We’re a little over halfway done with winter here in Aomori.  It’s cold.  Since I usually walk to work, I need to wear the appropriate gear which for me includes a warm coat, fleece hat, gloves,  some awesome boots, and fuzzy headphones connected to an iPod.  “Your style is climber,” one student said to me a few days ago.  She was walking home and, like most students at my school, without a winter coat.  I don’t know how they do it.

Each morning I pass by Noheji River where I am guaranteed to see ducks.  Occasionally I’m also able to spot a heron in the same location.  On days when I visit a school in a nearby town, I don’t walk, but I do wait for a ride from another teacher at a bus stop.  I usually get to the stop as the sun rises over the horizon.  A few minutes before my ride arrives, some nesting bush warblers behind me wake up, emerge from a hole in a metal awning, stretch, pause, and fly away in search of breakfast.

A few days ago I saw an animal I thought I’d never see in residential Noheji:  a Japanese marten.  It was beautiful.  The Japanese marten has orange fur similar to a fox with the body proportion of a weasel.  Unfortunately it was also dead.  Someone had hit it either the night before or earlier in the morning.  When I walked back home the marten had been removed from the snowbank.  In his place were the tracks of a curious dog who was no doubt just as interested in the marten’s smell as I was of the sight of it.

I also pass by railroad tracks on my way to work.  Since the tracks run perpendicular to my route, I sometimes have to stop and wait for trains.  Most of these are commuter trains and come in three varieties:  local, express, and limited express.  Occasionally I’ll have to stop for a commercial train shipping goods and resources from one town to another.  Rarer still is a mysterious train I’ve seen twice since we arrived in Japan.  The train is actually one single car and appears to be made out of rust.  As far as I can tell there is one conductor and it always races through Noheji station without slowing down.  Julie has also seen it outside Yokohama.  I’m sure there’s a perfectly logical explanation for this train, but every time I see it I spend the rest of the evening daydreaming about a renegade train conductor traveling around to different areas of rural Japan, trying to make ends meet.

In another month and a half, the snow will have melted, the swans will have migrated back to Siberia.  I’ll trade my boots for tennis shoes and my hat for an umbrella and continue to walk to work and take in my surroundings.


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3 Responses to “Lately”

  1. Library Lady Says:

    I especially enjoyed this bird and wildlife tour on your way to work. I felt like I was walking with you. And I had my coat on!

  2. bcline909 Says:

    A month and a half later, as predicted, all the snow has…COME DOWN IN A HUGE POWDER DUMP! SKIING THIS AFTERNOON!!

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