Visiting Matsumoto Day 2

Street in Matsumoto, Japan

On my second day in Matsumoto, I woke up early due to jet lag, or perhaps I was too excited about the hotel’s award winning breakfast. Japanese people take breakfast seriously and so do I. A well-dressed Japanese salaryman beat me to the breakfast line this morning but I was only the second person there. This hotel serves mainly western style breakfast along with a few Japanese dishes.  Starting out with a good cup of strong black coffee, I loaded my plate with fresh mizuna salad, local apples, sauteed broccoli with bacon, an omelet, sweet raisin bread and vegetable soup. As I finished my breakfast, a Japanese phrase came to me, “haraga hetteha ikusawa dekinu-One shall  not go into battle on an empty stomach”, and that was exactly how I justified my big breakfast.

My to-do list for was long for the day. Feeling stuffed, I walked along the river viewing sakura blossoms before my visit to Matsumoto castle – one of  Japan’s most scenic castles. It was built in 1504 and is a considered national treasure. Matsumoto castle is a spacious six story black and white castle with an inner and outer moat and  a beautiful view of the Japanese Alps. It attracts many tourist form within Japan and well as across the world.

On the other side of river outside of the castle, I found Marumo, an “arts and crafts” cafe my artist brother in London recommended. Marumo Ryokan and Cafe was built in 1956 by Sanshiro Ikeda, a founder of Matsumoto Mingei Furniture who was highly inspired by Yanagi Muneyoshi, a philosopher and a founder of the Japanese Folk Art movement.  The cafe was filled with local antiques and folk art inspired furnitures and I felt as if I fell back in time.

Traditional Wooden Japanese Shoes

Later, I walked along Nakamise Dori an old merchant and warehouse street filled with local craft shops.  One should not miss Chikiriya, a well known Mingei shop started by Taro Maruyama of the Matsumoto Folk Art Museum.  Beautifully arranged on the store shelves are local ceramics, colorful glassware and toys made with wood and bamboo.  It’s a perfect place to get gifts for friends and family back home.

I enjoyed strolling around this small castle town as it’s filled with nostalgic folk art, culture, crafts, music, hotspring and more.  No wonder why people have been coming here for an artistic inspiration and relaxation, just what we need for our next “Art and Culture Tour of Japan”.  By the mid afternoon, I enjoyed meeting and finalizing plans with our partners in Matsumoto, and they are all very excited to be a part of this upcoming tour.

TanpopoStudio July Update

farmhouse group photo

Happy July,
I have been back in the US for about two weeks now after finishing another round of our Culinary Tour of Japan. Weather was perfect with lush of greens and signs of summer everywhere. Food was delicious as always and we enjoyed freshly fried tempura, seasonal seafood, lots of Japanese sweets and local sake and wines. We also took time to explore a depachika or the basement of a department store as this is a much different experience in Japan. These areas are packed with food vendors of all kinds selling delicious things such as desserts, fresh vegetables, pickles, seafood, tea, ice cream and lots more.

My brother Kai joined us in Nagano and Yamanashi and gave us an insider scoop on life in rural Japan as he lives in Yamanashi prefecture. It’s a scenic area with wineries, ski areas, wasabi farms, mountains, and a thriving arts and crafts community. On the last trip, I was too tired to check out public hot spring in Suwa, but this time after dinner I walked to the nearby hot spring to “wash off my tiredness” (this is a Japanese phrase, tsukare wo arai nagasu). The town of ShimoSuwa (Suwa consists of ShimoSuwa and KamiSuwa) itself has over 10 public hot springs and 5 foot springs (not counting private hot springs ), and heavily used by locals.

On my visit, I purchased a ticket, which was about two dollars for an adult, I took my shoes off and put them in a cubby. Then I handed a ticket to a clerk and entered women’s changing room. At 7 o’clock in the evening this place was packed (at least on women’s side) with families with kids, high school girls, grandmas and others, like me. We have a post about hot spring etiquette on our website, to help you prepare for a visit.

In June, I had a wonderful opportunity to spend one-on-one time with people who share same passion as TanpopoStudio has, to help preserve Japanese local food and culture by providing hands on experience to people from Japan and other countries alike. In the August Newsletter, I will introduce some of the creative and talented people we are working with in Japan who have helped make TanpopoStudio happen, so stay tuned.

Here is what’s happening at TanpopoStudio.

Japan Art + Culture Tour, April 2019

We’ve just opened this for registration. This is a 7 day tour from Tokyo to Matsumoto with an additional extension to Kyoto. Matsumoto, a hotbed of arts, is also the birthplace of several well known Japanese artists including Yayoi Kusama. It’s also home to one of Japan’s finest feudal era castles.. Read more about Matsumoto and this tour on our blog.

Classes and Workshops

Don’t forget to join us for delicious and informative Japanese food and sake pairing at Cooks of Crocus Hill. We will be sampling sake from Shizuoka and Hyogo prefecture. Kanpai!

Sake it To Me!
July 21st at 6 pm at Cooks of Crocus Hill, Saint Paul

Happy Travels,
Koshiki and Benjamin Smith

皆様、いかがお過ごしでしょうか。
2週間ほど前アメリカに帰国しましたが、ミネソタでは連日雨が降っており、日本の梅雨を思わせる毎日です。
6月のツアーでは沢山の素敵な方々への出会いがありました。代々受け継がれてきた伝統を守っていこうと頑張っている方、日本の手仕事を広めようと努力されている方、地域を発展させようと色々な試みをされている方と職種は様々でしたが思いは共通するものがありました。お話を聞かせてくださった方、案内をしてくださった方、この場を借りて御礼申し上げます。

私もそのような皆様と一緒に食文化だけではなく日本に古くから根付く伝統や工芸文化を世界に広めていくお手伝いができればと思っています。近い将来様々な分野に興味のある海外からのお客様を日本にお連れしたいと思っています。

これからもどうぞよろしくお願いいたします。
米村古紫季