Winter

Winter in Toyama Prefecture

There’s something about the humidity in Japan that makes the cold feel much colder. I’ve spent a lot of nights huddled under my Kotatsu and days layered in heat-tech. Apparently Toyama used to get feet of snow in the winter, but in the last few years it’s stayed very tame. Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetWhile we’ve had a few legitimate snowstorms this year, the snow has generally stayed minimal to nonexistent. Luckily for me, as a Canadian with lots of experience with snow I don’t mind the weather too much. But, I do miss having central heating… One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard about living in Japan (or anywhere cold really) is to learn how to thrive in the winter. I’ve kept this idea in the back of my head this winter.

We’re lucky to have some amazing ski hills South in the prefecture. I went with friends last Saturday and I think it’s the best conditions I’ve ever had. There was a ton of powder from the snowstorm the day before, and almost no one on the hill. I’m not sure how that happened, but it made for an awesome day. It was also Valentine’s day and the man operating the top of the lift very kindly gave us all chocolate. ❤

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When it isn’t snowing or raining I try to walk to and from school. Last week I took a longer route home so I could walk along the water. There’s a strange feeling about seeing a shore or beach in the winter, at least for me. But it was really beautiful and made me appreciate the winter weather more.

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Winter #waves on my walk back from work. 🌊🌊🌊 #Uozu #Japan

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Winter Illumination at Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen Gardens

Winter “Illumination” is more popular in Japan than I have experienced anywhere else. Case and point, when I showed some students a video of Christmas decorations on houses, several of them shouted “ILLUMINATION”, but didn’t know “light”. I happened upon Kanazawa’s illumination at the Kenrokuen gardens by chance. I’ve been to the gardens once before in the summer, and it was nice to see the same sights with blankets of snow.

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Whiteout Weekend: Snowboarding at Hakuba

While Canada is battling through the polar vortex, Toyama has been relatively mild hovering at around 0 Celsius. Although I’m not one to complain about the lessened need for fleece and heaters, there’s something a little sad about a winter without snow. Over the weekend a group from my area drove to Nagano to spend two epic days at Hakuba ski resort. I haven’t been snowboarding in about 4 years, so I felt a little nervous and shaky on the way up to our first run. By an hour into the first day I remembered the rush you get from gliding down a mountain, and I felt exhilarated from the crisp air.

This is by far the most unique course I’ve ever been on, with multiple paths intersecting and diverging, and with multiple chair lifts and rest stops at various points on the mountain. This turned out to be quite an enhancement on our trip, because we were able to find sections of the mountain that we really enjoyed and repeatedly run them over and over.

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After our first day on the mountain I experienced my first ever Onsen, a public bath. After the initial internal anxious meltdown had passed, my body was beyond grateful I decided to go. There’s no feeling quite like letting your muscles relax in hot water after being beat up by an icy mountain all day.

On our second day on the mountain the weather took a turn for the colder resulting in non-stop snow and freezing winds. We spent most of our time at the top of the mountain, where the snowfall had created heavenly powder that made you feel like you were flying. Of course, this came with the price of snowboarding through the white-out, with snow so thick the path disappeared a few metres in front. Like so many other times in Japan, this place felt incredibly peaceful despite the odds. Wind swirling around me, snow coating my face and goggles, skiers whipping around me, and yet the top of the mountain felt tranquil.

I’ve certainly gained a greater appreciation for Japan’s mountains (which I wouldn’t have guessed possible) and I’m eager to go back for more.

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A chairlift disappearing into the snow.

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From the bottom of a run- thick snow looks like mist.

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On the morning of our first day.

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A clear view of the surrounding mountains.