This post follows on from The Snow Monsters of Zao – A Volcano’s Secret
Searching for Snow Monsters in Zao
I’m thousands of miles from home, suspended in the night sky of Yamagata, watching the snow fall and fall. In Europe, snow covers pine trees evenly, as though nature took a stash of icing sugar and ran it through a tightly meshed sieve. Here in Japan, snow breaks away from dead branches, leaving clumps of snowy cotton balls trapped in a wooden net. I suppose it’s these differences that explain the creatures that live on Zao’s peak.
These differences explain the creatures that live on Zao’s peak
I saw my first one long before the summit, though – and snow monsters don’t hunt alone. Zao’s volcanic wind whips snow against tree skeletons to create field after field of jagged sculptures, snowy figures with hunched shoulders and stooped heads. A defeated army, a population in chains – or snow monsters as the Japanese call them. A ski slope carves through one cluster, a ribbon of tranquillity slicing through the wild.
On the peak, they glow in rainbow hues while the street lights of Zao Onsen sparkle in the distance. That’s the view from one side of the observatory, anyway.
Zao’s volcanic wind whips snow against tree skeletons
From the other, the cruel coldness of the wind draws tears from my eyes and I realise that each snow monster broods at twice my size.
Each snow monster broods at twice my size…
What seduces with beauty on one side of the mountain, haunts with menace on the other. From goblins and clowns to Death with his scythe.
Silhouetted against them, a man walks alone.
I shiver and return to the rainbow-coloured version, where children slide in the snow and adults pause to take photos. Perhaps it’s time for that hot chocolate after all.
Seen as a guest of the JTB. Read part one here: Snow Monsters in Zao – A Volcano’s Secret