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Yukidaruma

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I've been writing about daruma dolls this week and as a student of the language, it brought to mind one of my favorite compound nouns in Japanese.  If you know the word for 'snow' in Japanese and pair it with 'daruma' you also now know how to say 'snowman'!  

Have you ever made a yukidaruma? Growing up in L.A. I didn't have the chance, and it only snows enough in Kyoto City these days to make it possible a few times every winter.  This winter we did it once, and the 'yuki' had mostly melted just a few hours later.  Neighbors in their 80's have told me stories over the years of snow falling more often and they have memories of significant accumulation. 

For better or worse, snow these days is a novelty and something to be savored, at least in the city proper.  It just doesn't seem to stick once it lands. 

That certainly makes winters more convenient, but I hope the trend doesn't continue-it would be a shame not to have the chance to hear the crunch of a couple centimeters of fresh snow underfoot while scanning the streets for the neighbors' kids' yukidaruma before they disappear.  Cherry blossoms are celebrated as a reminder of transience, but they seem to last an eternity compared with the yukidaruma in these parts!

It's always a good bet to use a literal translation from your mother tongue when you're trying to communicate in another language, and even if it's not exactly right, chances are you'll be able to express what you wanted to say.  Using that strategy with the word 'snowman' however would likely raise eyebrows and might even illicit an incredulous giggle.  In Japanese, knowing the word for man, 'otoko', might lead you to create the compound noun 'yukiotoko' for 'snowman.'  It's a good guess, but it actually refers to that elusive creature we call yeti or the abominable snowman!

The furoshiki above can be found in my store and features a yukidaruma on a snowy day and a cat curled up on a heated low table called a kotatsu.  There's a heating element underneath and the blanket keeps the warm air from escaping.  It's a lovely way to pass the time on a cold winter's day, but as you can see, it's all too easy to doze off! 

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