Summer Trip in Iiyama City 07 :Rural Food

We ate various local dishes at the Tanakaya.

The main characteristic of the dishes was that almost all of the food was made with vegetables instead of meat or fish.
( On the other hand In the city area you usually eat dishes which include lots of meat or fish. )

Let’s see the unique food in Iiyama city.

This is “Sasa sushi.” which is served at the celebrated day.
This is vinegared rice which is topped by egg, shiitake (mushroom) and walnut.
It is said that people gave this to “Kenshin Uesugi” who was a military commander.

This is a potato.
I wonder how the owner sliced it so thin.

This is a pumpkin which is called “Somen kabocha”
Somen means noodle and Kabocha means pumpkin.
The food looks like noodle, doesn’t it?

There was also soybean curd(tofu) mixed with green soybean

The left one is frijole in soybean paste.
The Middle one is called “Yatara” which includes soy sauce, egg plants, local green pepper and “myoga”.
Myouga is good spice.
The right one is called “Goya Chanpuru”
It is Okinawa food and it is a fried food which includes goya, egg and tofu.

The left ones are small potatoes.
The farmers can’t sell small potatoes so they cook them for themselves.
That’s a good idea.It is boiled with sugar, milin and soy sauce.
I’m not sure about the right one.Maybe it is eggplant pickle.

This is a kind of plum which tastes sweet but acidic a little.

This is breakfast.We need both rice and bean paste soup(miso soup) every day.

The people living in Iiyama city like using miso for dishes as you may notice.
During the winter, they can eat food which they have stored up in advance..
The miso must be great because it keeps food fresh for a long time.

What a healthy food!
If you eat them every day, you don’t need medicine and doctors.
“An apple(miso?) a day keeps the doctor away.”

Summer Trip in Iiyama City 06 : Tanakaya

The Tanakaya we stayed at in Iiyama city was opened fifty years ago and has participated in green tourism for the past thirteen years ago.

When the Tanakaya opened, there were only rice fields surrounding it.
After the sky resort opened, guest houses and shops increased.

The guest house seemed to be expanded many times and there were some stairs of up and down.
If you ask for my opinion, I think it’s not a kind of luxury hotel.
The wall was thin and I doubted the quake resistance.
The interior and the equipment were old-fashioned.
However, I felt as if I went to the countryside and back to the past.

The wife who married to the owner from other area has worked at this hotel since twenty years ago but she said that there were still many things to learn about this city.

The wife’s children can walk to their school in thirty minutes but they actually take an hour because they play around on their way.
In winter, they can’t go to school due to deep snow.
So they go to an alternative school when winter comes.

The owner’s parents are still healthy and enjoy taking care of the garden.
Sometimes they work at the souvenir shop which connects to the Tanakaya.

The guide says "Don't push this column."

The hotel’s room was an usual Japanese room.
Most household tasks were self-service.
For example, making a bed (futon), putting away dishes and washing clothes.
There weren’t any brushs, towels and night clothes in the room
All the guides were handwritten.

It is really a stark contrast to modern hotels.

It was nice for us that we don’t need be careful about staying and we can eat handmade dishes prepared with local food.
The owner grew some vegetables by himself.

When the tour would end, the owner said to us
“This city is very inconvenient to live and the nature is strict. The river floods and when it snows, it’s hard to go anywhere.
However, we keep living here since there are many great things such as
beautiful nature and good fellows.
We also learn from you because you can find out something good in this city.
If you like this city, please come back again and we wait you all our life. “

To be continued.

Summer Trip in Iiyama City 05 : Eating Vegetables in Various ways

After we got the vegetables in the vast field, we visited a public camp site where we could use water, a barbecue grill and clean dishes.

About six families and the JA staff gathered at this place.
This lunch was planned by JA which is an organization that helps farmers through technology and acts as a connection between farmers and consumers.

First the staff told us how to cook vegetables and asked us to buy vegetables grown in Iiyama city after the trip.
Then our family split and joined other groups for cooking.

The group of fathers including me burnt the corn we gathered and a Dutch oven.
Since we started a fire and added charcoal, it was terrifically hot and there was smoke hurting our eyes.
However, we had make an effort for our families.

I knew for the first time that corn could be burnt with their skin on.

In addition we put a Dutch oven which had cabbages and a potatoe-tasting consomme in it.

The corn was really sweet and the potatoes were so tender.
The fried corn was the most popular dish on that day.
If you add butter or soy sauce, you can make them more deliciously.

The mothers group cooked raw vegetables and fritters (tempura 天ぷら).
The vegetables included fresh lettuce, tomatoes, raddish and cucumbers.
The fritters included peas, raddish and potatoes.
I didn’t know the radish fritter could taste sweet and spicy a little.
The mothers also felt very hot while they cooked because of the oil.
We ate most of them only with salt.
There is nothing more delicious than fresh dishes.

Surprisingly children had to play a role too.

The work was to prepare flowing somen.
Flowing Somen(Nagashi somen) is an eating style where people catch and eat somen with their chopsticks as it runs down a stream of water.

Do you know somen? It is a kind of Japanese cold noodles.I eat it every week during the summer.

During the event the children dropped the somen through the bamboo and the parents ate them.
It looked like the children enjoyed making food for their parents.

A few children washed their hands in the water through the bamboo. Of course they were scolded.

Anyway we ate most vegetables we gathered although it was very hot.
The rest of vegetables were our happy souvenirs.

Summer Trip in Iiyama City 04 : Like Tom Sawyer

The last place we played with water was an awesome lake.
Surprisingly we made a raft by ourselves.
That was the first challenge for every participant
If we can’t make a raft well, it would sink into the lake.
Anyway, since we were wearing life jackets, we wouldn’t drown into the water.

The structure of our raft was very simple.
We tied nine tires with a rope and put several pieces of wooden board on them.
Eight persons rode on it and started rowing.
We felt like Tom Sawyer.
The instructors didn’t ride on it and they stuck besides us by their canoe.

After we oared for a while, some children swam at the center of the lake.
The instrocters said that the temperature of the lake water might suddenly change and adviced us to be aware of the cold water.

My oldest daughter also tested the water but she was grasping the raft firmly because she was afraid of falling into the big lake.
That was a really refreshing and therapeutic experience for every one.

After the trip my oldest daughter said that riding the raft was the most fun part of the trip
although she was scared of riding a raft at first.
She drew a picture diary about the rafting.
It was really pure and full of smiling.

Summer Trip in Iiyama City 03 : Playing With Water

During the trip we played at three places related to water.

The first place was a drain.
We tried to catch crayfish with a long stick with a dried sardine on the end.
Before that day, it rained heavily and the water level rose more than usual.
The staff said that it may be difficult to catch crayfish.
Certainly about ten adult and children couldn’t get them easily although the adults were more interested in catching them than the children.

At last I got one miraculously. It was the only one caught. My children seemed to be proud of my result.
After the event we brought him back to the drain again.

The second place was a pond and a small river.

The pond was so pure that it can reflect the sky and trees.

This place was located high altitude amid undeveloped nature.

It was so hot that we can’t stand still except around the small river.
However, the water was really cold and the leafy shade kept us cool.

We explored the tunnel which was a water way that protected the mountain.

My youngest daughter fell down a few times but she seemed happy because she was able to follow her sister and found some frogs an small fishes easily.

I’ll write about the last place next post.
See you next post. :)

Summer Trip in Iiyama City 02 : Vast Field On Top Of A Mountain

The second day of the tour we visited the vast farm to experience to gather vegetables.
This farm is located at 600 meters above sea level, and we can only go there from May to October because it snows heavily during the winter.
Deer and other animals usually walk around.

This tour is held by farmers, JA(Japan Agricultural Cooperatives) , the hotel owner and the co-op(consumer cooperative).
During the tour the farmer explained and explained the character of the land and how to get vegetables.

eating corn

First we picked corn. We can eat it fresh.Even if it was raw, its sweet taste was amazing.
I need to learn from him how to grow it well.


Next we got tomatoes, cucumbers, potatos and lettuces.
I have planted all of them in my garden, but the vegetables we have there are different from mine.
The water, sun and soil are excellent for vegetables.

The last program was seeding the buckwheat (soba).
Soba has been regarded as important food because it is easy to grow since it doesn’t require any nourishment.
Children drew a line in the soil with a spade and seeded them together.
That’s all it took. If you give it too much fertilizer, you won’t get a lot of fruit because soba blooms a lot and there will be only flowers.

During the fall you can experience gathering apples and harvesting rice.
People living there also store them as pickles(tsukemono).

In this area you can eat tons of vegetables through all seasons.

Anyway we ate these vegetables soon.I’ll write about it later. :)

Summer Trip in Iiyama City 01 : Introduction

○My family and I went to Iiyama city and joined a tour that we can experience living in the rural area.
Recently ecotourism is promoted because the people living in city areas desire stress-free living.

○The Iiyama city has the smallest population in Nagano prefecture.
The city has a population of twenty thousand.
(Kwagoe city has a population of 340 thousand.)
In the past most people living there were rice farmers.

Ski resorts

Besides there are vast ski resorts in this area.

However, only the agriculture and ski leasure aren’t enough for the locals to earn their living.
The price of vegetables dropped sharply and the farmers can’t sell them.
So they must destroy Japanese radish with their tractors.

Since there are few jobs, young people left this city.The number of children are rapidly decreasing.
The aging people are increasing and the city suffers from depopulation.
The city has typical problems like other rural cities in Japan.

○That is why people living there and in other places are making a careful effort to plan and promote ecotourism.
This project is mostly supported by young people living in other areas.
The supply for staying in rural areas matched the demand for reliving the rural life among city dwellers.
I heard from the other participants “We have always joined this tour every year. There are various kinds of interesting and educational events. “

○It’s not convenient to live there because there were few stores, scholls and hospitals.
It snows four or five meters high during the winter and if you don’t have any cars, you can’t go anywhere.
Minimum temperature can plunge to 15 degrees below zero in winter.
However, there are surely some people who love this place and a movement to make the city better.

Rice fields

○There are many beautiful scenes with rice fields, rivers and mountains.
There are tons of fresh vegetables and local food.
The people living there talked about the neighborhood with pleasure.
Cicadas buzz loudly, frogs are living next to human beings.
Children can walk around while they don’t mind cars passing.

These things are opposite to the city area.

The introduction was so long.
I will write about what we experienced in the next post.