It’s going to snow tomorrow, supposedly.
I first experienced snow in Nagano, on a ski trip. It was my first, and hopefully last, ski trip. (Okay, I actually enjoyed the trip – meeting new friends (Singaporeans students living in Japan, mostly), going to the onsen together, staying in a cute log cabin thing – save for the skiing part.) I hated it because I found it really difficult moving across snow. I hated walking on it, and because I hadn’t tried skiing before, I hated falling on it, and then having to get up, while wearing skis. At that time I really thought it was the skis.
Three years after that ski trip, in 2014, Kanto was hit by a huge snowstorm. It was huge. I was working at a high school then, and the teachers shovelled snow for two hours so the students didn’t have to come into the grounds trudging through snow (their classes were pushed back two hours). Shovelling snow is the most character-building thing I’ve ever done. It was back-breaking work, it was cold, I had a really lousy tool (it was like a huge dustpan without the handle) and I found out under the snow was ice, which we had to chip at and get rid off because that’s the dangerous part about the cold – you technically can’t really slip on snow, it’s the ice you slip on.
This was when I figured it was the snow that I hated, not the skis.
I live in northern Kanto (this is Lydia, by the way, not Jin Han), and you’d think that it’s cold up here so it snows all the time in winter, but no. Not at all. I’ve been living in northern Kanto for almost seven years. I spent 2 years and 9 months in Gunma and 3 years and 7 months in Saitama, and snow days have been rare. This is simply because the area I live in is actually not that far up, i.e. even while living in Gunma I was living in southern Gunma, and the wind that brought the snow to Gunma ‘dried up’ by the time it got to my area. I’m not bluffing, it’s science.
Last week was the first time I enjoyed a snow day, because it was the first time I stayed at home completely. I rebelled against the unspoken rules of pseudo-community living (I live in an apartment building and usually residents would help to shovel snow in the car park) and stubbornly stayed at home all day with the heat on medium-high and a jumper under my hanten. I Netflixed and hot-chocolated. I worked on my fanfiction. I’d settled my groceries prior and cooked stew for dinner, the only conventionally-productive thing I did the whole day. I never felt the snow.
Never once did I look out the window. It was beautiful.
The next day I stayed at home as well. Repeated everything I did the day before (I bought enough groceries to cover the meals for two days).
Day Three. I left the house, saw a little bit of snow in the car park, and felt a sense of accomplishment. I had successfully missed the snowstorm.
My husband, on the other hand, isn’t that bothered by snow. He’s a child at heart, mostly, and gets quite excited when it snows because he gets to make snow men. This year he made this with his students:
I’m glad he had fun. We both had fun. Different fun, both made possible with snow. Okay, granted, my day would’ve been great with or without snow.
Before coming to Japan, I didn’t know I would hate snow. But I do, and I hate it with a passion. There is nothing I enjoy about it. I see how it can be fun – I mean, that snow octopus is pretty cute – but if I wanted to make a sculpture, I would sculpt in a medium that wouldn’t require me to touch anything cold and wet. I’m willing to sacrifice for art, but not in omnifarious ways.
As someone who’d been living in Singapore for the first 23 years of their life and being a big fan of the air-conditioner I thought I would be more welcoming to snow. I realised liking 19 to 23 degrees Celsius temperatures probably means you like autumn, not snow.
I think I’m really lucky to be living where I am, precisely because snow days are so rare. I might move to other parts of Japan in the future, but now I know how badly I function in snow, I have a better idea of how to choose where I live.
One thing, though. I would pick winter over summer any day. Reason being, after living in Singapore for 23 years and spending almost seven in a country with a summer that’s only about three months long, I realise how much I don’t miss Singapore’s neverending heat. Now that I know how well I function in a country with four seasons, I know where I want to live. And where I want to die, but that’s another story for another day.
For those of you who are living in snowy climates this winter, please stay safe, and stay warm.