A byte of life from the Land of Sumos and Sushi

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

As I walk through the dense sheets of falling snow, searching for a shot, I wish I’d brought my goggles with me. The air is so full of flakes, I can’t help breathing snow. The sky is the same colour as the ground; an endless, featureless, ominous snow white.

It’s almost unbelievable that the heavens can contain this much snow. I’ve visited ski resorts across the globe from Switzerland to New Zealand and I lived in Whistler Canada for a year, but never, ever, have I seen so much snow as what I’m experiencing now, here in Japan.

It has not stopped snowing now for four days, and if the forecast is to be believed, it won’t stop for another four. As a result, Ono and much of the rest of Japan is becoming overwhelmed by the vast amounts of yuki (snow).

Huge snow walls line the roads where the ploughs have been through, struggling to keep the lines of communication open. Parked cars have become submerged, trees buried. People now walk on the roads, as the pavements have become completely impassable with some 1.5 meters of whiteness turning them into pedestrian free zones. Locals have begun to take on the perilous task of clearing the snow from their roofs, for fear of the extra weight causing collapse.

We, at Ono heights, have been working hard just to keep our parking spaces clear. As soon as we return from work we commence the battle and continue to toil late into the night, shovelling, chipping, ploughing the snow.

Not only has the snow come early this year, it’s come in unusually large volumes. Locals are beginning to say we’re in line for a ‘winter of old’. Keiko, my Japanese teacher tells me that when she was a girl, the snows were so deep they would have to use the balcony door on the 2nd floor to enter and exit the building - the ground floor being completely buried. Perhaps I'll be doing the same in a few days time.

The problem now, is where to put it all? The town is running out of space to dispose of the snow. Huge dump trucks work all day to ferry loads of snow to Ono’s snow dump, a disused area of land down by the river, but still the snow keeps coming, and space is running out.

I walk down the stairs of my apartment building and into the snow outside. Last night we cleared a path to the cars. This morning, our efforts are barely visible, and the snow walls lining the path are now above waist height. My car is buried again. With another 40cm over night, you wouldn’t have guessed my Mitsubishi Pajero was snow free nine hours ago. However, my 4x4 has done me proud. After digging away the night’s worth of snow, I am able to open the door, and power my way on to the road.

Last Sunday we had the first snowboarding expedition of the season, to a local favourite Fukui Izumi. It was great to be back on board, and though the powder was a little heavy, a fun time was had on the uncrowded, tree lined slopes. The first of many trips this winter.

I am heading home to England tomorrow, but in the wake of the snow onslaught, I almost feel that I want to stay here and continue to experience the awe inspiring weather. If these conditions continue, Fukui is in for one of the greatest ski seasons ever.

Bring it on.

Thefunkydrummer will be absent from the blog world for about three weeks – HAVE A HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND A JOLLY GOOD NEW YEAR.

STOP PRESS: As I type this, news comes in that train lines are down due to the snow. I need to catch a train to Osaka today. My flight is early tomorrow. The snow continues to fall. Will thefunkydrummer ever reach the Motherland?

Tune in next time to find out.

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