Heavy Snow Covers Tokyo

Tokyo under the snow is quite a rare sight for it does not usually happen more than once or twice each year. Moreover, given the size and activity of the city, the white cover does not usually last long. This morning however, I was delighted when I woke up a saw the distinctive white cover on the roofs of the buildings across the street. A bit worried that it would not last long, I took my camera on my way to work and shot the best sights that I came across with while on my way.

In a city where everything runs like clockwork, where trains arrive at quay almost on the due second, it can be surprising to see how things tend to slow down as soon as the temperature goes down. The presence of snow is a particularity vivid example of this, trains get packed and lines are often stopped for a while due to various incidents.

I was expecting the snow to turn to water fairly quickly and I was quite surprised to see how long the white fluffy flakes kept falling, until well in the afternoon. Since I moved to Tokyo, I must say that I have become a lot more sensitive to the weather variations. I think that this feeling is due to the sometimes extreme weather conditions that Japan has to face such as the latest typhoon Roke about which I reported a while ago. Due to the population density and horrendous traffic conditions, most Tokyoites daily walk significant distances and therefore spend a lot of time facing the elements.

Bunkamura Dori

Bunkamura Dori

Lastly, I am always surprised to see how bad the thermal isolation is, even in the most modern buildings. This, in addition to the sub-optimal conditions that heating using air conditioning offer, make life and work a constant battle against cold (the same actually goes against heat in summer). I always wonder if this lack of proper isolation is due to anti-seismic laws that prevent the use of PVC or isolating foam for windows framing. In fact, one of the most significant characteristic of traditional Japanese houses is precisely that they are supposed to be opened to the elements. Heating is usually provided by the kotatsu (炬燵), a low, wooden table surrounded by a futon, that usually harbors one of the only heating systems in the house. Central heating is indeed a very rare thing in Japan.

Izakaya in Udagawa cho

Izakaya in Udagawa-cho

Partly due to the contemplative nature of the Japanese people, partly due to the conditions mentioned above, the tiniest weather event is usually treated as a real event and this morning for example, all the TV channels of Tokyo have someone reporting about the snow, its wonderful sights, and also the disturbances that it causes.

Leaving Shibuya, I make my way towards Azabudai, not far from Tokyo Tower. A thick fog considerably reduced the seeing distance and Tokyo Tower, with it\'s distinctive shape and vivid color, is one of the only landmarks that can clearly be seen.

Snow upon Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower

Once I finally get to the office, I take the opportunity to climb on the roof of the Azabudai building where I work to take a few more shots of the city. I am enjoying the landscape alone, my colleagues who live further are probably stuck in traffic or are having trouble getting their train connections.

Azabudai under snow

Azabudai crossing

Guillaume Erard
Author: Guillaume Erard
A resident of Japan for nearly a decade, Guillaume Erard trains at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo and he received the 5th Dan from Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba. He is also 3rd Dan in Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu, the secretive art that Morihei Ueshiba learned from Sokaku Takeda. Erard is the Information Director of the International Aikido Federation and the Deputy Secretary of International Affairs of the Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Shikoku Headquarters. He is also passionate about science and education and holds a PhD in Molecular Biology.
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