For a little less than three months the same question has been patiently waiting for me at my cluttered grey desk. As I sit down, the equally grey haired Math’s teacher asks me with unwarranted sincerity if South Africa ever gets as cold as this particular Japanese day, and always reacts with noticeable joy as I say `oh no, this is far colder`. The weather in Japan is an institution as sacred a game as bureaucracy and the Japanese like to win at everything they play.
As I am racing towards spring with plum blossoms in my hair, I thought I would take a look back at the three seasons I have met.
|Winter time is illumination time.|
I have never cried over the cold before but I knew that beyond that door lay a frozen corridor and a bathroom floor that was no better than an ice-skating rink. The three degree air would burn my skin as I waited for the water to heat up and ten seconds would feel like a Siberian year. A fusion of amusement and alarm flashed in Roland`s clear eyes as he grabbed my hand and two towels on route to the nearest hot spring.
|Those tropical flowers are real thanks to the warm onsen air.|
I still squint my eyes in thought when I think back to how beautiful the valley circled with mountains in Kumamoto really was. I stood in the middle of a quaint Japanese town, all the ornate roof tiles covered in a soft duvet of downy snow and all around me rose a coliseum of frozen rock and ice. When I tell you that it was breathtaking, I mean it quite literally as even now I automatically stop breathing for the slightest second when I think back to that day. We went volcano hunting and stared down the temperamental caldera of Mount Aso, a few days before the neighboring volcano in Miyazaki blew its top.
|Hiding from the lava|
Ah, what a blissful state of equilibrium. The harsh heat of summer has finally fizzled out and winter still looks promising through naïve, snow colored glasses.
|Beppu hells in Autumn|
With grape flavored soft serves in hand, we rode the cable car up the mountain of many seasons (we have seen Mount Tsurumi exhibiting three of the four) and marveled at the bright red trees, that when hit with a ray of sun looks like it is on fire. Every leaf looks like a candle flame and some trees are colored in sunset hues moving from a red top, down to orange, yellow and finally lime green. This is a relaxed time of year where the Japanese start to eat persimmons and chestnuts are found everywhere. There are fire festivals and naked festivals and picture perfect sunsets. You cannot design better weather and I am desperately hoping that spring will deliver more of the same.
|Autumn Braais are always amazing|
|Watching summer fireworks from a restaurant boat.|
Summer days are hot but filled with freedom. It is easy to walk down the sandy beach skirting Beppu Bay and watch the fish jump over the jellyfish nets. Winter limits you to a computer and a warm blanket but now you are free to play in water parks and lay down in immaculately kept gardens while drinking fruity cocktails in full view of the local police. You pity your baseball boys and your softball girls but you dare not leave the comfort of the air-conditioned office.
|Summer time is carrying the Omikoshi time.|
While this was an ordeal and a half we did have a fireworks filled summer and since time disguises that hellish heat with memories of braaing and camping plans, I am looking forward to that time of year again.
|One can always find ways to cool down.|