Starting a new life in Niigata

morning view

For the past two months, this is the view that greets me every morning when I wake up and open the curtains.

If you saw the photos I recently posted on my Instagram account during our move to Japan, specifically in Niigata prefecture, you would tell me I’ve gone crazy. And I’m going to tell you, you’re not alone in telling me that.

Yes, we traded the year round sunshine (and skyscrapers and heat!) of Dubai to this.

winter view 6

winter view 1

frozen pond

The peaceful, rural, countryside living over the big city life.

Why here and not Tokyo? Because we have decided to live more simply and not run around like headless chickens to get into packed trains every morning. That’s why I have declined offers of work in metropolitan Tokyo – I feel I am too old to handle the pressure of the daily commute and the work that pays more that would naturally mean work is more. We wanted to get the kids closer to nature and closer to their grandparents while they’re still around.

(This is where their father was born and raised until he moved out for college in the big city.)

You see all white in my photos because we moved to Japan after 11 years in Dubai in the middle of winter and settled in one of Japan’s snowiest areas where from December to March, cold Siberian air streaming south and east across the relatively warm waters of the Sea of Japan generate bands of clouds that dump snow over the mountains on the western part of Japan’s main island of Honshu.

winter view 2

(All these snow is too much? No baby, this is just the start. Pic taken a few days after we arrived in mid-January 2018)

Parts of Niigata Prefecture receive up to 8 meters (26.25 ft) of snow; the prefectural average is 5.78 meters (almost 19 ft). The city of Tsunan (next city to us) sometimes can get 10 meters (32.8 ft) of snow, literally covering the entire town if not for the very efficient snow clearing trucks that run regularly 24/7! Snow is so much that residents in most villages in Niigata prefecture must enter homes through special second-story entrances, including the in-laws’ house where we live now.

winter view 5

niigata house 1
niigata house 2

I’ve been to Tokamachi city in Niigata prefecture many times before, even in winter time but never stayed long enough to see how this small rural beauty which is evergreen in summer turn into a sprawling white wonderland in winter. The amount of snow is no joke but the resilience of the people living here echoes the life lesson, “this too shall pass”.

During January and February, they’ll be days where it snows like it would snow forever, no ending in sight. There will be mornings where we wake up to a 50 centimeters of snow and our car buried in white stuff – something I miss about living in Dubai is that you can easily get on your car and speed away, no snow to rake out in ‘winter’.

winter view 7

To be honest, I tried so hard not to end up living here because of the images about the dreadful images playing in my mind. But my husband said, how will you know if we don’t try? Surprisingly, I am not hating life here at all. I mean, not right now (maybe because I didn’t have to drive through the snow storms to work yet?).  Snow storms can be dark and gloomy and dangerous and the most inconvenient thing is that, here, life goes on. Schools or work have not been suspended so far because of a snow storm. Like, ever, my mother in-law says.

winter view 12

winter view 10
winter view 11

When it snows, it’s kind of depressing but when the sun peeks out after a storm, it makes you think the snow storm that passed was just a bad nightmare. (And when it snows again, you’d wonder if the great sunshiny weather was just a wonderful dream…)

winter view 8

winter view 9

Beautiful, no? Snow is definitely beautiful to look at, in the photos. But to live with it, is another thing.

Luckily, there is no such thing as a whole year of winter. (even if my son wishes so!)

It’s almost spring as I write this. I’ve put off blogging for a while though I had the time (I am not working yet!) – I was busy cleaning, arranging things and renovating an almost 50 year old house, turning over corners that have been untouched for at least twenty years!

6 thoughts on “Starting a new life in Niigata

  1. That snowscape looks absolutely lovely! We get a lot of snow where I’m from (in fact, 50 cm last night), but I now live in Ottawa where we have smaller annual snowfalls, although everything is still snow covered during the winter.

    I love it! Blizzards are so cozy to watch from inside your house, and it’s nice when the sun comes out and makes the snow path crunchy. If you enjoy winter sports (Snowshoeing, cross country skiing, toboganning) then you’ll enjoy winter a little bit more.

    Take care!

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  2. Oh I know how you feel about the snow. You know, that’s what got me to quit smoking! almost 20 years ago, we built this home, and I would not allow anyone (even me)to smoke inside. Everyone had to go outside in the cold to smoke. Well that was the winter we had over 4 feet of snow! I was standing outside in all that snow, just to smoke and I thought, “I am crazy!” So I came inside, brushed my teeth, broke the rest of my cigarettes, and covered them all with dishwashing soap, so as not to be tempted! I never smoked again! But it was all that snow!

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  3. You can also visit Canada too and experience a snowy winter vacation. Sounds like I am a bit bias with my suggestion here. Hehe. Anyhow, Japan is one of the best country to visit. The people are calm and I like their hot and filling ramen!

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  4. Having been born, raised and lived in the South of the United States for my entire life, snow is a huge novelty. My oldest daughter moved to Upstate NY, when she got married. I love to spend February and March there each year. The new fallen snow is so beautiful. The quietness is so peaceful. AND, I don’t have to do any shoveling! I just sit in my warm socks with my cup of hot cocoa and gaze out the window. Perfect!

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