Sunday, February 9, 2014

Snow and Ice By Beth Kinsella Sakanishi

We here in New York and Massachusetts and Colorado and Minnesota are not the only ones having quite the winter. My sister Beth who lives in Japan recently sent me this:

Like Seattle, a mere handful of inches of snow can stop Tokyo in its tracks, literally. I did not have my usual Sunday lesson today because the trains were not running. 

We had more than Tokyo, though, and could not open the shutters that protect our balcony doors this morning. Once we did (see photo), we understood why. More snow in one night than for any time in forty-five years, according to the neighbors. (Takeshi estimated their snow was between 30 and 40 centimeters—that is 12 to 15 inches of snow in a place not known for snow!).

Nothing like what we grew up with in Rochester, but thrilling for the neighborhood kids. We usually get a few inches, once or twice a winter. Last year when we got some, I took, gingerly, my usual walk around the neighborhood and found a tiny snowman (8 inches tall, maybe?), Japanese style: like ghosts, their snowmen have no feet, so there were only two round spheres, and even in making that small figure, all the snow in the tiny yard had had to be used.

Back at 2846--2002 or so? Alison,Paul, Matt, with Nick and Brian in Front

But Tohoku (the prefectures north of us that got whacked by the 2011 triple disaster) and Hokkaido (the northern island) get a ton. I was reminded of that watching the Japanese favorite to win the men’s figure skating, Yuzuru Hanyu. He is all elegance and strength, a young man (only 19) totally absorbed in the story he is telling on ice. I have watched his wins in the past few years (thank you, YouTube) and seen that quintessential Japanese humbleness and grace, a deep bow, when he won, which for some reason moved me almost to tears. 

Then I found out that he was from Sendai (the only major city to be hit, badly, by the tsunami), and was in fact practicing on the ice when the earthquake struck. He ran outside in his skating shoes and spent the next three days in a shelter. His home had been damaged in the earthquake, as had the rink he practiced at. He said he had thought about quitting after March 11, but then slowly realized that he could skate for people to cheer them up. And so he did. 

He is known, in skating circles, for the height of his jumps. One announcer said when he is on, and makes his jumps, he is spectacular, but when he is not, his falls, too are spectacular. I saw a few of his routines where he fell, but what I was noticed was how he immediately righted himself and got back into his routine flawlessly, not letting the fall replay in his mind as you can often see with other skaters. 

That, to me, is Tohoku.

Thank you Beth! Can’t wait to see what Yuzuru Hanyu does in these Olympics!


Mom/Aunt CB said...

Here you have another blessing of this Blog!! We learn , not only about each other, but also about our countrysides! And Beth is a good one to taech us about the other side of Japan which we may not be aware of.
Darn cold here in my area and still more cold and snow coming!
Sae your man skating and DID notice the bow! Thought how very true to his country he is!!

Beth said...

The other skaters,especially Daisuke Takahashi, are from working class families. Daisuke's family had to really sacrifice and his mother made all his costumes for a long time. So we have all watched happily at how well he has done over the years.

Kathryn said...

Hi, Bethie!
Great post about the snow and stuff.
I got a kick out of your snowfall. I do realize that it would stop everything. When we lived in North Carolina a few inches stopped everything cold. If they do not usually get snow, they do not know how to operate in it. I often wonder about those of us who do live in snowy areas. There are some loonies on the roads! So you did have my empathy over it.
It is totally your fault that I was rooting for Yuzuru Hanyu. I am happy he got the gold. Japan's first gold medal in figure skating! One of my friends is Canadian and she is thrilled that a Canadian has silver. Gotta love the Olympics. Countries actually do things (hopefully) peacefully.
Take care of yourself!
Pat, as always, thanks for this blog and all your work on it.
I love you both lots!

Pat Herdeg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pat Herdeg said...

Hanyu wins gold! His short program was a beauty to watch, not so much his long, but it did the trick. I am sure he is so proud to be the first Japanese man to win in ice skating!

And, yes, I called him a man but he looks SO young!

Beth said...

Kathryn, More snow 'wimpiness' today. I am typing this now when I should be walking to my Saturday lesson, but it was cancelled because most of the others drive and or take the train and that was too dangerous. I have a friend who lives in REAL snowcountry here (Sapporo) and they get snow banks up to their second floor. She seldom goes out the whole winter. I couldn't do it...

Thanks for your thoughts and good wishes.

Patrice, Yes, I have not seen the long yet but am sure Japan tv will replay it endlessly. People are thrilled, but I think a lot of the emotion here is not so much for the gold (which of course is wonderful), but that Hanyu, from Sendai, got it.

He DOES look a young 19 but I was reading some of this comments on the gold, but also about March 11. He said after the disaster, he learned that you can never take anything for granted and
that you had to do your best at everything you did.

He said he was dedicating the gold to the people of Tohoku and that he felt very strongly that he had not been out there alone on the ice...

I am glad that Patrick Chan got the silver.

Pat Herdeg said...

I read a good article about Hanyu's coach, Canadian Brian Orser. He was torn with the Japanese Gold and Canadian Silver, as HE was the other Brian in the Battle of the Brian's won by the American Brian all those years ago.

Canadians seem to always get the silver and fall just short of the gold, so while he was happy for his student Hanyu, he knew just what Patrick Chan felt like.

That is what the Olympics is all about--so many small stories in each sport.

Beth said...

Interesting. I read some articles about Brian Osler. Someone said that some Canadians felt he had stolen the gold from Patrick Chan, by coaching Hanyu. But he said, he doesn't think that way. He was just doing his job. But you know part of him must have felt bad. I do remember the battle of the Brian's.

The other thing I read about Brian Osler is that he was coaching the Spanish skater Javier(something?),when the Japanese asked him if he would help Hanyu. Brian said he would have to ask Javier first. Javier said okay, and they have trained well together. I just admired Osler's integrity in making sure it was okay with Javier.

Yes, such uplifting stories from the Olympics.