Wednesday, 25 January 2012

First Snow

Winter is beautiful in Japan. In Kyoto last week, the sky was blue, and the sun was almost white

Even on overcast days, the bright grey light makes everything green or red look super-charged

But sadly, I think I'll have to go all the way to Kawabata's Snow Country (a long way and at least 15,000 yen for the train fare) if I want to see real snow...because Tokyo's first snow of the year this week was decidedly unimpressive. The view out of my window might as well have been a snap from a grey London motorway:

Like London, where snow is also never much more than sludgy sleet, it was just COLD, and wet. So when I decided to stay indoors and read about Japanese snow instead, things began to look up.

Yuki is the Japanese word for snow. Here is the Kanji

Yuki-onna is one of my favourite Yokai - a silent, beautiful, ruthless, sometimes violent, occasionally kind snow goddess.

She even has her own slightly dubious-looking trump card

One of the most famous Yuki Onna stories is from Lafcadio Hearn's brilliant collection Kwaidan, but there is more to her even than that. In old stories, she has killed men, borne human AND snow-monster children, haunted graveyards and melted away like an ice sculpture. And lots more.

Yuki also means 'revenge'. Combine them, and if you happen to be a comics genius like Kazuo Koike, you get the extremely addictive revenge manga Lady Snowblood

Here in Tokyo, all that's left of the real snow is a couple of sludgy patches around city drains. I think I'll stay indoors and leave nature writing to the professionals - this week at least, the words of Sei Shonagon and Basho are better than the real thing!

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