January 17, 2013

Wild Yokohama Weather & Los Illuminati

On Sunday the 13th it was over 12 degrees outside with aqua skies, which is weather that compels you to drop prior plans and go outdoors to revel in the relative warmth. Taking the bait, we ventured forth to a flea market and then basked in the sun. The Rising Family ate sweet rice cakes on the beach! I had sand running through my fingers and in my shoes...in the middle of January! Warm-ish weather of this sort doesn't occur all that often, and when it does, winter becomes bearable.

The next day brought back stark reality. It was below zero, with a dark and sinister-looking gray hue to the sky. Soon, the snowflakes came: thick, wet and relentless. After several hours of floating waves of the white stuff, about eight centimeters of snow had fallen, rendering the streets a carousel of near-collisions because drivers here are not prepared for slippery roads. It snows like this but once a year. Nonetheless, summer tires in the city begat dogged, but very considerate, driving. Case in point: it took me two-and-a-half hours to drive 17 kilometers from work back to home. I had to surrender the car upon reaching a steep hill near our home; even first gear could not conquer the accumulating snow.
Next morning I saw frozen dog piss on the ice…something I do not recall ever seeing in Hiroshima and almost made me cry, so much was I longing for a few hours in my frozen hometown in Canada.
My point? Two days, two different lives. Tasty as peanut butter and jam, baby!

Los Illuminati: “Keeping up with the Tanakas”
The next day, as I navigated slippery spots and boarded the crammed bus to the train station, I pondered the visual cues that link the period from Christmas to the New Year. Then it suddenly came to me—the Christmas lights. Sometime in mid-November Japanese department stores light up the night with spectacular Christmas light decorations, soon followed by local governments that create very intricate, and quite beautiful, displays of festive lights the Japanese like to call "illumination." Japanese are eager consumers of all the trappings of Christmas and many cities outdo their North American and European counterparts in their enthusiasm for the festivities.

My neighborhood is apparently known for the Christmas light decorations that many neighbors adorn their homes with to highlight the holidays. Last year was an exception due to the power–saving conservation measures in the wake of the March 2011 earthquake/tsunami, which shut down the nation's nuclear reactors. This year, no self-restraint was urged, and so many locals decorated their houses with their stockpile o' lights. More cars than usual prowled the streets at night, so I guess the rumor is true.

Kinda takes your breath away, doesn't it?

I tried to get with the program but simply felt outclassed and out-Watted by the friendly folks next door.

Maybe next year…game on!
Also visited the Hiroshima Illumination Festival when back visiting the in-laws. Never fails to excite the eyes.