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DANGEROUS SNOW STORM DOMINATES JAPAN

An absurd amount of snowfall continues to dominate Japan today bringing brilliant snow conditions for those hitting the slopes this coming weekend but also dangerous travel weather and an increased risk of Avalanche.

First lets discuss what is bringing all of this snowfall.  Well of course Japans famous sea effect snowfall. (Video below)   A look at the Surface Analysis for North East Asia shows the winter weather setup dominating Japan. But typically this only lingers for 1-2 days at a time, and rarely longer and as not as potent as we are seeing this week. This is thanks to a blocking high north of a low pressure area near Kamchatka. This is holding that low in place which in return forces it to continue to interact with the high pressure over China setting up a tight pressure gradient across the sea of Japan.  (WEATHER 101: the tighter the pressure gradient the higher the winds) Typhoon strength wind gust up to 126kph are to be expected along the sea of Japan coastline including Akita, Niigata and Gifu prefectures through the work week. Other areas further north could see up to 108kph along with the additional snowfall in the forecast.

 

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Over the next 24hrs up to 90cm of snowfall is still possible in Hokoriku with another meter on top of that through Saturday and Sunday. On another note those in Tokyo there is a slight risk of snow Saturday afternoon through Evening, I wouldn’t say its 100% though since it might be to dry at the surface creating virga snow over the city, but the chance is still there.

For starters snowboarders and skiers (if you’re a blader you will drown, that is all) will have lots of powder to have fun with this weekend. Do note white out conditions and chilly temperatures really are going to dominate. But if you can get over that on piste conditions even will be superb over the coming days.  The snow should come down heavy enough that lines will be reset over the course of minutes throughout Saturday and Sunday.

I say on piste though, if you leave the ski resorts you run the risk of a extreme threat of Avalanche. When warnings like the one are posted below even the most skilled skiers sit back and go nope. Mother nature is no match, just stay at the resort and have fun kicking up the smooth powder stashes.  Avalanche report here. 

TRAVEL: The Japan Department of Infrastructure, Land and Transport has put out a advisory telling people to stay indoors or try not to travel this coming weekend unless during a emergency.  White out conditions will make roadways across Hokoriku very slick and dangerous especially mountain roads which already are challenging especially for people visiting the area.

 

The storm should start to calm on Monday but scattered snow showers will continue in to Tuesday before a break finally arrives mid-week.

Follow James Reynolds on Twitter, he is in Niigata this week documenting this storm.

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SEVERE WINTER STORM DOMINATES JAPAN, WEEKEND WEATHER OUTLOOK

Blizzard conditions persist across Japan today as the sea effect snow pattern continues to dominate the weather setup. Nearly a Meter of snow is expected to fall just through Friday on top of the snow base that has already accumulated through the past several days.

The largest snow base via JMA is in Aomori where up to 237cm of snow is on the ground. Yet some ski resorts in Hokkaido are reporting nearly 300cm.

Just through the past 24hrs some areas have picked up 60cm plus of fresh snowfall. Of course this has made for some amazing powder conditions for those fortunate enough to be on the slopes mid-week it has also resulted in dangerous avalanche conditions and travel weather.

Pretty much all south facing exposed slopes in central Honshu are under a moderate to considerable risk of Avalanche following this weeks heavy loading from the fresh snow.  Unless you are going somewhere you know very well or staying on moderate slopes I would recommended not heading in to the back country anytime soon.  

 

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The snow has already taken its first victims this week, in Kagura two snowboarders went missing in the back country on Wednesday. Good news they filed the proper paper work before heading out back and people knew where they were going, but still they have now been missing for over 24hrs while blizzard conditions continue to dominate. You can follow the story here for updated information. (IN JAPANESE) http://www3.nhk.or.jp/lnews/niigata/

Winter Weather Setup

THE FORECAST

 

This same weather pattern will continue to dominate heading in to the weekend with even colder temperatures surging in out of Siberia. Heading from Thursday in to Friday below average temperatures will surge across Japan dropping the mercury even in Tokyo below the freezing point. Do remember it will stay dry in Tokyo since all the snow is getting dumped in the mountains.

 

The cold air will be with the same north west wind pattern at least through the weekend and in to Monday and Tuesday of next week. This means each day depending on local effects and the exact wind pattern of the day much of Hokoriku and Tohoku will have the potential to see up to 50cm or more daily.

The tight pressure gradient will also keep the winds high too keep in mind. Winds could be gusting over 40kph on mountain peaks and wind chills will well below zero.

At Nozawa Onsen where the world famous fire festival is taking place this week temperatures will drop to around -10 to -15 during wind gust, especially after the sun sets. Do bundle up!

 

 

 

WINTER WEATHER SETUP DOMINATES JAPAN, BLIZZARD WARNINGS IN PLACE

This week Japan will see a classic winter weather setup for the country and for people who enjoy the snow the reason why Japan is so famous for how much comes down during the winter months.

 

Overall some places this week from Hokkaido to Hokoriku could see well over a meter of snowfall. In fact in Aomori prefecture the snow depth at one location topped 200cm being the first now in all of Japan to hit the 2 century mark.

 

What can we thank for all this fun fluffiness? Well of course Japans famous sea effect snowfall. (Video below)

 

A look at the Surface Analysis for North East Asia shows the winter weather setup dominating Japan. But typically this only lingers for 1-2 days at a time, and rarely longer and as not as potent as we are seeing this week.

Winter Weather Setup

This is thanks to a blocking high north of a low pressure area near Kamchatka. This is holding that low in place which in return forces it to continue to interact with the high pressure over China setting up a tight pressure gradient across the sea of Japan.  (WEATHER 101: the tighter the pressure gradient the higher the winds) Typhoon strength wind gust up to 126kph are to be expected along the sea of Japan coastline including Akita, Niigata and Gifu prefectures through the work week. Other areas further north could see up to 108kph along with the additional snowfall in the forecast.

Through the next 24hrs;

Hokoriku 70CM

Tohoko and Northern Kanto 50CM

Tokai 30CM

 

Of course one can expect travel delays along with the threat of Avalanche with this weather setup. For those excited maybe about hitting the slopes do keep in mind there is a high threat of avalanches for central Japan and also in to Hokkaido.  I personally would not be venturing down any steep back country slopes over the next several days. Today is a storm day, a good day to stay in the trees and have fun.

ENJOYING THE MOUNTAINS IN WINTER OF JAPAN WITHOUT SKIING OR SNOWBOARDING

When you think about spending times in the mountains of Japan a few things typically come to mind most typically skiing/snowboarding. Fans of these winter sports can enjoy deep powder for days across the mountains of Honshu and Hokkaido but there are so many more things to enjoy while traveling through the higher elevations of this beautiful country.


This past weekend I was able to do just that, a ski accident over the New Years Holiday forced me to sideline this past weekend from doing anything to physical.

So what to do? Take the entire family up for a fun weekend in the mountains of Gunma near Niigata of course. Due to a very fortunate scenario we were able to rent a place with right near Tamagawa-dake and within walking distance of numerious hot springs.


The train station we arrived at was so rural there was no one working there and we were the only people on the platform.

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Hot Springs or “onsens” in fact are a huge draw to the mountains for many in japan. And the more rural you get the better they seem to be. Not only because the onsens are often better but also because they much quieter and in some cases much more natural.

This one was a beautiful one next to a river side that my son and I enjoyed as it snowed and the wind blew right over our heads.


If you like just playing in the snow there is always that too, good news is the deep powder lets you build plenty of snow sculptures or even igloos. Or in our case an attempt at an igloo that failed well short.

In Akita Prefecture you can actually stay inside a “kamakura” a Japanese type igloo. They are pretty interesting.


I know this is a weather blog and I really like to concentrate on the snow and the geothermal goodness of the mountains but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the food in small town Japan.

Often in rural areas small town restaurants make the food from scratch with typically fresh ingredients. A small restaurant at the base of a tiny family resort “ooana” was one of these I tried on Sunday. For starters when ordering coffee and you hear the beans being crunched in the kitchen moments later you know its a good restaurant.


Did I mention that from time to time in rural Japan you can come across not only vending machines but also beer vending machines! What’s to stop kids from strolling up to these? Nothing really…


Lastly going for a stroll or a nice “Sampo” in the mountains of Japan is always a good time. For the average photographer small towns are full of fantastic photo opportunities. From river views to Shinto shrines one can waste away a day.

 

The photo above is one of my more favorite spots, a little Shinto Shrine set aside a hill covered in show. We had to wade through a good 40cm of snow to get to it to see the trackless mountain shrine sitting tranquil in the winter setting.

Every now and then in the most rural of areas you can spot some primates wondering around.  Just be careful as they have a tendacy to go through your things in search of food if you leave it outside for any period of time.

Below are some tracks of the little guys taken from our back yard.

With all that said I think any one who enjoys traveling and especially who enjoys traveling in Japan I highly recommended getting out of the city and checking out some more rural areas away from the major tourist hubs.

The place I stayed at was in Minakami Japan, a small town in the mountains about a 2 -3 hour train ride outside of Tokyo.

Do you like this travel type of VLOG? If so let me know and I will add more of my ventures in to the website updates. ~Robert