The ume may be blossoming in Tokyo right now, but it was still snowing in Nagano yesterday.

For those relishing the spring weather this weekend but saying farewell to the ski season, here are some bittersweet photos from a recent Togakushi trip.  Given its proximity to Japan’s inland sea, the area gets dumped on by massive amounts of snow each winter.

Locals call the snow mahō no konayuki (which translates into something like “witchcraft powder”) for two reasons:  the snow that falls on the range comes as light, fresh powder (optimal for winter sports);  and the high quality of the snow is often attributed to Kuzuryū.

Kuzuryū (literally, nine-headed dragon) is the resident deity of the Mt. Togakushi.  As a dragon, it has been long worshiped for its control of water – ranging from rainfall for crops to flood prevention.  Thus, it comes as no surprise that Kuzuryū is now prayed to for a solid base of powder on the ski slopes each year.  For just as the community’s economy was long dependent on agriculture, now it relies on revenue from visiting skiers and snow boarders.

(Click photos to go to gallery mode.)

About calebscarter

I specialize in Japanese religions within the broader context of Buddhism and East Asian cultures. Within these fields, I focus especially on Shugendō, a mountain-based tradition in Japan developed largely from esoteric, Zen and Pure Land Buddhism with additional influences from Chinese religions and local spirit worship (later identified as Shintō). I approach these subjects from an interdisciplinary perspective that draws on literary, economic, political, social and intellectual history. I received my Masters (2008) and PhD (2014), both in Buddhist Studies from UCLA, with a BA (2000) in Philosophy from Colorado College. I currently teach full-time for the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at UCLA. Outside of research and teaching, I play a three-stringed instrument from Okinawa called the sanshin and spend time with my family at nearby playgrounds and campgrounds. I also love the outdoors, especially climbing in the mountains—an orientation that has in many ways shaped my current intellectual path. View all posts by calebscarter

One response to “The ume may be blossoming in Tokyo right now, but it was still snowing in Nagano yesterday.

  • John Carter

    Great pics, Caleb and interesting background. Our snow is melting here on a sunny day and we happily begin to hear the songs of returning birds!

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