Thursday, January 5, 2012

Snow.....is a Many Splendour Thing.

One of the many splendid snow scenes we saw during our wonderful trip to Hokkaido.

For someone living in the tropics, the idea of snow has always been fascinating and romantic. Both the Samurai T and I detested heat; on my end Fat Geisha thinks that heat leads to sweat and sweat is just so.... unglamourous and unsexy. I know some women get highs from fantasizing about drops of perspiration rolling off 8-pack abs (*cough Evil One cough*) but I shudder at the thought of catching a whiff of anything unpleasant. In any case, cold is good. The colder, the better, or so I believed. And so, having been thwarted by nature to visit the Zao Mountains back in March 2011, I was determined to visit Hokkaido in winter. No one is going to stop me from seeing SNOW!

Even before we landed at New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido, we could see a sea of white below. Wow!

You can only imagine the level of my excitement as our plane finally landed in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, literally metres away from Siberia (kidding). From the time we landed till the time we left, we got snow in SPADES, SHOVALS, TRUCKLOADS. God has been listening to my multitude of complaints and wishes - He gave me snow of every kind - soft snow falling prettily from the skies, heavy snow blanketing the horizon, wet icy snow, HAIL, and even BLIZZARDS. By the end of the trip, suffice to say, I have seen enough of snow to last me quite a long time.

I still love snow, don't get me wrong. While Samurai T suffered mightily respiratory wise due to the extreme cold (he would deny it of course), I thought I stood up to the cold weather of up to minus 11 degrees celcius pretty well, for someone who has never encountered anything colder than zero. There is just something so ethereal and magical about snow, and how it transforms the landscape to something totally out of this world, or maybe it was just me. After all I guess if you were a Hokkaidian looking at snow (and shovelling it) 6 months in a year every year, there is really nothing special. Still I feel that fresh snow is very purifying and the surrounds become quiet and still, like it is at rest, and at peace.

A blanket of white on the mountains of Niseko 

Heavy overnight snowfall at Niseko. Buried cars are a common sight.

The downside of snow is unfortunately plentiful. Trying to play with snow with your bare hands without your gloves freezes your fingers within 3 minutes. It takes one 20 minutes to get ready to go outside by wearing your multiple layers and preparing your heat packs. It also takes 20 minutes to undress to normal once you get back indoors. In subzero weather, you cannot stand still and admire the snow scape for more than 10 minutes before you need to dash in somewhere for some welcome heat. No, it is not like Winter Sonata where you can stand outside and make small talk forever. (Although the freeze gave me better complexion and rosy cheeks and nose during that period.) It is a BIG pain trying to take photographs with gloves on. And because I was only a tourist I didn't have to shovel snow off my porch and my roof (those poor people). Sun sets at 4.00pm everyday. 

BUT! now I know how snow feels. If you raise your face up to the skies, the falling flakes feel like kisses from heaven, or tiny tickling feathers. During a blizzard, a significant amount of snow accumulates on your head and your body within 3 minutes, and you can be totally under snow within the hour if you don't clear it. Snow can feel pretty heavy on you. Hail in minute form looks like harmless Styrofoam, but are actually like little ice balls, which make plenty of sounds as they hit the ground or hit your body, and they are nothing like snowflakes. Old snow can turn unpleasant and become dirty icy floors, particularly in the cities, and one can easily skid and fall. I fell twice during the trip, and the Samurai once. Thankfully no big damage done, but it could have been dangerous.

 Snow at the Kutchan train station. 

Snow at Otaru Canal.

T
 Tiny hail stones on the ground.

 Hail stones on my body. Thank God they were not bigger!

 Blizzard at Asahiyama Zoo. Almost impossible to take pictures without the snow covering the camera lenses.

Verdict? I would travel to a snowy place again, but I guess I would continue living in a tropical city. More practical. :) At the very least I finally managed to make both a snowman, and a snow angel.

 Our cone shaped snowman. Very cute and wearing a watch too!

And a happy blessed New Year to one and all!