As the time of writing it is just over three weeks since my last article which sadly had to be heavy on the theme of lack of snow’ over the first part of the winter season here in Japan.

Unfortunately, that general trend continued for a few more weeks (and sadly is continuing in some regions).

The Chinese New Year holidays are increasingly a time when people from Asia are visiting Japan to come and celebrate their holidays. Many choose a ski holiday or a chance to just visit snowy areas so that they can ‘play in the snow’. This year, the Chinese New Year celebrations generally were from 25th January onwards. Of course, that was just about when the coronavirus outbreak became top news around the world with overseas trips out of China starting to not being allowed. That situation is of course an ongoing concern and very serious but putting that aside for a moment, it resulted in a lot of cancelled holidays here in Japan. Along with the low snow levels, that was kind of like a ‘double punch’ type scenario.

With all that in mind I am very happy – and also somewhat relieved – to be able to have some positive news to report this time.

Over this last week many mountainous regions have experienced some extremely cold conditions and enjoyed characteristically heavy snowfalls across many of the mountains. For many, it was the first time this season.

One region that usually famously gets particularly large amounts of snowfall is the area covering southern Niigata Prefecture (Myoko city over to Yuzawa town) and the north-eastern region of Nagano Prefecture (including Nozawa Onsen and Madarao). This season, the many ski and snowboard resorts in that concentrated area were mostly up and running, but even some of them had been hurting to varying degrees with low amounts of snowfall.

The Myoko area is well-known for sometimes unrealistically – and borderline amusingly – large snowfall numbers. The independent Myoko Now reports observed a 218cm of snowfall over the period from 6th-9th February. That number, from just four days, amounts to more than 35% of the total snowfall that has been observed over the entire season up until that point. And that’s from late November!

That is just one extreme example, but other places were also enjoying the sudden appearance of decent amounts of snow and some really good to excellent conditions. Regions of northern Tohoku seem to have been doing relatively well and Hokkaido has been characteristically steady and reliable.

You can almost hear the collective sigh of relief!

So, is this an exciting change in fortunes for the rest of the season. Or is it just a temporary relief?

While this recent snow is obviously great news for all concerned, in general we do remain low(er) on snow compared with what is considered ‘normal’. And some regions in western Japan are still struggling to get open.

I almost don’t want to bring it up, but unfortunately the longer-term forecasts for the coming month still tell us to expect temperatures that are higher than normal, and less snow than usual.

The following two images are from the Japan Meteorological Agency and for the period 8th February to 7th March (and only specifically showing areas on the Sea of Japan side of the country).

The colours in the first image show the percentage chance of higher than usual average temperatures – orange is 50%; red is 60% and purple is 70%.  What we’d really be wanting to see on there is dark blue.

The second image shows how much snowfall is expected during the upcoming one-month period. The brown down the side of the main Honshu island shows a ‘70% chance of less snow than usual’, with a 20% chance of ‘normal’ and 10% chance of ‘more than normal’. The orange up on the northern island of Hokkaido shows ‘50% change of less snow than usual (with a 30% chance of ‘normal’ and 20% chance of ‘more than normal’). We’d ideally want to be seeing blue on that one too.

That particular forecast takes us into early March. In past seasons the month of March has sometimes provided some fun ‘March madness’ snowfalls, but once we get into that month, we usually expect to start seeing increasing signs of spring appearing and don’t expect as much fresh snow

What all this I think tells me is… we need to appreciate our precious snow when we have it and just get out there and enjoy it.

It’s not as if we are able to somehow will it to snow more than it is going to.

That won’t stop me trying though!