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Let it snow

Hasui Kawase's "Zôjôji no Yuki" (1922)   It’s been snowing off and on for the past three days here in Fukuoka and the peaks of the mountains to the south and west of the city are now white. It’s tempting to go hiking up one of them. But, then again, who am I kidding?

   On my way to work the other day, I stopped at what the Japanese call a “scramble intersection” (スクランブル交差点, sukuranburu kôsaten), an intersection where pedestrians are allowed to cross every which way they want when the “WALK” sign comes on.

   Across the street from me was a salaryman in his late fifties, staring blankly ahead. As we waited for the light to change, fluffy white snowflakes started to fall lazily from the sky.[1] The salaryman’s eyes lifted then followed one of the flakes as it slowly descended, down, down, down, down, and landed softly on the asphalt where it stuck. A gentle smile spread across his face, eyes brightened, and, if I am not mistaken, the salaryman’s day had just been made.


[1] These big snowflakes are called botan yuki (牡丹雪, lit. “peony snow”) in Japanese, which is certainly more poetic and evocative than what we call them in English: “humongous snowflakes”.

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