戸倉上山田温泉のカタクリ際@佐良志奈神社 Katakuri Flower Festival at Togura Kamiyamada Onsen's Sarashina Shrine

April 12, 2012: 日米関係Culture Shock

Katakuri-sou, aka "dogtooth violet"



Japan seems to have a fascination with delicate flowers. Cherry blossoms are of course the most obvious, but, for example, this has to be the only country on earth to organize festivals dedicated to skunk cabbage (see Kinasa, Togakushi, et al). I admire this appreciation for Mother Nature.

Here in our onsen town Togura-Kamiyamada, I've mentioned in the past how a grove of tiny setsubun-sou flowers has a group of volunteers dedicated to its preservation and that a festival is held in their honor.

On our side of the Chikuma River is a grouping of another fragile flower, "Katakuri-sou", known in English as dogtooth violet. Grouped around a road leading up Hachioji Hill from Sarashina Shrine, these flowers also have a fan club that volunteers for their care. This Saturday is the official "Katakuri Festival". Just a small little festival with the ladies serving green tea, all in honor of the little purple flowers.

Our new private bath here at Kamesei Ryokan also has some katakuri flowers popping their heads up in the garden Okada-san built for us last fall. So if you can't make it to Sarashina Shrine for the katakuri festival, come for a soak in our Shinano-buro bath. You can enjoy seeing the flowers as you relax in our onsen.

森「あんずの里」花情報 Update on the Apricot Blossoms in Mori "Apricot Village"

April 11, 2012: 季節 Seasons

戸倉上山田・周辺千曲市の春の代表イベント: 森「杏の里」あんずまつり

祭りは4月3日から始まったが、花は? この冬は寒かったせいか、花が遅れています。



The main spring event for Togura-Kamiyamada Onsen and our city of Chikuma-shi is the apricot blossom festival in Mori district's "Apricot Village". Normally the entire valley would be covered by the whitish-pink delicate flowers, but since this winter has been so cold, the blossoms are delayed.

This picture is from when I went to check it out on April 10th. This was the only apricot tree in the entire valley that was blooming. However, temperatures have started to get warmer. I anticipate that by this weekend, April 14th and 15th, the trees should be in bloom. Will keep you posted.

長寿の秘密? 「まぁーず」 亀清の新しい一品 The Secret to Long Life? Mahz (Kamesei's new dish)

April 10, 2012: 季節 Seasons

Chef Takei's Latest 'Hit' Dish: Mahz Dote' Yaki

長野県は元々平均年齢の長い日本の中でまた長い方です。その秘密は? 調べによると発酵食品の影響もありそうです。信州味噌、野沢菜などの漬物、酒粕などの発酵食品は長野県では比較的に皆が食べています。





杏の花は咲き始まったかな? Apricot Blossoms Starting to Bloom?

April 9, 2012: 季節 Seasons

亀清の杏 4月9日09:00現在




千曲国際交流協会とハッピーイースター Happy Easter with the Chikuma Int'l Exchange Assoc.

April 8, 2012: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

Easter Egg Festival face painting


今年は7回目のイースターイベントでした。今までは天気で恵まれたが、今回は何と、雪でした! 千曲画沿いの噴水公園でやる予定だったのは、上山田文化会館に変更になりました。一部の卵探しやゲームそして馬乗りは外で出来ましたが、後は室内で行いました。エッグアート(ゆで卵の色塗り)やフェスペイントはその分で楽でしたので、全体的に楽しいイベントが出来ました。




戸倉クリスト教会 (イースター説明、当日手伝い、協力金)
戸倉上山田温泉旅館組合 (お風呂提供、協力金)
戸倉上山田調理師会青年部 (当日の美味しいオムレツ作成)
武田鶏卵店 (卵の提供)
若林俊樹さん (馬乗り)
手伝いの皆さん 特にFionaさん(新しいゲーム)とうちの母親(フェスペイントを担当してくれて、助かりました!)
上山田文化会館 (場所提供)
千曲ケーブルネット (動画撮影)


The 7th Annual Easter Egg Festival in Togura-Kamiyamada Onsen took place on April 7th. Approximately 70 children shared in the Western tradition of celebrating Easter. Our onsen-town, Togura-Kamiyamada reveled in the excitement as well.

Over the years, our event has been blessed with outstanding weather. This time however, it actually snowed the day of the event. So instead of holding it at the fountain park along the Chikuma River, we moved it indoors to the Kamiyamada Culture Hall. We still managed to do some of the egg hunt as well as the egg toss (and pony rides) outside, with the rest of the games and events taking place inside. The Egg Art (coloring hard-boiled easter eggs) and Face Painting certainly benefited from that.

Following the event, the participants got to take onsen baths in the various ryokans in town thanks to the cooperation of the Togura-Kamiyamada Ryokan Association.

On the whole, everyone seemed to really enjoy the event.

As always, once the Easter Egg activities are finished, I look back and am filled with gratitude for everyone's efforts to make the event such a success. I would like to thank the following people:

First of all, the participants. Thank you for coming and enjoying the Easter Egg Festival in Togura Kamiyamada.

Then, everyone who helped.
Chikuma Int'l Exchange Assoc. (Prep, staff -- especially the behind-the-scenes organizer Aoki-san)
Togura Christian Church (Financial contribution, "Easter" explanation and other help)
Togura-Kamiyamada Ryokan Association (financial contribution, onsen bath contribution)
Togura-Kamiyamada Chefs Guild (omelet-making)
Takeda Eggs (egg donation)
Wakabayashi Toshiki-san (pony rides)
Helpers -- Especially Fiona-san (new game) and my Mom (face painting)
Kamiyamada Culture Hall)
Chikuma Cable Net (videography)

Misaki and the young'uns searching for eggs

Andy finding an egg outside

Egg Toss

New Egg Hop Game

ママ・パパと私の第2家族 Mama and Papa with my 2nd Family

April 7, 2012: 上山田お神楽 Kamiyamada Lion Dance




This is just a personal story, but ever since moving to Nagano the local Okagura lion dance troupe has really taken me under their wings. Through our weekly practices, and 1-2 times a month performances, I have developed a close relationship with the members. I've celebrated weddings, cried at funerals, imbibed a bit of sake, and more with these guys. They've become my family away from home here.

So with my real family (mom and dad) here visiting from Seattle, I had been looking forward to putting the together. This week's practice night, my dream was finally realized. There are a few new Okagura members now, but everyone got along just like last time they were together 5 years ago.

My real family, and my 2nd "Nagano" family, together again.

松本美術館と水玉 Matsumoto Art Museum and Polka Dots

April 6, 2012: 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano

Matsumoto City Art Museum with Yayoi Kusama's installation




Wikipediaに"Polka Dot"(水玉)を調べたら、草間さんの事が出てくるぐらい「水玉」=「草間彌生」です。本人の幻覚を表現すると言った芸術です。松本市美術館の常設展でその幻覚に入れる[全体に水玉の部屋]もある。



Every time I go to Matsumoto, I see or discover something new. This time was the Matsumoto City Museum of Art.

The museum is known for its polka dot flower sculpture outside the entrance. If you look up "polka dot" on Wikipedia, you'll find a reference to Yayoi Kusama, an artist born in Matsumoto. At first, she wasn't accepted by critics in her home country so she went abroad, spending some time in my home town, Seattle, but mostly in New York.

Since returning to Japan, Kusama-san has attained 'hero' status in her native Matsumoto, with the downtown loop bus decorated in polka dots of her design. The polka dots are supposedly from her hallucinogenic visions and art is her way of expressing those dreams. The Matsumoto museum's display features entire rooms recreating her polka dot world.

Can't envision it? Neither could I until I actually went and saw the installations. I highly suggest you, too, take the trip to Matsumoto City Museum of Art.

And as you can see from the pictures, Matsumoto is a rewarding city to explore.

松本市美術館 Matsumoto City Museum of Art

Museum courtyard

Museum restaurant

Nawate-dori Antique Shop

Matsumoto Castle (Cherry trees to bloom soon!) 松本城(桜はそろそろ咲く!)

Matsumoto Station's new Plaza

Matsumoto's Polka Dot Bus

長野の木、長野の絵本 @亀清ロビー Nagano Tree Stories @ Kamesei's Lobby

April 5, 2012: 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan

New Childrens Books


緑で恵まれている長野からこそ生まれた絵本です。その自然が教えてくれるストーリーの本。村のおじさんが語っているような文章。「太一は松の所へ行ってな 焼けた幹にそおと触ってみたんじゃ」の様な書き方。私は大好き!子供に読むのに楽しそう。


「太一と夜泣き松」 大鹿村
「おおまきの唄がきこえる」 阿智村
「うえんじいさまのき」 塩尻市贄川地区


For Kamesei Ryokan's new Kids Corner in the lobby, besides a collection of wooden toys we also have some new childrens books. The 3 books are from a series sponsored by a Nagano nature conservation group and they are stories about various landmark trees in the prefecture.

The "Ki ga Tsutaete kureru Monogatari" (roughly tranlated means "stories conveyed by trees") series is dedicated to raising awareness in children about the importance of trees. They are written in a very approachable style of an old man from a country village telling a tale. I love the easy-going nature of the prose.

The three books we have collected are:

"Taiichi to Yonaki Matsu" (Taiichi and the Pine Tree that Cries at Night), set in Oshika Village
"Oomaki no Uta ga Kikoeru" (Listen to the song of the Oomaki", set in Achi Village
"Uenjisama no Ki" (Master Uenji's Tree), about a horse chestnut tree in Shiojiri City.

Come and have a read with your kids!

新しい木造玩具が大人気 New Wooden Toys a Hit

April 4, 2012: 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan




We have a new "Kids Corner" in our lobby here at Kamesei Ryokan. New bookshelves and a bench made from Nagano-grown pine trees make up the children's space. For toys, we have a wooden Thomas the train set from before, along with some new toy wooden blocks, a ring toss game, and yarn toys.

The wooden games and toys are proving to be a real hit with our guests' children. Our lobby is now more livelier than ever.

森「あんずん里」あんずまつり 花は? Mori "Apricot Village" Apricot Blossom Festival -- where are the blossoms?

April 3, 2012: 季節 Seasons

The fabled apricot trees of Mori: Still on buds as of 03-April

戸倉上山田温泉の春の代表イベント: 近辺の森地区「あんずの里」のあんずまつり



The main event our onsen town Togura-Kamiyamada looks forward to every spring is the apricot blossoms in nearby Mori "Apricot Village". The corresponding festival is scheduled to start already, but because we had such a cold winter, the flowers are later than usual.

I went to Mori to check on the blossom status, but as you can see by the picture, the trees are just starting to bud. Locals say they expect the trees to start blooming around April 10th.

I will keep this blog updated with the progress, but let's all say together, "It's time for spring to have sprung!"

最新情報c/o千曲市観光協会Daily Updates at the Chikuma City Tourism Assoc. website.