上山田温泉夏祭り写真:お昼の分 Kamiyamada Onsen Summer Festival Pic's: Daytime

2010.07.18: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

Handling the shi-shi


This is the huge shi-shi lion from our Kamiyamada Onsen Summer Festival. In the past, I was inside the shi-shi, trying to knock over the guys in the black happi coats on the outside. This year I got moved up (?), and was one of the guys getting knocked over. Please indulge me as I share some pictures from my first year as a shi-shi lion handler.

Pictures by son Andy and "senpai" Kodaira-san.

"Opening Ceremony" blessing of the water god

Okagura performing in Kamesei's lobby

The shi-shi starting to wake up

Geisha in the tower

One of the omikoshi

Ear-flapping frenzy

"Handling" the shi-shi

わっしょい!タイム It's Wasshoi Time

2010.07.17: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

Ready for the Festival: Misaki, Andy and Kenny










Matsuri Happi coats

Omikoshi (the shrines carried around on shoulders)


"Hyottoko" face masks

Cotton candy

Goldfish catching games

Shi-shi lion dance


Today and tomorrow are the days of the Kamiyamada Onsen Summer Festival!

姨捨: 信州のパワースポット?! Is Obasute one of Nagano's Power Spots?!

2010.07.16: その他 Miscellaneous

Oba-Iwa (Rock) -- my vote for a


姨捨地区は色々な理由で注目されています。姨捨山の伝説もあるし、善光寺平の夜景も綺麗だし、姨捨駅は珍しいスイッチバックだし、棚田は日本の棚田百選に選ばれたし、その棚田は「田毎の月」で有名で、沢山の俳句家が見に来て、詩を書きました。しかし、伝説だけじゃパワースポットにならない。景色や、鉄道マニア、原風景、俳句だけじゃパワースポットにならない。姨捨の代表のお寺が長楽寺です。茅葺屋根で歴史的な建物、月見堂もあるという特徴的なお寺さんです。しかし、お寺さんだけであって、パワースポットにならない。(まあ、善光寺は特別…) ここはもっと深いパワーがあるように感じます。そのお寺の真裏というか、真上の姨岩があります。周りは棚田なのに、どうしてここだけにこんなでかい岩があるでしょうか?長楽寺は素敵なお寺さんだが、この岩はお寺が出来る前からずっとあったでしょう。姨さんたちはここで捨てられていたのではないかという話もあって、姨捨山の伝説の発生地としてぴったしな岩。田んぼに反射するお月様を見に来て、俳句を書きたくなることが分かります。松尾芭蕉や一茶を始め、沢山の俳句家が来ました。これだけな俳句家が来たというのはやはり、それなり引っ張る力がある訳。つまり、パワースポット。

田中本家:インバウンド用のモニターツアー Tanaka Honke Museum: Monitor Tour for Inbound

2010.07.15: 活動 Activities

Entrance to the Tanaka Honke Museum

*梅ジュース (田中館長の手創り)




The Nagano Inbound Summit members and I held our 3rd in a series of "Unique Nagano" cultural activities "monitor tours" today. 12 of us, including 7 Americans, toured the Tanaka Honke museum in Suzaka, highlighted by not just eating, but experiencing their bento lunch recreated from a 300 year old menu.

So what did us foreigners think of the esteemed Tanaka Honke museum? Here are our results.

*760 year old tea items
*antique toys
*the Bento (more on this later)
*tools used to move the garden stones
*300 y.o. pines
*mill room
*sitting room
*sake making room
*plum juice

*Lack of English explanation

*audio guide in English
*photo contest with the purpose of seeing what people's images are of the
*more interaction
ex: What do you think this room was for? (Hint: See the black ceiling?)
Answer: sake making (smoke from cooking the sake rice blackened the
ex: What do you think this room was for? (Hint: See the water running down
the middle?) Answer: Mill room (there used to be a water wheel here.)
ex: Put one of the "ryo-kake" carriers on a pedestal, with the sign "What is
this used for?"
ex: By the bowl with the elephant and monks, put a sign, "How many monks are
ex: By the lidded bowl with the black exterior and autumn color leaves
interior, put a replica with the lid in place and a sign: "Open me"
ex: Why are these dolls all caucausian? Answer: Because they were for
export to Western countries. In the past, toy export was as big an industry
as car export is today.
*Bento -- needs full English explanation to make it a cultural experience,
not just a lunch

And finally, Tanaka Honkei is currently a museum that offers a 300 year old
lunch. Change that around. Make the lunch sell the museum. i.e. promote
the lunch, then as guests enjoy experiencing it and seeing the garden,
mention that for 700 yen, they can tour the buildings & gardens and see the
historical items.

That, we think, will draw guests from overseas to see this fantastic museum!

田中本家のHPはこちらClick here for the Tanaka Honke website

Cool Japan!

Cool architecture

まぁーずの写真撮影 亀清のChef武井の作品も Mahz Photo Shoot, including our Chef Takei's Creation

2010.07.14: グルメFoodie

How do you photograh taste?

Nagano's junior ryokan members are trying to create a new Nagano specialty, a special seasoning we've called Mahz. Basically, Mahz is the combination of 3 essential Nagano cuisine elements: miso (Nagano is Japan's #2 producer of soybeans, and has a large number of well-regarded miso makers), sake "kasu" (the lees, or solids remaining after the sake is pressed out), and one of the many local pickles, such as northern Nagano's specialty, nozawana.
A photo session was held today at the Tourism Hall here in Togura Kamiyamada. Kamesei Ryokan's Chef Takei's Mahz creation was included in the photo shoot. Our version is basically local pork with seasonal vegetables fried kara'age style, served on top of the Mahz sauce. For our Mahz sauce, Chef Takei uses miso from Takamura Shoten, the main miso maker here in Chikuma City, and sake kasu from our local sake brewery, Obasute Masamune. In the winter he'll use nozawana, but for the summer he's been using a wheat miso. The dish has proved to be popular with our guests, with many of them scooping up any remaining sauce on to their rice to enjoy it to the end. I just hope the photographer is able to capture that delicious taste!

まぁーずの詳しくはこちらMore on Mahz here.

Tyler presenting Chef Takei's Mahz

Photo (amateur) of our Mahz

感謝の気持ち:上山田温泉夏祭りの準備 Thankfulness: Preparing for the Kamiyamada Onsen Summer Festival

2010.07.13: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

Big Geta -- Big Thanks!


The Togura Kamiyamada Onsen Summer Festival will be held this weekend, July 17th and 18th. Part of the festival is this geta offering in honor of all the guests that have come and stayed this year at Togura Kamiyamada Onsen. The innkeepers and I will put our full energy into the festival this weekend, and we will also put our full thanks into the geta offering.

高級買い物x信州の自然=ハルニレテラス Upscale Shopping x Nagano's Nature = HARUNIRE Terrace

2010.07.12: 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano

Enjoying nature, Enjoying shopping, Harunire Terrace


Nagano has yet another reason to come and visit: HARUNIRE Terrace in Karuizawa. This very unique shopping plaza is just celebrating its first birthday. By unique, I mean:

None of your typical chain stores (although, there are branches of some well-loved Nagano stores, like Nagai Farm and Maryuama Coffee)
No touristy souvenir shops (although, you will likely find some nice momento to take home as a souvenir from your trip to Nagano)
A wood deck and lots of trees around (and the deck built around some of those trees, too)
A forest and a gently gurgling river flowing next to the plaza, and the shops designed to complement the natural surroundings.
A totally unique and very "Nagano" shopping experience. And just so there's no mixed expectations, you won't find any 100 yen discount shops here. The items come with some pretty hefty prices. But if you look closely, you'll see a lot of work went into the various items. In the arts and crafts shop, we found a corner featuring creations by Agnes, a ceramics artist that lives nearby here in Kamiyamada Onsen. The interior goods shop was selling silk scarves made by my Ueda tsumugi friends, Koiwai Workshop. I got the feeling that each individual item had a story behind it to justify the prices.
Mari and I really enjoyed Harunire Terrace and highly reccommend it!

ハルニレテラスのHPはこちらClick here for the Terrace's website.

雨の日に子供とお出かけ:浅間山火山館 Rainy Day with Kids: Asama Museum

2010.07.11: 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano

Do you dare enter the Volcano Museum?


It was our family's day off to go for a drive somewhere. Except, nobody told the weatherman. Hmm, what to do on a rainy day with the kids? We decided to still go for a drive, and checked out the Asama Volcano Museum. When we went a few years ago, the boys were so scared by the museum's lava tunnel-like entrance, that they were shaking. This time around, they really got into the special effects. It was their little sister Misaki's turn to ask to be held -- at least she was scared.
The Asama Volcano Museum is an interesting place. The museum itself does a good job of showing the inner workings of volcanoes. So if you go to the nearby Onioshidashi lava fields and your interest in volcanoes is piqued, the museum's explanation is pretty valuable. But the museum's facilities themselves are, well, weird. Above the main building is an old, dilapidated, ghost-like building with a bizarre viewing room on top. It looks like something out of a horror movie. When we asked about it, we were told it's the original museum building, and when the present one was built, the old one was closed down. So it's left to deteriorate instead of being torn down? Anyways, then there's the present museum building. You go in, and first there's a huge cafeteria, then a huge souvenir shop area, before you finally reach the entrance to the museum itself. It makes you wonder what the real purpose is. Actually, that was already given away by the parking lot. The parking spots nearest the entrance were reserved for tour busses. Ah hah! They're still waiting for the busloads of guests to come. Well, nowadays, it's individual families and couples travelling, not large groups. Museums like this have to evolve with the times!

浅間火山博物館のHPはこちら(割引券もあり!)Click here for the Asama Museum website (with discount coupon, too!)

旅館の経営:どんな客層か Running an Inn: What type of clientele?

2010.07.10: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi


As I evolve from Kamesei Ryokan's futon flipper to it's owner, I'm learning to look at a lot of things from a wider angle. Mari, my wife, and I are currently putting a lot of discussion into what kind of guests are the best match for our inn. Banquets with heavy drinking guys that call in the "companion" ladies? Young couples? Older people travelling with their parents? Class reunions? School sports teams? Guests with pets? Guests with children? The wealthy? Travellers from overseas?
And once we get a feel for what type of clientele is best, then wew have to figure out what each individual type of clientele would value the most. What plan(s) would be most attractive to them?
We are formulating some new plans now to hopefully better meet the needs of the type of guests who would most appreciate our inn. Stay tuned!

Annabelle Magic アンナベルの魅力

2010.07.09: 季節 Seasons

Annabelle blossoms in one of the tsubo niwa pocket gardens