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Your Own Slice of Siberia

I remember very clearly my first winter here in Yamagata, as it started in Thailand and Cambodia. When we left things were normal, when we got back, everything was covered in white. I remember very clearly looking out of the bus window and wondering whether this was the same place. Turns out it was, and that this place is its own little slice of Siberia at this time of year.

I can understand how some people wouldn’t be able to handle living here in winter, very often you do have to get up earlier than you want to to shovel a path out of your house, and it takes much longer to get anywhere due to everyone driving so carefully, although this is about the only time of the year everyone on the road is courteous.

But for me, I embrace the winter. Being inside on a winter’s day when you’re all warm with a nice hot cup of coffee or soup is nothing short of heaven. Plus with the right dose of snow and cooperative weather, I really do enjoy being outside. I particularly enjoy the silence winter brings, a certain type of silence that is only made possible due to the snow. Besides, snow shoveling is some exercise you wouldn’t otherwise get, and we all know we could do with a bit more exercise.

Winter helps with the monotony of life, that much is certain, and I’m glad that I live somewhere that gets a proper winter. Japanese people love their signs (seriously, it’s amazing that the same people came up with a very particular aesthetic of minimalism) and there are quite a few rusted buildings here that are falling apart. The snow does a good job at hiding these eyesores, and even destroying them at times.

Mostly I enjoy winter as it is a clear reset. It is a time of year where you really are forced to buckle down and stay inside. It teaches us to make the most of the situation, and I feel it also allows us to enjoy the sunshine more when it comes in spring, which by the way is when the hidden dirt of winter comes out.

Plus, of course, there’s snowboarding, skiing, snowshoeing, and so much more to enjoy right on your doorstep! Welcome to winter in north Japan!

Tim Bunting Kiwi Yamabushi


Hi, I’m Tim Bunting AKA the Kiwi Yamabushi, a New Zealander who became a Yamabushi Ascetic in the Dewa Sanzan mountains of north Japan. I’m part of the Yamabushido team, and we host life-altering Yamabushi training on the Dewa Sanzan (website link). People come to us for the ultimate mindfulness experience, to reach the next level, or simply connect with nature and themselves.

I’m on a mission to summit all 100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata Prefecture to spread the splendour of this fabulous location, and in dedication to all those who lost their lives out in nature, including my father.

On my daily blog I post thoughts of a practicing Yamabushi that I hope people can use to better themselves and live as fulfilling a life as possible.

Sign up to the weekly Mountains of Wisdom newsletter, follow me on social (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, Clubhouse, all @kiwiyamabushi), or send me an email via the link below to stay in touch.



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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan 


All photos my own. Contact for more. 

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