戸倉上山田温泉の新しいキャラクター: まんじゅさん Togura Kamiyamada Onsen's New Character: Manju-san

2012.05.31: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada

One tough character: Togura Kamiyamada Onsen Manju-san

史上最強のゆるキャラ登場: 戸倉上山田温泉の「おんせんまんじゅサン」!地元のAtelier Bambooの佐藤さんがデザインして、そしてこんな携帯ストラップを作りました。メイド・イン・チャイナではなくて、メイドイン上山田、佐藤さんの手作業で。



Everywhere you go in Japan, you come across funky image characters. Well, you've never seen one like this -- Onsen Manju-san. He's the toughest image character in history, and he represents our onsen town, Togura-Kamiyamada!

Local craftsman, Satoh-san from Atelier Bamboo, came up with the idea for Onsen Manju-san, and made a bunch of cell phone straps with the character. These ain't Made in China -- their Made in Kamiyamada by Satoh-san's own hands!

There is only a limited number available, and we here at Kamesei managed to get a small allotment of them. The Onsen Manju-san key holders are available at our front desk for 400 yen each.

長野温泉トップ100: あぐりの湯こもろ Nagano Onsens Top 100: Agri no Yu Komoro

2012.05.30: 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano

あぐりの湯こもろ 外観



アクセス: この時代は皆の車のナビが付いているからどうにか辿り着くでしょうけど、道は分かり易い訳ではない。バスは色々調べたが、無さそう。

設備: 建物がまだまだ新しい感じする。広くて、綺麗。「湯上り室」まである。(初めて見た!)

お風呂: 3つの内風呂、2つの打たせの湯、露天風呂。とにかく、長めが最高。浅間山と千曲川の谷、ほっとする景色。

お湯: HPに説明はないぐらいに自慢じゃない。源泉が37℃という事は沸かしでしょう。かけ流しじゃなくて循環っぽい。

総合: もう少し時間を下さい。近辺に沢山の温泉がある(布引温泉、望月の湯など)。そういうのに入ってから判断したいと思います。まあ、疲れが取れたと言えば取れましたから、それなりの効果は確かにあります。

On the way back from our family drive, we stopped at Agri no Yu Komoro. This onsen bathhouse was built in 1998, so it is relatively new. It features an amazing view of the Chikuma River valley and Mt. Asama in the distance. There is a farmers market on the premises, so cityfolk can mingle with the farmers.

I'm not an onsen critic, but here is my critique anyways:

Access: Nowadays, everyone has a navigation system in their cars, so just punch in the telephone number and you'll get there. Otherwise, the road is certainly out of the way, and a thorough search didn't come up with any public transportation options.

Facilities: The building still has a newly-built feel to it. Spacious and clean. And there is even a separate cooling-down room adjacent to the baths -- the first time I've ever seen one of those!

Baths: 3 indoor baths, 2 waterfall baths, and an outdoor bath with a killer view. So great variety. However, the outdoor bath had a roof over it (can't soak in the starlight that way) and its garden had way too much plastic bamboo for my tastes.

Onsen: Not even their website talks about the mineral water, so the quality of the onsen water is not the main draw here. It looks to be heated and recirculated.

Overall: Give me a bit more time. I want to check out the nearby onsens (Nunobiki, Mochizuki, etc.) before passing judement on Agri. However, I can say that the bathing experience there overall was very refreshing.

あぐりの湯こもろ Agri no Yu Komoro

The view from Agri no Yu

我が家族で白樺ファミリーリゾート Our Family at the Shirakaba Family Resort

2012.05.29: 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano

Andy and Misaki enjoying Shirakaba Resort's Go-Karts



アクセス 大門街道を通ったけど、のんびりした1時間45分ドライブで田舎の景色を楽しみながら、良かった。

場所 湖と蓼科や周辺の山々は気持ちいい景色。空気は高台らしい気持ちいい。湖辺の散歩がお勧め!

遊園地 所々にペンキを塗ってあげたいけど、子供達はアドベンチャーカートやコースター、トランポリンなど、大喜び。

コーストパフォーマンス 家族5人で一万円でした。まあ、映画2本分ぐらいので、比較したらそれ以上な楽しみだったでしょう。

お客様にお勧め? これは悩みます。私達が行ったのは平日だった。週末や連休なら割高くなるし、きっと混むでしょう。その代り、夏休みとかでもっと湖の遊びも出来るそうです。

オプション 近辺の「世界の影絵・きり絵・ガラス・オルゴール美術館」がお勧めです。藤城清治さんの作品が素晴らしい!

On the north bank of 1400m altitude Shirakaba Lake is a small amusement park called Shirakaba Family Resort. I don't know how well-known it is in Tokyo, but here in Nagano we see their commercials all the time.

One recent weekday, our kids had a day off from school so we went for a drive to check out the park for ourselves. Here is my attempt at a review:

Access Leisurely 1 hour 45 minute drive through the Nagano countryside following the old Daimon Kaido trail from our onsen town Togura-Kamiyamada.

Amusement I kept wanting to get out a brush and help paint over some of the peeling spots, but the kids enjoyed the go-karts, coaster, trampoline and more.

Setting Picturesque Shirakaba Lake surrounded by Tateshina Mountain and other tall peaks, in fresh mountain air. Fantastic. I highly suggest taking a stroll on the boardwalk on the lake's west bank.

Cost Performance For our family of five, it cost 10,000 yen. Considering that's about what 2 movies would have cost, I'd say we got more enjoyment from the park.

Recommendable? That's a tricky question. There are plenty of amusement parks around with more attention to detail (i.e., less rust). But you can't beat the lake and mountain setting.

Optional side tour Don't miss the art museum featuring the work of light and shadow artist Seiji Fujishiro.

白樺リゾートファミリーランド Shirakaba Resort Family Land

The coaster

Precure (?) land for girls

Splash ride

Dad and Misaki on the go-kart

Spin ride (peeling paint and all)

長野青年会議所・パネリスト Panelist for Nagano JC's

2012.05.28: メディア Media

Weirdest panelist on the right?







The Nagano JC's invited me to be a panelist at their International Night. The discussion's theme was to be "What's weird about Japan". Konishiki, the sumo star from Hawaii, was another panelist, and the banquet's main entertainment was to be a pro dance troupe called Endo Jidai.

To be honest, I usually try to not focus on what is weird about Japan, especially as my home, America, has so many weird issues to deal with. And although I'd always wanted to meet Konishiki, I had my doubts about how good the dance performance would be. But I've given speaches in the past for the Matsumoto and Chikuma City JC's and work closely with Tsuchiya-san (past president of the Nagano chapter), so felt obligated to participate.

My deal for the "Weird" discussion was about how historical buildings aren't preserved here. Nagano Station used to have a classic station house patterned after Zenkoji Temple. That was all demolished when the shinkansen bullet train came. Here in Chikuma City, our Inariyama district's earthen-walled storehouses are slowly being torned down. I've petitioned the mayor before to subsidize the preservation effort.

One of the other panelists, an exchange student from China, helped put it into perspective, though. Beijing's famous hutongs are fast being bulldozed into oblivion. So it's not just Japan.

Here's a special thanks to the Nagano JC's!

長野青年会議所 Nagano JC's

Konishiki on the ukilele doing what he loves to do, with his wife dancing


I did get to talk a bit with Konishiki. I was rather nervous though -- what to talk about? Apparently not sumo. "I've been singing since 3 years old, and have put out 20 albums." Once again, perspective.



And the banquet: I got to meet so many fascinating people, and the dance show -- Endo Jidai are fascinating!

千曲万博でロンドンオリンピック? London Olympics at the Chikuma Expo

2012.05.27: 長野に来る理由 Reasons to Come to Nagano

Gold Medal Winner Misaki!


The Chikuma Expo took place on the 27th. People from over 15 countries living here in Chikuma City and Nagano Prefecture gathered to share their home country's culture, especially with the local school kids.
Besides sampling cuisine from Thailand and Afganistan, we juggled with Uncle Sam, made magnets of Australian animals, and played the United Nations flag quiz.
Our kids are looking forward to the London Olympics this summer, and really enjoyed the UK booth.
The Chikuma Expo gets bigger every year. We are looking forward to next year!

亀清旅館の蚕テーマのお庭の花名 Kamesei's Silk-themed Garden, Explained

2012.05.26: 季節 Seasons


Our gardener Okada-san stopped by to explain the flowers blooming in the garden he built for our guestroom "Matsukaze". The garden's theme is "Tsumugi" (silk weaving) and features plants with white flowers (like coccoons) as well as a mulberry shrub. Now I can explain to our guests the names of the various flowers!

市観光協会の理事になりました: 初総会 My 1st Time on the Chikuma City Tourism Association Board of Directors

2012.05.25: 青い目のおもてなし This American’s Omotenashi


As head of our local Togura Kamiyamada Ryokan Junior Association, I am automatically instated as a member of the board of directors for the Chikuma City Tourism Association. Today was the first time for me to attend the Association's annual meeting. Even the mayor was there -- very rarified air indeed. As I live here, more and more responsibilities will come my way. I need to learn as much as possible from those above me!

千曲市観光協会Chikuma City Tourism Assoc.

「ご主人のお布団敷きはとても芸術的でした」 'The Proprietor's Futon Flipping Was Artistic'

2012.05.24: 亀清旅館 Kamesei Ryokan

Artfully flipped futons




In a recent review we received from a guest, there was a compliment about my futon flipping skills:
'The Proprietor's Futon Flipping Was Artistic.'

While keeping in mind the particulars about each guest, I am always careful about how I arrange the futons, which direction they face, even the lighting in the room. The most difficult part is always figuring out how much space to put between the futons for couples. 🙂

I've been flipping futons every day now for 6-1/2 years. All of that experience must be paying off. Coming from America where we we have beds instead, I was thrilled to hear my futon flipping skills are getting so artful.

フラットヘッドこだわり: Super Weekend by the dudes at Flat Head

2012.05.23: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada


2012年のSuper Weekendは9月1日(土)・2日(日)の予定です。フラットヘッドのアメカジ服と色んな店の雑貨・おもちゃ、アメリカンファニチャー等などのフリーマーケットと、





との事で、Super Weekendは楽しみ!

Togura is home to an 'American Casual' clothing maker called The Flat Head. Besides making classic jeans and t-shirts, the owner also has a huge classic car collection. Every year, they rent out the entire M-Wave hall in Nagano City and put on an event called "Super Weekend".

Super Weekend 2012 will take place on September 1st and 2nd. This will be the 7th annual event, and will feature a flea market (including Flat Head merchandise) and a motor show. There will be food booths and live entertainment as well.

Actually, I stopped by the Flat Head main office to ask them about participating in the Togura-Kamiyamada catalog I am assisting with. They declined, saying their jeans and t-shirts are only sold at their stores where customers can physically see and try on the merchandise. However, one of their subsidiaries makes yoghurt gelatto, and we will try incorporating that into the catalog.

I really applaud Flat Head's efforts!

Super Weekend

Super Weekend flier

商談会@東京 戸倉上山田のPRを旅行会社へ Promoting Togura-Kamiyamada to Travel Agents in Tokyo

2012.05.22: 温泉タウン戸倉上山田 Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada





5 areas from Nagano Prefecture were invited to give a sales presentation to travel agents in Tokyo. Not only was I delighted that Togura-Kamiyamada Onsen was one of the chosen 5, but I was asked to give the presentation.

One thing that came out of the sales talk was how convenient our onsen town is location-wise. So many sightseeing spots just an hour or so away: the esteemed Zenkoji Temple in Nagano City, the spiritual mountains, supreme soba noodles and hidden ninjas of Togakushi, shopping and resort paradise of Karuizawa, the snow monkeys of Jigokudani, the cool castle town of Matsumoto, and so much more.

Hopefully I successfully promoted this to the travel agents!