TsukuBlog

A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

Digging Out After the Heaviest Kanto Area Snowfall in 45 Years – using dust-pans, beach shovels or anything else at hand!

 

 

Snowbound! Trees bent over, heavy-laden with snow block the entrance to my home in Tsukuba (February 9, 2014)

Snowbound! Trees bent over, heavy-laden with snow block the entrance to my home in Tsukuba (February 9, 2014)

The worst snowstorm in 45 years brought grumbles from most adults and (all of) today`s unlucky entrance exam takers- but the expected cries of glee could still be heard emitting from household`s with children

The worst snowstorm in 45 years brought grumbles from most adults and (all of) today`s unlucky entrance exam takers- but the expected cries of glee could still be heard emitting from household`s with young children

By Avi Landau

Unlike the Japan Sea side of Japan, the Pacific Ocean side (except for the northeastern Tohoku Region and the northernmost island of Hokkaido) gets very little snow.

When there HAS been snow-accumulation during my long years in Tsukuba, it has almost always been  like a thin, delicate white carpeting- which would disappear within hours.

So for me (and many others, I`m sure), snow in Tsukuba had been something beautiful and short-lasting, something to be savoured, not bemoaned.

Almost every year I have posted pictures of what I call Tsukuba`s Fleeting Snowscapes.

A typical Tsukuba snowfall leaves a thin, delicated carpet which usually vanishes within a few hours. This is the reconstruction of the 8th century Government Office whic once stood near Mt. Tsukuba - the Hirasawa no Kanga

A typical Tsukuba snowfall leaves a thin, delicated carpet which usually vanishes within a few hours. This is the reconstruction of the 8th century Government Office whic once stood near Mt. Tsukuba – the Hirasawa no Kanga

But because snow accumulation is so rare in this area- there is no city-provided snow-clearing service of any kind,and even the slightest accumulation causes panic. Schools close. Work and other appointments are cancelled.

This always seems like a comical over-reaction to those of us who hale from snowier climes. But after living in Tsukuba for a few years, even those of us who have grown up in New York, Hokkaido, Niigata, Quebec or Moscow, have gotten used to the life here and when we find a little snow on the ground in the morning we might head back to bed thinking: I can`t get to work in conditions like this!

 

Clearing the heavy snowfall of January 9th with dust-pans!

Clearing the heavy snowfall of February 9th with dust-pans!

So you can imagine what it was like here, on the morning of February 9, 2014- after the deepest snow accumulation in 45 years ! There was a sense of true panic: What if the baby gets sick? How would we get to the hospital? How can we go shopping*? What if the power goes out ( as it did in some areas)? How will we get heat?

The atmosphere was a little reminiscent of the major disasters I have experienced in Tsukuba- the Great Earthquake of 2011 and the Tornado of 2012.

The whole neighborhood- men, women and children- out in force to clear the roads of snow(in the absence of city-provided snow-plowing services)

The whole neighborhood- men, women and children- out in force to clear the roads of snow(in the absence of city-provided snow-plowing services)

This felt especially true in how everyone got together outside and set to work. After the tornado it was clearing debris- this time it was snow.

Since there are no snow-plows or other snow-clearing services provided by Tsukuba City (because of the usual paucity of snow), not only our private walkways and driveways had to be cleared- we had to clear our entire road by ourselves.

And it was amazing to see the effort. Despite the fact that it was a Sunday and it was surely tempting to  just hole up inside and watch the Olympics on TV- EVERYONE joined in-  from little kids to senior citizens ,,, and they worked for hours, without rest……. until our whole strip of road was perfectly clear.

Clearing our street of snow (using anything at hand!)

Clearing our street of snow (using anything at hand!)

For me, the most interesting (and impressive) aspect of this effort was what was used to clear the snow.

Because there has not been a major snowfall here in decades the Tsukubans are not equipped properly for the job. It is not only the city office which does not have snow-plows.

Most redients do not have proper snow-shovels either!

So in todays effort I saw house-wives and grandparents scooping up snow in dust-pans and kids at work with the little shovels they usually use for playing with at the sandbox.

The work continued for hours. Even after I had called it quits (after having worked all morning), the same group of people kept at it till about 2.

By then our strip of the street was perfectly clear of snow.

Voila ! An all out effort by our entire community gave us the clearest road in town!

Voila ! An all out effort by our entire community gave us the clearest road in town!

 

A view of the cleared strip of road as seen from the area which we did not work on!

A view of the cleared strip of road as seen from the area which we did not work on!

It was a bit nostalgic to see the community come out and work together in a spirit of comradery and feel the unique power and energy of people (perhaps especially the Japanese people) when disaster strikes – though of course in this case the situation was not dire.

I also realized that we had all better prepare ourselves for future blizzards and go out and buy some good snow-shovels.

When I suggested this to my neighbor- who had worked hard for HOURS without a break using inadequate equipment, he said: ” We probably won`t be seeing snow like this again”.

But with climate change and all, I suspect he my be wrong about that.

Anyway,take care when you are out on the roads and enjoy this deep snowfall (with your kids)!

The heavy snow provided the rare chance of making an igloo in Tsukuba

The heavy snow provided the rare chance of making an igloo in Tsukuba

AFTERMATH

Despite our Herculean efforts and our perfectly clear roads schools will still be starting late tomorrow and my work has been cancelled, as well !

This part of Japan really is WEAK when it comes to snow.

Taking advantge of the deep snow with a little sledding!

Taking advantge of the deep snow with a little sledding!

 

And making big scary snowmen

And making big scary snowmen

 

* Because of the snow supplies could NOT, in fact get through to convenience stores and supermarkets and there were EMPTY SHELVES which brough back memories of the Great Earthquake of 2011 and (my travels in the Russian Far-East)



2 Comments

  • alice says:

    I still remember getting stuck for 12 hours on the highway from Narita to home, on Jan 8, 1998. It was like taking another flight back!
    Fortunately this time, I am at home and had food stocked up. It has been so cold these days that I am bundled up in layers.
    Btw, I love the snowman and the igloo. Did you make the snowman. Cute! I think I still got lots of snow in my garden to make an igloo but nah, forget it.

  • Mamoru Shimizu says:

    The first snowfall 4th/Feb. I went Mt.Tsukuba enjoyed beautiful snowy seen, but the second snowfall 8th/Feb. I had to stay home to clear up heavy snow on the road. Still I enjoyed to walk around deep covered paddies and vegetable field myself like children and dogs at very early morning, I like very much snowfall.
    “Dogs are pleased and run around gardens, cats are stays in front of stoves”