Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Quiet Sapporo Day - Something Wicked This Way Comes...

7th Jan, 2005 - We awake to an eerie quiet - the dim light lets us know that it's going to be another cold day. The snow has been steadily building up; the ice gradually invading the skylight with it's crystalline plans to conquer this white world.

Winter in Sapporo, at least in T-chan's house is a strange contradiction. Outside the cold threatens to consume all; however inside the warmth of the floor heating (and especially the heated toilet seats... ahhhhh) conspire to fool you into thinking the weather is not so bad outside. In fact, you can quite easily walk around in just a loose shirt.

Today, there's not so much snow outside... yet the film of white has covered the surrounds...

And the clouds over the mountains offer only the promise of more snow on the way.

It is an inhospitable country when the winter comes in - and even the Japanese trees need help to survive the winter. It is common to bring out the supports in November - a job that is often done by professional gardeners... but T-chan's Otousan is a part-time gardener himself.

This is called yukitsuri, (or yukigakoi) or snow suspension, and is designed to support the additional weight of the snow on the branches. There are many examples in parks of extreme yukitsuri that look like some strange kind of modern art.

Another feature of the Japanese gardens in Sapporo (as in other cold parts of Japan), is the effort expended to cover the more vulnerable plants in a protective covering using a combination of thin bamboo ribs and a synthetic hessian material. This keeps the majority of the snow away from the plants and the root system.

It's a full days job to cover the plants in even a modest garden.

Indeed after a heavy snow, the plants can be all but buried in the snow, but will be protected enough to come out bright and early come spring.

You may well ask - what happens to all that snow that we shovel off the driveway? The simple answer is... off the driveway and onto the road... at least the roads edge. This is based on the principle that (a) there's not that many pedestrians walking around in winter, and (b) the council is responsible for snow-shovelling the streets. Actually - I told a lie... almost as many people walk in winter as in summer - and indeed it might be safer to walk to the subway than try and drive your car.

In the meantime... it's a quiet day today - but there's a sense of something coming.
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