You can stop wishing now.

by Kensatsukan Gaijin

I think Annie wished a little too hard for snow.  

She wanted to see snow in Japan, and I promised her I would show it to her.  After all, we had seen an ancient forest on a remote island in the dead of summer, we had seen Kyoto's temples lit up at night to celebrate the late fall, and seen big cities and small towns.  But then it didn't look good for snow - the forecast was clear except for rain.  

Well, our second night in Japan we got snow.  And then more snow.  I don't think my iPhone weather channel app covered the tiny mountaintop town where we were staying.  

Context can teach you alot about why something is desirable.  I never thought much about the kotatsu, a small table with a built-in blanket along the sides like a duvet (no, I'm not gay, I just happen to know what that is, not that there is anything wrong with being gay, it just would confuse the reader who has followed me so far, assuming they haven't gotten sick of the relentless and pointless asides, and noticed that I'm traveling with my wife) and has a built in heater.  (Admit it, you forgot what I was talking about because of the parens in the middle of the sentence.  It's ok, I forgive you).  

But spend some time in a temple that is hundreds of years old that lacks central heat and is made of paper, balsa wood, and cheap glass, and you will appreciate it very quickly.  Especially when the only sources of heat in your section of the temple are the tiny portable space heater, a kotatsu (see above (see, you already forgot)) and the heated toilet seat down the hall.  Nor did I see much use for the o-fuyu, the hot bath at the end of the night where the goal is to soak and, well, that's it.  You wash in a separate little shower area, and must enter totally clean, so what's the point?  Well, walk around in a snowstorm all day and you'll figure it out. I did.  All I can say is: Wow.  I just wish it was open hours other than 7 pm to 10 pm, which apparently are the only hours that anyone sees fit to take a bath or shower.  

And if you wonder what the point of having friends on the other side of the planet is, people that you hardly knew but showed around during the summer while their daughter was having an operation in America, then it's perhaps impossible to describe the pleasure of a day walking around a 1200 year old cemetery, blanketed in snow, and watching their children play.  They drove 3 hours through the blinding snow up a mountain so steep that a special cable car was built on an angle just to reach it.  But the kids almost never see snow and played like it was Christmas day.  They started to play as soon as they jumped out of the car and never stopped until it was time to leave.  Just a simple day - no ninjas, or sumo matches, or samurai training - and it was a day I'll never forget.