As Winter ramps up in Japan, I wanted to answer this question that many people wonder about. For a country that is tropical in some places and semi tropical in most others, why does it snow so much?
To answer this, let me first clarify. It doesn’t actually snow in all of Japan, only in what is called the Snow Country, Yukiguni in Japanese. The heaviest areas of snowfall are highlighted in blue on the map below.
In these areas though, oh boy does it snow. With 26 feet of average annual snowfall, Aomori City is one of the places with the heaviest snowfall, not only in Japan but in the entire world. It’s even immortalized in Japanese literature through Japan’s first Nobel Peace prize winning book, Kawabata Yasunari’s Snow Country.
So why do these areas receive so much snow? The answer is geography. Even though Japan is located at a latitude roughly between Florida and Maine if compared to the United States, Siberia is located directly North. Cold winds blow South in the Winter and hit the Sea of Japan, a shallow and relatively warm body of water. The winds pick up moisture then hit Japan’s backbone of mountains, pushing up and dumping all that moisture in the form of snow. Because of this, for its latitude Japan is the snowiest place on earth.
So what does that really mean? Powder. Whether you are a skier or snowboarder, advanced or beginner, fluffy white powder is always a good thing. It transforms Japan’s snow country into a completely different landscape, one that looks almost like a black and white painting. Combined with a hot onsen and cozy ryokan, a day spent in Japan’s snow country is unforgettable.
Interestingly enough, because it snows so much in Japan on the Sea of Japan side, the Pacific side is mostly sunny in Winter. If you’re planning outdoor activities that don’t involve snow, make sure to plan them on the East/South coasts rather than the North/West.
For snowshoe tours in Japan’s Yukiguni region, make sure to check out activetraveljapan.com or contact us, firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Looking forward to seeing you in Japan.