Niigata, the prefecture where my university is located, is considered as Japan’s Snow Country or Yukiguni. Winter starts earlier and ends later compared to Tokyo. I had been fascinated by my bullet train/shinkansen rides between Tokyo and Urasa wherein a long stretch of tunnel seems to teleport me be to and from different places and time.
One November morning, I was sitting inside the train while watching the beautiful sceneries pass my fleeting calmness. The magnificent colors of autumn were highlighted by the bright rays of the sun. The brook from afar glistened like pure crystals. Then, total darkness. The long tunnel suffocated the stranger in me, trying to be content with the familiarity of the train’s interior. Then the magic happened. The light was blinding and when I adjusted my sight to the sudden brightness, I thought for a moment that I was magically moved to a place where snow found its abode and a time when moments slowed down to dance with the falling snowflakes.
During the autumn of 2009, our professor brought us to the mountain slopes of Yuzawa, a nearby town, where we marveled at the red, orange, and yellow hues of canopies. We also got the chance to visit a museum showcasing how the people of Niigata during the pre-modern time coped with harsh winters sans the comforts of modern technology. I want to share some of the photos I took during our field trip. The ingenuity of those who braved the cruel weather years back was truly impressive.
The museum is dedicated to the Yasunari Kawabata, the author of the literary novel, Yukiguni. He is a Nobel Price recipient for literature in 1968. There are various paintings illustrating how Kawabata depicted Yukiguni evoking the imagination especially of those who read the novel. How the people lived in those days is the main theme of the museum. We also had a fine Japanese dining at the Takahan Hotel and a relaxing dip in their beautiful hot spring/onsen (I will create a separate post for this).