会社卒業の祝い  Career Graduation Celebration

March 21, 2009: その他 Miscellaneous


In Japan, March is graduation season. It seems like every day, some local school or university is having a graduation ceremony. Even our son Kenny's preschool graduation party was this morning.

But it's not just graduation from schools. Like our guest from last night, Nagura-san, there are some people retiring from their jobs as well. Nagura-san turned 65, and is graduating from work. He says from now on his biggest difficulty will be to wake up in the morning and decide which of his many hobbies (bird watching, painting, onsens -- Kamesei, of course!) he will do that day. Well, we congratulate him and all other work graduates!

戸倉上山田温泉の亀清旅館のHPはこちらClick here for the website of Kamesei Ryokan in Nagano.

亀清の庭及び森の杏: 新着情報 Flower News from Kamesei's Garden and Mori "Apricot Village"

March 20, 2009: 季節 Seasons

客間「千歳」の坪庭にChristmas Rose



In the "tsubo" pocket gardens off our "watari-roka" passageway, the Christmas Rose plants are starting to fully bloom. They have a subtle, unpretentious charm to their flower -- it perfectly matches the relaxing mood of our inn.

In other flower news, the Apricot Village in Mori on the other side of town is gearing up for the Apricot Festival, scheduled to take place from 04-April to 17-April. However, I just heard from my Mori "connection" that the buds on the branches are already starting to open. That's right -- Mori's apricot blossoms will be in peak form for viewing about a week ahead of their official festival. March 28th, 29th weekend should be perfect, and the crowds won't start until the weekend after! (For anyone wishing to stay the night, we still have rooms available the weekend of the 28th!)

戸倉上山田温泉の亀清旅館のHPはこちらClick here for the website of Kamesei Ryokan in Nagano

Picture courtesy of Robert Grey

りんご薪vs.地球温暖化 Apple Wood vs. Global Warming

March 19, 2009: 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan

Andy and Kenny with the wood stack


I've made good progress on gathering up firewood for next winter. Our boys' spring vacation started today, so I got them to help out, too. (Otherwise, they'd be indoor playing Wii!) Driving to the apple orchards, cutting the branches into short sections with a chainsaw, loading the "K-Tru" pick-up, dumping the load at Kamesei, chopping the fat ones with an axe, and stacking wood nice and neat -- it's a lot of work! But you know what? It's a great chance to interact with the apple growers, as well as with Nagano's nature. I wouldn't change this life for anything.
By the way, I asked the apple grower how this season is shaping up, with the winter being so warm and so little snow. Would the blossoms come early? The grower told me in years like this, they may actually bloom late due to a lack of a cold snap. Low temperatures set up the trees for blooming. He said even the ag coop wasn't making any predictions for this year -- the blossoms could be really early, or really late.
Another result of global warming?

剪定後のりんご木 Trimmed Apple Trees

露天風呂の庭 目覚め Our Outdoor Bath's Garden is Starting to Wake Up

March 18, 2009: 季節 Seasons

馬酔木 Pieris japonica subsp. japonica


Kamesei's "100 Year Bath" outdoor bath's garden is starting to wake up out of its dormancy. This plant next to the bath is sporting these beautiful pink flowers.

ドイツvs.日本 国際交流 German-Japanese Relations at Kamesei

March 17, 2009: 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan

This morning, when the Fischer party checked out, they came across the Inoue party of I-go playing gentlemen. One of them is a baker who studied in Frankfurt. By coincidence, the Fischer's were from Frankfurt. So a very enthusiastic conversation took place. I was impressed by how highly Japanese people regard Germany.
With me being an American innkeeper, we get guests from overseas from time to time. They tend to enjoy staying at a traditional ryokan. Japanese guests also appreciate the opportunity to talk with foreign travellers.

我が国と同じく1776年生まれ:五明館 Same birthdate as my country: Gomyoukan

March 16, 2009: グルメFoodie

After an appointment with the monks at Zenkoji, I had lunch at a historical restaurant just outside of the Sanmon gate. The restaurant is called Gomyoukan, and apparently originally provided lodging for travellers to the temple. The place had caught my eye before, with its classic exterior, full of character. Today, upon entering, I looked up and noticed "1776" written above the main door. This restaurant's history is as long as that of my country, the United States! The owner was cool, the interior was cool, the food preparation was cool, and they even had a cool microbrew. (Oh how I wish I could have had one!)
I would say Gomyoukan is a cool alternative to all of the soba shops around Zenkoji.
By the way, the reason I had to go to Zenkoji was I am on the planning committee for this year's "Pulled by an Ox to Zenkoji" walk, our annual event involving a 30km walk from Togura Kamiyamada Onsen to Zenkoji. This year it will take place on 06-May (Wed.) Care to join?

Cool Exterior

Cool Lunch

座敷遊び:芸者に勝つのは無理! You'll never beat a geisha at a parlor game

March 15, 2009: その他 Miscellaneous

Tamako-san playing konpira fune-fune with a guest

The geisha world is deep and mysterious, and it's difficult for outsiders to enter. So I consider myself fortunate, because thanks to my job at the ryokan here in Togura Kamiyamada Onsen, I am able to see some of the shamisen music and traditional dance at our guests' banquets. Last night was another first for me: geisha parlor games. I'd heard about the games, but had never really seen one. So when I heard the sound of the shamisen and stepped into the banquet room last night, I was thrilled to see "konpira fune-fune" taking place. And not only did I get to watch it, but then one of the guests said, "Hey, you try it, too!" Tamako-san taught me the rules (it's too complicated to explain here), and I gave it a try. One thing I learned really quickly was it's impossible to beat a geisha. They are pros! While the shamisen is going slowly, I could keep up with Tamako-san, but as the shamisen picked up speed, before I knew it I had lost. Playing the game accompanied live by a shamisen was so cool!

長野の最新の駅 Nagano's Newest Train Station

March 14, 2009: その他 Miscellaneous

New Chikuma Station

Do people sing "Happy Birthday" when a new station opens up? I'm not sure, but seeing the brand new wooden station house at Chikuma Station, which opens for business today, put me in the mood for singing. Chikuma Station is in between Togura and Yashiro on the local Shinano Railway line. I stopped by today to see what it looks like, and there were some other railroad fans there, too, taking pictures.
I'm not sure how much this new station will be used, but starting 20-March the New Kigure Circus opens there tent for a 2 month run within walking distance from the station. If you get a chance, check it out!

戸倉上山田温泉の亀清旅館のHPはこちらClick here for the website of Kamesei Ryokan in Nagano.

しなの鉄道のHPはこちらClick here for Shinano Railway's website.

町興し+汗=戸倉上山田ルネサンス Civic Improvement + sweat = Togura Kamiyamada's Renaissance

March 13, 2009: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada


"Civic Improvement" is a term that gets batted around a lot. But it's a lot easier to talk about than to actually do. Government officials don't have the time or energy, nor the budget. Local individuals may have the energy, but not the time as they have full-time jobs to deal with, and they have even less of a budget. Despite all of these difficulties, Togura Kamiyamada is seeing a renaissance of sorts with the building of a footbath last fall, the creation of all sorts of programs for visitors to participate in, and now, the refurbishing of Sarashina-kan. This historical inn, built in the Taisho era, is getting a full face lift, complete with wood grills over the windows and "shikkui" plaster exterior. Perhaps after it is complete, the neighboring buildings will even consider remodelling their exteriors in a more traditional Japanese fashion.

戸倉上山田の町興し「カラコロ」会のHPはこちらClick here for the Kara Koro civic improvement group's website.

traditional architectural features

Profile in English

March 12, 2009: プロフィール Profile

Tyler with Mari and daughter Misaki in front of Kamesei's entrance

(以前から日本語のプロフィルがありましたが、英語が漏れていました。My profile had only been in Japanese, so here it is in English.)

Hajimemashite. My name is Tyler Lynch. Welcome to my "American Innkeeper in Japan" Blog. I have been enjoying running a ryokan here in Nagano, as well as writing this blog, and hope you have fun reading it. Here is a little background about me:

I was born, reared and raised in Seattle, Washington, USA. Seattle, being a port town, has a long history of interaction with Japan. In the past, it was mostly forest products and fish. Now its Boeing and Microsoft related. When I was in high school, my dad got me a job in the shipping industry dealing with the Japanese trading houses. That, along with influence from the homestay students my parents hosted over the years, led me to study Japanese language in college. Learning the language got me interested in Japan's culture and its way of thinking, which led to an exchange study trip to Kobe. That experience rocked my world, the world I had known unitl then.

After graduating the University of Washington with a major in International Studies, I wanted to improve my Japanese language skills more, which meant living here. I ended up doing an Eikaiwa gig in Nagano. The prefecture's beautiful nature, with the green mountains and all the onsens, really charmed me. When I met the daughter of an onsen ryokan, I invited myself over for a bath, and we hit it off from there!

I ended up dragging Mari back to Seattle where we got married and lived for 11 years. I worked for a trading company dealing with, among many things, shipping produce to Japan. Meanwhile, I kept thinking about how nice Kamesei Ryokan was, with its spacious lobby and warm wood construction, relaxing gardens, watari-roka passageway leading to the detached guestrooms, and (of course) the hot spring mineral baths. Mari, who had seen how hard her parents had to work, wanted nothing to do with it. However, after starting to raise kids, she came to want to return home. Her mother was wanting to retire but with no one to take on the inn, she was going to tear it down and turn it into a parking lot.

We decided not to let that happen.

In the fall of 2005, we moved here to start helping out. People may think that shipping onions and running an inn are too different, but I assure you they are basically the same. As an onion shipper, my job's main purpose was to make the customer happy. That is the essence of a ryokan -- making the guests happy. It's just with here, we get comments back from the guests like, "Thanks to staying at your inn, I feel as if my body's batteries were recharged." I never got feedback like that from my onion customers.

I am fortunate to have this opportunity to work here at Kamesei, and to be able to provide a relaxing experience for our guests. Flipping futons and making outdoor baths is only half of my job. The other half is working with the other innkeepers to make our town more attractive to visitors, and with people throughout the prefecture sharing Nagano with travellers from overseas. This blog is a chronicle of my endeavors, offered for your enjoyment. Yoroshiku.