Christmas Lights (Illuminations) at Minami Undou Kouen

December 6th, 2013 by
Category: Events, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing

Come out and see 60,000 LED lights illuminate the night sky!
Featuring a 4 meter high work of art made of plastic PET bottles that will be lit up.
And, also a display with lights in the shape of penguins are waiting to meet you. So, wear your warmest sweater and a hat and enjoy a beautiful evening.

Date: Nov 23(Sat)-Dec 25th (Wed) 2013 5-10pm FREE ADMISSION
Place: Minami Undou Kouen, Nagano City (Nagano Olympic Stadium)
Access: By car: about 10 minute drive from Nagano I.C. or Koushoku I.C.
Public Transportation: Shinonoi Station on the JR/Shinano Railway, then 10 minutes by taxi (or a 40 minute walk)

Antiques Sale in Inariyama – Yeah!

November 16th, 2013 by
Category: Events, Shopping

On the northern tip of Chikuma City is the historical Inariyama neighborhoood.  Dozens of classic earthen-walled storehouses line the narrow streets, giving a sense of what the area was like during its heydays as a transportation and distribution hub during the late Edo era.  Tucked away in nooks and crannies of those storehouses are a wealth of antique pottery, furniture, cookingware and a myriad of other objects.  Once a year, the storehouses are ‘opened’ and the antiques put up for sale.  This year will be the 2nd annual such Inariyama Antiques Sale, to be held as per the following:

Inariyama Antiques Sale
Sunday 17-November, 2013
From 8am to 2pm
Inariyama’s Aramachi street, in front of okonimiyaki restaurant “Silky”.

Flier for the Inariyama Antiques Sale, depcting some of the items you can expect to find

Antiques tend to be popular in the West, and it always amazes me there aren’t more antique shops here in Japan, especially with all the skillfully crafted furniture and other objects here.  So Inariyama’s Antiques Sale is sure to be a great opportunity to pick up some classic Japanese artifacts!

Location:

https://maps.google.co.jp/?ll=36.538816,138.104882&spn=0.003116,0.006947&t=m&z=18&brcurrent=3,0x601d82bf6683bedb:0x8170c7cb1059822,1

UPDATE

On the 17th, I dragged one of our sons to Inariyama for the antiques sale. I was looking forward to seeing what kind of treasures would come out of the nooks and crannies of Inariyama’s old storehouses, and I wasn’t disappointed.

At the 2013 Inariyama Antiques Sale, with local civic leader Takamura-san

Pictured are a couple of the items I picked up. Any guess what that item with the hook is? It’s a portable scale called a “hakari”. Traveling salesmen used to sell some objects by weight and used this kind of scale to measure, not kilograms, but “kan”. (1 kan = 3.75kg). Apparently ‘kan’ were used along side kilograms from the Meiji era until 1959 until being phased out and totally replaced by the metric system in 1966.


A bit of history for only 500 yen!

And the Japanese umbrella in the background was also 500 yen. 

After discovering these great treasures, I am already looking forward to next year’s antiques sale at Inariyama!

Twin baby Red Pandas at the Nagano Chausuyama Zoo!

September 27th, 2013 by
Category: Events, Experience, Information, Outdoor Activities, Report, Sightseeing

On September 18th, 2 new baby red pandas(lesser pandas) were revealed to the public  at the Nagano Chausuyama Zoo. The twins were born June 21st, 2013. At first, the babies can only be seen between 10am and 10:30am and 3pm and 3:30pm as they are getting used to their new environment. Gradually, as they adapt, they will spend more time with the public. There are 19 red pandas at the zoo. Come and check out these “living stuffed animals” that are too cute to be real.

You can even submit names for the pandas at the Chausuyama Zoo Fall Festival on October 19th (Sat) and 20th (Sun) from 9:30am until 4:30pm. Click here

The Nagano Chausuyama Zoo with 64 species of creatures including tigers, lions, wombats and giraffes was established in 1983. Located on the top of verdant Mt. Chausu, the views of the Nagano cityscape are beautiful and nearby there is the Dinosaur Park, Botanical Garden and a mallet-golf course. More info

Hours of operation:

March 1st until end of November 9:30am until 4:30pm

December 1st until end of February 10:00am until 4:00pm

Entrance: 500 Yen for adults, 100 yen for children elementary and junior high school students

Access:

Car: 15 minute drive from JR Shinonoi Station

Train: Closest station is JR Shinonoi

Bus: “Zoo-guru bus” runs on weekends from April until the end of October.

http://chausuyama.com/news/258

 

 

 

First Digital-Kakejiku Projection on Matsumoto Castle with Taiko Drum Festival

July 24th, 2013 by
Category: Culture Art, Events

Taiko Drum Festival at Matsumoto Castle will be held this weekend, July 27 & 28.

It is an annual event popular among foreigners, but this year, it will be very special!

Because the world-renowned Digital-Kakejiku (D-K) will be also projected on the Matsumoto Castle at the first time, on July 26th (eve of the Taiko Drum Festival) & 27th (just after the Festival).

D-K is an unique live art project by Akira Hasegawa and has been projected on many famous architectures and gardens not only in Japan but also in the world, such as The Acropolis in Athens, Salzburg Cathedral, Yu Garden in Shanghai. Akira Hasegawa says, “D-K is an art seen with the mirror of the mind though there is physically a limit in D-K of the seen space.” and it is realization of the soul of Zen meditation culture.
Refer to D-K English official site, D-K Facebook page, and this movie of D-K on another castle,
Read the rest of this entry »

30th Hijiri-Sanzengoku Festival 大岡 第30回ひじり三千石まつり

July 17th, 2013 by
Category: Events, Experience, Outdoor Activities

Ever wanted to catch a fish by hand? Come out to Oooka during O-bon and try  catching iwana (mountain trout) by hand, watch a taiko performance and support the local economy by purchasing locally made specialty products. This picturesque hamlet is a scenic drive from Nagano City and provides great views of the Northern Alps on a clear day. Escape the humidity in the city and head out to the mountains!

Date: August 14, 2013 (Wednesday) 9:30am until 2pm (cancelled only if there is heavy rain)

Place: Nagano city, Oooka Hijiri-shinsui Kouen (長野市大岡ひじり親水公園)

Access:

By Taxi: 30 minute taxi from Shinonoi Station

By Car: 20km (30min) drive from Omi I.C. (麻績)

Onsen Town Togura-Kamiyamada News: Taiko Concerts, New Cycling Tour and Free Onsen Baths

April 28th, 2013 by
Category: Culture Art, Events, Information, Onsens (Hot Springs), Outdoor Activities

This year onsen town Togura-Kamiyamada is celebrating its birthday.  The Togura side is 120 years old, and the Kamiyamada side 110 years.  On April 21st, we celebrated with an event that included a performance by our town’s geisha guild and lion dance troupe as well as free pottery and stained glass making lessons.  And on the 26th of each month from April to September, 2013, all of the inns and hotels will be offering free onsen baths.  Register at the Tourism Hall (tel 026-276-1056)  from 12:30, and enjoy onsen-hopping until 3pm. 

Togura Kamiyamada Onsen's Anniversary Celebration

Also coming up is a taiko drum concert series by our local troupe, Kamuruki-daiko.  They will perform at the main stage by the Kara-Koro onsen footbath in the park in the middle of town.  The energetic performances will take place most Saturday nights in June and September (specifically June 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th, and September 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th).  The concerts will start at 8:30pm and last approximately 30 minutes, with a chance at the end for people from the audience to come up on stage and try drumming with the group.  Kids will especially love it.

Taiko Drum Concert Series June and September 2013

One other exciting item is starting in May, guided cycling tours of the onsen town will be offered every Saturday morning.  The tours will start at the Kara-Koro onsen footbath at 10:30 am and will last approximately 1-1/2 hours.   ‘Mama-chari’ rental cycles will be provided.  The tour will cover everything from Designated National Cultural Treasures to hidden secrets and will take in the beautiful scenery of the Chikuma River and the surrounding mountains. The tour will also include a footbath stop and each participant will get a manju sweet to eat.  The tour will be led by an English-speaking guide for your full enjoyment.
Tours will take place every Saturday morning from May through November.
Price is 1200 yen, including cost of the rental cycle, insurance, and the manju sweet.
Maximum 8 people per tour, so reserve early!
To reserve, contact the Chikuma City Tourism Association.

Guided Cycling Tours of Togura-Kamiyamada Onsen Every Saturday Starting in May

One Month and Counting for the Start of the Mori Apricot Blossom Festival

March 6th, 2013 by
Category: Events, Seasonal Topics

The main Spring event for our onsen town Togura-Kamiyamada and the greater Chikuma City area is the Mori “Apricot Village” Apricot Blossom Festival.  The dates for the 2013 edition have been announced as follows:

58th Annual Mori Apricot Blossom Festival April 6th-21st 2013.
Anzu-no-Sato Sketch Park Light Up will be April 12th-14th from 6-9pm.

Mori "Apricot Village" Apricot Blossom Festival Map for 2013

And, a bit of big news:  Japan’s Emperor is reportedly planning on coming to see the blossoms this year.  Actual date will depend on the timing of the blossoms.  As soon as information is released, we will announce it here on the blog.

So if you’ve been thinking about coming to see Mori’s apricot blossoms, perhaps this is the year to do it — with no less than the Emperor of Japan coming!

Soft pink apricot blossoms in Mori (Scheduled to Bloom Starting April 6th for 2013)

Mori Apricot Village is 12km from our onsen town Togura-Kamiyamada, approx. 25 minutes by car.  Train access is via Yashiro Station on the Shinano Railway line.

Zenkoji Temple Lit Up Like a Votive Candle?

February 8th, 2013 by
Category: Events, Information, Seasonal Topics

The venerable Zenkoji Temple in Nagano City will once again hold its Toumyou Festival. “Toumyou” refers to votive candles people leave at temples and shrines. For this festival, the main hall and one of the entrance arches are colorfully illuminated in a wish for world peace.

Zenkoji Temple Lit Up in Olympic Colors for the Annual Toumyou Festival

The festival is held in the very coldest middle of winter, and the dates for 2013 are from Saturday 09-Feb to Sunday 17-Feb.  The colors for the main illumination are the 5 Olympic colors, in honor of the ’98 Nagano Winter Olympics. In addition to the illumination, during the festival various temple lodging ‘shukubo’ will host special tea functions, numerous lanterns will be displayed (including some made by celebrity artists), shops and restaurants along the main approach to Zenkoji will offer special deals, a live concert will be held, and there will be a stamp rally and other contests. Information can be found in the official guidebook.

Official Guidebook for the 2013 Toumyou Festival

World-Class Speedskating at M-Wave

December 20th, 2012 by
Category: Events, Information, Seasonal Topics

On December 8th and 9th, a World Cup Speed Skating competition was held at the M-Wave ice skate rink in Nagano City.  Athletes from around the world came to skate here at the rink that was built for the ’98 Winter Olympics.

World Cup Speed Skating at M-Wave

Our family always goes skating at M-Wave a couple times of year, and there are usually speed skating teams there practicing. But these pro skaters were in a class above what we’ve ever seen before. They were so fast it was practically impossible to photograph the skaters.

On one of M-Wave’s lower levels is the Nagano Olympics Exhibition Corner.  I had seen a bit of the exhibit before, but this was the first time to explore it in depth. And I was pleasantly surprised to see how deep the exhibit is, with plenty of interactive exhibits to get a feel of what the ’98 Winter Olympic experience was like.

Okay, quiz time: Which is lighter, a ski jumpers uniform or a speedskaters’?
And, just how heavy is the torch that the runners carry?
Our favorite exhibit was the bobsleigh that sits in front of a video screen showing actual footage from a run down the Spiral, the course used for the Olympics.  As the video shows the bobsleigh careening through the corners, you find your body naturally leaning into the curves.

If you go to M-Wave to see a competition, to go ice skating yourself, or to attend one of the many events held there, be sure to see the Olympics Exhibition Corner, too!

It’s such a privelege being in Nagano and being able to go ice skating in such a prestigious place!

M-Wave’s website has been recently updated, now with Chinese and Korean language, too.