The southern island Kyūshū lies on the same latitude of North Africa. So when we think of the climate in North Africa, no one would think of snow. Would you? Well, in Kyūshū everything is possible.
My horrible experience
My first winter in Japan was when I lived in Nagoya. Nagoya is one of the hottest cities in Japan and you can’t really say winter in Nagoya is a real winter. When I moved to Kumamoto, I was nearly sure that there is definitely no winter in Kumamoto, because it lies much more in the south than Nagoya. But then I got a big surprise: snow and minus degrees!
Pipe burst… I have to save my kimonos!!!
You should know, Japanese houses don’t have any insulating. Especially old houses and especially houses in Kyūshū. Anyway, I love old houses, so I rented an apartment built 40 years ago. Old houses in Japan – especially Kyūshū are made to bear up against the hot, humid, and loooooong summer. So most apartments are well ventilated even if the windows are closed, thus the humidity is circulated 24hrs a day. This also effects that it’s cooler inside than outside. But in winter this means: it’s freezing cold inside!
Even pipe bursts are a common problem in Japan… too common, I think. My first pipe burst ever was last year in winter when we had -10°C in Kumamoto. Luckily, the pipes in the kitchen broke, when I was home and I could dam the water not to spread in living and bedroom, where all my kimonos are stored. Worst experience ever!! After that (and after the earthquakes) I decided to move out.
Best memory in Suizenji Park
Anyway, before the pipe burst happened, a good friend and photographer came to Kumamoto and we had a shooting in Suizenji Park. This park is a traditional Japanese garden built by the Hosokawa family who ruled Higo – now called Kumamoto. It was a place for tea ceremony and studying. The always shining green grass is one of Suizenji Park’s characteristics. But when you look at the pictures, it’s hard to believe that this land of snow is Kumamoto and not somewhere in Hokkaidō.
However, the traffic in Kumamoto was real chaos. Winter in hot cities like Nagoya or even Kumamoto stays for a week or even less. Haha! So no one really prepares for “real winter”. In Kumamoto the road network totally breaks down. No busses, no trains. Maybe you have luck and get a taxi. 🙂
There are lots of troubles, but winter in Kumamoto is fun!! I love and appreciate those 3 winter days. By the way, don’t expect winter in December. The coldest months in southern Japan are January and February. 😉
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