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JapanFocus
No Blues From This Wintry Dip
Warm winter weather in Japan a portent of global warming?
David Michael Weber (crossfire)     Print Article 
Published 2007-01-19 16:35 (KST)   

Less blue skin than last year
©2007 D.Weber

"From the earliest period Shinto exacted scrupulous cleanliness... It is not uncommon for the very fervent worshipper to invoke the gods as he stands naked under the ice-cold rush of a [waterfall] in midwinter." - Lafcadio Hearn, Japan: an Attempt at Interpretation, 1904.

Recently an annual purification ritual at Tokyo's Kanda Myojin Shrine was held. The ritual involved men and women jumping into a shallow pool of freezing cold natural water and showering themselves vigorously with bucketfuls of icy water. These purification-through-freezing-water rituals known as Misogi are often held in winter to display the fierce dedication of the participants.

Young girls brave the cold water and the warm winter
©2007 D.Weber

Most winters, particularly the record cold one last year, this ritual would be viewed as brave, strong, and more than a little insane. However, this winter, given the abnormally warm temperatures, it actually looked rather refreshing.

Preparing For Their Refreshing Wintry Dip
©2007 D.Weber

With the exception of a few storms here and there, Japan's winter has been exceptionally warm this year. This is in sharp contrast to last year when record snowfalls blanketed the northwestern coast and over a hundred people died in snow-related injuries.

Heavy snowfall last winter In Nagano
©2007 D.Weber

Even Tokyo was hit with a significant amount of snow.

Last winter's snow in Ueno Park in Tokyo
©2007 D.Weber

The winter has also been conspicuously late in coming. Autumn leaf viewing has long been a popular tradition in Japan, but usually in autumn! Autumn and winter seemed to have set their seasonal alarm clocks rather late. People were viewing autumn leaves in Kyoto as late as New Year's Eve!

Beautiful autumn foliage -- but two days before Christmas!?
©2007 D.Weber

A number of Japanese ski slopes only received their first heavy snow within the last few weeks. Several skiing events had to be canceled or relocated to better slopes.

©2007 D.Weber

The warm weather is not only in Japan. Prior to the ice storms now sweeping across much of the US, the weather in many places felt like a fine day in April rather than January. The ice storms themselves are byproduct of the unnaturally warm weather.

©2007 D.Weber

Perhaps former U.S. Vice President Al Gore saw the Kanda Myojin Shrine event and took note of the lack of blue skin of the participants, because he was in Japan recently urging Japanese business leaders to set the example for the world to follow on environmental policies.

Gore mentioned Japan's unusually warm winter, and the early blooming cherry blossoms in Washington D.C. were also ominous signs that not all was well.

Stretching out their cold limbs after their dip
©2007 D.Weber

"Our planet now has a fever. And it's not going away," Gore said. "We have a moral obligation to those coming after us."

Gore was also promoting his documentary on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth.

Obvilously smarter than us, the Japanese snow monkey prefers a hot bath to a cold one in winter
©2007 D.Weber
©2007 OhmyNews
A native Tennesseean, David M. Weber is currently at the grammatical grindstone cranking out gerunds, dangling modifiers and perfecting tenses as an English teacher in Japan. In his travels, he has hiked the Inca Trail, been mugged in Mexico City, broke his leg in Switzerland, attempted to bike through Mexico and failed, climbed Pyramids in Egypt and Mexico, drank great quantities of beer at Oktoberfest and gambled at Monte Carlo.
Other articles by reporter David Michael Weber

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