Savoring Tsukuba`s Fleeting Snowscapes !
In the Kanto Region, where Tsukuba is located, the meteorological facts ON THE GROUND, however, DO NOT usually align themselves very well with what we imagine each of the four seasons should be. This is especially true with winter, which has traditionally been symbolized in Japanese art and literature by SNOW and SNOWSCAPES. While in Hokkaido ( Japan`s northernmost island) and on the Japan Sea side of Japan the onset of first snow-fall, and then its eventual melting away, might more closely coincide with the traditional seasonal divisions, here in Tsukuba, daytime temperatures are relatively warm through early January, and in recent years, IF there is any snowfall, it is in LATE FEBRUARY or EARLY MARCH. I have also found this period (already early spring according to tradition), to be the coldest and windiest (and a bitter cold wind it is) time of the year.
This year (2014), however, we had a surprise (at least it was for me!). The first fall in Tsukuba began in the early hours of Sunday January 19th. Just when I thought I might be able to get a little extra sleep on my day off, I was startled into wakefullness by excited cries of SNOW! SNOW! Lets make a snow man!
I guess its true what they say- NO REST FOR THE WEARY!
Hopping out of bed we all got ready for some snowball fighting, sled riding, and of course- building a snowman- and another classic snow character of the japanese winter- a snow rabbit!
I was even more excitedly looking forward to enjoying a rare winterscape (usually Tsukubans have to go abroad or to other parts of Japan for them).
I knew we would have get out of the house early to catch the scenery before it soon melted away, as it inevitably does in these parts. Just after sunrise, I was happy to find my garden and the wilds around the house still blanketed in a delicate layer of white.
First I went out to catch a fleeting glimpse of a CLASSIC Japanese winter image, right there in my front yard – snow covered camellias. Deep red and pure white. A perfect balance of snowy weight and plant resistance-Beautiful! But this year, at the first snow- my camelia tree were still only BUDDING!
Then, I was suddenly overcome by a wave of emotion- sadness, loneliness and nostalgia as memories of my trusty old dog TICKLES, who passed away last summer( at a ripe old age) came flooding back to me.
On mornings like this ( and every other morning as well) I would always set out with her into the fields. There is nothing much more thrilling for a Shiba Inu ( a breed of Japanese dog ) than being allowed to run free through the snow- and her excitement was always contagious. I miss her alot.
Still, life must go on.
Dragging all our gear and the sled out to the fields we cut through and sullied the virgin snow- and had a great ( and very tiring time!)
What really gave ME a thrill, though, was coming across an abundance of wild animal tracks which an be found in my neighborhood after fresh snowfall- rabbit, raccoon dog, weasel and most surprisingly- fox!
Luckilly, this year on the morning of first snowfall I dont have to get to work. We can take it all in at our leisure and savor it until its gone.
Its funny….. in regions covered in snow throughout winter, people eagerly await its melting and the coming of spring. In Tsukuba, our snowscapes are so rare and so fleeting, that we REGRET to see them melt away so soon.
Older people who grew up around here say that there used to be plenty of snow in Tsukuba, all winter long. Well, there is something for those who deny global climate change to think about.