On Monday of this week, Tokyo experienced the heaviest snowfall seen in four years and I had the fortune (not necessarily good or bad, but just fortune) of being in the middle of it.
As the weekend was sunny, mid-fifties, I had a hard time believing in the predictions of my weather app and the tittering of classmates (both local and visiting like me) that snow was on the horizon. Coming from the northeast, I consider myself something of a savant when it comes to snow: I can think of countless times where I’ve called a school delay, beat the grocery store rush, and pulled my sled out of the cellar hours before the first flakes even fell. Though snow is a non-issue down south, I was confident my instincts hadn’t been dulled by my two storm-free years.
So, Sunday night, I went to bed with my window cracked as always and a cotton dress hanging up for the next day…only to wake up to pinpricks of icy rain plunging in through the crack in my window. Switching the dress for a thick sweater, I was still unconvinced that full-blown snow would be touching down on the already hectic streets of Tokyo. Not unconvinced enough that I left my umbrella in the dorm, which I was grateful for later on.
The first true snowflakes started around 1 p.m., and although everyone was composed for the most part, the atmosphere in class had definitely shifted. Eyes darted between the windows on one side of the room and the clock on the other. I’m sure some were already dreading their commute, but the palpable excitement outranked any murmurs of unease. The stairways were especially packed (expect to see that phrase or a similar one a few more times, tight spaces and crowds are as inherent to a snowstorm in Tokyo as the white stuff itself) as students rushed outside to take pictures. Again, being a northerner, this wasn’t particularly noteworthy, so I took this diversion as an opportunity to beat the line at 7-11. No regrets.
Snow was the furthest thing from my mind for the rest of the day, anguish over the lack of pastries in stock at 7-11 demanding my full attention. Oh, and I guess my studies were holding my focus, too. Regardless, when I walked out of Azabu Hall after my last lecture, it was time to admit defeat: yes, it had indeed, truly, beautifully, tangibly, snowed. As I stomped my way to the metro station, I was awed by the magnificence surrounding me. White coated rooftops and awnings, an ebbing sea of opened umbrellas, all of the bright lights reflected in the slick streets: walking through snow-covered Tokyo can really make a person feel small.
Right outside of Musashi-Kosugi Station.
A usually busy side street, cleared by snow. Also, as a side note, why are umbrellas only used for rain back in the states? C’mon, people, let’s make this a trend.
But don’t worry, being crammed into a train you had to fight to even board, with countless shoulders and elbows pressing into you, and the realization that your closest neighbors can likely smell lunch on your breath just as well as you can, will make you feel big again in no time. And finally getting off of said train is an experience unto itself; marriage, childbirth, sky-diving, all pale in comparison to the elation of exiting an overcrowded train. The trek home, through greying slush and still-falling snow, felt like a victory lap after that train ride.
Back in my dorm, cotton dress hanging with a smugness you would not think fabric could exude, I took just enough time to warm up before venturing out to take pictures for posterity.
A fellow northerner casually regards snow.
Ankle-deep snow and more coming down directly outside the dorm.
Though almost all of the snow was melted by noon Tuesday, my observations will stick with me. It’s easy to focus on differences when living abroad, in a country like Japan, but finding reassurance in similarity is a much better decision in the long run. I don’t think I’ve felt as comfortable since arriving in Tokyo as I did watching Japanese people at the station super market stock up on eggs and other staples the way people do with bread and milk back home.