杏狩り体験 Getting to pick apricots

2009.07.04: 季節 Seasons


Chikuma City is supposedly the number one producer of apricots in Japan. One of our relatives invited us to go over to their garden and pick apricots in their trees. So today I took the kids and we had fun picking the bright orangish-yellow fruit. A lot of them had damage from the hail storm two weeks ago, but the appearance didn't affect the taste. There were two different varieties of apricots, and the smaller ones had a delicious tart kick to them.
We picked a whole bunch of apricots. We brought them back to Kamesei and put some out on the front desk for the weekend guests to enjoy.

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.

two bushel baskets of fresh-picked apricots

祭りの準備: 獅子練習 Getting Ready for the Big Festival: Shi-shi Practice

2009.07.03: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada


Preparations for this year's Kamiyamada Onsen Summer Festival (scheduled for July 18th and 19th) are starting to build into a fevered peak. Last night was the main practice for the Shi-shi lion. The "Dokoi! Dokoi! Dokoi!" chant is stuck in my head now. I can't wait for the actual day. It's an energy-filled event -- if you get the chance, definitely come and see it!

(By the way, the guy in the picture is my "senpai", Takano-san from Kameya Honten. He is this year's Waka-Ren top. Keep up the good work!)

県庁でインバウンドの打ち合わせ Taking Inbound Issues to the Capital

2009.07.02: 活動 Activities

Ken and Tyler at the Capital


The Nagano Inbound Summit chairperson (me) and Office Director (Ken-san) went to the Prefecture Capital in Nagano City today to meet with the Prefecture's Tourism Department. We discussed possibilities for coordinating this year's Summit -- a partnership between the government and private sectors. Plans for the summit are starting to take shape.
For now, the next "Local Meeting" will be held this month on the 15th in Suwa. We are planning on including a tour of Masumi's sake warehouses as well as a mini-participation event for Onbashira (Suwa's once-every-seven years huge bash, to be officially held next spring.) If interested in participating, feel free to contact me.

県庁の周辺に色々な面白い建物がある。これは「キャンサー・ハウス」 Lots of interesting places around the capital. This is a "cancer house".

もう1つな面白い建物:西洋のレンガに日本の瓦、尚且つバスケットの1ポイント Another interesting building: classic Western bricks with traditional Japanese roof tiles, plus a basketball hoop!

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.