Japan and unique snow culture - One of the major snowest country in the world

Snow culture (EN)

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Japan is one of the major snowiest country in the world.

In order to survive in this snowy region, various wisdoms have been developed to coexist with the snow since ancient times, and a very unique snow country culture has been formed today.


How much does it snow in Japan?

Data from JICE shows that compared to the snowfall of cities around the world, Japan has many cities that receive more snowfall.

The graph below shows the total depth of snowfall in one year, with Asahikawa City in Hokkaido, Aomori City in Aomori Prefecture, and the Takada district of Joetsu City in Niigata Prefecture receiving a total of more than 700 cm of snow in one year.


Amount of snowfall per year. (Unit : cm) For cities in Japan, the average figure for the 30-year period from 1971 to 2000. World cities are based on the "World Cities Mayors Association" by Aomori City website.
"Survey results in 2006. Data from JICE


The following data shows the average amount of snowfall at five locations (Shibata, Niigata, Nagaoka, Tokamachi, and Joetsu city) in Niigata Prefecture, which is known for its heavy snowfall.


Snowfall in Niigata prefecture (Unit : cm) Data from Niigata prefectural government


The top 10 snowiest cities in the world

According to The top 10 snowiest places in the world 5 of cities are ranked from Japan.

  1. Chamonix, France
  2. Niseko, Japan
  3. Nagano, Japan
  4. Aomori City, Japan
  5. Alyeska, Alaska
  6. Sapporo, Japan
  7. Toyama, Japan
  8. Syracuse, United States
  9. Saguenay, Canada
  10. Buffalo, United States


Why there are a lot of snow in Japan?

It’s because of ocean effects according to The whether channel.

Sea of Japan is located on the left of Japan island. Frozen cold wind blows from Siberia in winter and when this frigid air go through the relatively warm Sea of Japan,  Huge amount of water evaporates from surface of the sea and forms clouds. Then these clouds helps to form snow. When this clouds encounter and hits the Japanese Alps, it gets a lot of snow.

Image from WHY IS THERE SO MUCH SNOW IN JAPAN?


Snowfall area and population

What Japanese snow culture makes unique is the fact that 20 million people (About 15% of people in Japan) lives in the heavy snowfall area(1). 

Japanese people have created and accumulated various wisdoms in order to live with snow. This became the foundation of Japan's unique snow country culture.

In modern times, laws have been developed, technologies unique to snow country have been developed, communities have been formed, and ingenuity has been created to live in heavy snowfall areas.


What is heavy snow area? (豪雪地帯)

Heavy snowfall often cause difficulties for local people to live comfortably such as traffic problems and industrial development. So Japanese law stipulates the “heavy snow region /  豪雪地帯 (Gosetsu Chitai)” as an area where the industry is difficult to develop and it may be difficult for local people to live comfortably due to the heavy snow. (1)

Currently, heavy snowfall areas are designated as shown in the figure below.

Light blue color shows heavy snowfall area. and blue color shows special heavy snowfall area.


Snowfall area. Data from Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism



Technology to cope with heavy snowfall

In order to cope with heavy snowfall, Various technologies are being developed and devised to ensure that transportation systems can operate on schedule even in heavy snow.

People also develop equipment and technologies that are resistant to snow and cold so that electricity, gas, and water will not be interrupted by heavy snowfall.

Buildings will also be designed to withstand the weight of snow and cold.


Taxes used to deal with heavy snowfall

Also city office spends a lot of money to deal with snow. for example, The Sapporo City spends 14 billion yen every year for snow every year (1) City office remove snows using operation vehicles.

This is how Sapporo city remove the snow


A unique community developed in a snow country

People shovel the snow around their houses by themselves, or help each other in neighborhood associations to remove snow from their neighborhoods.

In rural cities, however, sustaining these community is difficult for people because of aging society.


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