Teaching in Winter

You know it's December in Aomori when this is the first thing you see in your school's entryway in the morning.

You know it's December in Aomori when this is the first thing you see in your school's entryway in the morning. (photo captured from cell phone, sorry for the poor image quality)


On Sunday morning, Noheji had no snow on the ground.  Today we woke up to nearly half a foot of dense, heavy slush piled in our driveway.  It’s the kind of snow that’s perfect for snowballs and snowmen but the worst for shoveling.

After reading the news and enjoying a nice breakfast, I put on my boots and started walking towards my school.  There are no sidewalks on the street I take to work.  Today, on account of the snow accumulation along the gutters, the road was even more narrow than usual.

Then, just as I began to map out a path in front of me that would keep me safe from traffic but reasonably dry, my kyoto-sensei (vice principal) pulled over, opened the door to his van, and told me to get inside.  I accepted his offer.

When we arrived at the school it was apparent the loader had yet to make an appearance in the school’s driveway.  In fact, I ended up helping kyoto-sensei shovel out his parking spot.

Many students and a few teachers were late today.  As you’ve probably heard, being late in Japan is very bad.  However on account of today’s circumstances, when people came in late, the other people in the office just gave a light laugh and said it was ok.  I learned later that several train lines had been delayed in the surrounding communities.  The heavy Sunday snowfall simply caught everyone off guard.

Yet school still started on time.  There will be no “snow days” this week, not even a two hour delay.  As it should be — this sort of thing happens too often to cancel school.  If you want to live and work here, you have to adapt to the climate.  It’s something the people of Aomori have been doing for centuries, and, for the majority of the region’s history, without the luxuries of snow blowers, all-wheel drive mini-suvs, or electricity.



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