A Yuzawa snow school owner sheds light on an age-old snow forecasting technique used by the locals.
The mountains around Yuzawa are currently covered in their fall colours. It is a great display every year due to the many different types of trees, and brings plenty of tourists up from the cities. For some of us though the fall colours are just a reminder that winter is getting closer, but it will still be some months until the mountains are covered in their winter white.
A popular way to pass the time for those waiting for the snow is trying to predict how much snow will fall this winter.
The first dusting of snow has already appeared on the top of the higher peaks around the region. Further afield, the first snow was seen on Fuji last week. Three days earlier than the previous year, but 23 days later than the average. Read into that what you will.
If you head over to the Japan Meteorological Agency website you can check out the long term forecast for temperatures and snowfall, which a rough indication of whether it will be average or above/below that. Other sites can give you daily reports of snowfall from throughout previous seasons, and there will often be reports of the possibility of La Niña/El Niño events to throw into the equation in some years. With so much information and uncertainty you can throw out your own wild prediction in full confidence. Claim great ability if you happen to get it right or just keep your head down and deny everything if you get it wrong!
If you want the inside track on the weather for the upcoming winter we suggest turning to your little local grandmother in the mountains of Japan. Years of deep snows and tough winters and they know what they are looking for to predict the snowfall.
“If you want the inside track on the weather for the upcoming winter we suggest turning to your little local grandmother in the mountains of Japan.”
Praying mantis eggs. This is a well known indicator of snow depth in the mountain areas of Snow Country. Apparently the mantis will lay its eggs higher than the level of the accumulated snow. Find a mantis laying its eggs low down and you can expect a year of easy snow shovelling; much higher up and you better get working out. We found a mantis laying pretty high off the ground this year but it was right under the overhang of a little roof, so we are not sure if it means we are in for lots of snow, or this is just a very clever mantis!
Stink bugs. These little brown insects are a common pest in this part of the Japan often found close to cedar trees. They are harmless bugs that manage to invade your house in fall no matter how well you think it is sealed, looking for a nice warm place to settle. If they are threatened or squashed they release a disgusting odour which is a little like the smell of coriander leaf. There are many people here who can’t eat coriander just because it reminds them of these bugs. Should you find yourself in an old hotel around here you may have a random roll of brown parcel tape in your room. This is to trap any invading stink bugs and then package them up in a little tape envelope for disposal. This year the stink bugs appeared early and in large numbers. Our local granny swears the last time she remembers them coming out like this was in the run up to a big winter 10 years ago – a year when it started snowing mid-December and didn’t seem to stop for a month. It was also a La Niña winter, and some resorts had to tie extensions onto their usual snow depth measuring poles!
If you decide to go down the snow prediction rabbit hole there are lots of things on which you can use to base your forecast. No one knows what the future holds for snow with talk of both warmer winters and bigger storms. What is certain though is that there is nothing you can do about the weather on a particular day. Should you be lucky enough to find yourself in the snow this winter what you can do is make sure you enjoy it as much as you possible – no excuses!