We haven’t had much of a winter here in New England. We’ve had many days between November and now where it’s been over 50 degrees. And that’s fine. My work productivity hinges on my child being in school, so I don’t mind the lack of snow days. We had one glorious snowy day, conveniently on a weekend, where my son and I actually got out and used his toboggan for its intended purpose: zooming down a hill, snow spraying in our faces. The next day, that snow was gone.

But sometimes I get a twinge of nostalgia for a real winter. So I reread, as I do every winter, Snow Country, by Yasunari Kawabata. Just the simple, stark opening lines make me shiver with anticipation and want to reach for a cup of hot chocolate:

“The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country. The earth lay white under the night sky. The train pulled up at a signal stop.” 

Three simple opening lines, and I’m on that ride.

The story takes place at a hot spring in one of the snowiest regions in the world, and while it’s about a doomed love affair between a geisha and a rich dilettante from Tokyo, it’s the feeling of a cold landscape contrasting with warm interiors that I seem to remember the most.

Many people dream of seeing Japan in the spring, at cherry blossom time. While I’d definitely love to take that trip, it’s the winter in Japan I would most love to see, largely because of Snow Country. I would love to disappear in to a hut in the mountains with snow banked up against the windows. I would love to be sucked into a woodblock print by Kawase Hasui. The one above is from Hida, a mountain village, in an area I was fortunate enough to visit one summer, but still dream of seeing in the winter.

And I’ve recently found another portal for virtual winter travel to Japan. The Japan National Tourism Organization has a wonderful slideshow on its site with winter scenes of Japan.

Have you ever been to Japan in the winter?
Where do your winter travel dreams take you?