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It was a crisp March morning in Hokkaido as we snowshoed across a field of radiant snow. Crossing small animal tracks, my two companions and I trudged through a copse of birch trees and saw the intended goal of our journey dead ahead: a two-story structure covered with snowdrifts that bulged over the roof like heavy whipped cream. It looked like a clumsy attempt at a birthday cake.

As we approached, it was clear the structure had been long neglected. Surrounded by undisturbed deep snow, the building was fringed by long icicles and rust, and several windows had been smashed.

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