Exciting new developments in Yudanaka, gateway to the Snow Monkeys

February 12th, 2017 by
Category: Onsens (Hot Springs), Report, Shopping


Yudanaka and Shibu are a pair of onsen resort towns at the base of Shiga Kogen near the Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park (home of the Snow Monkeys).  If you go by train to the snow monkeys, you’ll likely pass through Yudanaka Station.  Yudanaka, as with many resort towns, is struggling with shops and inns closing up due to not having anyone to take over the businesses as the current owners retire.

Nagano’s largest bank has teamed up with an investment fund to create a civic improvement organization called Waku-Waku Yamanouchi.  (“Waku-waku” means to be excited.)  They purchased 4 such businesses, renovated them, and are in the process of reopening them repurposed as guesthouses, a restaurant, an art-themed boutique-ryokan, and a coffee shop.  I recently toured the new shops and certainly found them to be “waku-waku”!

A Traveler’s Treasure: Post-Town Tsumago

February 3rd, 2017 by
Category: Accomodations, Cuisine, Culture Art, Shopping, Sightseeing

Tsumago-shuku is one of sixty-nine post towns on the Nakasendō Road in the Kiso Valley which is located in Nagano Prefecture. Connecting Kyoto with Edo (present day Tokyo), this road features many historically important sites, traditional houses, and serene settings.

Photographs depicting what life was like for older generations and other items can be found on display around town. This quiet village in the mountains offers numerous places to explore and walking along the road surrounded by wooden buildings and storehouses gives you a feeling that you’ve traveled back in time.

Hiking the Nakasendō Trail

The area is accessible by train and bus, but you can also travel along the route via a hiking course. You can also purchase a traveler’s staff and receive wood-branded seals at checkpoints and post towns along the way. A baggage transportation service is offered from March 20 to November 30. The service is offered through the Tsumago-shuku Sightseeing Information Center (0264-57-3123), Koshinzuka Hotel (0264-57-3029), and Magome-shuku Sightseeing Information Center (0573-69-2336). Stop off at the post towns to rest and rejuvenate yourself.

Local Cuisine

You’ll find many souvenir shops along the way selling locally made goods and tasty treats including gohei mochi (pounded rice that has been flattened and molded into an oval shape, stuck on a skewer, coated with sauce such as miso, and then grilled.) Nagano Prefecture is known for its buckwheat, so you can enjoy fresh, hand cut buckwheat noodles as well. Sweet amazake (contains little to no alcohol) and nihonshu (sake) can also be found along the route.

Gohei Mochi

 

Explore History

The Tsumago-shuku Sightseeing Information Center offers a variety of information and pamphlets for you to take with you.

Nagiso Museum’s Wakihonjin-Okuya with the traditional fire pit and gardens has preserved the atmosphere of traditional Japanese housing. Feel calm settle over you as you witness the sunlight streaming in above the fire pit and the garden and pond filled with multi-colored carp.

Where to Stay

The area has been preserved through the Protection of Cultural Properties Project, but you will still find people living in the town. You can even stay at one of the residences or Japanese style inns in the town. Please understand that because these accommodations are in older buildings, rooms with private bathrooms are not available, although some places offer private shower stalls. If you access the respective homepages from the following website, you will find that many of the websites offer English: http://www.tumago.jp/stay/index.html.

Access

One point of access to the Tsumago-shuku Area is from Nagiso Station. The bus fare is 300 yen one way. Lockers are available at the Tsumago-shuku bus stop. They require one 100 yen coin, but you will get your money back once you remove your things from the locker.

Bus Information is available in English.

Tsumago Tourist Information Center 0264-57-3123

All Kinds of Craftwork Gathered in Craft Town Matsumoto

June 15th, 2014 by
Category: Culture Art, Events, Report, Shopping

Matsumoto, in the center of Nagano Prefecture, is now getting more popular by Matsumoto Castle, oldest in Japan, with beautiful mountain views. But, it is also famous for “Craft Town” among many Japanese.

Not only folk handicraft makers, shops and the Matsumoto Folkcraft Museum, now some popular craftspersons escaped from urban life and live in Matsumoto and the neighbor town Hotaka, Azumino. You can see and buy such craftworks and “Matsumoto furniture” in some shops in Nakamachi Street.

Once in every year, during the last weekend of May, “Craft Fair Matsumoto“, which is the biggest and oldest craft fair in Japan, is held in beautiful park “Agatanomori”.

300 craft artists selected among 1000+ applicants from all over Japan exhibit and sell all kind of their craft products including lacquer ware, pottery, silk, wood, dyeing, etc.

Here are photos of this year’s Craft Fair; Read the rest of this entry »

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!

Apricot Blossoms in April, Apricot Fruit in June

June 15th, 2012 by
Category: Cuisine, Events, Experience, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics, Shopping, Sightseeing

The city Togura-Kamiyamada Onsen belongs to, Chikuma-shi, is famous for apricots. The Mori “Anzu no Sato” (Apricot Blossom) district is Japan’s largest grower of apricots. In addition to Mori, the Sarashina district adjacent to our onsen town has a couple of apricot orchards that are getting bigger year by year.

In April, our area is blessed with the soft-white pink color of the apricot blossoms. Then in June, we get to pick the actual apricot fruit. This year’s apricot fruit-related events are as follows:

Come to Chikuma City in late June and early July for Japan's best apricots

*Sarashina Apricot Fair in Togura Station
June 17th (Sunday) and June 18th (Monday), 2012.
09:30~13:00 in front of Togura Station on the Shinano Railway Line.
Local orchardist Kyohoen will be selling their early variety sweet apricots 500 yen for 1kg. Limit 100 units. Last year, they sold out in a little over an hour, so get there early if you want some.
Other local produce and goods will be for sale, as well as specialty bento lunch box sets. The Yuagari dance troupe will perform, also.
Note: The Kyohoen Apricot Orchard in Sarashina transitions to tart ‘Heiwa’ variety from June 27th and sweeter ‘Harcot’ from July 1st. If you would like to try picking apricots yourself (plucking one and eating it right off the tree is an experience that can’t be beat), feel free to contact me and I’d be happy to make arrangements.  The orchard is across the Chikuma River from Togura Station.

*Mori ‘Apricot Village’ Apricot Picking 6/24-7/15
From 800 yen for all-you-can eat apricots + 1kg to take home.

*Mori ‘Apricot Village’ Apricot Jamming 6/27-7/15
9am-4pm. 1600 yen

Access via bus from Yashiro Station on the Shinano Railway.  For info, contact the Chikuma City Tourism Assoc., Tel +81(0)26-276-2241.

Matsumoto Bus Terminal & ‘Ario’ Department Store Renovated and Largest Bookstore Opened

January 7th, 2012 by
Category: Information, Shopping

New Entrance of the Bus Terminal

In front of Matsumoto Station, the former Espa Department Store containing the bus terminal was renovated and renamed as “Ario” in the late December.

The ticket counter in the bus terminal has been moved from the basement to the first floor, so you don’t have to go downstairs and upstairs before riding your bus any more. The bus terminal has been a little cleaner though it was a little dirty.
Read the rest of this entry »

“Shinshu Tourist Destinations ‘Kizuna’ Declaration” Report #2: Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort

December 12th, 2011 by
Category: Cuisine, Events, Experience, Information, Miscellaneous, Onsens (Hot Springs), Outdoor Activities, Report, Seasonal Topics, Shopping, Sightseeing

 — For Japanese translation of this article, click here (authorized link by Nagano Prefecture) — 

yamabiko_top1
The top of Yamabiko Course is the highest point in Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort. Enjoy the great panoramic view.
 
resthouse_yamabiko
Reconstructed “Rest House Yamabiko”. Enjoy food and drink in the cheerful atmosphere. The popular menu is “Nozawana Cabbage Rice Topped with Steak”.

Shinshu Tourist Destinations ‘Kizuna‘ (Bonds) Declaration

This is “Shinshu Tourist Destinations ‘Kizuna‘ (Bonds) Declaration” Report #2.  As reported in Report #1, “Shinshu Tourist Destinations ‘Kizuna‘ (Bonds) Declaration” was issued in Nozawa Onsen Village by Nagano Prefectural Federation of Societies of Commerce and Industry and all of Nagano’s seventy Societies of Commerce and Industry on 24th Oct, 2011.  It aims at strengthening ‘Kizuna’, which means bonds or ties, among the tourist destinations in Nagano (Shinshu) and powerfully promoting tourism and business again to cope with the influences of the earthquakes in March.

This Report #2 focuses on “Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort”, which has been fully recovered from the damage of the earthquakes.  At the time of the quake on 12th March, 2011, ceilings of the restaurant “Rest House Yamabiko” on Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort fell to the ground and some of the ski lifts got damaged.  But the ski resort made great efforts to continue its operation until the scheduled end of the previous snow season, May 2011.  Now, with “Rest House Yamabiko” beautifully reconstructed as the photo above and all the skiing facilities fully recovered, Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort is entering the 2011-2012 snow season this month with hope of welcoming many domestic and international guests. 

 

Fully Recovered “Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort” — A Paradise for Skiers and Snowboarders 

Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort is one of the largest skiing and snowboarding resorts in Japan with modern facilities: The longest course or slope boasts a distance of 10,000 meters; The vertical drop is 1,085 meters; The steepest slope is at 39 degrees; The number of courses is as many as 36 in addition to a snow park; Modern and comfortable ski lifts and gondolas are equipped; A variety of restaurants are waiting.  The view from the snow resort is also breath-takingly gorgeous.  When you go down the slopes, you can enjoy a great panoramic view of close and far mountains and the hot-spring downtown before your eyes.  Furthermore, the year 2012 is the 100th anniversary of introducing skiing, so there are various celebrating events.

 

The World’s Precious Combination — Large-Scale Ski Slopes and Traditional Hot-Spring Downtown

With my own experience of skiing and staying in Nozawa Onsen, I can say that this village is very fascinating not only for the Japanese but also for overseas visitors.  One reason is, of course, its perfectness as a skiing and snowboarding resort with large-scale slopes, high-quality snow, the beautiful scenery, and modern facilities.  The other reason is that Nozawa Onsen downtown maintains unchanged Japanese culture.  In other words, the villagers have proudly kept their own lifestyle in the mountains over a long period of time, not accommodating themselves to other cultures.  For example, they have 13 public hot-spring baths called “sotoyu” (the 14th bath will open on 15th Dec, 2011).  The village is blessed with a large amount of hot springs and the public baths are kindly opened to anyone free of charge.  When you go into such a hot-spring bath, a shop, a restaurant or an inn or walk around the streets, you can experience their traditional Japanese lifestyle and will feel human warmth.  Such experience often turns to be the most unforgettable memory of your trip.  I think it is very rare in the world for one village to have such a large-scale ski resort and a genuine traditional hot spring downtown.  Please visit revitalized Nozawa Onsen Snow Resort!

 

This Report #2 mainly introduced Nozawa Onsen’s attraction as a skiing and snowboarding resort.  There is more to follow in “Shinshu Tourist Destinations ‘Kizuna‘ (Bonds) Declaration” Report #3.  

skyline_course
On Skyline Course, a 3500-meter super long slope, you can go straight down from the mountaintop with a great view of Hokushin Gogaku mountains and the hot-spring downtown.   
 
ski_ushikubi
Ushikubi Course, looking down the hot-spring downtown, will satisfy advanced skiers and snowboarders.
snow_shoeing3

Snowshoeing is another fun. While walking a snowfield, you may meet wild animals like a serow or a rabbit!

 

oyu3

After skiing, warm yourself in a public hot-spring bath. This "Oyu" bath is well-known among the 13 baths.

 

 

nozawana_osaramoritsuke2

Why not get famous Nozawana-zuke, or Nozawana cabbage pickles, for souvenirs?

Name of the facility NOZAWA ONSEN SNOW RESORT
Description of business Skiing and snowboarding resort
Address 7653 Toyosato, Nozawaonsen-mura, Shimotakai-gun, Nagano-ken, 389-2502
TEL / FAX
  • TEL: 0269-85-3166 (Japan country code: 81)
  • FAX: 0269-85-2201 (Japan country code: 81)
E-mail
URL http://www.nozawaski.com/ (Click English button)
Access
  • If by car, 25 minutes from Toyota Iiyama Interchange of Joshinetsu Expressway.
  • If train (JR Nagano Shinkansen), 1 hour and 15 minutes by bus from Nagano Station.
  • If train (JR Iiyama Line), 20 minutes by bus from Togari Nozawaonsen Station
Operating dates Dec 2011 to 6 May 2012.
Prices of Lifts and Gondolas 1 day pass: Adult JPY4,600, Children (Junior high students or younger) JPY2,100, Senior (over 60) JPY3,500.  Refer to the website for more types of tickets.
How to contact Tel or fax
General information of Nozawa Onsen Village Contact NOZAWA ONSEN Tourism Association. http://nozawakanko.jp/ (Click “English” button.)  FAX: 0269-85-3883   Email: info@nozawakanko.jp  

Special thanks to: Nagano Prefectural Federation of Societies of Commerce and Industry, The Community of Commerce and Industry of NOZAWA ONSEN, NOZAWA ONSEN Tourism Association, and residents and concerned people of Nozawa Onsen Village.

Karuizawa Ueno Museum

October 28th, 2011 by
Category: Culture Art, Information, Shopping, Sightseeing
haiokutoshojo
“A ruined house and a girl” (from postcard)
 
kitaalps
“The Northern Alps” (from postcard)

“Karuizawa Ueno Museum — Museum of God’s small sign—” is the painter Mr. Michio Ueno’s personal museum located in the beautiful southern part of Karuizawa. The museum was born from Mr. Ueno’s lifetime wish that he wanted to convey life experiences by painting.  His works heal people’s mind and give joy and hope.

Mr. Ueno, born in 1936, used to be a junior high school teacher of art for 38 years.  He was awarded in many exhibitions, including those of Geneva in Switzerland, Paris in France, Venice in Italy and Yasui Award.  He also received Chunichi Exhibition’s Grand Award.

He studied under Mr. Paul Ambille, the President of French Academy.  Mr. Ambille called Mr. Ueno “the expressionist of the East and the Middle East.”  Mr. Ueno’s painting style is characterized by his sharp brush strokes.

Mr. Ueno says he welcomes every visitor who is interested in Japan or Japanese culture and art.  You can also purchase his pictures, books, postcard and so on at the museum.

heinoaruie
“A house with a wall” (from postcard)
 
kimono
“Kimono, standing in the corner” displayed in the museum.
gaikan

The appearance of Karuizawa Ueno Museum.

 

portrait

Portrait of Mr. Michio Ueno.

 

naikan

The inside of Karuizawa Ueno Museum.

Name of the facility Karuizawa Ueno Museum — Museum of God’s small sign—
Description of business Museum, sale of paintings and art related goods
Address 1166-15 Hocchi, Karuizawa-machi, Kitasaku-gun, Nagano-ken, 389-0113 Japan
TEL / FAX
  • 052-611-5439 [Tel and fax] (Japan country code: 81)
  • 0267-48-5411 [Tel and fax] (Japan country code: 81)
  • 090-7684-7002 [Mobile phone] (Japan country code: 81)
E-mail
URL
Access 8 minutes by car from Karuizawa Station or 10 minutes by car from Usui Karuizawa Interchange. Located 30 meters east of Karuizawa Town Shokubutsuen (Botanic Garden) and Kazakoshi Park.
Operating dates and hours 9:00-17:00 from May 1 to the beginning of Nov. Winter closure from Dec to Apr.
Prices Admission: JPY500 (adults), JPY300 (children).
How to contact Tel
General information of Karuizawa Contact Karuizawa Tourist Information Offices: TEL: 0267-42-5538 (Old Town) / 0267-42-2491 (Karuizawa Station) / 0267-45-6050 (Naka Karuizawa Station). http://karuizawa-kankokyokai.jp/ (Click “English” button.)

Karuizawa Taliesin

August 29th, 2011 by
Category: Cuisine, Culture Art, Events, Experience, Information, Miscellaneous, Outdoor Activities, Report, Seasonal Topics, Shopping, Sightseeing
koyo
Autumn leaves on the shores of Lake Shiozawa.
 
yonjyuyonenkan
Yonjyuyonenkan is a building originally constructed as a post office in 1911. It is now a restaurant and a museum.

I would like to give you the latest information of “Karuizawa Taliesin” (the previous article is here). 

Karuizawa Taliesin is a leisure park which has Lake Shiozawa, museums, play facilities, restaurants, shops and a rose garden.  It is a very popular tourist spot in Karuizawa because you can enjoy the beautiful lake and the nature.  The park shows different scenic beauty every season.  If you wish to see marvelous red and yellow leaves reflecting on the lake, the best season is approaching.

If you are interested in historical architecture, Taliesin has several important buildings which were transferred from other locations.  For example, “Meiji Yonjyuyonenkan” is a building constructed as a post office in 1911.  It is now used as “Kouko Fukazawa Nonohana Museum” and “Shunsai Pasta Restaurant Sonnet”.   “Suikyuso”, designed by an architect W. M. Vories, used to be a summer residence of Tomiko Asabuki, a prominent writer and translator of French literature.  “The Summer House” of Antonin Raymond, a masterpiece in architectural history, is used as “Musee PEYNET” today.   

If you feel like art or literature, your choices include “Musee PEYNET”, which exhibits works of a French painter Raymond Peynet, “Kouko Fukazawa Nonohana Museum”, showing paintings of wild flowers, and the “Literary Museum of Karuizawa”, exhibiting manuscripts and correspondence of writers connected with Karuizawa.

Moreover, Taliesin has a choice of great restaurants.  So you can enjoy taking a rest with great food and drinks.  You can get souvenirs, too, of course, at the shops.  And last but not least, you can just simply relax on the lakeshore.

Why not visit Karuizawa Taliesin to have a refreshing holiday?

boat-and-suikyoso
Boats and Suikyuso.  Taliesin is the only place in Karuizawa where you can enjoy boating.
 
suiro
A waterway. This is the view before your eyes when you enter Taliesin from Central Gate.
bunko-naikan

Inside of the Literary Museum of Karuizawa.

 

peynet_gaikan

Musee PEYNET. The building used to be "the Summer House" of Antonin Raymond.

 

suikyoso

"Suikyuso", designed by W. M. Vories, was a summer villa of Tomiko Asabuki.

Name of the facility Karuizawa Taliesin
Description of business Park with museums, play facilities, restaurants, shops, rose garden
Address 217, Shiozawako, Karuizawa-machi, Kitasaku-gun, Nagano-ken, 389-0111
Access
Operating dates and hours Open from 9:00 to 17:00 (10:00 to 16:00 in winter).
Prices
  • Park admission: JPY800 (adults), JPY400 (elementary and junior high).
  • Park and Museums combination ticket: JPY1,500 (adults), JPY800 (elementary and junior high).
TEL / FAX
  • TEL: 0267-46-6161 (Japan country code: 81)
  • FAX: 0267-45-3663 (Japan country code: 81)
E-mail taliesin@karuizawataliesin.com
How to contact Tel or email
URL http://www.karuizawataliesin.com
General information of Karuizawa Contact Karuizawa Tourist Information Offices: TEL: 0267-42-5538 (Old Town) / 0267-42-2491 (Karuizawa Station) / 0267-45-6050 (Naka Karuizawa Station). http://karuizawa-kankokyokai.jp/ (Click “English” button.)

Glass Studio KARUIZAWA

August 26th, 2011 by
Category: Culture Art, Events, Experience, Information, Miscellaneous, Report, Shopping, Sightseeing
fuki-taiken-glass
Beautiful blown glasses.  Why don’t you make your own glass? (Glass Blowing Course) 
 
fuki-taiken
Blowing a glass. (Glass Blowing Course)

One good way to make your travel more memorable and fulfilling is that you “create” something at the destination.  Today I would like to introduce “Glass Studio KARUIZAWA”, which provides various glass-making courses.  You can bring your work home, so it will become a wonderful souvenir.

Their recommended course is “Glass Blowing Course”.  In this class you will make your only glass existing in the world by choosing your favorite colors and shapes.   

They have several glass decorating courses, too.  In “Engraving Course”, you will engrave a glass with a diamond drill.  In “Sandblasting Course”, you will depict pictures by sandblasting that creates a frosted look.  In “Painting Course”, you will illustrate a glass using paint.

“Candle Making Course” is also popular.  You will make your own candle by putting transparent gel wax and lovely small glass objects into a candle.

Karuizawa is a place where many artists choose for their creative activities.  I’m sure your glass making experience will be a great memory of Karuizawa.

 

sand-taiken
Glasses with sandblasted finish. (Sandblasting Course)
 
candle
Glass candles with transparent gel wax and glass objects inside. (Candle Making Course)
sand-taiken-21

Children working during a sandblasting course.

snowstar-glass

Glasses shining in the dark with accumulated light (option).

view

Outlook of the studio.

Name of the facility Glass Studio KARUIZAWA
Description of business Offering glass blowing and decorating courses.  Selling glass works.
Tel 0267-48-0881 (Japan country code: 81)
Fax 0267-48-0881 (Japan country code: 81)
Email karuizawaglass@nifty.com
URL
Address 664-9, Nagakura, Karuizawa-machi, Kitasaku-gun, Nagano-ken, 389-0111, Japan
How to contact Reservation accepted by telephone. (Email also accepted)
Access
  • From Karuizawa Station: 7 minutes by car or 20 minutes by bike.
  • From Nakakaruizawa Station: 5 minutes by car or 10 minutes by bike.
  • From Usui Karuizawa I.C. of JOSHIN-ETSU EXPRESSWAY: 10 minutes by car (parking space available).
Operating hours
  • Golden Week Holidays (end of April to beginning of May, changeable yearly), July, August and September: Open every day from 9:00 to 19:00.
  • Other periods than above: Closed on Wednesday and Thursday.  Open from 10:00 to 18:00.
Notice
Rates and other prices
  • Glass Blowing Course: From JPY3,300
  • Various Glass Decorating Courses (including painting, sandblasting and engraving): From JPY1,500
  • Candle Making Course: From JPY1,250
General information of Karuizawa Contact Karuizawa Tourist Information Offices: TEL: 0267-42-5538 (Karuizawa Kanko Kaikan) / 0267-42-2491 (Karuizawa Station) / 0267-45-6050 (Naka Karuizawa Station). http://karuizawa-kankokyokai.jp/ (Click “English” button.)

* This article is written based on the information given by the facility and the writer is not liable for the information.