How are you all doing? I hope you had a good start into the new year!
As every year around this time, the mountains around Antaiji are covered with snow.
Last year, on December 16th, everyone except me and my family left Antaiji to go begging or visit with family and friends. December 21st should have been the last school day for Megumi and Hikaru, my two older children who go to 4th and 3rd grade in Hamsaka’s East Elementary school. But as it had been storming and snowing a lot since the early morning hours, we received a call just before the school bus left, that school would be cancelled. The kids were happy about the early winter holidays, bu my wife Tomomi and me on the other hand were busy transporting stuff from the monastery to the empty house in front of Hamasaka station, where she will spent the winter with the children. As it is not possible to reach the school from here during the winter, my children attend Hamasaka North Elementary school during the third trimester each year. I left Antaiji with them on the 21st, and gave some last talks in Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka, the three biggest cities in Japan:

After New Year’s, I went begging myself for 5 days.
Yesterday, we met in Hamasaka to take the bus to the “Ike-ga-naru” bus stop, from where we climbed the mountain.

Packed with lots of mochi (rice cakes) and wearing snow shoes, it took us from 9am until 1pm to walk the 4 kilometers up the mountain.

Not only our back packs were heavy, but also the snow we had to walk in, and it happen quite a lot of times that people lost their snow shoes:

During the months of January, February and March, work outside is not possible.
We spent these months studying Gakudoyojinshu and Bendowa daily, with everyone taking turns giving dharma talks.

A wood stove in the central room of the monastery will keep us warm, and we will eat the pumpkins, potatoes, daikon radish, carrots, burdock and chinese cabbages that we harvested in the autumn. Thankfully, we will have enough for everyone until the spring.

Next month will be the 13th anniversary of my teachers death, as well as the 17th of Uchiyama roshi, and the 50th of Sawaki roshi. My teacher died on Valentine’s day of 2002, Uchiyama on March 18th 1998, and Sawaki on December 21st 1965. That merans that according to Western counting, it is only 49 years since Sawaki’s death next year (and 16 or 12 years since Uchiyama’s and my teacher’s passing away). Still, in Japan the day of the death is counted as “1”, therefore all three .events will be celebrated next year. As guests would not be able to reach us in the snow, we will be having a ceremony on October 8th, and although it is a far way, all of our friends are invited of course.