The Charm of Hokkaido: Hunger Is the Best Sauce


A home is a place to long for from a distance

A journey itself is worthless, but it’s what we learn from a journey that counts. It is a part of the subject of my previous article. As some of the readers may notice, it is inspired by the words of Marcel Proust. The above image is not him but Marcus Tullius Cicero, by the way. Marcel Proust says “The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” I have lived in many places so far, and so, I feel like I can have some new eyes, hopefully. Today, let me introduce a funny characteristic of local people of Hokkaido that I can find from a distance through my new eyes.

Hokkaido is the northern-most part of Japan. Because of a long winter, we Hokkaido people are under the spell of snow even in seasons other than winter. For example, when we see a narrow road, a house with an odd-shaped roof, people driving a convertible car, or even people dressed in white, the very first thing coming up in our mind is a concern–what if it snows? The white-clothes example is a kind of kidding, but I seriously recommend you not to wear in white here in a heavy snowstorm. You will blend into the scenery, which increases the chance of a car accident.

Satisfaction comes internally

I’m sure you’ve understood how much we are annoyed by snow. Mind you, I didn’t mean it’s all bad. Let me share a big advantage. I strongly believe it will make up for the spell of snow. After enduring the long and harsh winter, you can see the moment when the world is brought back to life. Winter scenery is beautiful, but as is often used in English poems, the metaphor of winter is always death. Grasses are hidden under the blanket of snow, and trees lose their leaves. The whole world really looks like being surrounded by death, but spring brings about a drastic change.

I don’t think plants in Hokkaido are something special but assume our cravings would make us see spring more vividly. In order to experience this special moment, you may have to live here and survive the long winter. Like Marcus Tullius Cicero said, hunger is the best sauce.

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.