There is a saying among the Japanese that Japan is the only country to have four seasons.
Obviously, this is complete crap
... and yet ...
There is no denying that Japan pays some serious dues to the turning of the year. The most famous seasonal change is the fleeting appearance of the cherry blossoms heralding the arrival of spring. These pink and white delicate delights deck the trees for no more than a few weeks, but are probably more photographed during their brief lifetime than Britain’s newly wed royal couple.
Prior to this year, Autumn for me had been that drawn-out wet interval between summer and winter in which I stopped considering myself dressed without a sweater. At some point during that period, the tree leaves would change colour and and fall, leaving their hosts standing around like forgotten clothes racks for months on end.
In Sapporo, it turned out to be quite impossible not to fully appreciate the spectacular foliage.
This was because every man and his dog was on campus, taking photographs with giant zoom lenses. It was stop or be penetrated in a place that would give both you and the would-be viewers of the picture collection a nasty surprise.
To be fair, the colours were amazing. I am unsure whether it was to do with the number of trees, the fact they were all deciduous or if the range of hue was just particularly large. Trees with bark that appeared almost black were donned with leaves in a uniform deep red. Along one of the main roads, more trees in orange, yellows and pale greens tangled their branches in a mix that gave me an unnatural urge[*] to decorate my entire apartment like a pumpkin. There were areas away from the road where the leaves had been allowed to collect in a carpet of rust and gold; the ultimate honey trap for the visiting photographers.
On my less amenable days when my focus was lunch, not leaves, I did think it was a pity that said leafy ball pens couldn’t be booby-trapped to superglue all the visitors in one place and out of my way. However, their cameras did look passingly like rifles and, given the convenience of Japanese technology, it was probably best not to risk anything.
"Snow next week." I was told grimly when I finally escaped the heaving Nikon mass to reach the department.
Feh, snow! The start of winter is never exciting. Rain that you have to squint sideways at to see that it's actually slush, not even a dusting of white on the pavement. The only disappointment is the likelihood of it knocking the leaves prematurely from the trees.
I woke up on the morning of the expected snowfall and looked out of my window.
Bam. Goodbye Autumn. Hello Winter.
“Is this unusual?” I asked my friends once I had bundled on all the clothes I had brought with me from Canada and skidded into work. “Shouldn’t there be.... well... a gap between the height of Autumn and that of Winter?”
“Actually, the snow is kind of late this year,” came the reply.
"But...." I protested. "They'll be a mix of days? Some snow, then warm then..."
I received blank looks in return.
No, it is now winter. Get with the program.
[*] No one would has seen me wield a paintbrush would consider such an endevour a good idea.