The days in the Blue Forest are full of snow now. The descent of the four plus months of winter has finally arrived, as though we live in a fictional world like Narnia. I spend my days mostly inside curled up with my cat (who’s name ironically means ”snow” in English) trying to keep warm, eating ramen and oden. I sleep with an electric blanket and two space heaters.

This situation I am reminds me of conversations I had before I moved to Japan. I would occasionally meet a Japanese person who asked me where I was moving to.

”Aomori.”

”Aomori?” They would respond with incredulous faces, the last syllable of the prefecture would always slide upwards before they would suck in a rush of surprised air back into their lungs.

I would inevitable get two responses after this, either:

Response 1: ”It is very cold in Aomori.”

Response 2: ”Aomori is very beautiful.”

Sometimes, I would recieve a combination of both. But after living here for over a year now, I have come to see that both statements are equally true.

My students could never understand why I loved stormy weather, or the winter season.  In America, storms are fun, you sit with your friends and bake brownies and scream when lightening hits and then laugh at your own silliness.  When it storms here, houses go under water, people evacuate, and you watch out for mudslides. No wonder my students were confused with my answer.

There is just something about Christmas in America.  I don’t know how to say it, except for that it really is something special, after living in three different countries, I see it now so clearly.  You waltz from party to party, and eat your way through the holidays cookies and desserts galore.  You buy a tree, hang up ornaments with family, wrap presents for friends and family, and still sneak a peek to count your presents under the Christmas tree, even though you are past the age of childhood.  In Aomori, winter is harsh, Christmas trees are not a common commodity, houses don’t have an oven to bake anything related to Christmas food, and presents are mailed back home, hopefully your family will send you some. This is not to say that Christmas here is not fun, its just that the more celebrated holiday is Oshogatsu, that is, New Year and Christmas is more of a couples holiday here.

While I love living in the beautiful, but icy, Blue Forest, I have to say that I must be home for Christmas.

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