Sunday, 2 January 2011

Happy New Year!

No sign of the garden wall, the compost bin or the patio

It may only be January 2nd, but already it's a year that people around here will remember - the year of the snow. It started to snow on the night of the 30th and continued throughout New Year's Eve Day, with biting winds sending the snow in horizontal sheets. By the morning of New Year's Day the wind had dropped and the snow lay deep and crisp and even.

Our bedroom window faces the direction the wind was blowing from, so the balcony was filled with snow up to the height of my waist.

K and the car demonstrating the depth of the snow

The previous night the electricity had gone off for a minute or so, and when I got up briefly with K at 5.30 I noticed that it was off again. We all slept in until about 9 o'clock, and we were still without power. Like a lot of the newer houses around here, our house relies entirely on electricity for heating, hot water and cooking as well as lighting and appliances. Luckily we do have a single table-top gas ring so I was able to make hot drinks for our breakfast.

An important part of New Year's Day morning is reading your New Year cards. The post office holds them all back until the big day and then delivers them all early in the morning on New Year's Day, hiring extra part-time workers to help deal with it all. This year though - nothing. I'm hoping they might come tomorrow...

H dug out a little path, just wide enough for us to walk out to the road. He didn't dig right down to ground level and even then the snow was deeper than K's waist. I guessed the total amount of snow to be close to K's height and the news today reports that there was indeed about 90cm.

In front of our house on New Year's Day

The plan was to spend New Year's Day at H's parents' house. They had a power cut too, but they also have one old-style kerosene heater so we headed over there once H had dug us out, leaving candles and torches on stand-by for our return. Their house is only a few minutes walk away, but we visited the local shrine on the way too.

Japanese people traditionally visit a shrine at the New Year, either just after midnight on New Year's Eve or in the first day or two of the year. The priest, a relative of H's, told us that he had only had about 20 people show up the previous night, while a man with a digger (also a relative) dug out the road for everyone.

At the shrine H and I each bought a fortune for the year and both got 'small luck' - better than plain old 'luck' and 'bottom-of-the-barrel luck', but still lagging behind 'medium' and 'big'. Oh well. There are also 'bad luck' fortunes but our local shrine, not wishing to disappoint, buys the boxes of fortunes which don't contain bad luck at all. We tied the slips of paper to trees around the shrine and went on our way again.

A stone lantern at the shrine

Announcements on the public address system told us that 28,000 homes in the city were without power, due to a fallen pylon. Today H found a picture of it on the news - eek!

At H's parents' we all stayed in the living room with the one heater, and for once I was glad of the traditional New Year's food, o-sechi. Made (or bought..) ahead of time so that no-one needs to cook over New Year, it isn't really my favourite but at least it was all ready to eat without the aid of any electricity...

After lunch the power came back on and H's mum rang round to see how everyone was doing. H's younger brother was planning to come over on his way back from a trip to Kyushu, but on hearing what it was like here he wisely decided to go straight home. We were all relieved when we heard that he'd got home safely, especially as the news was reporting a thousand cars stuck on the main road from Yonago to Tottori. A thousand!

A not-very-tropical palm tree

By late afternoon the falling snow was turning to light rain, which continued overnight. By morning a lot of snow had melted, but there's still a lot out there too. All the snow has gone from the car, but the roof is slightly dented from the weight. Overhead cables are hanging dangerously low, again due to the weight of the snow, and lots of trees have lost branches.

In front of our house this morning

The airport is closed, buses and branch-line trains are not running yet and H's cousin reports a queue for taxis at the main station 60 people long. H goes back to work on the 4th (Tuesday), so we're hoping the buses will be running again by then. Like most people we stocked up on food before the holidays, since a lot of supermarkets are closed until tomorrow or Tuesday, so I suppose we'll just carry on our hermit lifestyle for a few more days...

Broken branches at the shrine

1 comment:

  1. A bit late, but Happy New Year!
    It sounds like you had a tough time with all the snow too!lol
    I hope the rest of your pregnancy goes smoothly, I'm looking forward to your future updates :)