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Ski Kids Day in Norikura Ski Resort Feb. 17th Sunday

This coming Sunday, February 17th is “Ski Kids Day” in Mt. Norikura Ski Resort .

DAY PASS lift ticket for elementary school kids and preschool kids is only 500 yen for “Ski Kids Day”.  And “No Charge” for the children under 3 yrs old.

On kids day, there will be some fun events for kids.  Around 14:00~ they are going to serve a gigantic “Sanzkuyaki Burger” at the restaurant.   Sanzokuyaki is Matsumoto’s popular local dish, very similar to fried chicken.  This gigantic burger is for 100 guests, the diameter is about 70~80 centimeters.

Not only the burger, there will be kids lottery,  free snow mobile riding, and of course, your kids will be happy to take photos with “Sanzokukku”, the popular mascot.

Moreover, there are some wonderful news for both young students and adult beginners.

For “Young Students” including undergraduates,  DAY PASS lift ticket is HALF- PRICE only in February.  Check it out! ⇒ Half – price DAY PASS Ticket

And for very beginners (for elementary school students and older including adults), “Norikura Debut Package” will be suitable.
The package plan includes a DAY PASS ticket, rental ski gears  and 2 hours beginner’s lesson.   The charge is only 4000 yen.
To sign up for this reasonable package,  you have to be at the ski rental shop at 8:45 ~ 9:30 for morning session and 11:45 ~ 12:30 for afternoon session.
*To take this advantage, it is very important that you are a very beginner who ski for the first time.   If  your ski skill is too good to be a beginner, they will charge the difference of ski lesson fee.

Norikura Ski Resort is famous for its high quality powder snow and the difference in elevation of 1,400 meters.

And, Onsen!!  Both DAY PASS and HALF DAY PASS come with a onsen coupon ticket.   Yukemurikan is a communal onsen really close from the ski area.

Have a wonderful holiday!

“Kids Ski Day” on the 16th at Nomugi Ski Resort

February 16th Saturday is a “Kids Ski Day” in Nomugi Ski Resort.
Elementary school children and younger (Age under 12 yrs old) are free of charge for ski lift and there will be fun events (like treasure hunting and such)  for them.

Also every Sunday, free lunch will be served for the kids under 13 yrs old (preschoolers and elementary school children) after purchasing a DayPass. (Sorry, not for their parents, though.)

And during the season, a Day Pass Lift ticket will become half-price for the residents or workers in Matsumoto area (Matsumoto, Shiojiri, Azumino Cities and Asahi &Yamagata Village) . Don’t forget to bring your ID or some provable forms.

Nomugi Ski Resort is proud of its highest altitude (2130 meters above sea level) and long course (4000 meters length) with finest powder snow.

In a sunny day, you can see “diamond dust” (a phenomenon caused by tiny particle of snow and air in the right condition) in Nomugi.

Talk about food and onsen, Nomugi prepares both.

“Ramen” to our local “sanzokuyaki”, variety of delicious meals are prepared at the rest house.

And, of course “ONSEN”!!  Some Ryokans (Japanese style B&B) and lodges around Nomugi Ski area allow visitors to use their onsen bath (Sanso Watari,  WOODY MOCK, Ryokan Senraku ) with charge from 400 to 500 yen(/per guest).

Soba in Nomugi (Nagawa) area is always more than perfect, since original flavorous buckwheat is grown in this region.  See Nagawa soba festival page ⇒Nagawa Soba
After enjoying Ski and onsen, it will be nice to have delicious “soba” before leaving Nomugi.

Setsubunsai 節分祭 February 3rd

Setsubun (節分) is the day before the beginning of Spring in Japan.  Traditionally Japanese had followed Lunar calender, and the night of Setsubun was New Years Eve.  At “Setsubun sai”, a special ritual – “Mamemaki” takes place at shrines and temples all over Japan.

Here in Matsumoto, “Setsubun sai (節分祭 Setsubun festival)” will be held at Fukashi Shrine in downtown on February 3rd from 17:00.

“Mamemaki” means throwing roasted soybeans (fortune beans) both in and out side of the house in order to exorcise evil spirits.  At local shrines and temple, priests and invited guests throw roasted soybeans and some small gifts (sweets and interesting prizes (sometimes high quality TVs and such)) from the stage. Fukashi Shrine’s “Mamemaki ” starts from 18:00 on the 3rd of February.
The evil characters “Oni” usually come with red and blue costume wait for their turn at “Mamemaki”. There will be kids playing area for “Setsubun sai” at Fukashi Shrine on that night.

Mamemaki (豆まき)
Venue: Fukashi Shrine (downtown Matsumoto)
Date: February 3rd from 18:00 (17:00 ~ special  ceremony)

Matsumoto Ice Sculpture Festival:January 26th & 27th

Ice Sculpture Festival  at Matsumoto Castle

■ Date  January 26th Saturday & 27th Sunday  from 10:00 to 16:00

■ Venue  Matsumoto Castle Garden

■ Schedule
10:00~ Brass Band performance by the students from Shimizu Elementary School in Matsumoto.
10:30~ The actual presentation of Ice Sculpture making in Matsumoto Castle Garden
12:30~ Dance performance by a dance circle, “Ash”
13:00~  “Paper, stone and scissors “game with mascot characters
13:30~ The actual presentation of Ice Sculpture making in Matsumoto Castle Garden
14:00~ Dance performance by “Dancing Star”
18:00~ All Japan Ice Sculpture Competition (’till 27th 6:00 a.m.)
18:30~ Serving free soup dish (for 500 visitors)
19:00~ Jazz & Brass Band performances
“LazyKhan” (Jazz live performance), “selena” (Brass Band performance)
You can also see the actual “Ice Sculpture presentation” in front of INOUE Department Store in downtown Matsumoto.

6:00~ Display the works for ”Ice Sculptures Competition” (’till 16:00)
10:00~ Serving free soup dish (for 200 visitors)
11:00~ Kids heroes “Go Busters” performance
12:00~ Dance performance by “Dance Laboratory”
13:00~ Serving free soup dish (for 200 visitors)
13:00~ Dance performance by “Mibuki with tutu &beat’s”
14:00~ Kids heroes “Go Busters” performance
14:30~ ”Paper, stone and scissors “game with mascot characters

【26th &27th】 10:00~16:00 (Matsumoto Castle Garden)
☆Gigantic Slide
☆Stamp Rally
☆Food Booths & Kids Play Zone

Snow Monkeys at Jigokudani in winter time

Jigokudani Yaenkoen (地獄谷 野猿公苑) is located in Northern Nagano (Yamanouchi town) near Shibu Hot Spring.

During winter, you have to take the trail from Kanbayashi Onsen to Jigokudani since the road from Shibu Onsen is closed due to heavy snow.
To get to Yaen koen, it takes about at least 30 minutes on foot, yet it is depends on the condition of the trail.  This mountain pass is narrow, unpaved, often covered with snow and full of steps, it is almost impossible to follow by wheelchair.

On the way to Kanbayashi Onsen, the drive way was covered with snow and a bit slippery.  Snow tires are “must” item to reach Jigokudani area.

It is so beautiful to explore winter forest, but you need to prepare warm outfit as well as snow boots.

It was quite a bit of walk from Kanbayashi Onsen through the forest pass way, yet if you are lucky, be able to encounter Japanese Serow (goat- antelope recognized on IUCN Red List for least concern mammals) on the way to the park.

Or you may see some monkeys interrupting some tourists enjoying Onsen Rotenburo (outside bath) at a B & B called Korakukan.

This time, my friends from Salt Lake City (Matsumoto’s sister city!) U.S.  fully enjoyed watching these adorable snow monkeys relaxing in the warm onsen and playing all over the park.

Though it was very cold in deed, it was worth visiting this interesting and amusing wild park in the deep forest.

More detail ⇒ Jigokudani Yaen Koen

Yakuyoke mairi 厄除け参り on Jan 13th and 14th

Yakuyoke (厄除け)is another custom which many Japanese people follow around this time of the year.   People practice ‘yakubarai’ (exorcism of bad luck) or ‘yakuyoke’ (avoidance of bad luck) at their ages of calamity, in order to pre-empt adversity or misfortune by the help of Shinto and Buddhist deities.  Yakuyoke always happen on the same day of  “coming – of – age day 成人式” (the Sunday, in the middle of  January) and the day after that day.

Here in Matsumoto, there are many temples and shrines offer  Yakuyoke service, Hokoji in Joyama Park and Gofukuji in Uchida (Eastern foothill area above JR. Murai Station ←map) are very popular.

The picture shown here are at Hokoji temple.  Hundreds of pilgrims were there at the night on the 13th of January.

On the way to the temple, there were many (very Asian atmosphere) booths selling lucky charms and foods.

For Yakuyoke mairi (pilgrimage), these temples open their gates until very late at night for  2 days from the 13th to 14th of January.
If you are interested in rituals and common custom of Japan, visiting these temples may be a good idea! (Though it is very cold at night!)

Sankuro 三九郎 

Sankuro – 三九郎 is a ceremony used to be held on the 15th of January, called New Year’s bonfire.
For recent years instead of the 15th, the ceremony has been held on the  “coming – of- age ceremony” day.

Each neighborhood association around Matsumoto makes their own Sankuro ( big torch made of New Year’s decorations) at the river sides or fallow fields, set the fire and soon while children cook small mochi (rice cake)  on the willow branches besides the fire.  People in this region believe that by eating these small mochi cooked by the bonfire, they will be free from sickness until next year’s bonfire.

Japanese people believe that New Year’s decorations and ornaments are holy and carry sacred spirits.  Therefore they can’t just throw these ornaments away as a garbage after the New Year days.
This bonfire has been a solution to not waste these holy  decorations after use.  However, the decreasing number of children population in Japan as well as the concerning of  global warming,  these bonfire sites has been decreasing each year.

Sankuro ceremony will not just disappear right away, but it surely will be one of precious experience in Japan in the future.

Mochitsuki 餅つき Making Mochi (Rice cake) Jan 13th

Yamabe Winery again holds  “Mochitsuki” (Pounding Mochi) Event on the 13th of January.

“Mochi” is a traditional food made from steamed rice pounding into sticky rice cake, it also signifies auspicious sign often used at happy events in Japan.

They are going to hold Mochitsuki twice on the 13th, the first session starts from 11:00~ and the second session will be 13:00~.

←steam the glutinous rice in a steamer

← poundhing mochi in a big wooden mortar

No fee required, you can enjoy delicious warm mochi right after they pound.

Yamabe Winery produces fine local wine which has won several prizes at domestic wine contests.
You can also taste some wine at the shop in the winery.

Venue: Yamabe Winery

(ALPICO Bus Iriyamabe line”入山辺線, off at “Iriyamabe-kyoku-mae “入山辺局前下車

Date:   January 13th  Sunday,  11:00~  &  13:00~

Charge: Free (Everybody can join!)

Participate in our traditional event at Yamabe Winery!  It will be so much fun and interesting!

Ameichi “Candy Festival” is coming!

In the coldest season of the year, “Ameichi” –  Candy Festival is held in downtown Matsumoto City.

This festival used to be called as “Shioichi (Salt Market)” after an anecdote of a benevolent samurai lord sending valuable salt to his enemy’s territory, Matsumoto during the war.
Nowadays, instead of selling salt, there are bunch of candy booths as well as Bodhidharma (Daruma) figures booths assisted by young boys and girls.  The candy and Bodhidharma figures sold on that day are regarded as auspicious signs and also small children are sign of pure energy.  Elderly people believe that by purchasing candy and Daruma figures from children they will receive good fortune.

Ameichi “Candy Festival”

Jan 12th Saturday – 13th Sunday
Jan 13th : from 11:30 ~ Parade start (people wear traditional costume and “mikoshi”, portable shirine), as well as a tug of war event will be held in order to forecast this new year’s business.

Please Come!

Kaida Kogen Ski Resort

Kaida Kogen (heights) is located in Kiso region, less than 80 km from JR Matsumoto station.  The foothill of Mt. Ontake (3,067m),  there are several good ski resorts as well as nice hot springs in Kaida Kogen area.

Access: Take route19, make a turn toward west (follow route 361) at “Kiso Ohashi” bridge traffic light. Pass the Kiso Fukushima Ski Resort,  about 2 km away you are in Kaida kogen.

In this season, a Day Pass ticket for Kaida Kogen MIA Ski Resort is only 1,000 yen on weekdays except holidays.  Check this out!

The opening will be December 7th Friday! There are good restaurants which serve delicious local  foods and the kids park is well prepared.

And of course, hot springs (onsen) make you refresh and relax!  Yamayuri so is a public facility with nice Onsens.

Have a fun time in Kaida Kogen Resort!

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