フルーツ・アレンジメント Fruits Arrangement

2010.10.28: 季節 Seasons

Funky Fruit Basket



Usually in our lobby we have colorful flowers decorated in pretty arrangements here and there. Right now, though, we have not flower arrangements, but fruit arrangements. One of our aunts and a neighbor gave us some interesting fruits, so we put them in baskets and set them out: a fragrant 'karin' quince, some 'kaki' persimmons that are just in season now (including some rare black persimmons), a 'zakuro' pomegranate with its odd-looking innards showing, and a fruit with even odder-looking innards, an 'akebi' which in English is apparently 'akebia', or 'chocolate vine'.

Part art, part seasonal decoration, part playful spirit.

Chocolate-fragrance (?) akebi

次のプロジェクト: 玄関看板 Next Project: Entrance Sign

2010.10.27: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi

New sign in the works




Kamesei Ryokan's main sign is an approximately 6 meter tall steel behemoth. The problem is, not many of our guests come by airplane. I have wanted to replace it with a wooden sign (a material with a softer, warmer feel than hard, cold steel), preferably at eye level. So I am going to use this plank of Himalayan cedar that I got out of a log the Onsen Company gave me, and I'm going to carve a hand-made sign.

The present steel sign is next to our 'matsu' pine tree. We have the pine tree pruned every year to keep it well manicured. In many ways, it is the 'face' of our inn. If you ask me, the steel sign competes with, and detracts from the pine tree. That is another reason I want to replace it with a wood sign that compliments the tree better.

I can't wait to see how the sign turns out!

Working on the new sign

畳用のレーザー? A Tatami Laser?

2010.10.26: 日米関係Culture Shock

Laser vs. tatami mats?


客室の畳は定期的に変えなきゃならない。Total Tatamiという地元の畳屋さんに注文をしたら、「じゃ、後で測りに行きます」と言われました。普通な十畳の部屋の普通の畳だから、簡単に測れるだろうと思ったら…



The more I learn about tatami mats, the more I realize how complicated they are. We have to replace the tatami in our guest rooms on a regular basis. This latest time when I placed an order, the tatami guy said he'd come to measure the room. I imagined him coming with a tape measure and taking a simple measurement.

Ha! How wrong I was! This picture shows the guy from Total Tatami, our local tatami shop, with a baby R2D2 in the middle of the room shooting a laser to a receiver that the guy traces the edge of the mats with. He said that although the edge looks perfectly straight, it is actually minutely curved. The machine's screen showed the results: -5, -9, -3, +2, etc. Their shop will make the tatami's accordingly so that they will fit perfectly at installation.

By the way, I asked if those measurements were in millimeters. He said they were 'rin', a traditional Japanese measurement. 3 rin = 1 millimeter. That makes sense -- tatami mats pre-date the metric system!

アメリカの駄菓子 American 'dagashi'

2010.10.25: 日米関係Culture Shock


そして、ハロウィーンの為にキャンディーを準備したら、知り合いがアメリカから沢山持って来てくれました。Milky Way, Snickers, Kit Kat, Almond Joy, Mounds, M&M's等など。私はこういうチョコとかで育ってきている者なので、やはり「懐かしい!」と思いました。考えてみれば、こういうのはアメリカなりの駄菓子だろうね。子供のころに良く食べた!特に、ハロウィーンの時にいっぱいゲットして、大喜びだった。

A few weeks ago, our family went for a drive to 'Koedo' in Kawagoe City, outside of Tokyo. In that neighborhood was a side street lined with 'dagashi' shops. Upon seeing the array of crackers and lollipops and cinnamon candy, etc., etc., my wife had flashbacks of enjoying those inexpensive sweets when she was a kid. I, on the other hand, didn't grow up with dagashi and hence don't have any concept of this phenomenon. I was, however, surprised by the wide variety of sweets.

Then when I was preparing the candy for Halloween, I opened up a bag of chocolates that a friend had brought from the States. As the candy came spilling out, so did the memories from when I was a kid: Milky Way, Snickers, Kik Kat, Almond Joy's got nuts, Mounds don't, M&M's, Twix, etc., etc. These probably are the American equivalent of 'dagashi' -- cheap, five-and-dime type candy. Certainly not good for one's health, but these are they types of candy that I grew up with. And, oh, that mountain of candy I used to get from Halloween trick-or-treating!

America's 'dagashi'

子供の笑顔x250 ハロウィーンin戸倉上山田温泉 250 Smiling Kids' Faces: Halloween in Togura Kamiyamada

2010.10.24: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

Halloween 2010!









Halloween Party in Togura Kamiyamada 2010 was a huge success. Around 250 kids dressed up in costumes and enjoyed the costume contest, trick-or-treating (over 50 shops and inns supplied gobs of candy for everyone), games (including apple-bobbing thanks to local apple growers Nakajima-san and Tobita-san), and, of course, the haunted house. Judging by all the cries from inside, I'd say that was a huge success, too!

Lining up for the Haunted House

Jack o' Lantern Illumination

今年の新しい客室庭:松風 This Year's New Guestroom Garden: Matsukaze

2010.10.23: 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan

Matsukaze's new Garden





Every year, we make improvements on another section of garden here at Kamesei Ryokan. This year's new garden is the one for the "Matsukaze" guestroom.

Up until now, guests staying in Matsukaze have opened the shoji screens, seen a bare garden and concrete wall and have invariably closed the screens. Now thanks to our gardener, Okada-san, there is a beautiful garden for our guests to enjoy. Lately, the guests have been leaving the shoji screens open to be able to take in the new view.

The theme for this guestroom is based on the silk growing heritage of the area. In accordance with that theme, Okada-san planted a mulberry tree in the center. As the tree matures, it will produce white mulberries. I am looking forward to seeing that, as well as seeing how the other plants grow into their new location.

Okada-san, thank you for building another great garden!

The "Before" Picture

Okada-san's ingenious design

街道穴場: 麻績宿 A Secret Kaido Treasure in Omi

2010.10.22: 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano

One of the typical residences in Omi-juku







Nagano Prefecture has its share of 'shukuba' post towns along the various 'kaido' roads that led to feudal Edo. Tsumago in southern Nagano and Unno-juku in eastern Nagano are two of the most well-restored, and hence popular with tourists.

Today I visited a lesser-known post town, Omi-juku, which lies on the old Zenkoji Kaido that connects Matsumoto and Nagano City. It is located in the village that bears its name, tiny, sleepy Omi village, population of a tad over 3,000 souls. Just up from Hijiri Kogen Station (JR Shinonoi Line) which is located pretty much in the center of the village is Omi-juku, a stretch of road with many buildings dating to the Edo period.

You won't find Omi-juku on many tourist maps. But it is just that sense of non-touristy-ness that makes it so appealing. It isn't a well-preserved history museum -- it's real houses lived in by real people, peole that put up with the lack of modern conveniences and lovingly use and maintain the original buildings.

It's also surprisingly convenient by either car (just 2-3 minutes from the Omi IC on the Nagano Expressway) or a simple 5-6 minute walk up from Hijiri Kogen station. So if you have the time and inkling to explore one of Nagano's lesser-known 'kaido' treasures, Omi-juku would make an excellent choice.

麻績宿の詳しくはここ。Click here for more on Omi-juku.

かぼちゃタイム Pumpkin Time

2010.10.21: 季節 Seasons

Misaki with the pumpkins


The pumpkins for this Sunday's "Halloween Party in Togura Kamiyamada Onsen" have arrived. We are storing them here at Kamesei Ryokan's entrance until the big event. The Kenmi family in neighboring Matsushiro raise the pumpkins for us every year.

With all of these big, orange pumpkins on display, our inn has suddenly taken on a Halloween feeling!

とぐら上山田のハロウィーンパーティーの詳しくはこちら。Click here for more info on Togura Kamiyamada's Halloween party.

プロバスケ来・信州の宣伝 PR for the new Pro Hoops Team Coming to Nagano

2010.10.20: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada




As I previously mentioned, Nagano will be getting a new pro basketball team for the bj League's 2011 season. The home court will be here in Togura-Kamiyamada.

In commemoration of the new team, an exhibition game between current bj-League teams Tokyo Apache and Hamamatsu Pheonix will take place here in Togura on Sunday 31-October.

The other day, Nomoto-san from the group that is promoting Nagano's new team came by to drop off a poster. The local Shinano Mainichi newspaper reporter needed a promo picture, so he came to Kamesei to take the photo for the article in that came out in today's paper.

I am looking forward to seeing the pro players. I wonder if I'm taller than any of them...

長野bj参入決定記念ゲームの詳しくはここ。Click here for details on the bj game.

ギターの音楽家、白柳さんの演奏 Shirayanagi-san's Acoustic Guitar Performance

2010.10.19: その他 Miscellaneous

Chance to hear Shirayanagi-san live

亀清旅館のロビーのBGMでいくつかのCDの音楽が流れています。その1つはアコースティックギターの音楽家「白柳 淳」さんです。戸隠の鏡池や、千曲川の夜景などのテーマの歌なので、なんとなくこの信州の旅館の雰囲気に合うのです。


Here at Kamesei Ryokan, one of the CD's we play as our lobby's background music is by acoustic guitar artist Atsushi Shiroyanagi. He takes his inspiration for his songs by local spots like Kagami-ike (Mirror Pond) at Togakushi and the night lights around the Chikuma River, so the songs' calming rythm seems to perfectly match our lobby.

Next month, on Saturday November 6th, Shiroyanagi-san will play at Fuga in the Inariyama neighborhood of Chikuma City. This is a great chance to hear him play live. If you can't make it, you can come and listen to his music in our lobby any time.