2010/11/8 月曜日

Taking a break from the keyboard: Ikenodaira and Tokiwakan

Filed under: English entries,life in Japan,travel reports,国際家族 — admin @ 19:22:18

It has been a long, busy autumn. We finally decided to take a break and went to Nagano. Usually, we here at Minamimuki are diehard Toyoko Inn people. We know what we’re getting and we do not pay much for it. As a treat, though, we wanted to go somewhere nice. (Our idea of “nice” is just a little more expensive than Toyoko Inn.)

What we came up with was a walk around Ikenodaira not far from the Komoro exit on the Shinetsu Expressway.  We went up above the deserted ski area (no snow yet) and took a walk around the “Ikenodaira Swamp.” I would have translated that one “marsh” myself, and even marsh was pushing it in terms of water, BUT we got a spectacular view of Mt. Fuji. Mt. Fuji from Nagano. Now that was “nice!”

From there, we drove another 15 minutes to our inn for the evening, Tokiwakan. You must check out this link. We drove ten minutes up a mountain covered in terraced fields. We barely avoided hitting an older couple who stopped their little truck in front of us and began opening the doors to get out as we, at the same time, tried to pass them. In other words, it was not a high traffic area. But there at the top of the hill was the Tokiwakan. It was a lovely place full of some of the most congenial staff I’ve met in Japan. The room was lovely, the mountain-top bath (you take a little trolley straight up to get to it) was cozy and well-tended and had a beautiful view. And the food was excellent–freshly made tempura, simmered carp, homemade ice cream and other goodies for dinner, and the usual hotel smorgasbord for breakfast, but nicer (eggs cooked while you wait) and COFFEE.

I hate to say it, but it was worth what we paid for it (which wasn’t all that much in the world of fancy hotels in Japan). In a world with a poor economy and a lack of imagination, Tokiwakan  has used its resources to create a wonderful getaway. After all my years in marketing research, I got the distinct impression that the owners pinpointed exactly what customers wanted and figured out to provide it without going bankrupt or charging a fortune. I can’t describe all the details–just go and have a nice time!

2009/11/8 日曜日

Coco Farm & Winery

Filed under: English entries,life in Japan,travel reports — admin @ 15:32:16

Although we’d heard of the place before, for some reason we’d  never made the trip. At the encouragement of a young friend of ours, we finally decided to make the trek to Ashikaga to visit Coco Farm & Winery. Thanks to the Kita-kanto Expressway, the entire “trek” took about an hour from “downtown” Maebashi.

Coco Farm & Winery was started more than fifty years ago, by Noboru Kawada, as a facility to care for 9 people with mental disabilities. Kawada is still the principal, but these days it is home to 130 such persons (aged 18-87) and 20 staff. The history of how a struggling school turned into a profitable winery and managed to achieve its goals for its students is an inspiring one, and you’ll enjoy reading about it on the official website–in excellent English. Read both “Vineyard News” and “Brief History.”

We went partly out of curiosity to see what sort of new occupations had been devised for persons with disabilities, but were quickly charmed by the atmosphere and forgot all about our “research.” We walked around and shopped in the gift shop for a while, then took the 10:30 tour of the winery (500 yen, in Japanese), and were back in time for lunch in the cafe. We had the “deck lunch” on the deck (of course), no more than a few yards from the mountain on which Coco grapes are grown. Lunch was light, but fresh and delicious, and extremely reasonable. With dessert and a little wine, it was a whopping 3500 yen for two. The wine on sale in the gift shop is also reasonably priced; in fact the whole experience was such a bargain that we decided that we didn’t mind paying for the tour–during which we learned everything we wanted to know about Coco Farm specifically and wine making in general.

One astonishing fact was that the place has been “organic” from the outset. The school had no money to buy pesticides or to go otherwise hi-tech, and they have raised all of their crops naturally using chiefly human power since the 1950s, long before it was stylish to do so. I could go on and on, but I’ll post some photos here and let you get the rest of the information from the Coco Farm & Winery website! (If you put your mouse over the photos, the titles will come up. Click to see them larger.)

First stop, the pleasant WC

Coco grape fields–straight up the mountain

shiitake raised in the forest next to the vineyard

Lunch on the deck

The “deck lunch”

Equipment from California!

Nice ride!

2008/8/19 火曜日

Soda shop in Cloverdale

Filed under: travel reports — admin @ 3:18:14

On the way home, we stopped at a soda shop in the lovely town of Cloverdale. Customers were seated at an outside counter. A misty sprinkler from the eaves provided the only air conditioning. The shop was manned by a young man who looked to be in his early 20s. Here’s a picture of the shop–none of the young man.

soda shop in cloverdale

When we arrived he was taking care of two girls of about the same age, who said “Love you!” to him as they left. I asked him if all of his customers said that, and he said, “Fortunately no,” although I wasn’t entirely convinced.

In the car, my husband and I had discussed the times I had said things which my teenage daughters (teenagers at that time)  had specifically requested me not to. Both my husband and the girls (now in their 20s) agree that I just shouldn’t have done it, but I still refuse to go along with that… completely.

Back at the soda shop, as we, a couple in our 50s and one in their 70s finished up our ice cream, milkshakes, and rootbeer floats, and the young man called out, “Thank you!” I called back, “Love you!” He laughed, and we were on our way.

2008/8/17 日曜日

Trip to Oregon and North Northern California

Filed under: English entries,travel reports,国際家族,日本語 — admin @ 12:34:59

We took a large-family trip to Ashland, Oregon for the Shakespeare Festival (sorry, no pics of the plays), and on the way there and back enjoyed the bounties unique to the northernmost part of California and Southern Oregon coast. It was my photographer’s first trip to Oregon and he enjoyed the experience with lots (and lots) of photos.

オレゴン州への旅の写真。目的はシェークスペアー劇祭で有名なアシュランド市。でも行きと帰りで北カリフォルニアと南オレゴンなりではの見どころをたくさん 回りました。うちのカメラマンにとっては初めてのオレゴン州なのでたくさん写真を撮りました。

See below a couple of the famous California and Oregon redwoods, grapes from a winery in Mendecino County, and the harbor at Fort Bragg, complete with sea lions swimming around.

西海岸だけに立つ巨大なredwoodの木の森を歩いたら、どの木も違う特長を持っています。森の中はとても静かです。北カリフォルニアのワイナリーとそれぞれのブドウ畑も次から次からありました。Fort Braggという町でお昼を食べるためによったら、あざらしが何匹か港に泳いでいました。

Redwoods more redwoods!

Grapes and wineries

Ft. BraggOne of a family of harbor sea lions

2008/8/10 日曜日

Back in the USA!

Filed under: English entries,travel reports,国際家族,日本語 — admin @ 11:44:53

The Olympics have begun!  The presidential campaign is underway and the conventions are right around the corner! It’s a fine time to be in the old country.

Even more fun, though, is what we found at the local grocery store.  Can you read the label? Double click on the photo for a closer look…

Moose Drool

「ムースのよだれ」 というビールです。もしかして、英語だとおいしそうに聞こえる?いいえ、聞こえません。写真にクリックすれば、よだれを出しているムースの絵がはっきりと見えます。今里帰り中です。オリンピックや大統領選挙でにぎわっている母国では、うちはと言えば、スーパーをゆっくりまわって遊んでいます。思わず、この微妙な新製品を買ってしまいました。父には「ムースのよだれ飲む?」と愛想よく聞いたら、ちょっと不機嫌に「ビールなら飲むよ」とかえってきました。


2008/3/16 日曜日

Back in Japan 日本の春はまだまだです

After almost a month in California, Manna Frances and I are back in Japan. Yesterday it was warm, so it wasn’t so bad, but we miss the mad bloom of flowers already going on in Sunny Ca. Here are some pictures I took while I was there.


Lemons for the taking!


Just like in Japan, but sooner

2008/2/26 火曜日

アメリカでの運転 どきどきはらはら

Filed under: travel reports,国際家族,日本語 — admin @ 14:40:43






2008/2/14 木曜日

Off to a Better Place–Southern California

Filed under: English entries,life in Japan,travel reports,国際家族 — admin @ 7:35:28

My office maager, Manna Frances, has left these frigid shores for her annual visit to get in touch with her American self. She and I will be meeting up in the SF Bay Area in a couple of weeks, but until then she is in Southern California with her extended family.

There is a new baby that apparently needs attending to–a decision that was made shortly after the arrival of pictures of said baby. Along with being one of the most adorable creatures on the planet, Little Anna is adding a new ethnic dimension to our family. What started out as a family of 100% white European background now includes Mexican, Japanese, Korean, and (ta da!) Thai ancestry. Anna’s maternal grandmother is from Thailand, and that makes her a quarter Thai.

In the words of her proud, new aunt: “That little bit doesn’t hurt!”

the only warmth we get is in a hothouse-Gunma orchid

2007/12/29 土曜日

Filed under: travel reports,日本語 — manna @ 17:45:33











2007/12/16 日曜日

Broadening my horizons–a trip to “the old country”

Filed under: English entries,life in Japan,travel reports,翻訳業 — admin @ 15:12:49

A mid-summer suggestion from my sister is about to come to fruition! I’ll be leaving in a few days for my first trip to Europe. My sister (Iowa), niece (Moscow) and I (3 guesses) will be converging from around the globe to meet in Frankfurt Germany. I have a plane ticket (which I paid for at a Seven-Eleven and printed out at home) and directions to a youth hostel that say: “We are located in Kaiserstrasse, directly opposite the front of Frankfurt main train station (Hauptbahnhof). Underground S8/S9. Stay & Learn Residence of Language Alliance is 100m on the left–There’s a big white flag hanging from the balcony of the 2nd floor, so you can’t miss us.” Here’s hoping they don’t decide to change flags for the holiday season.

While I’m away, the second-in-charge will be answering the phone and responding to e-mail.

temporary head of operations

It will be interesting going to a foreign country where a lot of the people look like me and some of whom I might actually be related to!

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