"In the cherry blossom's shade
there's no such thing as a stranger."
In the past 4 years or so, I had participated actively as the tourism ambassador for Chiba prefecture. They gave us this title called the Chiba Kun Ambassador, and each year, there are about 20 foreign students and professionals who are selected to be the ambassador. Basically, Chiba Kun is a red mystical creature (although it is always mistaken for a dog) that is the mascot for the prefecture.
Each year, there are 4 prefecture-sponsored tours planned for us, which include cultural workshops and visits to famous spots in Chiba. We will then use these experiences to promote Chiba prefecture's attractions, such as popular tourist spots, cuisine, daily life, etc. in our own words via blogs and other social media medium like Facebook and Twitter.
The best thing about this tours is that, one of them will be an overnight tour, which to me is the highlight of the whole year. This overnight tour was first introduced in 2013 and the second time was in November 2014, during the third tour of the year. Here, the ambassadors got the chance to stay in a traditional Japanese guesthouse and experience the local way of living as well as the sumptuous food.
Our stay this time was at Minshuku Kanda. "Minshuku literally means guesthouse. This guesthouse is owned by Mr Ezawa, but is more well known among the locals as Torasan. One amazing thing about our stay is that Torasan and his wife personally prepared the dinner and the breakfast for us. Needless to say, the home-cooked meals were just simply awesome!
When we were back from Aqua Place, a spa in the Hotel Mikazuki (which was by the way, has several different indoor and outdoor baths, where visitors can enjoy a spectacular view of the ocean and sunset), we noticed Torasan was busy grilling the seafood for our dinner. Once everything was ready, we started the feast together! The thing that got everyone's attention the most was definitely the enormous plate of sashimi, which was complete with red seabream's (tai) head and tail. The fresh sashimi was just orgasmic! The rest in the menu was great as well, as they were freshly caught and delivered from the nearby port earlier in the morning.
After our dinner, Torasan prepared a surprise for us. We helped him to arrange hundreds of cut bamboos along the beach and lighted them up to form several beautiful shapes, including a heart shape and also the head that resembles Chiba Kun! Added with the refreshing sea breeze and soothing sound of the flapping waves, it was a great way to end our long day in Katsuura.
Just when we thought it was time to call it a day, Torasan has other ideas. He had another story-telling session with us hahaha! During the pillow-talk session (but without any pillows lol!), he shared to us that how he used to work as a train operator and had experienced operating all the JR lines in Chiba. That is something quite cool, isn't it? He also didn't miss out on taking a pick on today's operators who drive the bullet train, because everything is automated and even a monkey can drive a shinkansen, according to Torasan hahaha!
At the end of the session, we handed him a card with hand-written messages by all of us. And in return, he gave us a token of appreciation as well, in which I was the representative to accept the card, which was written with the words,
「渚の竹灯り 愛と平和とおもいやり とらさんより」
"At the bamboo lights by the water edge; Love and peace and compassion; From Torasan"
The next day, we were served with another meal of sumptuous breakfast. Although they were just simple food, the personal touch on each and every dishes made us felt the warmth of the host - Torasan, his wife and the staffs. Before we left, we had a group photo with Torasan as well as the tour guides who brought us to the Katsuura port, morning market and also the nearby shrine.
Next time if you are visiting Katsuura, you should know where to spend your night at.
P/S: Torasan blogged about our trip to his guesthouse here.
※ INFORMATION ※
Minshuku Kanda (民宿神田)
Owner: Mr Ezawa (江沢 修), nickname: Torasan (通称 : とらさん)
Address: 818-19 Tona, Katsuura City, Chiba Prefecture, 299-5225 Japan (千葉県勝浦市墨名818-19)
Check-in Time: 15:00 Check-out Time: 10:00
Number of Rooms: 8 rooms (for 30 people)
Room Rates: 8,000 yen per night / person (including 2 meals)
Room Amenities: TV, cooler, heater, wired LAN cable
Other Amenities: Hot bath pool, barbeque garden, 1-minute walk to the beach, morning market
Website: http://www.kandamaru.com/ (Japanese only)
Access: Train: From JR Katsuura station (JR勝浦駅), walk for approximately 5 minutes.