Oh the weather outside is frightful.
Well, here in North Japan we have finally begun to see the turning of the weather to more wintery conditions. Last week we finally got our first blanket of snow which covered the ground for 2 days. After this short stint of snow we have been getting warnings over the radio and TVs about a coming snow storm, but as of yet we only experienced slush.
So this is the perfect time to fill in people living in Japan for the first year, or looking to come to Japan, as to how snow removal is handled in Japan. Before I begin, I would like to remind everyone reading that I am by no means an expert and all the information I will put out on this entry is mostly from my personal experiences and I encourage you to do your own research because every place is different.
So what should you expect from a snow storm in Japan? Well for starters if the wind is blowing over 10KmPH while it is snowing the transportation board will generally close down the highways and airports. The JR Shinkansen and train lines may be shut down as well, so it pays to be connected to your local JR office if you take the train every day (http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/ticket/changes.html).
Now if you are a commuter and don’t bother with the trains then you will have to deal with the Japanese plowing system, or lack of it. In my 8 years here in the Northern part of Hanshu I have never seen a plow within the city limits, instead citizens have their roads plowed by street scrapers and front end loaders. This leads to large mountains of show flanking the streets making it difficult for pedestrians walking down the street and people exiting the side streets the plows just went by.
As a pedestrian in Japan you have to be very careful during winter because not many businesses shovel the sidewalks unless you are in a main area, and even then the massive amount of snow and the sure size eventually topples the snow onto the walking path. And even with this there is little to no salt or chemicals laid down to keep pedestrians safe.
So, now that I have scared you enough, I can lift your spirits about snow patrol in Japan. If you ever Google Japan and snow you are likely to come across pictures of an isolated street with two towering walls of snow equaling up to 65 feet tall in some places. That is the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route which is a famous area in North Japan. Those roads lead to housing and skiing and is an example of just how the Japanese have improvised to create a solution to a big problem. (Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route)
Japan has one of the largest concentration of ski resorts in the world and so have to keep the streets clear. So many inventions have been created to help fight the snow and keep access to areas and housing. Some of those include “slush highways” and heated streets as well as natural hot spring towns that syphon some of the hot water from the natural hot streams under the streets to melt the snow. (www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/01/japan–snow-country/426738/)
In the end, Japan is a place where a lot of snow falls and while there is a lot they can improve on, there is also a lot they have created that sets them apart in the snowy world. What has been your experiences in Japan and the winter time? Have you seen any solutions to the snow problem I haven’t mentioned? I would love to hear them. Leave a comment below.