After spending o-shôgatsu (Japanese New Year) at my family’s homes in Tsukuba, Iwate and Akita, I finally came back to Kyôto yesterday morning. My night train had a 30 minutes delay due to heavy snow falls all across the Western Coast. There had been snowstorms from the day I arrived in Akita which carried over ômisoka (New Year’s Eve) and gantan (New Year’s Day).
I spent the days writing essays, reading books, watching television. After a year of hefty ups and downs I was glad to gain a few days of relaxation. I watched this year’s Kôhaku, ate a lot of fish, swallowed vitamin pills against my torn lips and tramped in the snow.
Walking through the small province town that was once a flourishing forestry place made me wonder. The old downtown shops near the train station are as good as dead. Rusty, dusty, musty, with shop keepers unwilling or unable to change their business strategies or overhaul the old-fashioned interior and renew their range of goods it’s no surprise that the remaining population crowds the titanic shopping malls at the peripheries. One shiny convenience store rests at a corner, next to a dirty radio station and shops where the concrete walls are literally crumbling off. Maybe it’s the winter atmosphere but to me this countryside looks a lot like a town in the late Soviet Empire. There must be hundreds of similar places all over Japan, with an aging population left alone from the central government. There is a brand new clinic in the town. My uncle was asked to eventually contribute a sculpture for the lobby. It’s quite big but a disappointment aesthetically. I guess hospitals, shopping malls and retirement homes are some of the few thriving models in the far-off provinces.
Despite these conditions I enjoyed the white winter landscape. A rare opportunity to catch the subtle shadings of the surface of the snow. I caught a good moment when the clouds tore apart to let sunshine cast wonderful shadows here and there. A few minutes later the snow returned with harsh winds, forcing me to return quickly. The pictures below are gamma-adjusted with iPhoto.