Sunday, February 17, 2013

Winter in Akita

It is now winter and snowing heavily almost every day in Akita prefecture. Winters in Akita prefecture are reputed to be among the snowiest and coldest in Japan. Winter season is rather long and too severe here which starts around November and continues until end of March. There is almost continuous snowing from December through March. The temperature stays at sub-zero levels throughout the months of January and February.

This winter I have gone out with my camera on several occasions and took a few pictures of the snow all around us. This year it started snowing in the beginning of December. During winter hubby has to change the tires of our car to studless snow tires. On 9th December 2012, hubby and I drove up to an automotive parts and accessories store in Akita City where he bought new studless snow tires this year. It was fun to watch the store staff remove the old tires of our car and replace them with the new ones. It took only 20 minutes to change the tires.
Snow on the vast fields where rice is grown during summer

Changing the car tires at the auto store in Akita City

A store staff removing the old tires of our car and replacing them with the new ones

Hubby and I went to see a movie at a theater in Akita City on 22nd December 2012. We went to the theater by our car. While driving, we saw that a lot of snow had accumulated and all the trees of the forest adjacent to the road were covered in snow and seemed to welcome everyone for a white Christmas.
Top of Mount Chokai covered in snow

Snow covered road

Snow covered forest adjacent to the road

Snow covered trees

More snow covered trees

During the New Year holidays, we had been hubby’s ancestral home in Ichinomiya City by our car. While returning back to Akita on 5th January, we noticed that there was hardly any snow on the eastern (Pacific) side of Japan. But as soon as we entered Akita prefecture, we saw blankets of heavy snow all around us. There was deep snow on the mountains and everything seemed to be purified and white in color.
Snow covered mountains

Snow piled up on either side of the road

Snow everywhere around

Snow covered forest

Beautiful white forest

The temperature remained sub zero and it snowed heavily and continuously throughout the month of January. On 26th January, we went to Akita City by our car to do some shopping. It had snowed a lot the previous night and it took hubby almost 20 minutes to remove the huge amount of snow that had accumulated on our car parked at the open parking area near our home. There was snowstorm on 26th January, and therefore it was tremendously windy with continuous heavy snowfall that day. The visibility was also extremely poor and we could hardly see anything around us. The drivers of other vehicles were very careful and driving very cautiously. The drive through the snowstorm was somewhat a scary experience for me. I clicked a few photos and compiled a video of our drive through the snowstorm. The road to Akita runs along the edge of the Sea of Japan. While driving through the snowstorm, we could see the angry sea with big waves. We stopped at a car parking area of a convenience store and just watched the sea for some time. I realized that there is something so mesmerizing about the angry sea. Again, I clicked a few photos and also compiled a video the angry Sea of Japan.
Hubby removing snow from his car near our home

Hubby driving through the snowstorm

Snow covered trees next to the road

Driving through the snowstorm

A compiled video of our drive through the snowstorm

Sea of Japan with big waves battering the beach

Sea of Japan and snow in the foreground

Angry Sea of Japan

A compiled video of the angry Sea of Japan

Now it is mid February and we are in the middle of cold harsh winter. There is massive amount of snow everywhere around and it is almost impossible to walk outside nowadays. But inside the home, hubby and I often enjoy a warm meal of traditional one-pot winter dish named nabemono. Nabemono warms us from inside, so we do not need to warm up our home for several hours.
Simmering nabemono

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Our new home

During the New Year holidays, hubby and I had been to Ichinomiya City in Aichi prefecture to meet our relatives. On 1st and 2nd January, hubby and I went to see our new home that is being constructed in Ichinomiya City. Generally speaking most houses in Japan are small, though houses in the countryside may be bigger than those in the city areas. During my research career in Japan, I worked on miniaturization of semiconductor products, and for the initial several years I often wondered to myself that Japanese people really apply miniaturization and advanced technology in everyday life also. For example, most of the houses that I have seen in Japan are miniaturized (compared to my Indian viewpoint) and have ultramodern gadgets. This is probably because Japan has a concept of ‘small is beautiful’. Now after more than 1.5 decades of living here, I am used to living in small compact apartments and love them. Anyway Ichinomiya being a big city, the design of our new home is ultrasmall, compact, and cute.

As I wrote in the previous post, my father-in-law’s home is being rebuilt since August 2012. Hubby and I are making our home adjacent to father-in-law’s home. The architectural design of the two homes is such that they look like only one home from the outside. The two separate homes are interconnected by a closed passageway. Both the homes are self contained, have separate entrances, and are a combination of traditional Japanese style and modern technology. Construction of both the homes was almost completed during the New Year holidays. On 1st and 2nd January, hubby and I went to see our home. The first day, my sister-in-law and both her daughters also came to see the homes. It was nice to take a look around our new home along with my sister-in-law and discuss about the interiors.
Exterior of father-in-law’s home to the right side and our home in the front which is hidden by a tree

Exterior of our home

Entrance door of our home

A window of our home

Inside our home at the genkan entrance area, we have many closets and cabinets that can be used for the purpose of storage. Just after entering the genkan area, to our right we saw a door to the closed passageway that leads to my-father-in-law’s home. To our left, we saw a small storage room but we are planning to use this room as a walk-in-closet. Below are some of the photos of the genkan area.
Hubby standing at the genkan entrance area inside our home

This door, situated to the right side at the genkan area, leads to the closed passageway to my father-in-law’s home

A small closet situated in front of the genkan area

Two closets and upper cabinets in front of the genkan area

Hubby checking out the cabinets

Younger daughter of my sister-in-law in front of the genkan area

Small storage room (door open) and a closet situated to the left side at the genkan area

Storage room

Passage at the genkan area leading to the rooms (to the left)

Hubby checking something at the genkan area

Next we entered the combined living room with open kitchen. The kitchen is very modern with IH cooking facility and a lot of cabinets. The kitchen and living room were completely devoid of any home appliances and furniture that time. So there was a lot of space in the living room, and hubby and I played with our nieces in that room. We saw two kagami mochi in the kitchen area. It was very thoughtful of my father-in-law to put them there. Kagami mochi are traditional New Year decorations made of rice cakes.
Open kitchen

Hubby standing next to the kitchen sink and IH cooking facility

IH cooking heater, sink, and cabinets

Kagami mochi kept in the kitchen area

Kitchen area as viewed from the living room

Living room

Hubby thinking about the interiors and arrangement of the living room

I am playing with younger niece in the living room

Afterwards we entered the bedroom. There is a huge closet in the bedroom where we are supposed to put away our futon beds every morning. Since the bedroom was completely empty that time, my sister-in-law and her kids, hubby, and I sat on the floor and discussed about the things we needed to buy. Hubby also set up LAN internet connection for our computer. Soon both the nieces got bored of the discussions and started playing with hubby. On 2nd January, hubby and I bought a futon mattress, a few quilts and pillows, and set them up in the bedroom. It felt so comfortable to sleep in the new home even though it was just for a couple of hours.

Hubby standing in the bedroom along with the huge closet in the background

Closet with doors wide open

Hubby playing with his nieces and also checking the internet connection

Hubby comfortably sleeping on futon mattress in the bedroom

Next, we went to the bathroom and toilet area. There are small separate rooms for the sink, the bathing room, and the toilet. The room with the sink has space for washing machine. The room containing the bathtub has space for washing and showering adjacent to the tub. The bathtub looked so inviting but the hot water connection was not yet set up. The toilet is a small stall-like room and has just the toilet. The toilet called washlet has electrically heated toilet seats which is a boon during winter season.
Small room containing the sink and space for washing machine

Hubby checking out the light switches of the room containing bathtub

Room with bathtub and showering area



Before checking out our home, hubby and I had been to my father-in-law’s home. His home is very big and grand, and has a special room for butsudan family altar. It is the only room in both the homes that has tatami floor.
Tatami room

Hubby standing next to the butsudan family altar

Construction of our home is now completed but we are yet to buy furniture and home appliances. We are planning to visit our new home in Ichinomiya City sometime in mid February to buy some of the home appliances. We love our ultrasmall compact new home.