Mono Hokkaido: Southwest Snowscapes

Last December was the coldest winter I ever experienced. It snowed nearly everyday in Hokkaido. Despite the freezing temperatures, Christmas winters always represent warm, hopeful and wonderful things for me. The magical dream-like quality of gently swirling snowflakes never fails to rouse the inner child in me.

Snow falling off the branches in winter

Snowing heavily in Hokkaido in December

Having fun with the falling snow in Hokkaido

Playing in the snow at night in Hokkaido

Snowball fight on the streets of wintry Hokkaido

The year end apparently isn’t a very bustling season in Hakodate. Restless and slightly bored, we hopped onboard the streetcar that took us to the southern edges of the island. The soft white snow against the dark rocky coastline of Cape Tachimachi made for a fascinating sight. This paradoxical idea didn’t hit me until several days later.

Coastal cliffs at Tachimachi Cape in Hokadate

Gazing at the ocean at Tachimachi Cape

Wanting to kill time while waiting for our next ride at the deserted train station of Oshamambe, we decided to wander out into the cold and explore. That’s when we found a long forsaken stretch of snow-filled beach. Quite the irony.

Playing with snow on a random deserted beach enroute to Niseko

Standing on a random deserted beach enroute to Niseko

Coming from the tropics, there is something about the stark whiteness and silent stillness of a cold bleak winter that is so dramatically captivating. There’s a strange twisted part of me that yearns for that sense of desolate misery, much like how I really enjoy bawling my eyes out watching heart wrenching tragic romance dramas. It didn’t occur to me before but somewhere along the way, it dawned upon me that if I observe closely, winters actually exist in many shades of monochrome.

Shopping along the streets of Otaru at dusk

Snowshoeing at the Half Moon Lake in Niseko

Walking about the winter grounds of Goryōkaku

Snowy landscape at Goryōkaku, a star shaped fort in Hakodate

On our 3rd morning, we woke up to a different world. The streets were unrecognizably white. Making my way through the thick fresh snow, I felt a curious sense of lightness and exhilaration. It reminded me of annual spring cleaning rituals. Those determined sessions where we declutter our space of accumulated junk and throw out all the negativity and bad memories in the hopes for a brand new start.

Snowy grounds of Sapporo with buildings in the background

Strolling in the city park in Sapporo

This is probably what winters are for. The snow purges the earth of grime and ugliness and leave behind a beautiful big blank canvas. I think I can begin to understand what it means when they say winter is a time of renewal… and Christmas, a season for forgiveness.

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