Let It Snow, Let It Snow!

It has started snowing in Misawa. Yesterday,  around eleven in the morning, the snow slowly began to fall. One flake. A couple of more flakes. The snow fell lightly at first, but soon the gentle, lackadaisical falling flakes become bigger, multiplied into the millions, and began to have an aggressive purpose: to smother the Japanese Earth in snow as deep and fast as possible. By late evening, a blanket of snow had covered everything in approximately six inches of fluffy powder. And then it stopped. No, it just took a pause for the cause and snowflakes quickly began to bombard the Earth again. The day before the snow, it was a sunny sixty degree day. I was driving with the window down! Fortunately for me, growing up in Kansas prepared me for extreme weather changes. In fact, I would say that growing up in Kansas was the perfect practice for living in Misawa. Let me attempt to explain. 

The snow fell lightly at first, but soon the gentle, lackadaisical falling flakes become bigger, multiplied into the millions, and began to have an aggressive purpose: to smother the Japanese Earth in snow as deep and fast as possible.

A range of temperatures. Yesterday it was a comfortable 60 degrees, now it is around 32 degrees. A temperature swing of about 28 degrees. That is typical in Kansas…hot and humid one day, freezing with snow the next. Our place has a very adequate heating system, but the old jar of water is needed to add humidity to the dry heat. I can’t believe we actually want humidity now! When we arrived in Misawa, it was summer and it was hot and humid. Hot and humid is exactly how most people, including me, would describe a Kansas summer. And our little condo here does not have air conditioning! No problem, I grew up without air conditioning. Not by my choice! My mother did not want air conditioning in our farm house because she said it would make us all lazy and we would never go outside and do our chores or play in the sun. She stuck to her guns for a long time, but she eventually gave in and had my father install a couple of window units. But that was after I had graduated high school and moved away to attend university. My little brother was fortunate enough to relish in cool air indoors for his last couple of  years of high school. Thanks mom! So to survive the hot Misawa summer that came with above 80% humidity, I merely had to go back to my childhood and utilize all those skills I learned for beating the heat: box fan in the bedroom, a box fan in a window or two sucking out the hot air in the day and pulling in the cool air at night, screen doors, and cool rags on my neck. I survived. I think, however, air conditioning is in my future for next summer!

Driving in the snow. Driving home from teaching in the snow on unplowed roads, I was reminded of the dirt roads back home. As I met a car going the other direction, I had to drift over as far as the narrow, unplowed road would allow to have enough space for the oncoming car to pass by without colliding. That scenario was played out almost everyday as I drove the dirt roads of Atchison County.


Snow! Luckily, this road had been plowed! Misawa, Japan. Photo by Greg Vessar

Overshoes. You gotta have them. The snow here in Misawa is heavy, wet, and will soak an ordinary shoe through socks to your bare feet! Snow in Kansas can be the same and on the farm, overshoes always cluttered our entry into the house. Our mudroom was littered with overshoes, coveralls, sweatshirts, socks, and hats. As I look at my small Japanese foyer now, I see overshoes, coats, and hats. A comforting sight indeed.

Comfort food. Kansas snow storms always required a serving of hot comfort food. The snowy comfort food here in Misawa is a hot bowl of ramen with a side of fried rice or gyoza and a hot cup of green tea. It tastes good and warms you up, but I miss the steaming hot chili or a grilled cheese sandwich with a big bowl of tomato soup and a hot chocolate my mom would serve up after an afternoon or evening out in the snow doing chores or building snow forts. I miss snow forts. As a kid, the winter months never disappointed in regard to snowfall. I could count on a few days of missed school for the ever awesome “Snow Day” (awesome until you found out those days had to be made up!). The accumulation would be in multiple inches and the snow drifts would be deep.

It does not seem to snow like that anymore, with an exception here or there or a powerful snowstorm dumps a load on a region. I don’t want to get political, but could it be the Earth is getting warmer? If it is, that is not the case here in Misawa. The amount of snow that has fallen harkens back to those cold Kansas winters when a foot of snow would fall. And it is still snowing! A lot! I think I’ll go build a snow fort! 


© 2018 Gregory Vessar  

Categories: Family, Japan, Memoir, TravelTags: ,


  1. Love your connections between Misawa and Kansas! We too lacked air conditioning growing up in West Virginia. We used the same strategies–I still love the sound of a box fan at night!

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  2. I didn’t actually know what air-conditioning was until I left NZ at 27 years old – truth! We had snow storms on the farm too…and school days off because of snow (which we never had to make up). I remember sledding down hills and walking back up them just to do it all over again. We’d come home hours later with blue skin and get in a luke-warm bath that felt like boiling water. How we never got hypothermia is beyond me! I love that photo of the snow – I can imagine reindeer pulling an old geezer in red in his sleigh down those streets. Great stuff!

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  3. Greg – I’m enjoying your blog! Lots of great memories in this one! We were fortunate to be snowed-in in Atchison County the weekend following Thanksgiving! Mom even made hot cocoa (the good kind on the stove)! It was a treat when the kids (now over 21) came in from building a snowman and sledding. Funny how we appreciate those things more as we get older…

    I teach high school in northcentral Kansas, and am looking forward to those “snow days!” Hope you can enjoy a few too.

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    • I remember those Kansas snow days as a student and during that time in my career when I taught in Kansas. I think I enjoyed them more as a teacher! Thank you for reading and supporting my blog!


  4. Greg-
    Your blog posts are one on the best things I get in my email in box. They are reminiscent of the great conversations we had at Keller, the best part of my school day. I’m still teaching, but traded overcrowded classrooms for a 6-8 gen ed position in rural west central Nevada, 3 hours up the 95 towards Reno. I commute home on Thursday afternoon, 4 day schedule, and leave around noon on Sunday. It was a bit of an adjustment for the hubby and I, but with a 154 day contract and no kids at home, we’re making it work. God bless you real good and may you have the merriest of Christmases- Tina

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  5. Awesome story. Remember the HUGE whole house fan we had before the small widow unit!! We had to cut a hole in the attic wall with a chainsaw and you could have drove you VW bug through it. (If we could have gotten your VW on the roof we probably would have tried). Wish we could have the snow forts and tunnels from those days!


  6. Thanks Greg! Loved the story and I think you painted a very accurate slice of life in Misawa!

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  7. I’ve worked with your brother, Brian, for many years and over the years I’ve met your dad several times. Brian and I have had more than a few discussions about our childhoods so, your story has a familiar ring! I enjoy reading about your experiences in Japan. Keep it up!

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  8. As a second, third and fourth grader, I lived in Misawa, my father being stationed there. I remember volumes of snow in the wintertime. We lived in W-6-C, which probably doesn’t exist any longer, but the point being we had a white picket fence out front. We used it to determine how deep the snow was, and, curiously enough, what clothes we would wear into the snow. (Always had boots though). The kids that lived in my small enclave of 6 houses were so acclimatized to the Japanese weather, we would often play in the Misawa snow with just pants, jacket and our gloves. What a time we had, oh, the things we made out of that snow! It was a kids paradise. I remember it fondly…except when I had to walk through it to get to the main paved road so the school bus could pick us up, but that’s another story for another time. Thanks for bringing back some delightful memories of my time there. I loved it.

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    • Thanks for reading. I remember you told me you lived in Japan as a child and I am glad I could conjure up your happy memories of Misawa! Please follow my blog so you don’t miss any stories about Misawa. All it takes is an email address! Great hearing from you and, again, thanks for reading and supporting my blog!


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