Why Oh Why Does Japan Get SO Much Snow?

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Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Japan. Today.
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Japan.

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Japan gets insane amounts of snow.  Rumors of 1,200″ per year in spots may be exaggerated (although they may not be…), but snowfall averages of somewhere around 600″ per year in Niseko, Hokkaido seem right on (they’ve reportedly recorded up to 1,500″ of snow in one year).  Last year we saw 600″ of snow in town in Hakuba in only 10 weeks.  We can only imagine how much fell up high…

If you haven’t been to Japan yet, it’s time to go, ski deep pow, eat great food, gape at monkeys in hot springs, rip sick terrain, and get blown away by amazing culture.

Japan gets the most snow in January and February and it’s simply non-stop…

How Japan's sea-effect snow works. How Japan’s sea-effect snow works. THIS is why Japan gets so much snow. image: ski.com.au How Japan’s sea-effect snow works. THIS is why Japan gets so much snow. image: ski.com.au
How Japan’s sea-effect snow works. THIS is why Japan gets so much snow. image: ski.com.au

All this snow begs the question: 

Why Does It Snow So Much in Japan?

Japan happens to be situated in just the right place geographically to take advantage of a freezing cold, magical wind coming off Earth’s longest east-west continent:  Asia.

This bitterly cold wind blows across the length of Asia, picks up moisture off the Sea of Japan, then dumps that moisture as snow when it hits the mountainous isles of Japan.  Japan has mountains up to 10,000-feet high right on the coast which forces that moisture-laden air to quickly rise & drop its moisture as snow.  This snowfall is like lake-effect snow, but it’s sea-effect snow.  It’s magic.  You don’t need storms in Japan.  You just need this wind to blow and voila! it snows.

“The mountains of Japan are so snowy because they are susceptible to a cold Siberian wind that slams into the mountains of Japan, forces the air to rise, and that wrings out tremendous amounts of snowfall.  It’s like our lake effect snow in the US, but on a much bigger scale.” – Nick Wiltgen, Weather Channel meteorologist

Cold Siberian wind blows off Asia, picks up moisture on Sea of Japan, slams into Japan’s mountains, and boom, you have big snow. image: weather channel
The cold Siberian wind blows off Asia, picks up moisture on the Sea of Japan, slams into Japan’s mountains, and boom, you have big snow. Image: Weather Channel

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