There are a million stories in the city. This is one of them.
Nana had an interview today, while I slaved away at the day job. She had previously arranged for us to meet for dinner at オサカナバル (Fish bleu) in Shinjuku. As it happened, she arrived in Shinjuku two hours before our reservation.
While she was passing the time waiting for me, I was quietly blowing a gasket at the office because a departing colleague had gone over my head to request a favor of the CEO, without even bothering to ask me first. Granted, I’d have said no, but that was out of company policy and accounting rules rather than my own mandate. When the CEO agreed to the request, he didn’t take those things into account, which left my own boss scrambling.
In that mood, I arrived for the feedbag. How did it go?
While Nana had been waiting for me, she did some shopping. This is what I found when we got home.
Not bad, but lacking in maturity. As you can see, I have the situation well in hand …
We had a farmers’ co-op or some such from Kanagawa marketing in our building’s event space over the weekend. We picked up some spuds, onions, a zucchini …
Among the offerings was a powdered drink made from potatoes, a variation on 青汁 (Aojiru, literally “blue [that is, green] juice”), a vile-tasting beverage usually made from kale that was made famous by the campaign まずい!もう一杯! (Awful! I’ll have another!)
According to the young couple hawking this miracle drink, it was not only good for gout, it would also help lower my blood pressure and help me to lose weight. I’m pretty sure I even heard the phrase “effective for women’s ailments.” The most startling claim, though, given that they’d stuck with the “Aojiru” moniker, was that it was 美味しい! (Delicious!)
Nana was sold. We picked up a packet of 10 to give it a try.
So how is it?
Each morning, Nana mixes me up a packet with water. The first surprise was that it is green, like its famous namesake. Where does green come from potatoes? The next surprise was that the flavor was … not delicious, but actually rather bland.
And as for the rest of the claims? Well, I’ll be through the first batch about the middle of next week, by which time I expect to have lost at least 10kg and have a full head of lustrous hair.
Nana is working on the six-month inspection of our mansion. She doesn’t like the noise that the screen makes for the sliding glass door for the balcony. She writes that down and asks me if there’s anything else.
OK, I mentioned a couple of months ago that the carpet in the hallway in front of our door was coming up. We have a look. It seems like it’s already been taken care of.
“Ask them where the Jacuzzi is,” I tell her. “I’ve looked in every room in the place for the last six months and I haven’t found it yet.”
Ueda Castle, in Nagano, was originally built in 1583 during the Sengoku (“Warring States”) period by Sanada Masayuki, a minor warlord. The castle, consisting of seven yagura about a central keep but lacking a donjon, helped the Sanada clan retain independence via rapidly changing alliances among its stronger neighbors. The castle withstood sieges from the vastly superior forces of Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1585 and by Tokugawa Hidetada (third son of Ieyasu and the second shogun) in 1600 in a side battle to the Battle of Sekigahara.
Following Sekigahara, Sanada Masayuki submitted to Tokugawa Ieyasu and the castle was dismantled. Possession was transferred to the Sengoku clan, which rebuilt part of the castle, and then to the Matsudaira clan in 1706. Finally, at the end of the Meiji restoration, the castle was again dismantled, leaving only the ramparts and one yagura.
Reconstruction began in 1949, with the restoration of two yagura. The gate was completed in the 1990s. The castle is considered one of the finest 100 castles in Japan, and is home to a historical museum (with a virtual reality presentation of the castle as it once stood) and the Sanada Shrine, which honors the Sanada, Matsudaira and Sengoku clans. Visitors to the castle surged in 2016 due to the airing of Sanada Maru「真田丸」, a season of NHK’s popular Taiga drama, which recounted the role of Sanada Nobushige in the 1615 Siege of Osaka.
According to tradition, a traveler was seeking shelter for the night when Monju Bosatsu (bodhisattva Manjushri) appeared in the form of a deer and led him to this ancient hot spring. Hence the name Kakeyu (鹿教湯), “deer guide hot spring.” Now, centuries later, the village has adopted the deer as its mascot. Unfortunately, while visitors can spot the deer motif in multiple locations throughout the area, they’re unlikely to see any actual deer.
The village and its resort spas are separated from Monju Temple by the Uchimura River. Visitors cross via the covered wooden Godai Bridge adjacent to Monju no Yu, the original hot spring which has been in use for 1,200 years. From there it’s a brief climb through a dense wood to the temple.
The temple itself, a prefectural treasure, is reached via a stone stairway leading between two enormous keyaki trees, and sits in a clearing. Although in a state of disrepair — when we visited, the roof of an outbuilding had fallen in on the two Nio guardian statues inside — the temple holds many surprises, including the dragon painting that spans the ceiling of the portico.
Separated from the main temple by a rushing mountain stream is a serried rank of jizo topped by statues of Bosatsu Monju and Buddha.
The village’s other attractions include a small shrine housing Ebisu and Daikoku, guardians of the spa. Although remote, Kakeyu Onsen is a worthwhile adventure for travelers seeking a peaceful spa experience with access to the nearby Ueda and Matsumoto castles.