Winter pleasure-hunt

The temperature reached around 18 degrees in Tokyo today, warm enough to leave my trusty long johns under the bed and to injure February`s image as the coldest month.  

This morning I left my guesthouse extra early.  I wanted to see the plum blossoms at Yushima Tenmangu.  This year I have been making a conscious effort to improve my relationship with winter, to try and find it`s hidden virtues.  Surely it can`t be THAT bad.  Viewing plum blossoms was part of this vague plan to rehabilitate winter.  I wasn`t confident though; I have had absolutely no training in flower staring.

Plum blossom viewing in a park outside Nanjing in January 2011.

Plum blossom viewing in a park outside Nanjing in January 2011.


At 8:30am, the bench-seats on the Sobu line train into central Tokyo are always occupied.  I try and read while leaning against the shiny, sheet-metal, sliding doors.

In my current book, Geisha in Rivalry, one of the characters is an old writer living in intimacy with the seasons – “[He] counts the buds of the plum that bloomed at the winter solstice.”  The passage gave me an idea:  I didn`t have to stare aimlessly at the plum buds anymore, I could count them.  I could even record the bud count in a notebook and input the numbers into an Excel chart.  But as it turned out, I could not even find the plum trees, let alone count its buds.

Fortunately, the old writer was not only a flower man, he also knew “the true pleasure of winter confinement: the cup of tea brewed at midnight.”  Now that`s a much easier winter pleasure to relate to.

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