We awoke to a bright sun above and a white blanket of quickly melting snow below. By the time we left the apartment around ten in the morning, our stairs and the streets were covered in ice. It didn’t stop us, and it didn’t seem to stop anyone else either. People were out and about, riding bikes and walking dogs donning puffy jackets (doggie clothing is all the rage here, it's rare to see a naked dog in public).
When going to the downtown to the train station we take a shortcut through what I call the“neighborhood”, but it’s more
like a few small neighborhoods of houses, apartments, vending machines, tiny fenced parks, a mini-mart and a guy who sells produce in front of his house; all of these connected by tiny streets that lead to the main roads. When I say “tiny” I mean just enough room for one car to drive through. There isn’t a posted speed limit so people seem to drive whatever speed they like, but here’s the kicker – none of these little streets are one-way. It amazes me every time I see it! It’s as if the cars are playing chicken, and at the very last moment the “chicken” backs into the nearest side-street, allowing the winner to pass and heading on their way with hopes of being the winner a few miles up the road.
As Grant and I were walking we were surprised to see people out with shovels and brooms - clearly having been productive since early in the morning as the streets have mini paths carved out for walking - not just right in front of their homes, but the whole street and around the park. As I walked up the hill I couldn’t stop looking at this 65 year-old woman in a casual long dress, boots and a heavy coat with a shovel as tall as she, hacking away and breaking up a giant frozen used-to-be puddle in the middle of the road while laughing and talking with 3 men chipping ice nearby and a few others taking a break.
“Ohayo gozaimas,” I said, proud that I could say ‘good morning’ to my Japanese neighbors.
“Ohayo,” they responded practically in unison, accompanied by smiles and bows.
By the time we got back to the neighborhood that evening, I was so thankful to see most of the streets had paths cleared for safer walking. I wonder how many people walked out that morning to clean off their cars and driveways and just kept on cleaning; meeting up in the streets for some conversation and laughter that if not for the snow day, would have been missed.