yellow sand" (dust blowing over from the Gobi Desert) that I had ever seen. Then we had strong winds in the afternoon, followed by a dramatic drop in temperature. At night, when we took the guests to go see the night view from Obasute Station, it even started to snow. (Mind you, the previous day had been 23 deg C -- we certainly didn't expect snow!) Then when we got to the station, it was totally covered in snow, and we couldn't see any of the lights of the valley down below. The worst night view tour ever!
Well, I entertained our guests with stories of local legends, so I think they enjoyed the tour anyways, But we'll have to have them come again to see what the night view usually looks like!

Snow in late March? This is what we woke up to this morning.

薪集めタイム Stocking up for next winter

March 21, 2010: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi



Gathering firewood for the winter just amazes me by how well the natural rhythms converge. As winter changes into spring, you naturally feel like getting outside and doing some exercise -- cutting and chopping wood is just perfect. That same exercise would be too hot once the warmer weather of spring comes, so now is just the perfect temperature. And when spring hits, the trees start to suck up water to produce leaves. So now, while the trees are still dormant, is the best time to make them into firewood. Finally, if you prepare the wood now and let it sit over one summer, it dries out perfectly for use in the winter.
Hence, these past few days I've been busy gathering and preparing firewood for next winter, by getting trimmings from nearby apple orchardists and collecting the wood from trees an acquaintance of our downed for making a garden. Our sons are getting bigger and bigger, and this year they have been helping out immensely, loading our pick-up truck and then stacking the wood in our sheds. I look forward to the day when they say, "Dad, we'll take care of the firewood this year, so you can just relax." That would be the perfect convergence of natural rhythms!

風林火山の里: 雨ノ宮 Samurai Battle Site: Amenomiya

March 20, 2010: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada





森「杏の里」花情報その1:つぼみ Mori "Apricot Village" Flower Update #1: Starting to bud

March 20, 2010: 季節 Seasons




Every year around this time, we get excited about the apricot blossoms in Mori "Apricot Village". We also get nervous about when exactly the flowers will bloom. Today I went to check out the progress in person -- the buds were starting to form. With the weather forecasted to be a little irregular -- warm, cold, warm, and cold again -- for the next week, I have a feeling the blossoms will be according to the official festival dates: 02-April thru 16-April. Will keep you posted here! Also, Live Camera at the Chikuma City Tourism Assoc. website.


Mori "Apricot Village" is approx. 30 minutes by car from Togura Kamiyamada Onsen. There are shuttle busses from Yashiro Station during the Festival period.
New this year is a special connector bus from Kamiyamada Onsen to Yashiro Station, departing 8:50am. 500 yen one way.

上山田お神楽はインターネットへ Kamiyamada's Okagura on the web

March 19, 2010: 上山田お神楽 Kamiyamada Lion Dance



The Kamiyamada Kagura (Lion Dance) Preservation Society gets around. Not only do we perform throughout Kamiyamada, but in Ueda City and Zenkoji Temple as well. And now, we have a presence on the web, too. Our chairperson, Kurihara-san, is very forward looking and floated the idea of making a website for the organization. So I talked with my buddy Robert-sensei, and had him make a nifty little home page for our group. At last night's practice, we debuted the site to the other members and got everyone's approval. There are still some things that need to be tweaked, but for now, the site is viewable at http://www.tomorobi.net/liondance/. Take a peek and let me know what you think!

牛に引かれた行き止まり A Dead End in Getting Pulled by an Ox to Zenkoji

March 18, 2010: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi

Nice wide street ending at a sidewalk-less mess -- hence the dead end to my Ox Walk improvement aspirations







Every year for the past 28 years, Togura Kamiyamada Onsen has put on a special event honoring the "Pulled by an Ox to Zenkoji (the big temple in Nagano City)" legend. We sponsor a 30km by 300+ participants from our onsen to Zenkoji. This year, the event will take place on May 5th.

And every year, us innkeepers take turns being the organizing chairperson. And this year, I get the honor. These types of events tend to get dragged down into doing the same old pattern as the previous year. Since I officially get to call the shots this year, I was hoping to make a few changes to the event.

First, several of last year's participants complained about the lack of food provided (3 rice balls just doesn't cut it for a 30km walk!). So I wanted to improve the lunch. However, it turns out the lunch vendor is a member of the tourism association so we're obligated to use them. They are a franchise of a nationwide chain, so their food products are safe and reliable, just not flexible. Bang! I just ran into insurmountable wall #1.

Then, I was wanting to tweak course. We had been hitting Nagano Station and circling around to the right to go under the tracks -- a very bland, industrially boring route. There's a bright, cheery new tunnel to the left that I was hoping to use. However, yesterday I went to check it out. The tunnel itself is fine, but the approach is a sidewalk-less construction zone nightmare. Bang -- wall #2.

I give up. "Same as last year." I lost.

去年の牛のイベント情報はこちらLast year's Ox Walk info here.