Koiwa Weaving Workshop in Ueda

May 31st, 2010 by
Category: Culture Art, Experience, Information, Report


After a request from an Australian guest, Ryokan-keeper Tyler Lynch arranged a hands-on tour of the Koiwa Workshop, where traditional Ueda Tsumugi techniques are still in use. As well as learning about the history of silk production, which flourished during the late Edo era, participants were able to take a seat at the craftsman’s loom and weave a souvenir piece of their own. The authentic buildings and warm welcome make this a great day-out for anyone in the Ueda area.

For more information, check out Koiwai’s website.
Silk weaving workshop available most days, but reservations are recommended.  Prices start at 2,500 yen to make a small place mat (30-40 minutes).

Kobayashi-san’s Agricultural Village Idea

May 25th, 2010 by
Category: Accomodations, Experience, Information, Miscellaneous, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing
The number of local people who went out of their way to show us interesting things was amazing!

The number of local people who went out of their way to show us interesting things was amazing!

The train ride earlier helped top off a fun day with Kobayashi-san from Seishun-Agricultural Village in Ueda.

Kobayashi-san understands that solely growing rice & vegetables is not enough in today’s Japan,  so he is leading the way around Ueda with a new idea…

Tourism Farming will allow us to better make use of our downtime – or something along these lines, I never trust my understanding of many conversations we have…

Kobayashi-san told me (and teachers/guides Mike & Jacky from England) so much in a very short time, unfortunately the time between talking and writing this blog means I’ve lost it – sorry:  but do check out www.murada.com & visit him for more info.

Kobayashi-san also has a custom built Eco-study-lodge for rent if you’re interested in local agriculture & staying near Ueda.

This is a must buy for me, I am sure my parents could always holster a '.....' like this, could be useful weeding around kiwifruit vines?
This is a must buy for me, I am sure my parents could always holster a ‘…..’ like this, could be useful weeding around kiwifruit vines?

After visiting several locations Mike & Jacky were keen that their kids would enjoy many of the experiences they were seeing in Nagano

The problems we have are the same everywhere^-^

The problems we have are the same everywhere^-^

Kobayashi-san together with one school was doing some volunteer work in Nepal, as is Mike (and me too…in 1991!!)…

It was a real thrill to meet the calibre of people today!

Mike actually was paid to climb Mount Everest, and met my kiwi hero Edmund Hillary before he died.

The characters today, Kobayashi, Mike, Jacky and Yoda-sensei (& Edmund) – it was an awesome coincidence!!!

and students were so full of energy!!

and students were so full of energy!!

Keep running guys!!^-^

Rain came down heavy on the rice field outside, but was cosy inside the school library^-^

Rain came down heavy on the rice field outside, but was cosy inside the school library^-^

Enjoying Singular Cherry Trees in Shinshu Takayama Village

April 21st, 2010 by
Category: Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing

This time of year, many of our guests stay here at our inn as they drive around Nagano enjoying the flowering trees.  First the apricot blossoms in nearby Mori’s “Apricot Village”, and lately, the cherry blossoms.  Most come to see the cherry trees at Ueda Castle, or our local spots such as the Tengu Park above Togura Station, or even Chuo Park behind our inn here in Togura Kamiyamada Onsen.  However, lately, a few guest mentioned they are on crusades to see “Ippon sakura”, or singular cherry trees. 

When I did the translating work for Nagano Prefecture’s official foreign language tourism site, there was a passage on these singular cherry trees in southern Nagano.
To be honest, while writing the description in English, I was wondering what the attraction would be in seeing just one, individual tree blooming.

One of our guests, Komoriya-san, gave me a list of “Ippon sakura” in northern and eastern Nagano.  I had a bit of extra time on Sunday, so I took our kids to check out one of them in Matsushiro, the weeping willow type sakura tree at Myotoku-ji temple.  Seeing the hundreds-of-years old tree made me understand the majesty of the blossoms on such an ancient tree.

Myotoku-ji's ancient cherry tree (Matsushiro)

Myotoku-ji's ancient cherry tree (Matsushiro)

Komoriyama-san explained the 3 main reasons for “Ippon Sakura”.  One is that many are located at a temple.  More specifically, by the graveyard of a temple.  People plant them so their ancestors can enjoy the annual cherry blossom show.  Another is that the trees are located in the middle of a rice field area.  The blossoms come on around the same time as the fields need to be prepared for planting.  So farmers judge the rice planting timing around when the tree’s flowers bloom.  Finally (and this one is a bit harder to believe), some famous samurai plant trees when they cross over a mountain pass.  Then whenever they go over the pass again, they can tie their horses up to the tree.  Hmmm.

Anyways, here is Komoriyama-san’s list of suggested “Ippon Sakura” in Northern and Eastern Nagano:

Nagano City / Suzaka
(trees bloom 6-7 days later than Togura Kamiyamada.  2010’s peak should be 18-April)
*Myotoku-ji’s shidare (Matsushiro, Pref. Rt. 35)
*Enmei-ji’s shidare (Pref. Rt. 34 before Hoshina Elem. School)
*Endai-ji’s shidare (Omuro)
*Benten-sama’s shidare (Suzaka, below Yonago Fudo Shrine)

Takayama Village (10 days later than Togura Kamiyamada)
*Mizunaka’s shidare (Pref. Rt. 54 in town)
*Kurobe’s edohigan (near the Issa Hall in town)
*Tsuboi’s shidare (Pref. Rt. 54 on the way to Nakano)

Ueda/Tateshina/Saku (6-7 days later than Togura Kamiyamada)
*Daien-ji’s shidare (Ueda’s Shioda Plain, Pref. Rt. 65)
*Nagahisaho’s shidare (Nagawa Town, Matsuo Shrine)
*Muryou-ji’s shidare (Saku City, Motoima Post Town, Rt. 142)
*Fukuo-ji’s shidare (Saku City, south of above)
*Gohongi’s sakiwake (Saku City, Hot Park Asashina Rest Area, Rt. 142)

Another view of the Myotoku-ji tree

Another view of the Myotoku-ji tree

Shidare: Prunus pendula f. pendula (weeping willow type)
Edo Higan: Prunus pendula (similar to above but an older variety?)
Sakiwake: ??? (pinkish and white blossoms on the same tree?)

Ueda City’s Edo-era District: Yanagi-Machi

October 9th, 2009 by
Category: Cuisine, Culture Art, Shopping, Sightseeing

Due to Typhoon Melor, our local train stopped running yesterday morning, and Kamiyamada Elementary School closed for the day. Thanks to the surrounding mountains, however, the storm didn’t hit this Kamiyamada area very hard. Nearby apple orchards fortunately escaped without much damage.
Taking advantage of the kids’ day off, I took them to Ueda City. I had been to Ueda’s Showa-era shopping district Unno-Machi before. Today we explored Ueda’s Edo-era district, Yanagi-Machi.

Yanagi-Machi streetscene

Yanagi-Machi streetscene

Despite being older by several hundred years, Yanagi-Machi seemed to have more vitality than its Showa-era counterpart. I think it’s due to the charming feudal period stone slab streets and classic wooden buildings. Thanks to the efforts of the townspeople, the neighborhood retains much of its historical character.
And Yanagi-Machi’s crown gem is definitely the Levain breadshop. Not only is their bread fantastic, but the building is amazing.

Levain's yummy bread

Levain's yummy bread

They pride themselves in using “natural yeast” (is there such a thing as unnatural yeast?).  I’m not sure if that’s the reason or not, but the rich texture and full flavor of the bread certainly pleased this westerner’s palatte. But the building, oh the building! It reminded me of the ninja fun house in Togakushi with all of its mesmerizing nooks and crannies, let alone the interesting objects and nicknacks throughout the place.

Ninja breads shop?

Ninja breads shop?

Many tourists go see Ueda Castle. From there, it’s an easy walk to Yanagi-Machi — I highly suggest it.

Note: Yanagi-Machi is an approx. 20 minute walk up a gradual hill from  Ueda Station.

Click here for Yanagi-Machi’s website.

Click here for the website of Levain.