dsc_000635cm.jpg Yesterday, the first snow of the winter allowed us to enjoy a lazy Sunday in front of the fireplace. I felt just a bit guilty, thinking of how our neighbors in China were struggling under blizzard conditions that have paralyzed their already overburdened transport system and even brought death to scores of snowbound travelers. The only discomfort I experienced was driving to work this morning, I had to take care not to be blinded by the brilliant sunlight reflecting off the thin white sheet of snow covering the ricefields. In winter, at least here in this bearably cold and splendidly sunny region of Japan, I feel like we are living in a fairyland, protected from the ravages of the real winter. Here, suffering from climate, crime and conflict all seem to be concerns of another world.