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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Winter Soundtrack

hauling snow

So it snows in Takayama.. A lot! Today it was scheduled to snow around 80 centimeters, or about 31 inches. It wasn't quite that much, but it probably dumped a foot and a half. On top of the foot that was laid down yesterday. Yeah, it's bad, but around here it's not that bad, no cause for alarm. And no cause for snowplows either. The major roads are plowed of course, but the local streets and sidewalks? Please handle that yourselves thank you very much. It's all very collective and jolly, basically the street is your driveway and everyone else's as well (Miyuki points to this sense of "ownership" as to why streets in Japan are so clean, but I think it runs deeper than that...).

to the river

What it involves is pushing all the snow into big piles, scooping it up into wheelbarrows and hauling it to the river for dumping. Well, that's around here at least, I don't know what we'd do without a handy river close-by. Gigantic snow buddhas?

wheelbarrow at the river

But like a lot of things here in Takayama, winter comes with it's own little jingle which you can hear by clicking here.

But what you're hearing (you clicked, right?) is not some PSA exhorting people to maintain snow free streets, rather, it's the siren call of the kerosene vending truck. You see, even with all this snow around, folks here eschew the comforts of central heating for the dubious pleasures of kerosene and electric heaters, electrified warming rugs, kotastu (which is basically a low table with a blanket fringe and embedded heating coil) or any other number of provisional (well, to me at least) solutions. One thing that continues to baffle me is why the Japanese, who have brought us such high tech gizmos as AIBO and ASIMO, the jogging robot, haven't yet embraced the simplicity of CENTRAL HEATING (!). It probably has something to do with the attitude towards housing here in general (bad) but that is the subject for a much longer, and bitchier, post. But for now, just sing along with the kerosene man.