Bohemian Nine

Japan's Master Key Onsen Town

Hotsprings, Nagano, japan, shibu, monkey parkChristine WetzelComment

A visit to Shibu Onsen is a historical and unique experience. Shibu is a hot springs/onsen town in the Nagano Prefecture that dates back 1,300 years. The Master Key refers to a key that gets you entry to nine Bath House's called Sotoyu Public Baths. In order to get the Master Key, you must stay with an accommodation that holds the Master Key. Some Ryokan, Inn or Hotel's pay for the upkeep of the Sotoyu Public Baths; like an Association. Finding the places that hold the Master Key can take a lot of research. I'm offering up the name of the Ryokan I stayed at to save you some research: Sakaeya Ryokan not only held the Master Key, it was my favorite accommodation on my trip to Japan.


First off you will need plenty of time to visit the nine Onsen as it might take some time to cool off particular baths, some of them were impossibly hot, other were already perfect. Our Ryokan gave use a detailed Shibu Onsen map; each onsen is good for specific ailments; stomach, intestinal, skin, acne, gout, eye, injuries, rheumatism and women's health. 

Be prepared to walk in wooden shoes and a Yukata (an informal summer kimono) down many streets to get to all nine Onsen.


You can also get a special cloth that you stamp with a commemorative seal at each onsen, after stamping all nine onsens and one at the Takayakushi Shrine, our Ryokan stamped it with the date! If you want to skip the overnight stay then you can stop at the Shibu Onsen Information Center and purchase a ticket for 500 Yen to one of the nine Onsen called Oy-u (number nine on the map). You will then go to a designated local Inn or Shop to get the key. Keep in mind that the famous Jagokundani Snow Monkey Park is very close to Shibu, although I visited offseason and it didn't seem busy it's possible it might be crowded in the winter.


Twelve Days and Twelve Pianos

san francisco, free, piano, botanical gardenChristine WetzelComment

Do you like piano and the beauty of Botanical Gardens? Then the place to be is The San Francisco Botanical garden from July 5th- 16th. Peacefully wander through the gardens and discover the carefully placed pianos in places named The Great Meadow,  Moon Viewing Garden, and Redwood Grove. 

Flower Piano is....Twelve pianos and twelve days of piano, free to local residents with an ID or $9 for non-residents. If you know how to play come prepared as you might get a chance to play the pianos that aren't booked with scheduled performers, opening and closing day is open to all. This year some additional events have been added that you don't want to miss which includes poetry, moving meditation, and yoga in the garden. Scheduled performances can be found here.

Stern Grove Festival: Music and Chill

San Francisco, MusicChristine WetzelComment

Taking in a concert/picnic at San Francisco's Stern Grove Festival to me is one of the most unique things you can do during the summer. Imagine... eucalyptus trees, dragon flies, wine and free music; this is the life. Stern Grove Festival runs from June 17th to August 19th and offers a great line-up for every Sunday this summer. The grove allows picnics and coolers, so its one of the best places I can think of for a relaxing summer Sunday picnic.

 The Stern Grove Festival is  celebrating its 81st season and the line up includes Anoushka Shankar, Ziggy Marley and the San Francisco Symphony to name a few. My favorite pick for this year is Anoushka Shankar daughter of sitar player Ravi Shankar, Anoushka will be appearing on July 21st at the Grove.

3 Local San Francisco Markets You Shouldn't Miss

local, san francisco, veganChristine WetzelComment

1. The most visited market in San Francisco and the one that some of San Francisco's best restaurants buy their produce from is the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, open on Saturdays from 8-2PM and Tuesday & Thursday 10-2 the market provides high-quality organic ingredients grown locally. 

2. Clement Street Farmers Market offers a large selection of goods, you can find anything from organic produce to tea, granola, sprouts, meat, almond milk, and food trucks. The market is open on Sunday's from 9 AM to 1 PM, two blocks long, you can find the market between 2nd and 4th Avenue. You can also check out the Mr. Foggy Mural while you're there and some of the cool shops in the area. 


3. The Sunset Farmers Market is a tiny market nestled in  an area between two buildings that normally is used as a parking lot. The market is open from 9 AM to 1 PM and offers organic produce as well as a selection of flowers, pastry's, and almond milk. Take a walk across the street and savor the homemade bread at the Arezmeni Bakery, a co-op owned bakery that's been around for years.



You Must Try These Desserts While Visiting Japan

japan, foodChristine WetzelComment

1. Taiyaki

We start our culinary dessert adventure at the Tsukiji Fish Market, if you stay on the right side of the market you will see many stalls with a variety of different foods. It is here where you can find Taiyaki, a pastry that is shaped to look like the Japanese Sea Bream. This dessert is made with pancake batter, poured into a mold, filled with red bean paste, chocolate, cheese or sweet potato and then cooked in the mold on both sides until golden brown.


2. Dango, Dango and, more Dango.

A mochi dessert prepared in several different ways, the one below is Anko Dango; it is topped with a fruit paste and is common to find it topped with a red bean paste. The flavor I tried was the Yuzu ( a fruit grown mainly in Japan, Korea, and China,  it has a very tart and sour flavor and looks like a lemon). Other choices included cherry blossom and green tea matcha. I also tried the boiled version called Mitarashi Dango which was my favorite, it is drenched a sauce made with soy, sugar, and starch.


3. Matcha Ice Cream & Sakura Gelato

This Green Tea Matcha Ice Cream I tried was in Tsuamgo. Check out Uji on the outskirts of Kyoto, you might want to try green tea ice cream here as this is the Green mecca of treats. You can also try Sakura Ice Cream close to cherry blossom season. I found some Gelato in a shop in Asakusa a little after the cherry blossom season.


4. Gohei Mochi & Anpan

You can find Gohei Mochi, and steamed walnut buns in Nagiso Town,  they are quite popular in the area. Gohei Mochi is made from white rice and is pounded into a cake and then skewered, coated in a sweet sauce and then cooked over an open flame. The steamed walnut bun, (Anpan) looks like a doughnut and is filled with walnuts or chesnuts. 


One of my favorite videos below, found this while doing a little food research for Japan. Enjoy!

Goatlandia Farm Animal Sanctuary: Wine and Goats

San Francisco, VeganChristine WetzelComment

Goatlandia is a Farm Sanctuary where the goats will go on living until a ripe old age. If you want an Airbnb Experience that you will never forget Goatlandia is the place. Learn about the animals, feed the goats, pick food from the garden for your meal, and enjoy a 4-course delicious meal paired with wine. Goalandia owner Deb is no stranger to delicious food, she owns several top-notch restaurants in San Francisco which include Delarosa, Lolinda, Starbelly, and Beretta.

Greeted at the door by Alana (she teaches goat yoga at the farm) we were given a cocktail with a sprig of rosemary from the garden and offered several plant-based appetizers. After mingling with the other guest we are off to see the goats, chickens, and pigs. Deb gave us the animals names and history and we quickly make friends with the goats. The highlight was bottle feeding the soft baby goats as they tried chewing your hair, clothes and jumping on your lap. Just can't get enough of the goats! Meh, Meh


Before going back inside we make a quick stop at the garden to pick some herbs and greens.


Our dinner was 100% plant based and free of animal products. It included a salad, a herbed mushroom soup, spring risotto with asparagas and a delicious chocolate molten cake. (it changes according to what's available and in season). The 4-course meal was paired with 4 different wines that accentuated the flavors of the meal. Heading back to the car we take a detour to visit the goats one final time! If you want to meet the goats, Goatlandia Farm Sancturay has many other events you can participate in on their events page.