Sunday, January 13, 2013

Another of my trademark absences has again intruded-- for which, as always, a hearty Tardy Blogger's Apology. Since last we met, there has been much to blog and no blogging of it-- and here is the chief culprit:

The result of what NHK cheerily describes as "snow showers" in the parking lot of Oga Minami.  Snow days? What kind of softies do you think we are?

The snow has come definitively and in great quantity here in Oga. It lies on the ground in heaps. It falls from the sky and turns my car into a nightly-renewed snow sculpture. It lies upon the fallow rice fields in wind-sculpted driftscapes and blows across the road in blinding mini-whiteouts.(1)  It sucks the warmth out of the air to such an extent that I've taken to stashing my New Years' mandarin oranges in the fridge to keep them warm overnight when my kerosene heater goes off and the temperature in Green House A drops perilously close to the freezing point. By lengthening my commute, and hence the time I spend listening to NHK Radio's morning and evening request hours, it is exposing me to dangerous numbers of Shōwa-era pop ballads. It's sent me out to buy a new snow shovel because the one I was issued was too small. At least the snow has given me an opportunity to better meet my neighbors as it draws us all out from our homes to huff and puff our way through clearing our sections of the parking lot together.


 <Actually> the young mother from Apt 106 told me as we grunted together through a particularly heavy layer of damp snow on Tuesday, <You really can't say the weather's all that bad until the middle of February! That's when most of the snow falls.>

<Stop, you're scaring me!> I said. Already the drifts were tall enough to allow her son(3) to climb on top of the 2 1/2 meter concrete wall that divided the parking lot from the adjacent field and balance on the narrow, icy peak.

<Does it snow at all in America?>

<Depends on where you're talking about...> I started, looking back in the direction of the wall.  Mom noticed my questioning glance.

<Kou-chan, come down from there! What if your sister follows you up there?>

At this point, mustering an eye-roll that would have done a kid a full decade older proud, Kouichi held his arms out straight and reverse swan-dived off the top of the wall, landing with a "pomf" in the snowdrift behind the wall.

<For example, I never did that>, I said. I worked on in silence through the Parental Intervention that ensued.


(1) Mysterious cultural differences: Japanese drivers will put their lights on in a floodlit 100 meter tunnel but will resolutely refuse to do so in a zero-visibility blizzard.

(2). Real Akitans use conventional shovels only for light accumulation of a few inches or less-- mere touch-up jobs. When the going gets really tough, they call on the Mama-san Dump, all but the official snow shovel of Tōhoku. Every household I've seen so far has at least one of these huge bulldozer-style scoops, which let you put your whole back into scraping, then scoop up a big bite of snow and cart it off, wheelbarrow-style, to a convenient dump pile. 

(3) One of the HEY WHITE GUY crew.

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