千曲川でイカダ下り復活 Bringing Back Rafting on the Chikuma River

August 19, 2012: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

戸倉上山田に来て、旅館や商工会青年部の先輩方の「懐かしい話」で千曲川のイカダ下りの事は良く聞きました。残念ながら、その話は「懐かしい」だけで、イカダ下りは色んなトラブルに囲まれて、随分前に中止となった。

私は個人的に、千曲川が大好きで、ふれあえる場面がもっともっと欲しい。だから、イカダ下りは良いな!と、ずっと思っていました。先輩方の楽しそうな顔を見て、羨ましかった。

そして、運が良くて、実は去年に千曲川イカダ下りが復活された。ほんで、今年は私ども戸倉上山田旅館組合青年部はチームを出すようになった。

という事で、19日に私と有田屋さんの貴一郎君、ホテル晴山の亮君と私が温泉の大工さんの村越さん(カラコロ足湯や亀清旅館のしなの風呂などを作った人)が貸してくれたイカダに載って、温泉の噴水公園から出発して、千曲橋まで下りました。経験者の中央ホテルの小平先輩が立ち会ってくれた。

やはり、川から見る景色は違うね。川辺や周辺の山々、千曲市はどれだけ自然で恵まれているか、そして川遊びがどれだけ楽しいか、凄く良かった。

千曲川イカダ下りがこれからも大きくなって、より多くの方々が体験できるようになって欲しい。そして、皆で次の世代にこの「懐かしさ」を伝えたい。

Ever since moving to Togura-Kamiyamada 6-1/2 years ago, I heard stories of my elders in the ryokan association and chamber of commerce about rafting events on the Chikuma River. Their eyes would glaze over as they thought about all the fond memories of floating down the river. Unfortunately, a series of difficulties caused the event to be canceled long before I came on the scene.

Luckily, though, last year a bunch of old-timers started up the rafting event again, and this year, the ryokan junior association members got to borrow a raft and participate. So on the 19th, myself and two other junior innkeepers rode our loaner raft from the fountain park here in our onsen town Togura-Kamiyamada to Chikuma Bridge, about an hour and 10-minute float.

I'm used to just driving or taking the train through town. The view from the river is totally different. The gentle flow of the Chikuma River, the lush river bank, the green mountains surrounding all sides -- you really realize how blessed with nature Chikuma City is. And floating down the river is a lot of fun, too!

Hopefully the event will get bigger and bigger every year, so more people can experience the joy of rafting down the Chikuma. And our eyes can glaze over, too, with the fond memories.





姨捨の棚田: 稲穂が「今日は!」 The Obasute Terraced Rice Fields: Rice Fronds saying 'Hello!'

August 18, 2012: その他 Miscellaneous

お盆が終わって、夏のピークが超えて来たのようです。吹く風が少し涼しいだし、もう一つの現象は姨捨の「田毎の月」で有名な棚田は色が変わってきました。真夏は真っ青の深い緑色だったけど、今日に見たら稲穂が出始まって、田んぼは金色に切りかえってきました。

お盆後
風が涼しく
姨捨、金

As the Obon holiday is finished, it feels like we have passed the peak of summer. There is a faint coolness on the wind now when it blows. And another sign: The famous moon-reflecting terraced rice fields of Obasute had been a deep green color; now the rice fronds have started to appear. The fields have turned a golden shade of yellow-green.

After the O-Bon,
A touch of cool on the wind
Rice fields turn golden







一気に「冷え~!」 冠着山の久露滝 Cold Rush: Kamuriki Mtn.'s Kuro Falls

August 17, 2012: 信州の山 Nagano’s Mountains

Kenny enjoying the waterfall shower

この夏の暑さは半端じゃない。負けないように、滝シャワー!

春に一度スカウトした冠着山の久露滝に先日の暑い日に子供達を連れて、もう一度行ってみた。滝のハイキングトレールの登り口(一の鳥居)は亀清旅館・戸倉上山田温泉から車で約12分。そしてたった10分登れば、久露滝に着く。落差15mの流れの中に思い切って入って、滝を浴びました。

気持ち良いいい!

This summer has been an extraordinarily hot one. So, how to beat the heat? By taking a waterfall shower!

This past spring, the boys and I had scouted out Kuro Falls on the northern flanks of Kamuriki Mountain. On one of these hot August summer days, the boys and I went back, and this time enjoyed a refreshingly cold shower.






長野トップ100温泉: 鹿教湯温泉 Nagano Top 100 Onsens: Kakeyu Onsen

August 16, 2012: 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano

Monju no Yu's entrance

長野県のトップ100温泉巡りの続きで、もう一度東信の鹿教湯温泉に行きました。公衆浴場「文殊の湯」に初めて入ってみた。

鹿教湯温泉の事は日本語の情報が沢山あるから、今記事は主に英語にします。(なおかつ、少しきつい事も書きますので…)

In my research of Nagano's Top 100 Onsens, the latest one I went to is Kakeyu Onsen. I've been to Kakeyu many times, but this time I wanted to check out the main public bath, Monju no Yu.

First, a bit of background on Kakeyu Onsen. The name means 'The onsen that a deer revealed'. According to legend, a particularly religious local hunter went to the mountains to try to find some game. He wasn't having luck finding any animals, and ended up walking deeper and deeper into the mountains. As he was about to give up and return, he spotted a deer grazing. He took up his bow and shot an arrow that hit the deer in its back. The deer ran off with the arrow still attached. As fast as the hunter chased, he couldn't keep up with the deer. Since it was getting dark, he decided to return home. The next day, he searched the area where he encountered the deer but to no avail. As he was about to go back home, he saw the deer bathing in a pool of water, apparently fully healed. Just then, Monju Bosatsu (the bodishattva of wisdom) appeared. "In recognition of your fervent belief, I am revealing the location of this onsen to you. Share it with everybody."

In Kakeyu Onsen, there is a temple dedicated to Monju Bosatsu (said to be one of the top three of such temples in Japan), and the main public bath is named Monju no Yu, in honor of the diety.

Monju no Yu is the current configuration of Kakeyu's O-Yu main bath. Historically, none of the inns had their own baths. Residents and visitors alike would come to the O-Yu to bathe. Nowadays, the 22 current inns and hotels have their own onsen baths, and many residences have soaking baths and/or showers. Yet even today, it is common to get a change of scenery and try another onsen bath, hence the popularity of Monju no Yu.

Located next to the original spot where onsen water first came to the surface (some 1200 years ago), the current Monju no Yu bathing facilities were built relatively recently (1990's?). The location overlooks the Uchimura River and is adjacent to Godaikyo, Kakeyu's symbolic wooden covered bridge that leads to the Monju Bosatsu temple. It's a picture-perfect location, and so tranquil. Walking down the lane from Kakeyu's main street to the river, it's like a different world, one that time left behind and that belongs to nature with the shady wooded valley and gurgling stream below. It was easily 5 degrees cooler down by the bridge and bathhouse than up on the main street.

Also, a little more bit of background on Kakeyu Onsen. It is the home to Kakeyu Hospital which specializes in rehabilitation, taking advantage of the rejunivate power of the onsen water. In fact, a majority of the guests to Kakeyu come for extended stays (called 'Touji' in Japanese) -- to recuperate after an operation, to rest up in the farming off-season, to take time to write a book, etc. The relatively cool (38-40 deg C) temperature of the onsen water lends itself to long, leisurely soaks. And the town is fairly compact with just the degree of hills to make going for a stroll a bit of good exercise. Several of the inns offer "Ji-sui" where guests cook for themselves during their long stay.

Along with nearby Reisen-ji Onsen and Oshio Onsen, Kakeyu is a designated National Recuperative Onsen District. The mineral content of the onsen water is considered to be so good for your body when taken internally (i.e. for drinking) that Kakeyu was selected as the Ozeki (top in sumo ranks) of Eastern Japan.

With its legendary origins, history and rejuvinative waters, I wanted to give Kakeyu Onsen's Monju no Yu a try. And, so, does it make Tyler's Top 100 Onsens of Nagano list?

If one (any one at all) of the showers had more than just a trickle,
if the baths had even just a small water spout (I don't care if the baths have to be recirculated -- have some of the water enter the bath from a spout; that is one of the essential things that make an onsen an onsen!)
if the outdoor bath had more than just a peek-a-boo view of the Uchimura River and the iconic Godaikyo bridge,

then it would make my Top 100 list.

So, Kakeyu Onsen is definitely one of Nagano's more important onsen districts -- I just suggest not limiting yourself to the official public bath Monju no Yu; Try a bath in one of the hotels, too. And you can't go wrong with Saito Hotel. Their outdoor bath features an exquisite garden.

文殊の湯Monju no Yu



Monju no Yu's indoor bath (not a single shower had more than a trickle!)


The outdoor bath and the peek-a-boo view (in the plastic bamboo -- uggh!)


Where it all started -- the location of the original Kakeyu onsen spring


Kakeyu's iconic wooden covered bridge, Godaikyo. Decorated with ice candles in the winter.


Stroll-friendly lanes in Kakeyu Onsen


長野なりのチンカレー Microwave Curry from Nagano

August 15, 2012: 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano

Promoting Nagano's Gourmet Specialties via microwave curry

ちょっと恥ずかしいですが、私はチン・カレーのファンです。昼ごはんに、時間があまりない時に袋を開けて、パッとチンして、パッと食べれるのが嬉しい。栄養はあるかどうか不安だけど、味は良いし、お腹がいっぱいになるし、楽だし、安いし…日本に来てからの気に入りの1つ。

そして、基本的に私はSB派です。近くの上田市にSBのカレー工場があって、通る度に「アッ、良い香り!」。

この間、久しぶりにスーパーでチンカレーを買いに行ったら、新しいのは2つがあった:
りんご和牛・信州牛カレー

信州ハーブ鶏カレー

値段はSBの3倍ぐらいけど、長野県の名物グルメ牛肉と鶏肉を生かして、これは応援しなければならないと思って、買ってみました。長野県の皆さんは「Made in Nagano」をどうやって広がれるか、必死です。チンカレーは良いアイディアだ!

じゃ、味は?実は、まだ食べていない。美味しくなければ、どうするかと悩んでいます。取り敢えず、長野県の食材のユニークな取り組みとしてここで紹介したいと思っています。

I am a bit embarassed to admit, but I am a fan of Japanese microwavable curry. You just open the pack, microwave it for a couple of minutes, and voila! Yummy curry for lunch. It's inexpensive, fast, fills you up, tastes good, and it's so easy. Just don't ask how healthy it is...

Anyways, my personal favorite is curry by SB. Their factory is in nearby Ueda City. Everytime I drive by it, the tantalizing scent comes wafting my way.

The other day, I went shopping at a local supermarket and saw 2 types of microwave curry that I'd never seen before: Shinshu Wagyu Curry and Shinshu Herb Chicken Curry. 'Shinshu' is the classic name for Nagano, and the Wagyu and Herb Chicken are 2 made-in-Nagano products that the prefecture is hoping to promote. Nagano's Wagyu is from cows that are fed Nagano's apples, so has a hint of fruity sweetness. The Herb Chicken is free-range and has a highly regarded taste.

Increasing the presence of Nagano's gourmet products via incorporating them into these curries is certainly a novel idea. And does the taste hold up to the hype? That is yet to be seen!





亀清旅館はまっぷろ「温泉&宿・関東版」デビュー Kamesei's Debut in the Mapple "Onsen & Inn" Guide

August 14, 2012: メディア Media

Kamesei in Mapple

ちょっと嬉しい事で、まっぷる「温泉&宿」関東・信州・新潟版に我が亀清旅館がデビューしました。温泉地240湯、温泉宿泊施設1420軒の詳しいカタログ。亀清旅館は今回で紹介して頂いたのは、恐らく貸切露天風呂が出来たのお蔭だと思います。

貸し切り露天「しなの風呂」を作る価値がありましたよね。まっぷるさんにも評価されました事。

まっぷるさんはこのカタログに載せて頂いたのは嬉しいと思いながら、読者は1420軒の中で、亀清著感を見つけて頂けるかどうかは不安です。まあ、でも、載らないより…

まっぷる社に感謝、感謝!

We here at Kamesei are excited -- we got listed in the Mapple "Onsen & Inn" guide's Tokyo & vicinity version. The guide is a catalog of 240 onsen areas and 1,420 inns and hotels.

Kamesei has never had the honor of being listed before. I think it is due to our adding a family bath that we got picked for the 2013 edition. Kamesei Ryokan has finally joined the Mapple ranks!

My excitement is modified, however, with the realization that there are 1,419 other onsen inns also listed in the guide. How are readers ever going to find us? But at least now we are officially in the guide! Thank you, Mapple!

まっぷる温泉&宿Mapple Onsen & Inn




杏とプロバスケと物権と…亀清 Apricots, Hoops, Rentals and ... Kamesei

August 13, 2012: メディア Media

長野の物権雑誌「住マイル」は定期的に去年に出来たプロバスケ「信州ブレィブウォリアーズ」についての紹介がある。

今回はチームのサポーター達についての記事があった。ウォリアーズの大ファンの杏生産者の杏宝園の高松さんと臼井さん、そしてその杏を扱っている、尚且つウォリアーズの大ファンの私ども亀清旅館が紹介されました。

杏と温泉とバスケ、そして物権の雑誌。これは良い地域連携!

Nagano's real estate and apartment rental guide "Sumairu" magazine regularly features articles about our new pro basketball team, the Shinshu Brave Warriors.

The latest issue focuses on the supporters. In particular, Takamatsu-san and Usui-san of apricot orchard Kyohouen. Besides growing delicious apricots and producing all kinds of new products, he two ladies also happen to be huge hoops fans. In addition to those two, the article also mentioned a local innkeeper who uses Kyohouen's products and who also happens to be a huge Warriors fan.

Which is how I happen to have been featured in an apartment rental magazine's pro hoops team article with a couple of apricot growers!

住マイル Sumairu





お勧めのサイクリングコース: 戸倉上山田→稲荷山 My Favorite Cycling Course: Kamiyayama to Inariyama

August 12, 2012: サイクリング Cycling

戸倉上山田温泉を出て、千曲川沿いのサイクリング道路を通って、稲荷山の蔵の街と細い道をうろうろして、シルキーでお好み焼きを食べて、またサイクリング道路で川辺と周辺の山々の景色を楽しみながら帰る。

それが私の一番好きなサイクリングコース。

先日はベルギからの留学生を連れて、二人で自転車で通ってきました。彼はレンタサイクルで。私は稲荷山の土壁の蔵を見るのが好きだ合ったが、彼はそれより、それぞれの住宅の庭を見るのが好きだった。なるほど、その楽しみもあるのだ。

亀清旅館でレンタサイクルおよびサイクリングマップを提供しますので、どうぞ、楽しんでください。

Depart our onsen town Togura-Kamiyamada,
Ride the bicycle path along the Chikuma River to the Inariyama historical district,
Ooh and Aah over the classic earthen-walled storehouses and wander the narrow alleys,
Stop for lunch at okonomiyaki restaurant Silky,
Then ride back along the bike path enjoying the beautiful river valley and the scenic mountains on either side.

That's my favority bicycle course. We briefly hosted an exchange student from Belgium and I took him with me for a ride to Inariyama. Me on my road bike, he on one of our town's rental cycles.

I really enjoyed seeing the old warehouses, but the exchange student liked seeing the various gardens more. Hmm, everyone has their own parts of Inariyama they enjoy.

Here at Kamesei Ryokan, we have rental cycles as well as a cycling map (including the Inariyama course) for your enjoyment.






観光経済新聞x戸倉上山田温泉の湯巡り企画 Kanko Keizai Newspaper x Togura-Kamiyamada's Onsen-Hopping Plan

August 11, 2012: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

先日は戸倉上山田温泉旅館組合の皆様と東京へ宣伝キャラバンで行ってきました。その時に週刊経済新聞の事務所にお邪魔し、戸倉上山田温泉戸倉上山田温泉の新しい湯巡り企画をお伝えしました。
その企画は新聞の8月11日号に取り上がりました。これで業界で戸倉上山田の湯巡りの情報が広がれます。1人でも多くのお客様が湯巡りを楽しんで頂けたら幸いです。

旅館の若旦那の仕事は布団引きだけじゃない;こうやって温泉全体の宣伝も重要だね。

Last month, I took the shinkansen into Tokyo with other members of the Togura-Kamiyamada Ryokan Association for a media blitz. During that 'caravan', I stopped at the offices of the Kanko Keizai (Tourism Economics) Newspaper and explained about our onsen town's new onsen-hopping plan.
In the August 11th issue of the newspaper, they included an article about Togura-Kamiyamada's new plan. I was thrilled to see it got such thorough coverage. Hopefully everyone in the industry will be aware of it now and more guests will enjoy the onsen-hopping pass.

My job as an innkeeper is more than just flipping futons -- it also means promoting the overall town like this.






しなの鉄道:アニメトレーン? Shinano Railway: Anime Train?

August 10, 2012: その他 Miscellaneous

Shinano Railway's anime train

アニメおたくの皆様、良いニュースがあります:
しなの鉄道はアニメトレーンが出来ました。
小諸市が舞台となった「あの夏で待ってる」の主人公などの絵で車両がラッピングされている。

8月末まで走っているそうで、機会があれば見てみてください。

For all of you anime 'otaku' out there, here's some good news: One of our local Shinano Railway's cars has become an anime train.

Komoro City, one of the main stops along the line, was made the setting for an anime called "Ano natsu de matte iru", or, "Waiting at that summer". The train is 'wrapped' in images of the main characters from the anime.

The special anime train will be running until the end of August. So don't miss this chance to see the anime train!

しなの鉄道アニメトレーン Shinano Railways's Anime Train