戸倉駅に野菜キオスク Farmers Market Opened in Togura Station

2009.07.01: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada


Good News! A mini Farmers Market has opened up in Togura Station. Good prices on locally grown produce. The other day, I stopped by a "Michi-no-Eki" at another town, and they had a pitifully small cup of cherries for 500 yen. The kiosk at Togura Station had a decent sized pack of cherries for about 350 yen. There were several varieties of tomatoes, purple as well as green asparagus, and a whole lot more yummy-looking fresh veggies. So on your train ride back home after your stay at Togura Kamiyamada Onsen, you can munch on local cherries!

信州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.

新しい客室「紬」の工事 Working on Kamesei's Newest Guestroom: Tsumugi

2009.06.30: 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan



As previously mentioned, my goal this year here at Kamesei is to do a minor remodel on 3 guest rooms. First up is changing "Matsukaze" to "Tsumugi". To be honest, the name matsukaze (literally, "pine tree, wind") has no meaning to me. Tsumugi, on the other hand, refers to weaving. Our local specialty of silk weaving is "Ueda Tsumugi". Many of the old farmhouses around here have second floors for raising silk worms. In fact, a buddy of mine bought such a house, and gave me several of the bamboo lattice-like sheets used for raising the "okaiko" silk worms.

For part of the room remodel, I am using those sheets to cover up the concrete wall seen from the guestroom. I have several other silk-related ideas for the room, so that guests will be able to get a sense for Nagano's silk producing culture, here in our new "Tsumugi" room.

梅雨の通学 A "Tsuyu" walk to school

2009.06.29: 季節 Seasons

ランドセル+傘+アジサイ = 梅雨の通学


A "lansel" backpack, an umbrella, and hydrangeas -- it must be a Walk to School in the Tsuyu rain.

Actually, the rain was so light, Andy-kun here almost didn't need his umbrella. Don't the hydrangea flowers somehow match the "tsuyu" rainy season?

信州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.

稲荷山ウォーキング Inariyama Walking

2009.06.28: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

蔵し館でスタートStarting at Kurashikan

Chikuma City's Inariyama district has an image problem. The city's Tourism Department is trying to sell Inariyama as a "kura" (historical warehouse) neighborhood on par with Mori's apricots, Obasute's rice fields, and Togura-Kamiyamada's onsen. However, tourists who go see Inariyama are inevitably disappointed because there are so few kura left in good shape. A lot of the earthen walls are disentegrating, or getting covered up by aluminum siding, or getting torn down entirely and replaced by Western-style housing.
Today, the Inariyama Town Preservation Group held an event called "Inariyama Watching". Izumi-san from Inariyama Juku Kai led about 30 of us on a walking tour, pointing out the neighborhood's history and the remaining classical kura spots. Amongst the dilapedation are some very impressive examples of kura architecture. Especially on some of the narrow side streets.
One of the older residents remarked he wished this type of effort had started 20 years ago.

浦の小道から見る蔵 Kura as seen from one of the back streets

回向柱に負けない長いハリ A post as long as Zenkoji's "Ekobashira"

元豆腐屋さんの煙突 An old tofu shop's chimney

木と石:明治フュージョン Wood and Stone: Meji-era fusion


Wavy eaves -- disentegrating, but cool.

浦の小道 One of the narrow backstreets

特徴な2階の部屋の窓 Unique windowed-2nd Floor kura

Post-walk okonomiyamaki lunch at Silky

一歩進んで、一歩下がる。 One Step Forward, One Step Back

2009.06.27: 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan


We upgraded 4 of our guest rooms with new digital-enabled flat screen TV's. It feels like Kamesei has at last entered the 21st Century. Since we got the new TV's, I wanted to get a nice stand for them. I looked around the inn, and found these old "tansu" chests. It's like we took a step forward with the new TV's, and a step back with the tansu. I think the combination is cool, but was told "That's because you're a foreigner. We Japanese think that kind of old tansu is just junk." Hmm. I think it has lots of character.

杏狩りタイム! It's apricot picking time!

2009.06.26: 季節 Seasons



Chikuma City's Mori district is famous for its "Anzu no Sato" apricot blossoms in early April. Now, those same trees are full of delicious, juicy fruit. It's amazing to think that the trees can go from blossoms to ripe fruit in just 2-1/2 months!
If you come to Mori to pick apricots, I suggest the classic heritage varieties -- I like their tart flavor.

So, which do you like better, apricot blossoms or apricot fruit?

花札のおばさんたち Little Old Ladies Playing "Hanafuda"

2009.06.25: 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan


When I went into one of the guestrooms tonight to flip the futons, the three little old ladies were caught up in a game of "hanafuda". It's a traditional game that doesn't get played much these days. Perhaps more when these ladies were little girls. It seemed like such a precious scene, I just had to take their picture.

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.

インバウンド成功事例:飛騨高山 An Inbound Success Story: Hida Takayama

2009.06.24: 活動 Activities

保存された街並み Preserved Townscape

In the near vicinity of Nagano Prefecture are a few tourism success stories -- towns that had always been popular with both Japanese and foreign tourists but that have put a lot of effort into retaining their traditional townscapes. Through that effort, the numbers of both domestic and foreign visitors have continued to grow. I visited one such place, Kanazawa City, last fall, and today visited another, Hida Takayama in neighboring Gifu Prefecture.

My trip to Takayama was for the Chubu (Central) Wide Area Promotion Project for Nagano, Gifu, Toyama and Ishikawa Prefectures. In addition to meeting many people from those areas, the most memorable part was the talk by Maruyama-san of Takayama City's Tourism Division. His presentation highlighted the efforts of the city to use government money to maintain and extend the preservation districts, overseas promotion, multilingual signage, barrier free and many other projects resulting in an increase of visitor numbers.
(By comparison, here in Chikuma City, the flower budget was cut this year. If the town can't even do something as basic as beautifying the town with flowers, there's no hope for city help in preserving traditional buildings!)
Following are several pictures and my impressions.

飛騨高山は戸倉上山田から車で約2時間半。市のHPはこちら。 Hida Takayama is approx. 2.5 hours by car from Togura Kamiyamada. The official website is here.

Too Much English -- Hold the Negativity, Please!








上山田温泉の夏祭り、あと約4週間 4 More Weeks 'til Kamiyamada Onsen's Summer Festival

2009.06.23: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

festival poster


Togura Kamiyamada Onsen's biggest event of the year, the Kamiyamada Onsen Summer Festival, is less than 4 weeks away. It will be held on the July 18th & 19th "Umi-no-hi" holiday weekend. This type of festival really brings the community together. Kamesei's "waka-okami", Mari, is this year's person in charge of the Minyoren dance -- 450 people in an organized procession dancing to 3 different traditional songs. She's busy handling all the preparations for that along with raising our kids and doing her regular duties here at the inn. That's "matsuri" (festival) for you. One of the leaders of the organizing committee, Natsume-san from Daikoku-ya, is having to close his restaurant for the duration of the preparations. He deserves an award for dedicating so much time to the town. Let's all go eat the garlic sauce pork cutlets at his restaurant after the festival is over!
As for me, I will be doing the flute with the Okagura guys on Saturday, and you'll see my long legs sticking out of the huge festival lion on Sunday.
Once you see Kamiyamada's energy-filled summer festival, you'll want to see it again. We have one guest who will be coming from Denmark for his 3rd festival this year. Don't miss it!

祭りの詳しくはこちらClick here for details on the festival.

Close-up of the poster -- See the pic of Mari from last year's festival

ただの石? Just a bunch of rocks?

2009.06.23: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

Do these look like just a bunch of rocks? Where are these rocks? Actually, this place is in the middle of Togura Kamiyamada Onsen. These are rocks of the Chikuma River's banks. Once you descend inside the levees, you enter this separate world -- a world of river rocks. When I was a kid back in the States, I used to explore and horse around in rivers and with river rocks very similar to this. My parents have a cabin along a river in the foothills above Seattle. So when I see rocks like this, I spot volcanic rocks that spewed from Mt. Asama, rough rocks, smooth rocks, all kinds of unique rocks. This evening I took our sons down here to the Chikuma River rock field to watch the sunset.