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Snow country in Japan

In the Pacific side of Japan, Tokyo for example, winter is relatively mild. It doesn’t get much snow. However, when you cross a series of mountain ranges to the west side of Japan, it is one of the snowiest regions in the world with incredible amount of long-lasting snowfalls.

In winter, cold winds from the northern Asian continent blow east over the Sea of Japan, dumping deep, heavy snow on Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, and the northwestern coast of Honshu, Japan’s main island. Snow Country refers to an area between the Sea of Japan and the Japanese Alps, a series of mountain ranges that make up the backbone of Japanese archipelago.

Snow is falling day after day after day. In many parts of Snow Country several meters of snow pile up. People live with snow for a third of the year.

Many communities within the snow belt have a total population of 20 million. Endlessly falling snow creates a harsh environment. Down the centuries, communities have been forced to pull together and pool resources simply to survive the long winter months.

Cars and houses are buried under the snow. Some people have to climb out of second-story windows onto three-meter-high wall s of snow just to get out their house. People often have to tunnel under the snow to move from house to house.

Snow has to be cleared from roofs to keep them from collapsing. Traditional northern homes are shaped to encourage snow to slide off, but without regular removal from every roof, an accumulated mass of snow could crush the structure below. New snow weighs more than 100kg per square meter but granular snow, when it begins the cycle of melting and refreezing, weighs 400kg per square meter. It’s a never-ending job. (Floro Mercene)