Kiso Route Hiking

March 21st, 2015 by
Category: Information

waterfall along Nakasendo

watermill along the way no more in use

accommodation still in business

The temperature has become much warmer recently, and we ventured to go on a hike along an ancient Nakasendo lane.


Nakasendo Lane is now paralleled to the state route 19, and some parts of it are preserved as they were during the ancient times from the Samurai Period.

In the Edo Period, this lane was one of the main official routes which ran between Tokyo and Kyoto al the way for more than 600km.

All through the route, there used to be altogether 69 post station towns to cater for travelers.
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Busy Harvesting Lettuces

August 16th, 2014 by
Category: Information

after cropping the lettuces for full 2hours, the sun rises


I have been meaning to visit many places according to their flower seasons, and up-blog each of those places,,, in vain.

Although I have my huge ambitions of learning Chinese language with my Chinese workman boy in exchange for tecahing him Japanese, and introducing this page with  a lot of beautiful places, nothing can come before the lettuces which are claiming with all their leaves that they are in need of weeding, a bit of more fertilizing, and cropping.


At last, though, I could catch a bit of timing to take photos in my field while cropping the harvest.

It’s Kawakami Village in the eastern tip of Nagano pref. , and our lettuces which are harvested during the mid summer accounts for 80% share of all the lettuce produced domestically.  If you buy a lettuce now, it’s very likely from our place. Please enjoy our lettuce!

Also, if you are interested to see us crazily, indeed!, farming, you can visit our village; Kawakami Village. Just, don’t expect a slow country life. We are literally wearing ourselves out with the labor,,,haha.

The access to Kawakami village;  via JR Chuo line, get off at Kobuchizawa station and change to a local JR Koumi line, get off at Shinano-Kawakami station.

via Shinano tetsudo line, get off at Komoro station and change to a local JR Koumi line, get off at Shinano-Kawakmi station.



History of Fiber Faculty, Shinshu University

June 6th, 2014 by
Category: Information

lecture hall is designated as a national registered cultural asset

When I asked the library in the Ueda campus of Shinshu University to see some exhibitions regarding silk trade in the early Meiji period, I didn’t expect to be shown such beautifully pretty building !



A librarian Ms. Takei kindly welcomed us two, who had just casually asked her to show their archives showing the silk industry prevailed in this region some 100 years ago.

She even brought the key to this grande lecture hall which is still used in some ceremonial occasions such as graduation ceremonies to show us inside.

I was fascinated by its designs applied to tiny places like a block of ceiling, or in a tiny part on the front of a desk etc.

a pattern of mulberry leaves


After the nice detour to the lecture hall, we finally came to our destination, the archives showing the study of silk industry.
The faculty of Fiber in Shinshu university was established after Ueda Technical school for Silk Thread.
Ueda region boasts the first ever silk thread exported to Europe in the end of the Edo period.
This building was used as a storage for silk cocoons, and was just 3 years ago refurnished to become the archives to a nice small exhibition.

a picture scroll drawn painstakingly by the professors

Seeing the exhibitions, we can feel the zeal of the old day students and teachers.
Also we became to be aware that the silk industry was indeed connected to most of the people in the region back then.
If you are interested to learn about the history of silk industry, please contact the library of Fiber Faculty in Shinshu Univ. in Ueda city.


Ancient Post Station Towns along the Ancient Highway

June 4th, 2014 by
Category: Information

before the Edo period, most travels are on foot

One of the many tourists attractions in Nagano is to stroll through some ancient post station towns along  one of ancient highways.


Among some ancient travel highways through Nagano , the longest is Nakasendo-highway.

Nakasendo-highway was designated as one of the 5 government official highways by the Tokugawa-Shogunate government.

So it explains the palanquin above.

There have been 2 highways conneting Edo( the present day Tokyo), where the Shogun resided, and Kyo( the present day Kyoto), where the Emperor resided.   They were Tokaido highway and Nakasendo highway.

While Tokaido highway became the base of the present national route No. 1 and thus changed its appearance to a much  busy road, the other Nakasendo highway , which trailed through Nagano, has retained its ancient atmosphere here and there.

Especially in Kiso area, there are some post station towns where the locals try to preserve the historical touch .
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the Monkey Park this winter

December 31st, 2013 by
Category: Information
"monkeys taking bath"

snowy cold day is perfect for soaking in the bath!

On the 20th of December, I accompanied some guests from over seas to the Jigokudani Monkey Park to see the snow monkeys.

It was a snowy, though the snow was wet and not so chilly, cold day which was perfect for the monkeys to stay warm in their bath tub.

Many of the baby monkeys were with their mothers, while some bigger ones flocked with each other.

Ever since I read a book on wild monkeys which said that males were the last , and females quick, to flock together for nights, I figure the flocking monkeys for sisters or girl-friends whenever I see them in the bath.

Also drawing my attention are lone little monkeys who somehow do not have moms to cling to. I wonder where their moms are,,,.

a loner infant


The Moon-viewing Festival in Matsumoto Castle

September 23rd, 2013 by
Category: Information
lighted Matsumoto Castle

the Matsumoto Castle is lighted under the bright moon

During the full moon period from 15th- 20th of September this year, a Moon-viewing Festival was conducted inside the main circle of the Matsumoto castle.

In the evenings during the period, people can go into the garden freely to stroll and see the full moon shining just beside the castle tower.

Inside the red-and-white curtain you can see on the right half of the picture, they performed an easy-going tea ceremony to let people have tea and japanese cake for 5ooyen.

Also played were serene pieces of music by flutes and Japanese flutes exactly on the Moon Viewing terrace attached to the tower in the Edo Period some 3ooyears ago.

I felt so lucky to be in the city while the event was on!

A Togura Kamiyamada Handmade Cakes & Gelatos : An Onsen Ryokan Inn

February 16th, 2013 by
Category: Information

Patisserie 'L'avenir' from outside

I was to visit Nagano Prefectural History Museum the other day on the 11th.

They were holding a Hina Doll exhibition which had been owned by a rich merchant from Nagano pref.

To visit the History Museum if you drive there, you have to drop off from the highway at the Koshoku IC.

I somehow mistook the exit, and exited at the Sakaki IC, as a consequence encountering a delicious cake maker and the ‘famous-to-this-blog-readers Onsen Ryokan,’ Kamesei Ryokan.

Let me first intorduce the patisserie,’ L’avenir’. (the link is to the site that introduces the patisserie)

Although the cakes and gelatos are fancy and delicious, the entrance of the shop is not so flashy that you might miss it.


It ‘s owned by a sister-brother pair, the brother baking the cakes and the sister making gelatos.

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an Aftermath of Ombe-Gods-Festival

January 13th, 2013 by
Category: Information
scattered rubbish?

It’s a beautiful morning on the 13th January.

But what are these?  Scattered rubbish in our sun streamed ‘engawa’, the in-house veranda?

No, the pieces of paper are from last night’s visit by the Ombe Gods.

Near the midnight last night, the paper made Ombe Gods, ‘Ombe’ being an ancient word for a piece of paper or a card, visited my house along with all the other households in our region.

It is a New year’s greetings from our regional God.


They are a pair of a big Onbe for adults & a small Ombe for children which are carried by men and boys who ran through the chilly and frozen night visiting every household from door to door.

When the shouting of the boys and the sound of the drum came nearer, I settled myself ready and sat at the veranda waiting for those messengers of Gods’ to come.

Then came running a local young man with big Ombe God, greeting me,”Omedeto!”, which means celebrations, followed by a 6th grader boy with smaller Ombe god shouting the same thing, followed by several smaller boy messengers throwing me the pieces of paper dropped off from the Gods.

Last night, for the first time ever, one of the smallest boys put the paper dutifully ON my lap, for which I somehow felt very warm!

scattered everywhere

This Ombe festival is dutifully succeeded by elementary school boys in my region on every 12th January.

After carried all through the region, the Gods are settled at a small shrine till the 14th, when they are to put up on to a high pole, eventually to be removed on the 8th February.

finally settled & enshrined

finally settled & enshrined


Hatsumode- the First Visit to a Shrine

January 3rd, 2013 by
Category: Information
the front Torii gate for Ikushima Tarushima Shrine

the front Torii gate for Ikushima Tarushima Shrine


Hatsumode literally means ‘ the first visit to a shrine or a temple’, and this year we  visited the Ikushima Tarushima Shrine in Ueda city.

My fellow blogger, Tyler-san has written about the shrine with a perfect explanation

so I will save the details on the shrine, but instead of the serene and quiet atmosphere of the shrine which Tyler-san depicted, the shrine on  new year’s holiday was very festive and crowded.



the bridge to the main hall of the shrine

this bridge is allowed to cross only during the New Year holidays









There was a long queue to cross the vermillion bridge which locates in the center of the shrine and leads to the main hall.

This bridge we heard, is open only during the New Year’s holidays for people visiting the shrine for their Hatsumode.
Other than the season, the bridge is saved only for the Gods and no one is allowed to cross it.
Once crossed the bridge we were right in front of the main hall, and making an 8 people lined queue by the instuction of a priest, we made the official visit to the Gods.
“a light bow- 2 deep bows- 2 clappings of hands- a deep bow- one last light bow”
is the politest official courtesy to Gods.  Of course you may make a wish afte clapping the second hands.
ducks in the shrine

ducks inside the shrine site



Unno-juku , Spring at Last

April 26th, 2012 by
Category: Information

 It has been almost a week since I visited here, Unno-juku in Tohmi City.

At that time, buds of Somei-yoshino Sakura were yet to bloom, but now they should be in full bloom.

 Unno-juku is one of many ‘shukuba’ post towns like Tyler-san once presented in this blog.

This town has its history of being located along the Hokkoku kaido Line, which branches off from Nakasen-do Line at Oiwake juku near Karuizawa and heads to Zenkoji in Nagano City.

the main 6 'kaido's during the Edo Period


This is a map of Nagano pref: Can you see the pink line?

That is the Hokkoku kaido Line.

It leaves the Nakasendo Line, the green one, at Oiwake-juku and heads northwards.

Unno-juku locates just a bit north of Oiwake-juku in Nakasendo Line.

FYI: Nakasendo Line stretched from Edo, the present day Tokyo, from Kyo, the present day Kyoto, entering to Shinshu area, the present day Nagano pref. at Karuizawa and exiting it from Kiso area.

Now about Unno-juku.

Unno-juku was designated as an official post town in the Edo Period, but had long been a flourished castle town of Lord Unno.

Like Obuse or Suzaka or many other post towns along such Kaido lines, it held 6 markets a month, and used to be a cross road to various trades.

However, after the Edo era ended and walking was no more the only way to travel around, the ‘shukuba’ post towns were no more in need.

Then the people in this Unno-juku started their business of cericulture, silk industry.

Just then Japan had opened country to the world and started trading things. Silk was among the top things foreign traders wanted from Japan.

Making good use of former large buildings of   inns etc., many households kept silkworms inside their house, spinned the silk, and sold it.

These whole process is exhibited in a little musuem called,’ Unno-juku Siryoukan.’

 This small museum is housed in a building which used to be an inn in the Edo era, and in the Meiji era held silk industry.

You can see many old style tools and inteirors nonchalantly placed here and there inside the building.

the street along Unno juku is relatively wide

Unlike ‘shukuba’ towns along Kiso area, this post town is not so crowded with tourists, and although the buildings are designated as cultural assets and thus maintained carefully, many old houses no longer serve as inns or shops as their wood signs indicate.
There are, however, a few cozy souvenir shops , soba restaurants, antique shops, and coffeterias along the street.

a friendly antique shop


a cozy caffeterier


 The atmosphere is not so joyously crowded, but serene, and you can surely feel relaxed and spend time leisurely in a sobalier or in a caffeteria within old buildings.

attatch boards to help holding up the sparrows nests, which is a common practice in ordinary farm houses


school children coming back to their homes in the evening