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Gracelle
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Posted on Wed, Dec 18, 2013 07:11

The snow in Hokkaido is the most beautiful I have ever seen.

The magic arises from the snow’s various shapes, which I once curiously counted, around twenty different shapes in a wide range of sizes. For example, one could be as tiny as the dust, or as large as the blossom of Sakura, or like a butterfly, or like a goose feather and so on. I was enchanted by the variety of snowflakes, especially when I stepped out of the house and found snow was falling in another shape. Dancing around me in such a cheerful manner, kissing my face and my hair naughtily, these little angels rejoiced in their visits to earth. Instantly, my heart was full of joy.

I was fascinated by the glamour of snow, by its diverse and charming manner: sometimes it floated around like gentle breeze embracing me, so sweet; sometimes it recalled me of falling blossom on a summer evening, in a touching way, so sensitive; sometimes its feathery snowflakes wove me into a tight net, holding me from the rest of the world, so powerful.

I arrived in Hokkaido from Shenyang in December of 2003, when I was lucky enough to experience its great winter. In the early morning I went out into the street; a white world came into view, everything being covered with a thick mantle of snow. My steps made a creaking sound in the snow as I wandered around; the fresh air had the cool flavour of mint in such a freezing morning. Once in a while students passing by, I was attracted by their youthful faces glowing with courage, as buoyant as the sunshine. The most impressive was that the girls wore short skirts in such chilly weather, a Japanese tradition, I supposed.

I was worried that I might get lost, thus deliberately learned several Japanese phrases for asking the way. (Now I have forgotten them and only remember that ascending tone at the end of the question, similar to French pronunciation, namely, xxxxx des car?) It turned out to be unnecessary. The streets in Hokkaido were designed in a symmetrical manner, each clearly marked with the road number, easy to locate.

On my way to the supermarket I often lingered to appreciate chic houses, most of which were brown two-storey wooden buildings. White snow was a perfect foil to these houses, which made them more elegant. Meanwhile, the sloping roof added a European flavour to the quaint Japanese houses. Some plants were growing in the mini-yard enclosed by a metre-high fence. In one yard, an old pine tree was as high as the roof, its snow-covered branches sheltering the entire yard. If decorated with colourful lights, it would be wonderful for Christmas, I said to myself.

At dusk the view was different. The lane was so quiet that I could even hear my treads in the snow and the occasional bark of dog in the far distance. The tempting scent of dinner wafted through the air, particularly the smell from the Japanese roasting shop. Every house was lit up, it's warm orange light urged pedestrians to quicken their pace in this winter evening. Turning left, I came to the main avenue, as heavy with traffic and as crowded as usual.

By coincidence the traditional Japanese day marking girls’ adolescence was the same day as my birthday (12 January). That morning I excitedly took photos on the streets. With the backdrop of the snow, the whole street looked like a giant palette, dense with various bright colours; everyone soaked in an atmosphere of joyfulness. Dressed in brilliantly coloured traditional Japanese kimono costumes, wearing geta sandals, ornamented with flowers in their hair, the girls went to the temple in company with their families. 

Tourists visiting Japan are never meant to miss a hot spring spa, which initially I presumed was nothing special, just like springs elsewhere. However, when I pushed my legs into the hot spring and the clear water began to flow over my body, I realised this would be a unique experience. From the gentle pressure of the water there arose an agreeable feeling, like that of a baby lying in a cradle, cozy and safe. Standing on the plain warm rocks, I bent down, resting my neck on the surface of the water; then faint outlines of the mountains in the far distance and the hamlet at its foot could be spotted. The fresh breeze blew and I could easily touch the snow at the edge of the spring, all of which made the experience so intriguing. It was an open air hot spring, an incredible natural spa in the snow. Following the marvellous hot spring spa, a delicious Japanese meal was served, which could be regarded as a typical portrait of Japanese leisure culture. 

Japanese food is distinctive anywhere in the world. My favourite is Sashimi, delicious and nutritional, which was available in attractive packages at any big supermarket. The Japanese cuisine restaurants were quite striking; compared with some Chinese restaurants, these lovely Japanese restaurants were mini-sized. Inside, they were finely decorated in a typical Japanese style, that is, simple and delicate. Both ornaments on the wall and the way the meal was presented displayed the creativity and good taste of the owner. When customers praised the owner for his satisfying service, he would modestly and happily say, “thank you”.

Noodles restaurants were common and popular. Each time I went there, I usually finished the delicious seafood and soup and left some noodles. It was not the fault of the noodles, in fact their quality was superb. (I preferred seafood and soup. Even in China I seldom eat noodles.)

The rice was pretty expensive and for this reason many Japanese chose finely packaged rice as a New Year gift for their friends, which really surprised me. No wonder the price of Sushi was high, a well-known Japanese food mainly made of rice. I tried to make several types of Sushi by myself and they tasted nice, Ha Ha. For me, the most enjoyable moment of Sushi-making was to slice sushi nicely, then array it in the shape of a flower on a plate. It looked like an exquisite artefact. Now I was to enjoy my masterpiece in a cheerful mood.

Mention of a local speciality, Natto, should not be omitted here. Someone once joked that: “If you could not bear it, you were not qualified to be Japanese.” Is that true? Considering my constant interest in diverse cuisines, I would never miss the opportunity of trying such a taste. To be honest, its flavour was similar to the sauce paste made by my grand-mother in my childhood, and also similar to some strong French fromage. Both such substances produce a special flavour after a period of fermenting. It took you some time to get used to it, and if you did, you would love it. 

Year by year, every time I recall the days in Hokkaido, a picture pops into my mind: outside the window, the snow is falling gracefully, over old branches of the tree and covering the scene…...

That moment will remain fresh in my memory all my life. It seemed to be a fairyland, the only possible place to find such glamour. In the winter darkness, a faint light was shed from the street lamp, snow shone glossy in the moonlight, and a big crystalline tree was there, its lush branches drooping towards the ground. Its dense crown resembled a peacock displaying its full tail. In the enchantmen



Life is a piece of dance. You need to find the right partner to make it beautiful.

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